Creating the Perfect Princess: An Examination of the Evolution of the Disney Princess Conglomerate

 the Disney Princess Archetype:


Thesis Statement:

By examining the evolution of the Disney Princess, a discernable pattern is illuminated that ultimately presents the creation of Disney Princesses as a fluid and flexible process that responds to the demands of their buyers and thus consumer culture.  In this manner, this project will explore the balancing act that is the formation of a Disney Princess in order to make the claim that Disney has embarked on a profit driven trajectory with the ultimate goal of creating a new Disney Princess that garners as much notoriety and success as the princesses in Disney’s golden-goose, Frozen.

The Evolution of the Disney Princess:


Examining This Evolution:

In 2000 after attending a Disney on Ice performance full of homemade princess costumes, Andy Mooney and the rest of the Disney consumer-products division made the revolutionary decision to market the company’s Princesses and all of their princess accoutrements as a single entity.


The Explosion of the Disney Princess Conglomerate:

“in 2015, it was estimated that there were over 40, 000 ‘princess products’ being sold worldwide for a profit of $2.64 billion in product sales”

Researchers Examine the Effects of this Explosion:

“In a misogynistic culture, it’s never too early to drill into the minds of girls that what really matters is their appearance and their ability to please men sexually,” which many parents argued was a notion only reinforced by the superficial and male-centric Disney Princess narratives. 

Disney  Responds:

  Image result for brave

To No Avail….

“In 2009, Disney released “The Princess and the Frog,” its first animated princess movie in more than a decade, starring Tiana, the company’s first African-American heroine. It grossed a disappointing $104 million at the box office. It remains the company’s lowest-grossing princess movie.”

http://Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too.

Disney Responds…AGAIN


“Frozen-Mania: How Elsa, Anna and Olaf Conquered the World”

Princesses, However, Are Still Found To Be Problematic…

Coyne et al. – 2016 – Pretty as a Princess Longitudinal Effects of Enga


Disney Creates New Non-Princess Era:

“’The Princess franchise has to evolve,’” says Josh Silverman, executive vice president for global licensing at Disney Consumer Products, the division that handles all the brand licenses. “’The focus will be on empowered heroines.’”


The Death of the Disney Princess:

Hine et al. – 2018 – From the Sleeping Princess to the World-Saving Dau

“’If I were to make the movies you guys wanted me to make about princesses, I would be murdered,’” [John] Lasseter once told a group raising concerns about the character Merida’s cynical attitude in “Brave,” according to a former colleague. He said, ‘I couldn’t make the movies Walt Disney made today.’”

Where Does Disney Go From Here?

1)Live-Action Remakes

2) Reimagining the Original Disney Princesses

Will this ever end? (My View)

Although Disney has clearly struggled to both create and emulate the success of Frozen and its two, princess protagonists, the Disney Princess conglomerate is still a wildly profitable enterprise with seemingly endless marketing and brand potential, which suggests that Disney will never stop trying to recreate the perfect princesses that were Anna and Elsa of Disney’s Frozen.

Project’s Bibliography:

VIS 369 Final Project Bibliography

The Great Balancing Act

As I have begun to reflect on my studies this past semester, I was struck by how many times this class has popped up in my daily life.  Whether it be a particularly heinous commercial or the release of a new and highly controversial music video, the material from this class proved itself to be an invaluable tool in understanding the complexities of daily life in modern day America.  In this manner, this class has demonstrated the leaps and bounds that media has made in releasing fair and equal representations of the sexes.  It has also demonstrated the importance of film and other media’s presence in academia in that I have been exposed to an entirely different genre of media that I would have otherwise been entirely ignorant to.  The class’s focus on experimental film as means to express the intrinsic connection between gender, media, and sexuality opened my eyes to a niche within the media world that not only defies the normative limits of patriarchal society but also provides a platform for the exploration and discovery of gender and sexuality for those people who would otherwise be confined to a life of unfulfilled passing.  While I believe and stand behind the value that these experimental films hold, I cannot help but wonder the extent to which these films are being disseminated to larger groups and populations, which is to say that I am skeptical that many people outside of the small group of people studying film and film theory at universities and other academic institution are seeing these new and vastly important pieces of media.  My skepticism ultimately  illuminates an inescapable quandary within the experimental film world: can a film or other piece of media be revolutionary and groundbreaking if only a small and isolated group is able to view it?  Additionally, I was also interested in the style and quality of these films.  Some of these works were extremely odd and rather unpleasant to watch, which ultimately leads me to another critique that I had with the experimental film community in that film and other media is meant to be watched and enjoyed.  If a film is not enjoyable and people do not want to watch it, can it really be considered an inspired and revolutionary advancement in the film industry?  I will spend the remainder of this post exploring my personal opinions on these lines of inquiry.

