What's with the Princess Hate?
March 26, 2013
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Hey, what's with the princess hate?
(Images involving various princesses are shown)
NC (vo): Yes, most little girls fantasize about being a princess at some point, with their elegant beauty, kind heart and enchanted surroundings, the princess for many is the epitome of femininity.
NC: But there has been a bit of a backlash in the past several years...
(More images of princesses are shown)
NC (vo): ...saying that the princess-stereotype is a more damaging fantasy than an encouraging one.
(Cut to clip from Nostalgia Critic's review of the Sonic cartoons)
NC (vo): Even I've had my rants on the overuse of it in media..
Past NC: You're not really a princess! You just took the title 'cause it sounds CUTE!
(Cut to another shot of little girls dressed as princesses)
NC (vo): So, is it just innocent make-believe, or is there really something to get angry about? Well, in order to answer this, we should probably look at what a majority of people takes offense at.
(A montage of images of Disney princesses is shown)
NC (vo): And I guess it's only the most logical, albeit cliched, to look at the most famous lineup of princesses: Disney. Disney has practically reinvented the fairy tale, and seeing how their princess line is the best-selling licensed entertainment character merchandise, it's safe to say they have a clear understanding of what makes princesses so popular. What do they have in common? Well they're all pretty, they're all kind, they all have various clothes and accessories you can buy for them.
(Cut to footage of Disney movies involving said princesses)
NC (vo): But naturally, the intrigue in owning one has to come from their personalities formed in the movies. Which many consider, from an ethical point of view, not the best role models. "They don't do anything," many complain. "They're just damsels waiting to be rescued and never take responsibility and getting things done for themselves, instead relying on their status and/or beauty to get them what they want, which in most cases is a man."
NC: Aaaand... sometimes that's true.
(Footage of Sleeping Beauty is shown)
NC (vo): Sleeping Beauty, for example, I still stand by is one of the most forgettable characters in Disney history. Yeah, we all know the iconic image, but her fantasy extends to her doing absolutely nothing while her true love comes to save the day. And what of course happens? She does absolutely nothing while her true love comes to save the day! And on top of that, she has nothing else to make her stand out, be unique, or have any specific characteristics. So, yeah, the argument is pretty valid there.
NC: But fuck it, I'm gonna defend the other ladies a little bit.
NC (vo): Not that they're always the best, but there's still good virtues that can be learned from them.
(Footage of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is shown)
NC (vo): Snow White's kindness and helpful nature, for example, serves as a second mother for the dwarfs. And anyone who says being a mother doesn't make a hard-working, responsible woman (a picture of an overworked woman, holding a crying baby and covered in sticky notes, all with various tasks written on them is briefly shown) clearly has never been one. It's work, and worst about it is that you don't even get paid for it. So the fact that she can still be pleasant while also teaching the dwarfs responsibility may not be major, but it's still something.
NC: But many would argue it's one thing for (holds up one finger) one of them (an image of Snow White appears) to fall into that category; what about (holds up three fingers) three? (images of Cinderella and Aurora are added to the Snow White image)
(A snippet of Sleeping Beauty is shown, before cutting to footage of Cinderella)
NC (vo): We mentioned Sleeping Beauty before, but Cinderella is often the biggest offender to the "sit back, do nothing and let someone else save the day" routine. Again, to her defense, she's working her ass off! I mean, like, every second she's on screen, she's doing something! And in the end, she's rewarded for her hard work and kindness, even in the face of such nastiness. And if your argument is, this is still not a good role model, that it wouldn't inspire people to go out there and achieve, guess whose favorite fairy tale this was? (to a ding, a black-and-white photo of Walt Disney is briefly displayed) Yep, the D-man himself who supposedly started this whole controversy, Disney! He said Cinderella was his favorite, because he often felt like her, working as hard as he could every day until destiny finally gave him a chance, and that hard work and kindness can result in a virtuous reward.
(Cut back to the photo of Walt Disney)
NC (vo): But what does that arguably greatest businessman, creative genius, and heartwarming icon know?
NC: (scoffs) Slacker!
(Cut to more footage of these princess movies)
NC (vo): Now, granted, while I don't think these characters are that bad, it's clear to acknowledge that these women were... limited to the roles that women were expected to have at the time. In the following years, the princesses would be a little bit more proactive, taking more chances and forming more definitive personalities. But even that can get some flack, too...
(Cut to footage of The Little Mermaid)
NC (vo): ...particularly Ariel, the Little Mermaid, whom many complained was just a whiny teenager who needs a man to save the day. While she can at times be her own teenage drama queen, people forget at the time she was praised as much more independent than the past Disney princesses. She traveled, she explored, she broke the rules, she left the house, she had a distinct personality, she was curious.
