Are All Queens Evil?

In my "Animal Princesses" post, I mentioned that Lauren Faust was coerced by Hasbro to change Queen Celestia into Princess Celestia because little girls see queens as evil and princesses as good. Why is that? Surely, there were many benevolent queens throughout history and mythology. Have the Disney Princesses taken over the world so much that people believe that princesses ran the monarchy? I think it's more complicated than that. Wicked queens are usually stepmothers who seduce the king to gain power. Most princesses don't have mothers, and the few that do are very loving. What is the root of the problem behind all the queen hate?

The Evil Queen from the ever evolving tale of "Snow White" strikes fear into children's hearts at the mere mention of her name, if she has one, of course. Since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first animated feature film ever, it had the side effect of setting the groundwork for certain archetypes in animated fairy tales. When most people think of a queen, the Evil Queen is usually the first image that pops into their head. Snow White's stepmother was undoubtedly heartless, wanting to kill a little girl simply because she wanted to eliminate her competition in being the most beautiful woman in the land. Shows like Once Upon a Time get people to rethink this image, but the initial archetype still remains. Yet, Snow White's real mother is an angelic being who wished with all her heart for a daughter to love with hair as black as the ebony window she gazed through and lips as red as her blood on the freshly fallen snow. Though she is rarely shown in adaptations of the story, is always implied that she was a kind and loving but sickly woman.

Snow White lost her mother before she had a chance to know her, which is common for fairy tale characters. Stories that are written for little girls and boys teach them to appreciate their parents by showing how difficult their lives would be without them. That's why most Disney characters grew up with one or no parents. Even Rapunzel and Aurora, whose mothers are very much alive, had to spend their formative years without them. Maybe people wouldn't think so poorly of queens if the good ones weren't given the shaft. Aurora's mother had a grand total of one line in Sleeping Beauty and was neglected on her death bed in Maleficent. I wrote a little about Rapunzel's mother, Queen Arianna, in my "Tangled: The Series" post. Even though she is portrayed as a good queen, her personality is rather bland compared to most of the characters in the show.

The issue of appearing bland is due in part to the age difference between the queen characters and the target audience of the stories that feature them. Children want to look up to princesses who are just getting started with their adventures and figuring out who they're going to be. To them, queens have already been on those adventures and have to deal with the more boring parts of adult life, like parenting and politics. Since these are things that most children wouldn't understand yet, queens usually make these decisions off screen, making them appear uninteresting. Queen Anya from Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders wielded the Sun Stone before Gwenevere and had lots of adventures of her own, but those adventures were finished when we joined her. Even the queen from Don Bluth's Anastasia said the line "I'm old. I've lived my life." In all fairness, though, I thought that line made her a more sympathetic character no matter who was watching the movie.

Of course, that is not to say that there aren't any shows for older audiences that feature benevolent queens. Daenerys from Game of Thrones comes to mind, though some would argue otherwise. I really enjoyed the CW's recently concluded Reign, a historical drama about Mary, Queen of Scots. The show was intended for teenagers and young adults. The target audience could easily relate to Mary because she was crowned queen at such a young age. It tried to get us to sympathize with the hardships of being queen, such as preventing wars, political alliances, and constantly being in the public eye. Mary and to a lesser extent, Elizabeth were easy to relate to because they had to make a lot of difficult decisions in their lives due to their roles as queen. On a surface level, they both appeared to have everything they could possibly want, but they were lonely and unhappy in their own ways. Unfortunately, the show did use the trope of a wicked older queen with  Catherine, the mother of Mary's first husband. However, Catherine was revealed to have had a difficult life and became more of a morally gray character by the end of the series.

I don't think the executives at Hasbro genuinely believe that all queens are evil. The real issue is that the age of a queen makes it more difficult for children to relate to her than to a princess. Since Celestia is clearly a older than Twilight Sparkle, though, this discrepancy makes little sense. One could argue that they were just trying to profit off the popularity of the Disney Princesses, but I think the issue is more complicated than that. Queens have a lot of responsibilities and little time to enjoy their power and riches. Children want to look up to characters who still have more adventures ahead of them and have not yet settled down into full adulthood.


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