Remixing Disney Princesses

It is hard to overstate the influence of Disney cartoons on our folklore. The stories of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty et al have been around for centuries, but the versions presented by Walt Disney and his studios have become the definitive, almost canonical representations of the characters. Many people have a huge problem with this, because the studio’s versions tend to overlay its particular moral prism over the stories, which can be partriarchial – or just very saccarine – and much of the ambiguity and darkness is lost in the retelling. For example, Disney’s relentlessly upbeat The Little Mermaid has a very different fate to Hans Christian Andersen’s Den Lille Havfrue. The former gives up her entire heritage and identity for the love of a man; the latter tries and fails to stab him, and then finds herself consigned to a purgatory in the spirit world.

Disney are often at the centre of remixing controversies. They are notorious for stopping unauthorised use of their imagery through the courts. There is a huge irony here, in that most of Disney’s stories are remixes of The Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and the aforementioned Andersen. We cede our mythology to a corporation for free, then they mutilate it and charge us every time we access it – on DVD, toys and action figures, and on the paper plates, cups and balloons at children’s birthday parties.

It is unsruprising that iconoclastic artists use the images of Disney characters in their work. The growing roster of Disney Princesses and heroines, representations of an entirely unattainable way of life, are a prime target. In the past three days, three examples have passed through my ‘stream’

First: These Hipster Princesses at least look empowered:

Fashion Princesses Part I, by *viria13
Fashion Princesses Part I, by *viria13

Part II features Princess Jasmine, Belle, Rapunzel and others.

Meanwhile, Diana Goldstein presents a much more depressing set of Fallen Princesses, including Snow White as a stressed mother with a feckless husband, an obese Red Riding Hood, an aloholic Cinderella, and Pocahontas as a couch potato. Note how all the women are presented in their Disneyfied versions.

'Cinder' from the Fallen Princesses series, by Diana Goldstein
‘Cinder’ from the Fallen Princesses series, by Diana Goldstein

Finally, the work of Thomas Czarnecki takes on a similar theme, but in a much more sinister manner. His Princesses all look as though they have been used and abused by men – emphatically not a Happy Ever After. Alice and her white rabbit is probably most recognisable in her Disney version – blonde hair, blue dress:

From Enchantment to Down, by Thomas Czarnecki
From Enchantment to Down, by Thomas Czarnecki

All this reminds me of Angela Carter’s fairy-tales… and of course, Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden, the dark feminist faery-play by Judith Adams, in which I had a hand.

2 thoughts on “Remixing Disney Princesses

  1. Well, it’s difficult (if not disempowering) to define empowerment as a look. But the difference between the Fallen and the Thomas Czarnecki princesses seems to be that the former are autonomous, and the latter emphatically not. Either way, neither lot is happy, which seems to be the common thread. It’s not clear what the message is here…

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