The Warrior Princess

It almost sounds like a paradox. Not very long ago, "warrior" and "princess" were two opposing archetypes. Princesses wore big dresses, were dainty, delicate and needed to be rescued. Warriors were the ones who rushed in to save them, clad in armor, weapons bravely drawn, letting nothing stand in their way. The Amazons, the original warrior women, have been around since ancient Greek mythology. One particular Amazon princess has existed in comic book form since the '40s and has just gotten her own theatrical film. I'm talking, of course, about Princess Diana. No, not that one!

It's Wonder Woman. As the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, Diana is very much a princess, and as an Amazon and DC superhero, she is also very much a warrior. The fact that she was created in 1941 makes this disassociation even more significant because it was not at all customary for women to be portrayed as warriors at that time, let alone princesses. She was created by William Marston, who was a scientist, a psychologist, and an early feminist. Oh, and he also invented the polygraph test, which works much like Wonder Woman's lasso. He felt that women were the superior gender in many ways and wanted to demonstrate that by bringing a female superhero into the world. Even though Wonder Woman is just as well-known as Batman and Superman, she didn't get her own feature film until this year, possibly because of the media's discomfort with the disassociation between warriors and princesses. Yes, there was the pleasantly campy Lynda Carter series from the '70s, but there are still far more adaptations of Diana's heroic male counterparts. As expected of such a long anticipated movie, Wonder Woman shattered records as the highest grossing film with a female director. Though Gal Gadot's brilliant portrayal of Diana is the one of the only examples to date of a film featuring a warrior princess, she still had many contenders on the small screen.

In 1985, a spin-off of the popular He-Man cartoon was created called She-Ra: Princess of Power. In a time when cartoons were made primarily to sell toys, She-Ra was Mattel's attempt to sell more dolls. The show introduced Adam's twin sister, Adora. Unfortunately, its creators spent a whole lot less time making strong allies and foes for Princess Adora than they did for her brother, causing a disjointed, slow, and uninteresting series. Perhaps they were hoping that just having a heroine who looks cool would be enough to get their audience's attention. I bought this show on DVD several years ago, and even though I watched all of it, I can't remember a single thing that happened. At least they gave her a flying unicorn, but Princess Gwenevere's story is a lot more interesting in comparison.

Then came the '90s, and I'm sure you know who came next. That's right! It's Xena, the first to coin the phrase "Warrior Princess." Unlike Diana and Adora, Xena was not actually a princess in terms of nobility or birth. The title was more of an honorary descriptor given to her, much like Mulan, because of her impeccable fighting prowess. Just as She-Ra was a spin-off of He-Man, Xena made her first appearance in a show about a male warrior, Hercules: The Legendary Journeyes. In the episode, Hercules reformed her from her ruthless and unrelenting ways. She was so popular among fans that the creators of Hercules decided to create a spin-off, entitled Xena: Warrior Princess. Like Wonder Woman, the show took place in a world of greek mythology, guest-starring such popular gods as Ares, Athena, and Aphrodite. Xena's sidekick, Gabrielle, went through a great deal of growth in the show. At first, she would win battles using her wits alone, but after spending enough time around Xena, she picked up a variety of fighting skills. Her humble beginnings and gentle demeanor gave the audience someone to relate to if they found Xena too overwhelming.

How can I talk about warrior princesses without menting my favorite, Starfire? Even though she shared the spotlight in Teen Titans, Princess Koriander of Tamaran maintains the best balance between being a princess and being a warrior. Her cute purple skirt and crop top number is both feminine and practical in battle. Starfire is very different from the hardened Diana and Xena. She's cheerful, polite, fun, and excitable. The newer DC comics and animated movie specials feature an older version of the character who leads the Teen Titans as a warm motherly figure. Her personality is reminiscent of any Disney Princess, but she can still hold her own in battle. Like all the coolest superheros, Kori can fly and is super strong. When she's angry, her eyes glow a mesmerizing emerald green, and she shoots out matching starbeams from her hands.

Starfire and Wonder Woman are two of the many teenage heroes attending Super Hero High in DC's Super Hero Girls series of shorts. While not exactly a princess series like Ever After High, DC Super Hero Girls is a brand that could not have existed without the warrior princess archetype that preceded it. It was made for a new kind of girl, one who wants to see action-packed stories that aren't too violent and focus more on friendship and teamwork than battle strategies. Fans of Super Hero Girls may or may not be interested in princesses. The show dances on a light-hearted line between action and drama.

Princesses aren't the same as they used to be. They no longer need princesses to rescue them. They are strong and powerful. Though not every princess is a warrior, the Warrior Princess has been fighting her way into mainstream media ever since 1941. Now that she's here, she's more powerful than ever, and she'll be sticking around for quite some time.


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