By KERRY TINGA
“All women are princesses. It is our right.”
When I was younger, I read those words of Frances Hodgson Burnett in A Little Princess and watched magical tales featuring beautiful princesses on the Disney Channel. I believed in those words wholeheartedly while dreaming of a “fairy tale” life.
As I grew older, I wondered, is the “princess culture” we grow up with empowering us, or is it imposing a societal expectation out of step with modern feminism?
Yes, Belle saves her father, and Mulan saves all of China, but it seemed to me that there was still something a bit off with the “traditional princess that did not align with my feminist attitude,
It was not the princesses’ fault, nor the films’ that arguably do try to break the stereotypical princess mold. As is with anything, I found that the issue arose when the ideas were diluted when it came to business: What sells.
In Peggy Orenstein’s New York Times piece “What’s Wrong with Cinderella” (2006), she observed: “Mulan and Pocahontas, arguably the most resourceful of the bunch, are rarely depicted on Princess merchandise. […] Their rustic garb has less bling potential than that of old-school heroines like Sleeping Beauty. (When Mulan does appear, she is typically in the kimono-like hanfu, which makes her miserable in the movie, rather than her liberated warrior’s gear).”
Similarly, Belle is typically shown in her golden ball gown as if it were her uniform, which would be extremely inconvenient in real life. For the majority of the film, she wears beautiful, understated, simple dresses that are a better reflection of her personality.
“There is only one princess in the Disney tales,” Orenstein expounded on her article with the bestselling book Cinderella Ate My Daughter (2011), “one girl who gets to be exalted. Princesses may confide in a sympathetic mouse or teacup, but they do not have girlfriends. God forbid Snow White should give Sleeping Beauty some support.”
In the universe of Disney princesses, their mythologies never crossed. So while some princesses show inspiring traits such as resilience and bravery, they are often an outcast in their society because these traits are supposedly “unconventional” for women.
That all changed with the 2018 film Ralph Breaks the Internet. The now iconic scene shows our favorite princesses come together to break down stereotypes and show what it means to be a modern princess. They put on comfortable clothes, let their hair down, and come together to turn the tables around from a “damsel in distress narrative” as they save the day.
In a slumber party setting at The Peninsula Manila, I was happy to see the message in Ralph Breaks the Internet is being followed through with the launch of the Disney | Happy Skin collection. Women supporting other women, fictional and real.
Familiar faces to the public were chosen as the real-life modern princesses for their campaign, including Rapunzel, Elsa, Jasmine, Ariel, Mulan, Belle, Aurora. Also featured in the collection are Snow White and Cinderella, two old-school Disney princesses who, I think, deserve a moment to be revisited with a modern eye.
With pale skin that burns much quicker than it tans, Snow White was the Disney princess I grew up imagining I could be. But with songs like “I’m Wishing” and “Someday My Prince Would Come,” which seem to promote a passive princess, she hardly seems to come across as a feminist icon today.
Most young girls may not have even seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, preferring the animation style of the more recent films. But in 1937, Walt Disney dared to make the first full-length animated feature in the history of motion pictures. Its success paved the way not only for future Disney princesses but the whole animated film industry that we love today, from Pixar to Studio Ghibli.
The vivid red shade of Happy Skin’s Cotton Lip Mousse in Snow White is bold, daring, and confident, which is how I choose to remember the legacy of Disney’s Snow White. The film has its flaws, but we have all learned since then, with empowering Disney princesses like Brave’s Merida who shoots for her own hand, and Frozen’s Elsa who does not need any prince for her story. Snow White took the risks so whoever came next would have it at least a bit easier.
It was, however, not smooth sailing from there. A series of box office flops in the 1940s put Walt Disney Productions in severe financial troubles. On the verge of bankruptcy, Cinderella saved the day. Their greatest hit since Snow White, it allowed Disney to go on producing all the films we know and love. The dusty, rose hue of the Cotton Lip Mousse in Cinderella seems perfect for the woman on the go who needs something that can blend with multiple outfits. Both on and off screen, Cinderella is an icon of hard work and commitment (and dreaming).
The homegrown, female-led Happy Skin cosmetics brand is an inspiring testament to what Filipino women can do. This 19-piece limited edition collaboration seemed the only natural. From lip glosses to gel polishes, the packaging shows some of our favorite Disney princesses beautifully natural with the playful Princess Vanellope, because every budding princess should know that she is not alone.
“This collection stands for empowerment,” says Rissa Mananquil, “These modern princesses break the outdated notions of femininity and the narratives of a damsel in distress where only a man can save the day. Disney princesses have really evolved from being just characters in a story or a movie. They are now icons in modern culture. That’s why it’s important to show that princesses are strong women.”
Modern princesses are the women who stand behind other women, who are not only true to their hearts, but true to all of themselves. From there we can truly live happily ever after.
P.S. Aside from the products I mentioned, the entire collection is worth checking out online and in stores. Personally, the Multi-Use Mousse in BFF and Nap Queen, and the Perfect Eyes Trio in Mulan look like they are daily make-up routine game changers