Saw this meme recently and tried to have a discussion with someone about it but rather than actually presenting any counter arguments or facts, they admitted to not knowing all that much about the movies while making claims about Damsels in Distress and the Man Will Fix Your Life tropes. I’m not going to rock the boat with people I consider friends, especially since I am a Leo and get uh..."roar-y" when I argue. I still have a stick up my ass about my family thinking that dinosaurs can be cloned from dead and mixed DNA from ancient mosquitoes and being banned from talking about it because I got real intense trying to prove them wrong. So, instead, I’ll place it here because I think that Into the Night Land and EoP fall into the same category of being misinterpreted as Damsel in Distress stories, when in actuality, they are about women sucking it up, subverting their original flaws and weaknesses to take their lives by the horns. So, here is my analysis and refutation of that silly Disney princess meme which is false and not even funny.
Jasmine: Actually, the film argues against the premise that her worth being determined by her marriageability is "good", it doesn't promote it at all. Several times the male characters are shamed by Jasmine and each other for vying over her like she's property and the one guy who sticks to his guns and tries to turn her into a political chess piece is fooled into turning himself into a genie, defeated and mocked. She even plays a huge role in her rescue, distracting the wizard several times even though Aladdin and his stupid monkey almost botch the job. In fact, if he was a little bit better at being stealthy, her ruse would have worked until Aladdin got a chance to stick a knife in Jafar's back(what do you expect from a guy so boastful in the first scenes we see of him, singing and jumping and spinning all over the place? Where the fuck was that when it mattered, jerk off??). The ultimate choice to marry Aladdin is made by Jasmine, her opinion asked by her father, finally respecting her as a person with autonomy.
Belle: Actually it does matter for Belle. She is a prisoner in the Beast's castle and he doesn't even like her for a good chunk of their early relationship. He is an awful person when they first meet and it has nothing to do with him having a good heart and winning her over. She changes him by setting an example. If anything, Belle as a role-model is great as far as the Renaissance princesses go because she rebuffs the douchey fuck boy in town that all the women fawn over, she hates the idea of marrying someone just for "appearances" and genetics(Gaston tells her their kids will be beautiful), and she loves to fucking read and doesn't give a shit about the entire singing town that thinks she's "weird" for doing so. I remember Belle made me want a wall to wall, floor to ceiling library as a little girl. She made ideas and nonconformity cool and she was brave fighting off against wolves even though it was a super scary situation she found herself in. She never lost her femininity, being nurturing and empathetic, yet she wasn't "girly" like that trio of bimbos in town who were presented very negatively because they all looked exactly alike and yet had this ridiculous desire to hump the asshole of the town's leg. Belle demands change from the beast and doesn't fall for him until he shows progress, not tolerating his abusive bullshit. If anything, Belle complicates the Beast, not the other way around. Until she came along he was Gaston with fur, just more emo. It does present the flaw of "you can change a bad guy" but I always thought Belle's ability to demand what she wanted and not settle for anything less much more important than the theories about Stockholm syndrome or whatever.
Ariel: Another non-conformist, she doesn't fall in line when told to do so by the tyrannical male figure in her life. The story actually makes her sacrifice out to be a bad thing, we the viewers let in on the manipulation of Ursula and her ulterior motives right away. Ariel also gives the finger to the misogynistic view that women are something to be chased and pursued and captured, instead taking her destiny into her own hands and going after the man she wants. It isn't about her sacrifice winning her Eric because he's always looking past her. The only reason Ursula wins him over, other than the spell, is because she convinces him that she is the woman who saved him from the shipwreck(the enchantment is there to keep him from asking questions). So, he's not looking at petite little Ariel as "wow, she's silent and got legs and that hits my checklist" it's a hard decision for him to throw away his fantasy of the singing lady on the beach to go ahead and go for the budding romance right in front of him. Ariel wins him over despite being mute and basically unattractive as a partner due to her "damage" which let's be honest, was important in the setting, according to the gossiping ladies washing her laundry. The sacrifice she makes is about girls not waiting around for some prince to notice you, to actively pursue men because fuck traditional gender roles, you can ask them to dance too, even if you're handicapped and have to use sign language. Make him work to bridge that communication barrier. And to top it all off, she saves Eric. She realizes who he's marrying and the doofus is too enchanted to save himself in that situation so she rallies her friends and rescues his dumb ass. Eric returns the favor but not before Ariel saves his dumb ass again by yanking the sea witch's hair and making her shoot her pet lackeys. Dumb drowning human, lol.
As is the case with a lot of the early princesses in Disney films, the prince is presented as this cardboard figure, barely cognizant of his own desires and wishes except as a walking sword(both literally and figuratively in the slang sense). It is the princesses themselves that are given complexity and presented as ultimately likeable people in their own right. But they are also victims of the time they were made, presented with those traditional ideals, even though they're not terribly harmful. Plus, a lot of the most interesting female villains were made at that time. It was a fight of women against women, Maleficent, the Evil Queen, and Lady Tremaine all having interesting character designs on top of complex personalities that shake up the "good little house wife gets taken care of" imagery. They're badasses and are having fun being bad to the bone and one of the most popular Disney characters is Maleficent herself. Never do we mistake them for men, their power grabs not turning them masculine in any way, glorifying in their dignified authority. These are not ugly women, despite being "bad" people, seductive without being sexual objects for the dark side. I remember I used to fucking love that opening scene with Maleficent at the baby cristening(or whatever) so cocky and yet not taking their rudeness sitting down either. Fuck you, man. Imma curse your baby for trying to put me down, like you're fucking better than me. Alternatively, the princes are interchangeable in these pre-Disney Renaissance films. They literally look almost exactly alike. And they come in at the end, once all the fun and interesting shit has already happened, presented as a "reward" for the females, after triumphing over their own adversity.
