Queer Princesses

Queer fairy tales could not have existed until fairly recently sue to social stigma. Gay and transgender princesses are rare, but they are out there and will only grow in number as the LGBT movement gains momentum. Since Disney is still testing the waters, we need to look to Japan, with its progressive culture of yaoi and yuri. Queer characters are fairly common in anime. When it comes to fairy tale tropes being turned on their head, there's no better example than Revolutionary Girl Utena.


Utena's gender and sexual identity are rather complex. In some ways, she is very feminine with her long pink hair and gentle voice. She got caught up in the mysterious rose duels in the hopes that she would be reunited with a prince who comforted her when she was a young girl. Yet, Utena rejects social norms by wearing a boy's uniform to school, wielding a sword, and telling everyone that she wants to become a prince. She isn't exactly transgender, but she could be gender fluid. Her relationship with Anthy Himemiya, the Rose Bride, is also a bit of an enigma. At first, Utena wishes to reject the terms of the rose duel that Anthy is a prize for anyone who wins because she refuses to treat her as property. After spending more time together, their relationship blossoms into something more. In the 1997 anime, it is easy to interpret them as very close friends, but the 1999 movie goes in a very clear lesbian direction.

Anthy's relationship preference is also unclear. She willingly gives her body to anyone who wins the rose duels, but her heart is locked in an unbreakable coffin that is guarded by a thousand swords. With her big crown and even bigger dress, she appears to be a caricature of a submissive princess, but when the story gets darker, it becomes questionable as to whether or not Anthy secretly enjoys being a puppet. No matter how you look at it, Anthy is not heteronormative. She gets engaged to men, women, or anyone else who might win the duels. Some may even see her as polyamorous, but that is still an oversimplification that does not take into account the fact that she never gives anyone her heart. It seems that Utena is the only person she has ever felt anything toward, friendship or otherwise, but she spent so much time blocking out her emotions that by the end of the series, Anthy's ability to feel is still very much at its infancy. This makes the Utena series a fascinating perspective of the human psyche.

Another anime that features princess lovers is the ever popular Sailor Moon. Princess Serenity is the only princess who ever gets much attention in the many adaptions of the show, but in fact, all of the sailor senshi are princesses of their respective planets. Therefore, Haruka and Michiru's famous relationship is indeed one between two princesses, specifically the princess of Uranus and the princess of Neptune. Ironically, the attempt to censor this in America by referring to them as "cousins" may in fact be the reason their relationship is so famous today. The idea of turning a couple into cousins in name but still portraying them as lovers visually allowed fans to catch on very quickly to what the dub was trying to do. This caused a lot more gossip than they may have gotten if they had just left it the way it was. However, the newer Viz dub stays much closer to the original script.

This is not to say that there have never been queer princesses anywhere other than Japan. Famous British fantasy author Neil Gaiman, recently released a children's bool entitled The Sleeper and the Spindle, which contained a scene in which a young queen rescued a sleeping princess with a kiss. A very similar scene took place in the Ever After High "Dragon Games" special last year, in which Darling Charming, the daughter of Prince Charming, woke Apple White from a sleeping spell with a kiss after Darling's brother failed to have the magic touch. Very little was acknowledged in the special about the kiss being between two women, and Darling did not appear to have any feelings for Apple other than friendship. Perhaps it was because the studio did not want to create too much of a stir.

Though Disney has not announced any decisions for a queer princess character, there was a fan campaign that began shortly after Frozen was released entitled #giveelsaagirlfriend. Many queer fans of the movie related to Elsa and wanted to see her come out of the ice closet. Elsa's voice actress, Idina Menzel, was very supportive of the campaign, but Disney has remained tight-lipped in response. There were also some fan theories that Merida from Brave could be gay due to her adamant refusal to get married. Those signs could have also been pointing in the direction asexuality, though. The world may never know. Disney did throw its queer fans the tiniest of bones by giving Le Fou a male dance partner at the end of the recent Beauty and the Beast live-action remake, but it was one of those "blink and you'll miss it" moments.

On the other hand, our favorite warrior princess from the '90s showed many obvious signs of having romantic feelings toward her sidekick, Gabrielle. Xena and Gabrielle referred to each other as "soulmates" despite never openly being in a relationship.They have even shared a kiss on occasion.  Like Utena and Anthy, their feelings for each other were complex. They did not begin as a romantic couple, but they were always together. They had over a hundred episodes to develop feelings for each other that shifted throughout the course of the show. The producers of Xena: Warrior Princess have announced that if plans for an upcoming reboot are successful, Xena and Gabrielle will be a lot more open abut their relationship.

In the times of monarchies, it would not have been beneficial for two princesses to get together as lovers because it was a princess's role to marry a prince, become queen, and produce an heir for her kingdom. Today, things are different. What it means to be a princess has changed, and so the rules have changed along with it. People aren't interested in princess stories for their historical accuracy. They want great role models who they can relate so, so there's no reason not to include princesses of less common gender, romantic, and sexual orientations.

Comments

While not a princess, do you think Fallon is just your run of the mill tomboy adventurer or do you think there's potential for some back story... possible diversity in the Jewel Riders plot? "You make it sound like attending a party with handsome guys is punishment." "Dancing and flirting- That is what you do best. Let me do what I do best!"
Lisa Dawn said…
I would hesitate to say so just because she's a tomboy. She just needs someone who can keep up with her!
Cupcakedoll said…
I ship Utena and Anthy. =D

...yeah, that's all I had to say here.
Hope35 said…
I know this is a late post for an already long-existing thread but I've started to wonder if tomboyish gal Zarya from Mysticons is either Lesbian or bisexual.

Now this show is airing on a channel in a family of channels that is hedgy on LGBT relationships in their kids shows (note how at the end of Legend of Korra they had bisexual Korra and Asami show their mutual love by holding hands and looking fondly at each other and that's it? I wanted a romantic kiss so bad!).

If Zee really is Lesbian or Bi we may not see her paired off with another young lady in the show BUT if the future novels and comics are more gutsy Cupid's arrow could strike her there.

I like the idea of her having a romantic relationship with her old best friend Kitty (even if it would be long-distance at times) but we'll see how things go there.

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