(Cut to a clip of Siskel and Ebert's review show, where Roger Ebert is praising The Little Mermaid)
Ebert: The character is active. She's not just a little girl that things happen to. She's up there, she's going to go to the surface, she's gonna find her prince, she's gonna take care of business, and so you can identify with her.
NC (vo): And on top of that, while the prince does save the day in the end, she saves his life not once, but twice in this movie. Hell, if we want to get technical about it, I'm surprised more people weren't more pissed off at Jasmine.
(Cut to footage of Aladdin)
NC (vo): I mean, yeah, she fights for her independence once, and even takes a chance on living her own life, but she quickly returns to the world she said she hated, stays in it, and constantly lets her boyfriend save her.
NC (vo): But nevertheless, the complaints were heard, and the princess brand over the years has made an effort to try and make their ladies more and more independent, having them save the male just as many times as the male saves them, while still keeping true to the kind and moral virtues that, let's face it, people, are enforced in...
NC (vo): ...every Disney character, not just the princesses: be nice, be kind, be true to your heart. When has that not been a major part of the lesson in a Disney film?
(Cut to an image of a group of the Disney princesses all grouped together)
NC (vo): So after looking them all over, I'm not sure if it's entirely Disney's fault for the negative stereotype.
(Cut to a clip of Sleeping Beauty)
NC (vo): Okay, it didn't always help, but in many respects...
(Cut to clips of The Princess and the Frog)
NC (vo): ...it did help. They're still trying to teach the importance of patience and kindness, which are great virtues for any gender.
(Cut to clips of Disney's "I Am a Princess" PSAs)
NC (vo): And Disney is even pushing harder to make their most marketable icons be a symbol of strength and honor, as seen in these recent ads.
Girl (vo): I am a princess. I am brave, even when I am scared. I believe compassion makes me strong. Kindness is power.
NC (vo): So if the virtues that the massive Disney is promoting isn't the problem with the princess icon, what is?
(Cut to an image of two Barbie dolls dressed as princesses)
NC (vo): I'll admit that something was rubbing me the wrong way for years about...
(Cut to a shot of a girl dressed as Princess Peach of Mario fame)
NC (vo): ...girls wanting to be princesses. I just couldn't put my finger on it.
(Cut to footage of Bridge to Terabithia)
NC (vo): But then, the answer finally came to me when I saw Bridge to Terabithia, which is a god-awful flick, by the way.
NC: (looking up in thought) In fact, note to self: (pretending to write with his finger) review Bridge to Terabithia.
(Cut back to Terabithia)
NC (vo): ...when our main lead brings his little sister into his fantasyland.
May-Belle Aarons: Is there a king? Are you the king, Jess?
Jess Aarons: Only if you're a princess.
NC (vo): Wait a minute! Why is he king and her princess? Shouldn't it more logically be king and queen?
(Cut to footage of Wreck-It Ralph)
NC (vo): In fact, even more recently in Wreck-It Ralph: why is it when the king is destroyed, again, it's a princess who rules the land and not a queen?
NC (vo): In fact, how come in a lot of nostalgic movies and shows I've reviewed, even if the original ruler is gone, they still hold the title "princess"? Yeah, Princess Sally, Princess Lana, hell, even Princess Leia! All their parents are out of commission! And yet they still hold onto the title of "princess" and not "queen". Why does that seem more marketable for some reason?
(Cut to an image of a painting of a beautiful queen riding a horse while having a falcon perched on her hand)
NC (vo): And that's when it suddenly hit me: it's not necessarily the virtues of the princess that piss people off; maybe it's the title.
(Cut to a shot of a boy dressed like a king)
NC (vo): Why is it so many boys want to be king? Because they want the power and responsibility to control and change things.
(A clip from Army of Darkness is shown)
Ash: (grabbing a girl and holding her close) Hail to the king, baby.
(Cut to a mother and daughter dressed like princesses)
NC (vo): Well, then, why do so many girls not want to be queen?
(Cut to a montage of queens in movies, especially Disney movies, in which they are all evil, such as Queen Narissa, the Queen of Hearts, Jadis the White Witch, the Queen from Snow White, Queen Beryl, the Queen from Mirror Mirror, the Queen of Emptiness, and the Red Queen from the newer Alice in Wonderland)
NC (vo): In fact, we're almost anti-queen, aren't we? The more research I did, the more I've found there aren't that many fictional queens that are kind, heroic women. They're usually the villains.
(Cut to an image of a girl dressed as a fairy princess)
NC (vo): Which brings us back to the question, why do so many girls prefer "princess" to "queen"?
(Cut to a shot of Princess Rosalinda from Princess Protection Program)
NC (vo): Well, maybe because being a princess not only indicates you're younger, which often translates to prettier...
(Cut to an image of Princess Peach holding a parasol)
NC (vo): ...but also that you have a position of power with responsibility, but not too much responsibility.
(Cut to another montage of clips with Sally, Peach and Lana)
NC (vo): "Oh, I'm just holding the spot for the king until he returns. I still have the title of youthful innocent, who has power, but not all the power."
(Cut to an image of a rather homely person dressed as Peach)
NC (vo): Thus projecting an image of daintiness and elegance who makes everybody cookies instead of an image of strength and determination who makes powerful changes.
NC: It's the same thing as calling a grown man a boy and a grown woman a girl.
(Cut to an image of a man in a suit)
NC (vo): If you call a grown man a boy, they'll usually be pissed off. Why? Because they want to be seen for strength and responsibility over youthfulness and innocence.
(Cut to a shot of Jessica Simpson)
NC (vo): Whereas, sadly, many women do prefer the other way around...
(Cut to a shot of Kim Kardashian, biting her fingernail)
NC (vo): ...valuing the youthfulness and innocence over strength and responsibility.
(Cut to a shot of a black woman looking up in thought)
NC (vo): Oh, don't get me wrong; there's many who don't, but you all know out there there's plenty that do.
NC: (waving his arms) Now, why this is, is a whole other argument.
(Cut to a shot of a male and a female scientist pair working in a lab)
NC (vo): Is it society over nature, nature over society, a combination of both? It's a whole other issue.
NC: And, I'm also not forgetting that "prince" and "princesses" are not made-up titles; they really exist.
(Cut to an image of the marriage of Kate Middleton and Prince William)
NC (vo): It's not titles we created to keep people in certain roles. They're actually royal positions.
(Cut to an image of Cinderella as seen at a Disney park)
NC (vo): But what is obvious is that our reinforcement seems to be that princesses are...
(Cut to a shot of a girl in long braided hair)
NC (vo): ...young, beautiful, and try to live in an...
(Cut to an image of a generic princess)
NC (vo): ...innocent world, free from conflict. And if one...
(Cut to an image of Princess Peach)
NC (vo): ...does arrive, it's somebody else's job to take care of it.
(Cut to an action scene in Shrek the Third, where Princess Fiona and several other princesses are running toward the castle; Cinderella tosses a boomeranging crystal shoe at a guard at the entrance, knocking him down)
NC (vo): With that said, no matter tough, action-packed or honorable you make your heroine...
(Cut to an image of two Barbie dolls dressed like princesses)
NC (vo): ...by keeping the princess title a very popular title, it's still reinforcing that youth and the need not to take responsibility are still the best virtues.
NC: And don't get me wrong; I know men and women are different.
(Cut to a photo of a man and a woman not looking at each other with scorn)
NC (vo): I know, instinctually, we're gonna have a different emphasis on different values.
(Cut to another photo of another man and woman, the latter seeming yelling at the former)
NC (vo): Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, etc., etc.
(Cut to a clip of a Hunger Games movie, in which Katniss takes out and fires an arrow from her bow)
NC (vo): But the world is changing more and more every day, and we're seeing much more variety in our female characters than we have in the past.
(Cut to a clip of Black Widow in The Avengers)
NC (vo): So maybe it's time to really look at the changes happening around us...
(Cut to a clip of the titular character from Kim Possible)
NC (vo): ...and see which virtues we really want to enforce.
(Cut to a pair of images, of Snow White (holding a bluebird in her finger) and the Queen from "Snow White"; Snow White says, "I Could Be Queen."; the Queen replies, "But Don't You Remember? All Queens are Evil!"; Snow White says, "That'll be the First Thing I Change," and the Queen answers, "Fuck.")
NC (vo): And at least making it very clear that there's a definite option that any female can be as powerful as she wants to be.
(Cut to an image of a princess dancing with her father, a king)
NC (vo): And that second place, or being under somebody else's wing, is not the furthest you can go.
NC: Because, let's face it, guys, with so many female characters that are...
(Cut to a montage of female action heroines in movies and TV)
NC (vo): ...good, strong, interesting, funny, entertaining, intelligent, responsible, and just as compelling as male characters...
(Cut to a shot of a girl's closet, full of princess dresses)
NC (vo): ...perhaps it's time for the princess in so many people to stop living in fairy tales, and look at the reality that is unfolding around us.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic; I remember it so you don't have to. (gets up from his chair and leaves)