Cinderella: The story wasn't even about her winning the prince. He's mentioned in name, I don't think he's even shown talking, if he is, I can't remember it. The king and his advisor were so much more interesting in the one internal palace scene that I remember. The story is a classist tale. Cinder(shortening it because I keep accidentally typing it alla instead of ella) is a servant, taking care of her stepmother and sisters and barely treated like a human being. They make ridiculous demands of her, presented as caricatures of selfishness and vanity, whereas Cinder is presented as beautiful and genuine. Her beauty is highlighted by the contrast as her optimism in her terrible circumstances is a ray of sunshine, and she actually cares about others rather than just herself. The story is about "her night", getting to feel worthwhile for once, which is often what a night of glamor and the saying "being treated like a princess" is all about. Owning the truth that she deserved to be seen beyond the superficial standards that these other women push onto her.
The plot presents a dues ex machina in exchange for the shitty situation she falls in. Tremaine gets the invite to the ball and it says "every eligible maiden" so despite her sisters mocking her and making fun of her, Cinder presents her case for why she deserves to go. Because she fucking fits the bare minimum of humanity presented to her by this flimsy piece of paper. Tremaine tells her that if she can find a dress and get all her chores done, then she can go, much to the sisters protest. When she's gone, Tremaine makes it clear to us, the audience, that she has no intentions of keeping her promise, using sly wording to put a loophole in there for herself. She tricked Cinder. Not only that, the story makes it clear that the sisters load her up with chores, so that she has literally 0 time to fucking work on the bare bones dress that she set out for herself. Her friends help her with that, so that she can fucking go because friends often help each other achieve their goals. What happens when she goes downstairs, ready to leave with the other ladies? Tremaine points out that her dress is made up of things that the sisters threw away and didn't want and they accuse her of stealing, tearing her dress to shreds to humiliate and dehumanize her. She is stripped of her humanity in that scene, not even fitting the bare minimum of humanity in being a woman and ordered to go to this thing by the king.
The godmother is a fantasy, a moment of escapism, where we see wish fulfillment when at our lowest point and her optimism simply cannot be jumpstarted again, that someone out there will give us everything we desire because we know we deserve it. It's god-like and she is given this opportunity when in reality, it's not an actual solution to the problem. It's for one night, a dream fulfilled, simply to give her that precious moment of dignity and humanity, to be seen as something other than the mop and broom she carries. The prince chooses her out of everyone else because of those contrasts that were laid out before as the groundwork. Her step sisters and step mother are in the crowd and fail to "wow" him, almost like he can see their ugliness inside. We root for Cinder not because she's physically beautiful but because we know that her sisters are fucking assholes. And the climax of the film is again Tremaine trying to control her life and destiny, to lie and steal from something that Cinder has basically earned. Whether you want to believe all she did was dance with the prince and he likes her for her looks, fine, but he's now HERS. HER prince because she's the one he wants. Not her stupid step sisters and the caricature contrasts are highlighted again as they attempt to trick the advisor into accepting one of them as the deserving ones. The scene with them trying on the shoe is over the top and ridiculous in how pathetic and desperate they are. Cinder, although saved again by her dues ex machina friends, arrives as the slipper breaks, poised, collected, calm, finally owning who she is inside. It is the allegory of the royalty of every girl, no matter her station or what the girls around her think and say. The shoe fits so she wears it, figuratively and literally.
Sleeping Beauty: the prince in this is a little more fleshed out and he does save the princess but he doesn't like her just because she's pretty and unmoving. Aurora meets him earlier, singing with him in the woods. The film is about her waking up as a person, both in an allegorical sense and literally. She is hidden away for her entire life, shielded from experiences because her guardians think they know what's best for her. And that whole evil fairy, thing. Done up in typical fantasy fashion, the story highlights both Aurora and Phillip as protagonists equally, dreamers amidst the pressure and coddling of the authority figures around them. The first step outside their doors that they take, they are punished by Maleficent, who is presented as an earthy force, like the woods, very threatening in an organic way, like walking off the worn path being a danger. I was never very fond of Sleeping Beauty because it's very sterile and reminds me of a medieval manuscript the whole way through. There are problems with it, I'll agree, but she's the second Disney princess to show up.
Snow White: I've watched this movie literally twice in my life because the artwork makes me want to kill someone. Since I don't know that much about it, I'll leave it alone.
The Disney Renaissance was a big shift in values and basic mission statement for the company. They were going out of business pushing those traditionalist ideals, so, shifted to a more modern viewpoint once the Little Mermaid came out.