With a Smile and a Song

I'd like to expand a little on my "Confessions of a Grown-Up Princess Fan" to discuss how getting older has not only affected my perspective on princesses, but also my attitude toward the world in general. Thinking about how a live-action "Snow White" movie would inevitably be different for a modern audience sparked some of these thoughts. One of the biggest complaints about the "Damsel in Distress" stigma that Disney has been working hard to overturn is that princesses only smile and look pretty while their princes do all the hard work. I personally think that the movies from the Disney Renaissance have the best balance of proactiveness between the male and female protagonists. In today's movies, it's often the men who sit back and do nothing while the women lead the majority of the action for the plot, which creates an imbalance in the opposite direction. It also forces princesses to take on a lot more responsibility, which impedes their carefree, innocent, and child-like nature. As a result, we have princesses who are more serious and less happy.

Most of the issues that many forward-thinking individuals have with the original Disney Princesses are encapsulated by the song "Someday My Prince Will Come" from Walt Disney's original 1937 animated masterpiece, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However,  I've never heard anyone complain about her more obscure "With a Smile and Song," and that's because there's nothing objectional about the prospect of singing to lift one's spirits when they are having a bad day. Unfortunately, this notion is an unintentional casualty of the modern princess archetype. If you place the responsibility of fighting a war or saving a kingdom on a single princess's shoulders, she isn't going to have much time to smile or sing. That's why I think we still have something to learn from the older princesses who were created before the days of the internet.

The serious nature of modern princesses is absolutely a sign of the times. People had fewer responsibilities back when the economy was booming, so it was easier in 1950 to relate to someone like Cinderella being granted a wish to go to the ball and enter a life of prosperity with very little action on her own part. In contrast, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog in 2009 knew that it takes a lifetime of hard work to achieve and maintain a big dream. She represented a different generation--the Millennials who grew up during the job market crash who struggle to pay off college debts with jobs that have nothing to do with their major. It's no wonder that our generation has a harder time staying positive. Rapunzel encapsulated the older princess optimism in Tangled in 2010when she expressed her joy for freedom from a life of captivity, but just a few short years later, she was forced to come to terms with her heartbreak when her best friend betrayed her.

In my opinion, the person who embodies all of the youth and optimism of a modern princess the best right now is Auli'i Cravalho, who will star as Ariel in The Little Mermaid Live! on ABC in two days. At only 18 years old, Auli'i has had some amazing opportunities in her life including the title role for Moana in 2016. I loved seeing her in person at this year's D23 Expo. She radiates warmth, positivity, and gratitude for all of the things she's been blessed with. Though most of us have not been as lucky as her, I believe that it's always important to count your blessings so we don't fall into the rut of cynicism that has affected today's princess movies. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. Sometimes I get so caught up in my frustration of not having the job I want and dealing with other people's negativity that I forget how lucky I am to have a job at all along with people who love me and the opportunity to attend many incredible events. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, November is the perfect month to remember to maintain your princess positivity.

In today's world of skepticism, it has become harder than ever to be a real-life princess. Everyone is fighting their own personal battles. Even the princesses we see in fantasy kingdoms are struggling with betrayals, war, and responsibilities. That's why the princesses that many people consider outdated might actually be the ones with the most to offer us in these trying times. If we can clear out all of our anxiety and stress for with a lovely ballad, perhaps we can remind ourselves that it's the simple things in life that bring the most joy. Sometimes a smile and a song are all you really need.


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