In the 90s, Disney was going for something different in their leading ladies. They wanted heroines who were COMPLEX, women who were INTERESTING, and they were determined to give (most of) the princesses realistic, believable, and unashamed flaws. These princesses were supposed to be relatable and a lady a normal girl could identify with. Perhaps this is why these princesses are generally preferred to the classics. These princesses had obvious dimensions to their personalities, and all were made to seem like a girl you could run in to on the street.
Ariel is well known as the most realistic and relatable princess- and really, it’s no wonder why. Ariel has dreams and desires that are symptomatic of any teen wishing for MORE and to be in new surroundings, as well as very realistic arguments and a poignantly real relationship with her father.
Positives: Ariel is undoubtedly determined. She knows what she wants and nothing is going to stop her from getting it. She will become a human whether her father likes it or not. Also, Ariel takes necessary risks she needs for her to achieve her goal. Some say she is just basically risky, but she knows all the stakes she will face and contend with. She completely comprehends the risk it will mean for her, and she does it anyway. Ariel’s fears don’t hold her back. I think it is actually great that, understanding the risks and possible negative outcome, Ariel makes the choice herself and takes a chance. Ariel is undoubtedly brave. She is brave to take Ursula up on her deal. She is brave to dive (pun intended) headfirst into life as a human. She is brave to be completely who she is around Eric, someone she desperately wanted to impress. I think that is something many so often overlook. And of course, she was incredibly brave to rescue Eric from the burning ship. Ariel is completely her own. Even when faced with Eric, Ariel is her normal zany, enthusiastic self. Ariel really cares for Eric. First, of course, she saves him from the ship. She does everything she can to save him when they are fighting Ursula. Ariel is friendly and outgoing. She is genuinely happy to meet other people, and she is nice to everyone she meets. Ariel is confident in herself. She only has three days to get Eric to kiss her, and she is certain she will succeed. And guess what, she almost does.
Negatives: Alright, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Ariel is very flawed. *Gasps from the background* I know, it’s impossible to believe, she seems just so much like the creator’s idea of a perfect person. To start off with, Ariel, along with all her determination, nerve, and bravery, is incredibly reckless and impulsive. She has all the guts, all the nerve, to go to the surface, but really, she doesn’t think it all the way through. She knows what it will mean directly to her, but she doesn’t consider the possibilities when it comes to what it will mean for her family. Which brings me to my second point. She doesn’t think about how her decisions will affect her family and friends. I think there is a subtle difference between this and being selfish. Ariel didn’t decide that her desires were more important than her family, she just didn’t take them into account. If she had known Ursula would use her to try and get to her father, I think she wouldn’t have taken up the deal. She just didn’t think that Ursula’s deal might affect or be aimed at her family. Again, this brings me to my next point. Ariel is not particularly bright. As I’ve kind of been getting at so far, she doesn’t suspect that Ursula might have some ulterior motive, even though she knows Ursula is the evil sea witch. She completely believes Ursula when she says she does what she does to help
other mermaids. Also, Ariel follows what Scuttle says even after it is revealed that he wasn’t right about the dinglehopper. She obviously uses the dinglehopper for the wrong thing, but instead of sitting and waiting and watching, she uses the snarfblat the way Scuttle tells her to. Ariel is just slow on the uptake. And I’m sure there are plenty I’m forgetting. Ariel is a very realistic, flawed character.
Neutral: Many see Ariel as a very two-sided character, but she has plenty of other traits, too. One side often overlooked in Ariel is how wistful she is. After her father reprimands her for going to the surface, Ariel is shown being very plaintive in her musings that her father doesn’t understand her. During POYW, we see her yearning for the human world and just how much she wants to be a part of it. Ariel isn’t always positive and upbeat- and that’s okay. People don’t always need to be this unnatural wall of positivity. Ariel shows a very real and- forgive me- human side. Ariel is also obsessive. That is something I can relate to- I am VERY much the same. She gets invested in one thing and nothing will distract her from it- not family commitments, not consequences, she is totally devoted to humanity. Ariel invests everything into finding human objects and finding out more about them.
Border: Ariel really doesn’t have many of these. She’s a relatively cut-and-dried character. One border trait of Ariel is her nerve. Her nerve is good because she takes risks and leaps when others might just look. She doesn’t let her fear hold her back. However, that can also lead to her making some reckless decisions. She needs more control. Her nerve leads her to be impulsive.
The first princess meant to be universally relatable and like normal girls
Belle, when you look at her, is actually really idealized, basically as much as the original three. However, like the original three, that doesn’t mean she has no flaws. They’re just significantly fewer than you would really expect of a normal person. Despite her idealized nature, however, Belle is still generally seen as a relatable character.
