Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why being a Princess isn't a bad thing.

So, as Merida is formerly introduced to the Princess Line at Disney, she received a hand drawn make over.  In case you didn't see Brave, Merida was Pixar's first female heroine.  She loved her family, was unafraid to speak her mind, and preferred the outdoors to "Womanly" pursuits.  (This article will have heavy spoilers for Brave and other games.) 

I'm not here to talk about the actual design change.  I'm sure some of it was simply because hand drawn and CG vectors are two different things.

I'm going to talk about what went on around it.  This IGN article discusses Brave, and then goes on to mention how the original Disney Princesses were terrible role models for young girls.

I actually take offense at that.  These girls are great role models, and so are other gaming princesses.

Yes, I'm bringing Kingdom Hearts into this, but I'll look at others too.  

Looking JUST at Kingdom Hearts (and the sequels/spin offs)  Let's look at the Disney princesses.

In Kingdom Hearts, there are seven Princesses of Heart.  Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty/Aurora, Alice, Belle, Jasmine, and Kairi.  Ariel also appears, but is not a Princess of Heart.  Wendy, Mulan, Meg, Queen Minnie, Jane, Tinkerbell, Elizabeth, Daisy, Esmeralda, and Quorra also appear.  Then we also have Aqua, Xion, and Namine who fit into their own category and are not Disney.

Almost all of them have had their movie story told, but in stripped down format.

With Snow White, she generally does react to situations, and she does fall asleep, but she also takes what she can into her own hands.  No, she doesn't know that the Evil Queen is out to kill her.  She, however, is aware she is in danger and the dwarves offer her a safe space.  In addition, she offers hospitality by taking care of them.  The story's true love aspect in KH is an afterthought.... mostly because the Prince appears in the last bit of Aqua's story.  Snow White understands she is in over her head, but she reacts with aplomb by controlling what she can and never becoming vengeful. 

Cinderella is a hard and cheerful worker.  She puts hope in her dreams, but her dream was to have a good time at the ball.  Falling in love was second. She's kind, she rescues Ven.  But she also allows herself to have emotions.  When Terra finds her, she's broken down because her wicked step sisters tore her dead mother's dress to shreds. 

Sleeping Beauty: Okay, fine, she's asleep for all of Birth By Sleep and most of Kingdom Hearts.  But look who picks up the slack.  The three Good Fairies and Maleficent.  We can't blame her for being cursed.

Alice: for the little we see of her, Alice is trying to make sense of what is going on.  Unfortunately, she is in a land that flat out doesn't.  So, she orders Sora around (well, Sora partly offers)  and instead of just going with the flow, she fights that what is going on because it IS unfair.

Belle:  She got her chance to shine in KH2.  She knows something is wrong with Beast, and she fights what she can.  While she does get kidnapped, she uses her cleverness and wits to save the day.  Namely, she elbows Xaldin to save the Rose.  To get the full context, she's just been kidnapped by Xaldin who's threatening both her and Beast.  Xaldin tells Beast that he can save either Belle or the Rose... so Belle elbows Xaldin, steals the Rose, and runs away to safety.  She can't fight, but she WILL make it easier for the rest. And that's not counting how much she loves to read, and how she cares for each member of the staff. She's a discerning, caring, and clever girl who may be a princess, but wouldn't care if she was.  Her Jiminy's Journal entry also mentions she did this to save her father. 

Jasmine:  While present in KH1, she takes more of a role in KH2.  She knows something is wrong with Aladdin and while she often is taken captive, she also shows she can be a leader.  (And it's bugging me I swore to KH only because Jasmine is my favorite princess.  And I can't really talk about why!)

Kairi: The last PoH, Kairi is unique to the Kingdom Hearts series.  Fulfilling the role of childhood friend, Kairi is, most of all, kind and discerning.  She wants to help people, save her friends, and make sure everyone is safe.  She can get into action, but lacks the other's training.  She is brave (she jumped into a Portal of Darkness) and wise (After realizing in five seconds Axel was up to no good.) she makes friends easily, and finds Riku's heart.  She's closest to the "Classic Princess" trope, barring the first three Disney princesses, but she can and will fight..  And she is awesome.  Pink isn't a problem with her.  All her feminine attributes just make her better.

