Are all modern Disney Princesses the same?

Lucy-Jo Finnighan
disney princesses

Disney’s princess heroines used to have a variety of personalities, but nowadays they seem to bare the same “adorkable” face.

When it comes to Disney, there is perhaps no archetype as well-known and beloved as the “Disney Princess.” Popular enough to form its own separate brand, the Princesses have grown alongside Disney, appearing in many of the studio’s major movies.

However, over recent years, it seems like Disney maybe running out of personalities to give its heroines. With the recent trailer for the upcoming animated movie Wish showing a heroine with a similar sense of humor, some Disney viewers have started to grow tired of the character trope.

But is this actually the case: Are all modern Disney heroines the same when compared to older heroines?

How are modern day Disney Princesses the same?

A discussion recently began on social media when popular YouTuber ModernGurlz posted a tweet about the upcoming Disney film Wish. The trailer features our new lead Asha (played by Ariana DeBose) discovering all sots of wonder, while also showcasing an awkward sense of humor and a tendency to be late for things.

Now, while this personality is plenty likeable and enjoyable to watch, it seems that a pattern has emerged over the past few Disney heroines. Disney Princesses (we’re going to include Encanto‘s Mirabel in this) have all seemed to share the same traits over the past few years: Adventurous and curious yet a little naïve, a strong tie to their family and their place within the environment they have grown up in, and a relatable “adorkable” personality.

This problem seems to have popped up in the early 2010s, when the Princesses turned CGI. Prior to this, we had a much wider variety of leading ladies: Tiana and Ariel could not be more different, and Belle and Jasmine are easily distinct from one another. They shared some traits; all were good and kind – and partial to an animal sidekick or two – but they clearly had their own personalities and senses of humor.

The closest we get to this modern sort of personality in older Disney flicks is Ariel, though she only starts to get this goofy persona once she becomes human and is a literal fish out of water. There’s also Mulan, she was arguably a klutzy dork and driven by her family, but she also had to act like a man for a large chunk of her movie – and she had a literal body count, making her more unique than she initially was. And this was only two princesses, in just over the past decade we’ve had almost five of the same style of heroine. This isn’t even tapping into the whole “same face” debate that plagued Frozen and Tangled.

Why is this happening?

Now, why are they like this? There could be a variety of reasons, but signs point to the fact that these new heroines are a perfectly marketable mix of “girl-bosses” and relatable, making audiences – particularly young female audiences – who watch these heroines both feel like them while simultaneously wanting to be more like them. Meaning they’re more likely to buy their Princess merch. But this now feels insulting, as it not only shows that Disney has only one way of presenting a Princess with modern values, but also that deep down, the marketability of their leads is what they care about the most. Which, granted, was always the case, but it’s far more apparent now.

As explained by one response to the initial tweet, one reason why past Princesses could be more varied is because “some of these characters have the advantage of not being the leads in their respective films, so they can get away with more unique personalities. They didn’t necessarily have to contain the “relatability” factor that modern Disney female leads gravitate towards.”

This is true, while modern Disney Princesses are similar, a lot of supporting female characters have been able to shine in different ways; Vanellope von Schweetz and Elsa certainly stand out in the brand, and Encanto is a great example of having a varied female cast. So perhaps we won’t see another type of female lead unless she’s no longer the central lead.

There is still hope for more variety

While we may be stuck with this lead heroine personality type for a while, media trends always change. And while Disney animated films can be slow to interact with certain trends, they’ll likely move on eventually.

Plus, to be fair to Disney, no modern heroine has been a stark carbon copy of another. They all have different character designs (for the most part) and their central arcs often resolve in distinct and impactful ways.

And to be even more fair, Wish isn’t out yet, so we’ve only been given a glimpse of what this new Princess can offer. Perhaps she is much more varied and multifaceted, but we’ll only know that once the movie comes out. Here’s hoping.

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