Positives: Belle loves learning. She always wants to know more. She is fascinated with the castle and wants to know exactly what is so important about the West Wing. And let me say that she does NOT only read fairytales or “the equivalent of Twilight books.” Far off places- in Harry Potter. Daring sword fights- in Harry Potter. Magic spells- in Harry Potter. A prince in disguise- this could apply to so many characters in Harry Potter. So yeah, far-off places, swordfights, magic, and disguises aren’t only in fairytales. Belle really does want to learn. Belle also sees to the heart of a person. Gaston is handsome and strong, but Belle is disinterested because of his arrogance and brutish nature. The Beast, on the other hand, would appear to be an undesirable- being, but Belle can understand that he isn’t bad. And just to point out, even at his worst, the Beast never raised a hand to Belle. She is able to look beyond appearances and judges a person on character. Belle has strong convictions. She stands up to Gaston when he threatens the Beast. She also believes strongly in protecting her father. She takes her father’s place to protect him and goes to find him in the forest. Belle is patient. Belle withstands her time at the Beast’s castle very well. She also puts up with Gaston’s advances. Belle is also seen teaching the Beast (in the extended version) to read. Belle is also very brave and selfless. I’d say she’s the second-bravest princess. It took a lot of courage to be able to decide to take her father’s place and put herself in a position where she’d be a prisoner for the rest of her life, but Belle cares enough about her father to do so.
Negatives: Belle doesn’t have the most flaws of the princesses, but they are undoubtedly there. Belle goes back on her promises. When she commits to something, she doesn’t always see it all the way through. Belle says she wants adventure, but doesn’t seek it. She takes her father’s place as prisoner, but leaves while she’s there because the Beast got angry with her (when she broke the rules in the first place.) Belle also blames the Beast for her trouble when she broke the rules. Belle also doesn’t express her feelings. She doesn’t tell the Beast that she loves him, and that could have ended in disaster. And even though it doesn’t really bother her, you can tell in the kitchen with her father that she doesn’t like it that everyone thinks she’s odd, but she appears not to even let herself feel disappointed about it more than the one time. She also doesn’t always come out and say what she’s feeling, but expects people to understand. Instead of just being clear that she doesn’t want to marry him, she calls him “primeval” and other words he won’t understand, but then is frustrated when he comes back to her. Belle is also an intellectual snob. This is something that would seem in direct contrast to her open-mindedness with Beast, but that just adds more to her character. She looks down on the townspeople who don’t read or seek knowledge the way she does. This is another trait evinced by her calling Gaston “primeval.” She speaks to them in ways she knows they won’t understand and judges their ignorance.
Neutral: Belle is logical and analytical. She can read a situation. She can’t necessarily read people, but she can see the different aspects of a situation. For example, when Gaston came to her house, she was able to find a way to lead him to the door and get him to leave. She is also able to figure out a way to get Cogsworth on her side by complimenting his knowledge of the castle and getting him to give her a tour. Really, I’m starting to notice that Belle is pretty manipulative. By becoming excited at the prospect of a library, she also gets Cogsworth and Lumiere distracted and is able to slip off to the West Wing. Belle is also introverted and reserved. She likes to be by herself and would much rather read a book surrounded by sheep than gossip with the townspeople or gawk at Gaston with the Bimbettes. She would rather daydream in a field than go and take part in the town celebration. Belle is also imaginative. She can imagine everything that happens in the books. I’ve found that generally, people who read a lot have more colorful imaginations. She can also help with her father’s inventions, and inventors need a lot of imagination to be able to create new ways to solve problems.
Border: Belle is an assertive person. She doesn’t put up with what she doesn’t believe in and she fights to be right. She pushes Gaston away when he comes and, even though she might not openly tell him she isn’t interested in him, she still resists his advances. However, this gets her into trouble as well. When she goes back to the castle after running away into the forest, she won’t admit she made a mistake in going into the West Wing. Belle is also really curious. She is interested in everything she can learn about. She always wants to know more. This is good because it encourages her to learn. However, we all know that “Curiosity killed the cat.” Belle’s curiosity takes her into the West Wing. Going into the west Wing is often considered the greatest of Belle’s mistakes, and it was caused by her curiosity.
The most idealized Renaissance princess
Jasmine is one of the more flawed princesses, as well. She, like Ariel, also is meant to be very representative of a typical teenager. Many find her bratty and rude, which she is. Many also find her to be resourceful and independent, which she also is.