Ariel:  A Princess, though not a PoH, Ariel is a singer with an un mermaid dream. She wants to go to the surface.  She very much makes her own decisions, and she mostly accepts the consequences.    She decides to chase her dream.  The Prince is an afterthought, but a very welcome one. And if something is unfair, like Ursula sabatoging her, she'll fight it, but not at the expense of other's lives.  If you watch the KH2 Boss battle, you can see her repeatedly trying to save the prince's life.  She knows he's human and therefore can't handle himself in the mermaid fight with a sea witch.

Princess Peach: And outside of Kingdom Hearts, meet Princess Peach. A wise ruler, calm decision maker, and she practically bleeds pink.  Her people love her, her economy is stable, and while she may be kidnapped, she can also find a way out of it, especially in the Paper Mario series. She's got a discerning eye about who is, and is not an ally.  In Super Smash Bros Brawl, she makes friends with Zelda/Shiek very quickly and realizes Star Fox is an ally, something Sheik did not.  In fact, she offers them a cup of tea and a place to talk about what is going on.  Diplomacy in a fighting game, who would have thought?

Elika:  A princess of a dead land, she sacrifices everything to save the world.  Then when the Prince may have negated her sacrifice, she abandons him.  Oh, and her land is a desert which she heals and she has magic. She uses the power offered her, but only as far as the heal and save the land.  She rejects her father who has fallen to evil.  She is fascinated with knowledge of all kinds and dreams to see the sea.  She could let the evil have her land, and she retreats to find more allies.  But she doesn't.  She fights for every single bit she has, and she only lets it go when it is truly lost.  But she doesn't give up, she goes off to learn more and to learn who can help stop this, permanently.

Princess Zelda:  Starting off as a plot device, Zelda has grown throughout the years into a capable leader, a trickster, a pirate, and a goddess.  Some of the evolution is simply due to space and programming improving. Other evolutions turn it from "A game about Link" to "The Legend of Zelda."  She, and no one else, knows Ganon is evil in OoT, she gathers other barrier maidens in "A Link to the Past", surrenders and is imprisoned rather than allowing her kingdom to be destroyed in "Twilight Princess" (Then sacrificing herself for Midna), and as the holder of the "Triforce of Wisdom" She's the wisest person in the game.

Calista: Polite, serious, and detesting corruption, Calista escapes the palace due to her uncle's controlling her, and understands politics, especially the ones around herself, very well.  She understands she has flaws, but also understands you don't have to do anything alone. (I need to play The Last Story)

Garnet: From Final Fantasy 9 (Another one I have to play.)  Garnet is discerning, noticing changes in her mother before anyone else does, forgiving, naive, and can both rule with honor and wisdom and can blend in with the common folk.  (Admittedly this does happen over the entire game, but it's there!)  She also realizes she can't do everything by herself and relies on others, though for her it's partly a coping mechanism. 

Merida: Yep, back to Merida.  A key part of the movie was Merida becoming like her mother, and how she (and her mother) by nature of being female had different, and just as valued, talents.  Like getting a bunch of Scottish warriors to stop brawling and listen. Merida had to learn to listen to other people, to understand where they are coming from, and there is a great dignity in activities other then fighting (such as sewing... look, it is actually more dramatic in the movie).  Plus, family is the most important thing a  person can have.  But even with that, the movie NEVER dismisses her love of archery, her horseback riding, and she still does not like corsets.  And that is fine.  She can still ride  ,walk with her elbows out, and she can hold a political conversation.  She's well rounded, and she is still a princess.

All of these girls are, in one way or another, feminine.  The PoH are, in fact, described as pure light.  But this doesn't make them weak or undeserving in any format.  Some are competent rulers (especially Jasmine in the source material and expanded in the TV show.  She ran Agrabah incredibly well). Others are hard workers who love everyone.  Others can cook. Others prefer to fight.  Even more can hold a court.   All are capable of sacrifice.  Their traits are feminine, not weak. And in fact, they are the stronger for it.  

1 comment:

  1. Here's my take on the Merida controversy:

    I wholeheartedly agree with this: "these traits are feminine, not weak." Yes! "Weak" and "girly" are not the same things at all. I love the Princesses of Heart and Zelda, and I like all the examples you brought up of the princesses actually being political figures. It would be nice to see more of that in movies and games.

    Doug Walker, aka "The Nostalgia Critic," has a really interesting take on why people get so upset over princesses, and I highly recommend his video editorial about it: