Worst to First: Ranking the Disney Princesses
In celebration of the release of Disney’s live-action version of Cinderella, I’m ranking the Disney princesses from worst to first!
It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with Pocahontas. But we’re ranking princesses here. And as princesses go, Pocahontas isn’t one. Despite her role in history, she was never in any way royalty which is kind of an important factor in being a princess. Disney uses the word “princess” loosely especially where marketing is concerned. Since Pocahontas sometimes gets included in Disney’s princess merchandise, she makes the cut here. But since merchandise is really the only thing that qualifies her, I’m putting her at the bottom of the list. It doesn’t help that she starred in the movie that signaled the end of Disney’s Little Mermaid – Lion King Golden Age.
11. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
Try to name one positive about Aurora that doesn’t involve her beauty. Aside from “nice” try to name one character trait. You can spend more time describing her pink and blue dresses than you can describing the princess herself. The most complicated thing about Aurora is her name. Is she Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose or Aurora? I don’t really care. She’s the blonde chick who sleeps through the third act of the movie. And she’s completely over-shadowed by Maleficent. Never has a movie made such a compelling case for being evil.
When Sleeping Beauty was released in 1959, it was the most expensive movie Walt Disney had ever produced. The cost of over $6 million dollars was more than twice as expensive as the three previous Disney animated features. Unfortunately, it failed to recoup it’s budget which nearly bankrupted the company! As a result, there were massive lay-offs in the animation department.
Eventually, through rereleases and merchandise, Sleeping Beauty went on to become profitable. But it was a rare miss for Disney in the princess genre.
I would like to give Merida credit for being an independent protagonist. Unlike a lot of the princesses on this list, she doesn’t spend the movie pining over her prince. In fact, she refuses to marry any of her three potential suitors. She’s a rare tomboy among the princesses. She’d rather ride her horse and shoot her bow than wear a tiara and sing to birdies. Those are good traits which are in short supply among the Disney princess set.
But Merida is also reckless, selfish and stupid. Her refusal to pick a husband threatens to plunge her kingdom into war. But Merida doesn’t care that her actions have consequences. When she gets into an argument with her mother over her responsibilities, she ends up making a deal with a witch. It’s not the first bad deal a Disney princess has struck with a witch. But it is arguably the most stupid.
We’ll get to Ariel and her ridiculously bad deal with Ursula in a little bit. But what sets Merida’s deal apart is that she wasn’t being taken advantage of. She’s just vague. She asks to have her mother change, but she’s never specific about what changes she would like to see. There’s bear imagery all over the place. The witch even tells the vague details of the last person she changed… into a bear. But Merida doesn’t bother to ask the simple question “So what does this do exactly?” before feeding a magic cake to her mother.
Her mother is transformed into a bear and very nearly looses herself to her animal instincts. But the careless princess also leaves the enchanted sweets out where her three younger brothers can get them. Before you know it, she has turned 80% of her relatives into bears.
9. Snow White
Snow White was the first Disney princess. In fact, Snow White was the first animated feature period. I am giving Snow some extra credit for her place in history. Because just about everything else I say about her will be negative. She set the mold for princesses who dream of being swept away by her prince – a prince so nondescript Disney never gave him a name. He’s not even Prince Charming. He’s just The Prince.
Snow White flees the castle to avoid being killed by the jealous queen. The reason for the queen’s murderous rage is that Snow White is the fairest in the land. The gender politics of Snow White are scary even before Snow spends the middle act cleaning up after seven little men. Then she accepts a poison apple from a strange old lady, despite the fact that she is in hiding and should be afraid for her life. The apple puts her into one of those princess comas that can only end with the kiss of a handsome and wholesome male.
And then there’s the voice! Good lord, Snow White’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard. However, I am going to give Snow White a few points back for not looking like a Barbie doll. In 1937, her figure was more realistic than most of the animated heroines of the 21st century.