Friday, September 10, 2010

Megara - Who's the Damsel Now?

"I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us." - Sara Crewe, A Little Princess (1995)

Disney Animation Studios gets a lot of flack for creating weak characters: Princess that need their Princes to rescue them, to kiss them awake. This very stereotype was mocked in Disney's own movie Enchanted, but is this stereotype really applicable to Disney Films, even in the past? Are Disney Princesses always waiting for their Princes?

In the past, it did ring true. Snow White's longing for a true love when she sings "Someday My Prince Will Come" spells it all out. This chick is waiting for her prince. Cinderella's longing was a little step forward. She didn't want a prince. She wanted to go to a party. Holla! By chance she just happened to meet her prince while there. Briar Rose in Sleeping Beauty didn't even know she met a prince when she fell in love with Phillip. So after Snow White, the Disney Princesses in their own way tried to defy stereotypes of the princess in peril, albeit very subtly.

Beginning with Ariel, Disney Princesses started to have a sass all their own. Ariel was a typical teenager, talking back to her father and defying his rules, as was Jasmine, and she blatantly didn't "want to be princess." Belle was the town oddball who followed her own instincts and was the rescuer of her own prince. Many other strong female characters emerged liked Pocahontas, Kida (Atlantis: The Lost Empire) and Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) but the most interesting of them all would have to be Megara, the female lead in Disney's Hercules.

Disney has their official line-up of who their princesses are - Snow White, Cinderella, Briar Rose, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, Tiana and sometimes Pocahantas - and a lot of deserving female heroes they have created are not included in that line-up, namely Megara. I think she should be included.

Megara is spunky, strong and beautiful. Most importantly, when Hercules comes to her rescue, she is very quick to dismiss him. She can save herself. The song provided for her is also about "not" wanting a man. In the end when Hercules and Megara are standing side by side after all is said and done, it's not because of a grand wedding they are having, it's because there's no doubt in the world that their experiences throughout the film have led them to each other. Their future is no doubt full of love, but they're story doesn't have to end with a wedding.

So how about it Disney? Wanna include Megara in that Disney Princess line-up? She's died twice, I think she deserves it.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree that the dismissal of Disney Princesses, particularly of the 90s, as two dimensional, submissive bimboes with nothing going for them but femininity, who long for nothing but a prince to marry, and drop everything to run off and marry him when he appears, is ill informed and bafflingly unfounded. However, I would argue that of all the women portrayed by Disney, Meg is actually one of the closest to this stereotype.

    The five princesses of the 90s are all deeply contemplative about their identities and futures, whereas we know nothing about Meg as an individual beyond crucial plot elements, and far from exploring and searching for depth of identity, she discourages Hades from reminding her of her past and her desires. The princesses all fight against personal grievance and wider social injustice, whereas Meg, in order to save the life of a man who quickly betrays her, sells her soul to another man, whose complete dominance over her she docilely accepts until it's too late for rebellion to be of any use to anyone, herself included, and this she only does to protect yet another man. The princesses all attract their love interests by more admirable virtues than beauty or charm, whereas Meg seems to be a pretty ugly individual on the inside, having had no qualms about bringing about Hercules' death until she has a personal interest in him. The princesses are all discerning and dignified in their relationships, and are not falling over themselves to marry anyone, even if he is a prince, whereas, in Meg's case, the fact that she dismisses his help and attempts to resist him doesn't prevent her from having her life saved by him and falling in love with him anyway. None of the princesses lose sight of their worth as an individual by seeing the love interest as the most important element of a happy ending, whereas Meg, having no desires or personal goals of her own to speak of, is the only heroin in Disney history to actually die for her love interest.

    I think people think of her as “spunky” just because she's a wise cracking, deep voiced brunette, but, to my mind, she's all talk and no substance. Thumbs down for “Princess” Meg.


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