Wear our crowns critically and confidently


By Kaanan Raja

This past weekend, I spent my time at Champaign’s very own movie theater, Carmike 13. While buying a ticket to Disney’s newest live-action rendition of “Cinderella,” I received a blast to my 11-year-old past.

The movie “Cinderella” captured the magic and spirit of the original animated movie perfectly while also highlighting the courageous and resilient qualities of Cinderella I had admired from a young age.

Yet, while I left the theater extremely entertained, it seemed that several of my female friends ­— and even reviews that flooded soon after the movie’s premiere — all seemed to agree that the movie was yet another misogynistic portrayal of the female gender.

I remember watching the original 1950s version of “Cinderella” for the very first time and seeing myself as the girl with the glass slipper: I wanted to be just as kind, just as lost in imagination, just as forgiving. To me, Cinderella was absolutely perfect.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that this was far from the truth: Cinderella was only submitted to housework, she spent her time waiting for someone else save her, and she had to completely change herself in order to get the attention of a man.

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A child watching this and idolizing princesses that only have submissive and domestic roles, similarly to how I did, could receive a very wrong message about the adult they could grow to be.

As I consider myself a feminist, I guess you could say the glass (slippers) shattered when I learned the perfect rendition of my princess was actually very flawed.

However, critically analyzing the media around me, even my childhood role models, is especially important. In fact, as college students, most of our time in classrooms is spent forming the ability to critically think.

But looking critically at princesses and media representations around us doesn’t have to undermine the lessons that they had previously taught me.

We don’t have to throw away tiaras and shred tulle dresses to understand the problematic elements of these films. And the fact that we look at them critically now might inspire change in the future.

The criticisms people see can hold true; Disney princesses are definitely not the epitome of perfect role models. Some may even write them off as bad role models for younger generations.

In fact, in the Disney Princesses franchise, seven of the main eleven women are Caucasian. They are all skinny, beautiful, heterosexual and able-bodied. In fact, many of them have boys who come to save them.

However, as consumers, I think it’s more important for us to recognize and publicize our complaints with films.

We need to demand more diversity and change instead of writing off princesses completely.

Diversifying the female characters we see on our screens is especially important. I am just one of millions of children who was shaped by these cartoon role models.

Still, Kristen Kinast, freshman in LAS, considers Disney princesses good role models for young girls.

“Often times, [princesses] show perseverance, stick through hard times to get what they want and always see a silver lining in bad situations,” Kinast clarifies. “There are aspects that could be seen as sexist because they portray time periods that were slightly sexist, but they’re still strong female characters that I think all girls should watch.”

As Kinast shows, many of these princesses are complex characters who have qualities most can either relate to or admire. Even if the past might give us reasons to question their values or morals they might promote, lately, there seems to be an influx in the varied archetypes of female princesses.

Of course, there was immediate progress when non-white princesses such as Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan and Tiana starting appearing on television and movie screens alike. With the addition of princesses such as Merida, who chose not to pick a man at all, to even Elsa, a queen who finds her power in her love for her sister, it seems Disney is becoming more and more inclusive.

In fact, by continuing to critically view the media that surrounds us, these changes are bound to occur. For example, in October of 2014, Disney announced the soon-to-be addition of their next Polynesian princess: Moana.

As students at the University, we’re taught to think of text and works of art critically for all of our future endeavors. If we can apply this same style of thinking to our everyday lives, media and movies included, we’ll be able to make the first step toward changing problematic aspects of content and supporting beneficial aspects.

So let’s put some Scotch tape around our princess tiaras — while they may be missing some rhinestones, we can still wear them proudly.

Kaanan is a freshman in LAS.

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