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Metro In Focus: Shattering stereotypes — a new breed of Disney princess

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-6-40-17-amBy Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

Once upon a time a movie princess was a damsel in distress, swathed in pink and jewels, waiting for Prince Charming to come to the rescue.

Lately, however, the movies have given us a different kind of princess, one who is more into grrrl-power than girly-girl. This weekend Disney helps redefine their traditional princess in their 56th animated feature film, Moana,

The thirteenth official Disney princess is inspired by Polynesian mythology. Sixteen-year-old Moana (voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho) is a natural born navigator with a mystical connection to the ocean and all its creatures who goes on a sea quest to find a mysterious island. She’s high-spirited and adventurous, but as Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), reminds her, “You’re the daughter of a chief and you’re wearing a dress: you’re a princess.”

Moana isn’t the first movie to shatter the stereotype of the pretty pink princess.

“All these Disney heroines, the princesses, they’re a product of their time,” Maleficent screenwriter Linda Wolverton told the Associated Press. “The princesses created in the 1940s and ’50s, were the best of what a woman should be then: You’re the good girl. You took abuse and through it all, you sang and were nice. But we’re not like that anymore. We kick ass now.”

According to Roger Ebert, Ariel, the teenage mermaid princess of The Little Mermaid, “is a fully realized female character who thinks and acts independently, even rebelliously, instead of hanging around passively while the fates decide her destiny.”

In other words, she still marries her prince charming, but for the first time a Disney princess gave a lesson in independence and had a hand (or fin) in deciding her fate.

The success of that movie led to a new batch of princesses who were empowered and could look after themselves and others.

Jasmine, the daughter of the wealthy Sultan of Agrabah and the princess at the heart of Aladdin, didn’t fight off invaders but did do something that made her unique in the Disney princess world.

Tired of life in the royal palace, instead of waiting for rescue, the independently minded aristocrat made her own way, even deciding to marry a commoner rather than a prince.

Mark Andrews, the co-director of Brave, the story of a Celtic princess who rebels against her mother and escapes from castle life, calls the movie’s lead character “an anti-princess.” The Princess and the Frog’s Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), the first ever African-American princess lead in a Disney film, is also an ambitious character in a way that would have been unthinkable in Snow White’s day.

More recently the phenomenally successful Frozen was the story of two royal sisters, the Princesses of Arendelle, Anna, a spirited adventurer, played by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel’s Elsa, a cryokinetic queen with the awesome power to manifest ice and snow. Like Carrie, but colder. Both are powerful, determined women, but the real twist here is in the definition of the true meaning of love. There’s a male hero, but the real love on display here is between the two sisters.

When you thinks about movie princesses a few names come immediately to mind: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora and Belle. This fab four have come to define what being a movie princess is all about. Or at least they used to.

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