Working toward your goals requires more than just saving money, and Disney princesses know this. Though the princesses have gotten a bad rap lately for being all wish and no work, I don’t think this reputation is entirely earned. From Ariel to Tiana, the princesses illustrate an under-mentioned point about planning for the future.
Ariel wants to be a human. For years before the movie opens, she dreams about being human. Though she doesn’t seem to know how obtaining legs would be possible, she collects every human artifact she can find, and learns all she can about their culture. After meeting Prince Eric, she finds the determination to make her dream come true (even though she makes some pretty bad choices trying to get there).
Belle wants a life of adventure outside her little town, and to find someone who understands her for who she is, rather than the town oddball. Although fate can be thanked for the circumstances that lead her to the Beast’s castle, her own strength of character is what allows her to save her father. And it’s her unyielding determination and refusal to be cowed that wins over the Beast, leading to her happily ever after.
Jasmine knows she wants the freedom to choose her own life, and actually runs away to do it. Even when she’s back in the palace, she continues to stand up for herself, shaming the Sultan, Aladdin, and Jafar for continuing to decide her future. It’s her steadfast insistence, not Aladdin’s antics, that finally convinces her father to allow her to marry whoever she wants.
Though not as maligned as the earlier princesses, I want to include Tiana here as well. She’s the first Disney princess to make establishing capitol one of her main goals. She dreams of opening a restaurant, and works toward that with a single-mindedness that causes her to miss some of the other important parts of her life. By the end of the film, she finds a balance of work, dreaming, and living.
Are there problems with the princesses and their stories? Of course. But I think as a culture we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater when we pretend that self-knowledge, determination, and perseverance to follow one’s dreams aren’t just as important as clocking in every day for the 9-5. The Disney princesses (excepting perhaps Snow White and Aurora) know what they want and hold on to their dreams as if their lives depend on them. They make difficult choices to obtain their goals (even if, in Ariel’s and Jasmine’s cases, they’re poor ones), and follow through with them until the end. Whether you’re a fan of Disney or not, you have to admit that those are the virtues of a successful woman.