by Hallie Underwood ’20

After years of slumber, Aurora is awoken with a gentle kiss from a charming prince. It was the male who saved the day, and the princess left to express her thanks by running into his arms, teaching the audience that true love is found with a kiss and a women should sit tiredly, awaiting her prince to rescue her. When Aurora sits up in her bed and wipes the sleep out of her eyes, she sees that the world is much different than when Sleeping Beauty was released in 1959. The newest Disney princess, Moana, has proven that a princess does not need to be dependent on a man for happiness and a true heroine is not seen for her outside facade.

Disney princesses are an immense part of childhoods. For decades, young girls have twirled around their living room in their favorite princess’ ballroom dress and wished their family pet could talk so they could have loyal sidekicks.

Parents take their children to Disney World to meet their role models in person and have ignored the fact that their daughters are passionately singing along with: “Someday my prince will come!” Disney princesses in the past have shared the same small waists, long limbs and dependance on endearing men.

The heroines Disney has introduced to this generation have shown the same caring and courageous qualities of Snow White and Cinderella, but display appearances of different complexions and sizes to teach girls a princess does not come in a “cookie-cutter” form. ‘Moana’ is the first apparent example of this evolution, and if Disney continues to design unique princesses relatable to everyone, it could be beneficial to the self-confidence and body issues of not only young girls, but society as a whole.

If we are slowly and steadily moving towards equality among these fairytale figures, why would we not push for a totally diverse Magic Kingdom? The first era of princesses, starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarf’s maiden Snow White in 1937 and including Cinderella’s Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora shows no diversity in race or body image in comparison to the princesses with movies released in the last decade, like Princess and the Frog protagonist Tiana and Moana heroine Moana. 

Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) was introduced to the big screen on November 23, 2016. She adventures across the sea with demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) to find that what she was looking for was always inside her. While Moana is different than previous princesses, she is most relatable to the audiences she is admired by. The Polynesian beauty has a darker complexion and more realistic physique to identify with viewers.

True heroism should not be determined because of outside image, and Moana is a giant leap toward society’s realization of this. Fourth-grader Eva Underwood saw Moana in theaters, and even at her age could see the positivity that came with the royal changes.

“You don’t have to have a tiara, and you don’t have to live in a castle, you just have to be kind and adventurous.” Underwood said.

Since over years of slumber Disney has taken opportunities to display equality and be rid of gender roles in its princess films, I am not as tired as I was years before. After years of oppression, the path towards success has become clear, and I am not determined to go back to bed when I am assured I do not need to wait on a gentlemen to make me breakfast. I feel stronger knowing that we as all people are represented in the silliest of Disney films, as Disney films mean so much more than catchy songs and acton-packed adventures. The start of self-confidence among many children begin with the childhood movie characters that inspire them so, and the silliest of films will lead to a generation of absolute empathy and prosperity.