As the title of this post suggests, I believe that experimental film must be created with an adherence to the great balancing act that is form and value, which is to say that I ultimately believe that creators of experimental film must find a balance between creating an aesthetically pleasing piece of media that large groups of people want to consume and creating an inspired and groundbreaking comment on modern society.  In this manner, I am not advocating for a Michael Bay level commitment to pop culture.  I am also not advocating, however, for the jarring and frankly unpleasant sounds released by the band, which the class was introduced to on the final, Monday night screening, that refused to conform to the normative, pop culture sounds of the current music industry.  In other words, I am advocating for a more subtle and tacit exploration of film technique and film theory.  I believe that the limits must be pushed in terms of film and other media, but I also believe that truly impactful work is that which is consumed and spread to different people with different perspectives, races, socioeconomic classes, and education.  A jarring conflation of jarring screams and shouts aimed at challenging the capitalist consumption of media and other forms of expression will not be picked up and spread from one group of people to the next simply due to the fact that people do not want to listen to something that is not pleasant or enjoyable.  Additionally, however, no one pushes any sort of envelope with Michael Bay’s rendition of Transformers, a two-hour series of explosions and battles with no seeming plot or character development.  Where true development and growth occurs comes with people who make work that both challenges societal issues but also conforms to the instinctive desire of humans to engage with and consume that which they enjoy.  In this manner, the works of Childish Gambino and Banksy immediately come to mind when I think of people within the experimental media community that are creating impactful work that pushes the envelope of media.

Combatting “Lesbian Lifeworld”


In Michael Boyce Gillespie’s book Film Blackness, the author makes the claim that “black film, and black art more broadly, navigates the idea of race as constitutive, cultural fiction, yet this art is nevertheless often determined exclusively by the social category of race or veracity claims about black existential life in very debilitating ways” (Gillespie 1.)  In this manner, black film appears to present a reductive and unnecessarily narrow portrayal of “black lifeworld,” (Gillespie 5) which ultimately suggests that black film is a chaotic amalgamation of work with only race in common.  Professor Herzog as well Jennifer DeClue, in the roundtable discussion surrounding Pariah, deem this compartmentalization of black art as a ghettoization.  In other words, the film is analyzed and interpreted but in a category outside of contemporary, mainstream media.  The content and character of the work is ignored.  It is the blackness of the art that is underscored.  It is the blackness of the art that separates it from other films and makes it a legitimate endeavor.  Interestingly, it was this concept of ghettoization that I kept coming back to while watching Dee Rees’s film Pariah.

While Pariah can be viewed in accordance with Gillespie’s theories surrounding the ghettoization of black film and black art, it was in the portrayal of several different types of black lesbians in the film that the intricacies of his theories were illuminated.  In this manner, Dee Rees appears to be combatting this compartmentalization but with both race and sexual identity.  Alike, the main protagonist of this film, is an adolescent, middle-class, black lesbian from a conservative and religious family.  She knows she is a lesbian, yet she has not come out to her family.  She is also not entirely comfortable in her own skin as a lesbian.  In this manner, she does not feel as though she fits in with the stereotypical black, lesbian crowd.  Her best friend, Laura, her mentor and greatest support system, does, however, which ultimately throws Alike into an environment where she does not feel comfortable or able to be herself.  It even gets to the point where she attempts to wear a strap-on to the club to try and conform to what she thinks a lesbian should look like.  When she meets Bina, a churchgoing free-spirit who shares many of the same tastes in music, art, and hobbies, she no longer needs to change herself to fit in with the other black lesbians who she was previously hanging out with.  Instead, she is unhindered by her constant need to conform to the identity that is expected of her.  She no longer has to be Laura’s type of lesbian, and she no longer has to be her parents’ type of daughter.  She is able to come to terms with her sexuality and break free from her chameleon status by coming out to her parents and pursuing her greatest passion, poetry.  It is ultimately through this portrayal of Alike’s character that the film challenges the compartmentalization of both blackness and lesbianism.

In Dee Rees’s film Pariah, Rees presents a wide variety of black lesbian characters thus combatting the notion that all black lesbians have certain characteristics, proclivities, and sexual preferences.  In essence, she appears to be doing exactly what Gillespie promoted in his book surrounding the ways in which black film “might offer a more inclusive and variegated investment” (Gillespie 3.)  In this manner, Dee Rees is not trying to reflect lesbian lifeworld but is instead trying to present the different types of black women that might become lesbian and the struggles that they face.  She is not compartmentalizing black lesbianism but broadening it.

Understanding the Erotic: Analyzing Power and Eroticism Using Janie’s Janie

Following this week’s screening, I left feeling rather perplexed as to how the readings and the films pieced together.  After rereading Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider and re-watching the selected films, however, I found some clarity, which was centered almost entirely around Lorde’s margarine metaphor.  Lorde’s metaphor, which describes the way in which “a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring” is mixed with “uncolored margarine” to create the classic butter-like spread that many of us have used at one point or another, captures both the essence of eroticism that she is writing about in her short essay as well as the essence and character of the experimental films that we viewed in our screening this past Monday.   Lorde’s metaphor, in this manner, provided a critical intellectual framework that ultimately allowed me to transpose my understanding of power, the erotic, and its effects on women to the films that we screened.  In all five films, the women appear to have harnessed Lorde’s erotic, which ultimately gave each woman a new found inspiration and empowerment in their respective lives or endeavors.  Additionally, these women were able to use this newfound sense of eroticism to surpass what Lorde describes as “the false notion that there is only a limited and particular amount of freedom that must be divided up between us.”  In this manner they used their empowered outlook as a catalyst for life improvement, which involved the conscious decision not to “settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.”  The connection that I perceived between power, the erotic, and the empowerment that these two phenomenon create is especially evident in the film Janie’s Janie.

In the 25-minute documentary style film Janie’s Janie, audiences are subjected to an unedited and raw depiction of the realities of single motherhood and the welfare state.  Janie, a single mother of five who recently separated from her husband, Charlie, allows filmmakers to follow her trials and tribulations as she attempts to provide for both her children and herself.  While the film is shot in a way that emphasizes the struggles of single motherhood, it also goes to great lengths to depict the inspiring effects that an empowered single mother had on a poor community in Newark, New Jersey.  With the film’s up-close shots of Janie sitting exhausted and coughing at the kitchen table after a long day of cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children, audiences are able to see the physical toll that single motherhood takes on this woman’s health and vitality.  This presentation of Janie combined with the way in which the camera follows her around and interviews her as she goes about her daily duties as a single mother allows audiences a glimpse into the endless chaos that comes with this type of lifestyle.  The seemingly endless struggle is complicated, however, by the one-on-one interviews that the film crew conducts with Janie.  In these interviews, the struggling single mother demonstrates an empowered and inspired view on her new life.  In one particularly poignant interview Janie claims “’Before I was my father’s Janie, and then I was Charlie’s Janie, and now I am Janie’s Janie.  I have to be my own person’” thus demonstrating to viewers a drive and determination that she has created for herself, which I have come to realize perfectly coincides with Lorde’s essay on the Uses of the Erotic.

In Janie’s Janie, both the one-on-one interviews as well as the progression that the film depicts of Janie’s character demonstrate a seamless embodiment of Lorde’s theory on the connection between the erotic and power.  In her essay, Lorde claims that “the fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression as women,” which is sentiment that Janie reiterates especially at the beginning of the film.  For Lorde it seems that erotic revolves around an acceptance and understanding of your inner desires.  In this manner, Lorde appears to be arguing that once a woman accepts and acknowledges her inner desires, whether they be sexual, emotional, or intellectual, she can begin to throw off the shackles of societal oppression, which was a sentiment that was clearly demonstrated in Janie’s Janie. Viewers hear the physical, mental, and emotional abuse that Janie suffered at the hands of her father, and they also hear the ways in which Janie had come to accept them as true.  She accepted the fact that she needed to get married and get pregnant in order to escape her father’s abuse, and she accepted the fact that she would be confined to a loveless marriage and a solitary and isolated existence as a stay at home mother.  She accepted, in essence, the “externally defined” gender norms that left her without a voice, without opinions, and without companionship.  Upon separation from her husband, however, something inside Janie changed that allowed her to think, act, and demand what she desired for herself and her children.  The film underscores this internal transformation by transforming the manner in which Janie is presented to the audience.  In the second half of the film, Janie is no longer confined to the isolated existence of single motherhood.  She is filmed outside of the house with other women doing things other than cooking and cleaning her house.  She is organizing groups of single women, she is fixing major appliances, and she is smiling and enjoying her life.  She is no longer the exhausted and sick housewife who is confined to her house.  She is free and liberated both spatially as well as intellectually and emotionally.  In essence, she has found her purpose by unlocking the erotic power within.