Positives: Jasmine has strong convictions that she won’t turn back on, no matter what it takes. She believes in being independent and marriage for love, and she takes the only route she can to be in charge of her own life and love. Jasmine is willing to give up her privilege for the freedom she desires. Jasmine genuinely cares about her father and protects him. Even though she hates that she has to be forced into marriage, she never gets angry and lashes out at her father. Jasmine never actually yells at the sultan. Jasmine also is able to be calm and levelheaded even in her anger. Even when she is angry after Prince Achmed comes, she is able to discuss the situation rationally with her father. She calmly tells him what it is that upsets her about her situation. Even when she runs away, Jasmine is entirely rational and collected in her situation. Also, in the end when Jafar takes control of the lamp, 90% of the time she is completely rational about it. She tells him she will never bow to him entirely calmly, along with flicking off the piece of fruit Jafar spit on her. She is able to be very rational when she sees Aladdin has returned and distracts Jafar very calmly. The only time she isn’t entirely levelheaded is when she throws the drink. Jasmine is also very cunning, crafty, and resourceful. Jasmine has incredible guile. She goes along with Aladdin’s plan in the market and has to adapt with what he says momentarily the entire time. She tricks Aladdin into revealing himself as the boy from the market. In the end, she is able to distract Jafar away from Aladdin. Jasmine may not be traditionally academic and intelligent, but she is very crafty and uses her resources. Jasmine also sees Aladdin for what he is and does not judge him for being poor. She chooses him based on character and not wealth. She was able to see beyond his outward appearance to his heart of gold.
Negatives: Jasmine is a hypocrite. She claims that she doesn’t need help and is an entirely independent being, that she is “not a prize to be won!,” but Aladdin treats her in exactly that way and she takes it. He lies to her multiple times, and as long as he says sorry, she doesn’t mind and “trusts” him. I guess it does say something that she requires him to say sorry, but she still takes him back unquestioningly every time and doesn’t seem to require anything to actually change. Even in the end, after everything Aladdin has done, after all the times he’s lied, she doesn’t even worry about what he did and forgives him because he makes one apology. She also needs Aladdin to do a large part of just about everything. I won’t go on about it too much, seeing as she does get a pass because she’s not the protagonist, but she still requires rather a lot of help. There are also some moments of Aladdin’s relationship that make Jasmine look- ironically- materialistic. After getting upset with Aladdin for being like all the other suitors- and I’ll get to that in a second- Aladdin comes back on his carpet, and all of a sudden none of that matters. She doesn’t care about any of that because, oh, now he has something new I want. Isn’t that exactly what she was saying bothered her about all her suitors earlier? Also, I think it’s very unfair that she gets upset about Aladdin saying everything he did on the balcony. She said it all first, he was only repeating what she said. Jasmine can also be rude and a brat. She didn’t appear to actually pay attention to the suitors, just decided that none of them would be acceptable. That was certainly the way she acted toward “Prince Ali.” Jasmine also wasn’t particularly in touch with the suffering of her people. After her time in the market, Jasmine doesn’t really do anything about it and doesn’t appear to be particularly bothered by it other than giving the one girl an apple. Jasmine isn’t especially temperate. She wants everything to go the way she wants it to and isn’t well suited to it being any different.
Neutral: Jasmine is very feminine. She’s not feminine in the way the classics were, where they simply appeared to not understand having any non-feminine traits, but she enjoys being a girl. Jasmine isn’t entirely consumed by being a girl, she just accepts it and carries it. Jasmine completely embraces her femininity. In direct contrast to her femininity, Jasmine can also be a bit less-then-feminine. If I were to rank the girls by tomboy-ish-ness, Jasmine would actually be toward to top- just as she would be toward the top in girliness. She is never demure, she isn’t incredibly dreamy, Jasmine just can be a bit of a tomboy. I wouldn’t really say any of the princesses (other than Merida) is a real tomboy, but Jasmine is closer to one than most of the princesses. Jasmine is also somewhat romantic. She wants to marry for love and hates the idea of a political marriage. After her adventure with Aladdin, she is seen humming and brushing her hair dreamily. She is also romantic in the broader sense. She dreams of a life in the city, even if it means in the streets. Jasmine also cares for animals. Again, she doesn’t like animals in the way the classics do, where they just seem to be drawn to her, but Jasmine wants the birds to be free and is genuinely sorry to be leaving Rajah, not to mention that he is her best friend.
Border: Jasmine is assertive. Like Belle, this can serve her well or be a disadvantage. This can serve her well because she doesn’t let anyone walk on her. She stands up against Jafar and tells him that she and her father will never bow to him. However, Jasmine can also be rude in her assertion, and with her suitors, be unfair to them. Jasmine is also outspoken. She always expresses her opinions, and this is good because no one was going to ask her and she was very open and honest with everyone. However, this can also make her appear rude and childish, which causes others to sort of dismiss her. Jasmine wants to marry for love. This is good because, well, don’t we all think that is right? However, this also causes her to prematurely judge anyone who comes to seek her hand.
Cunning, hypocritical, feminine, and assertive, Jasmine is a very intentionally realistic character
Thanks to everyone who left a comment on my poll telling me what you like about Jasmine, it really helped me write her section.
Sorry, but I think these are just going to be getting longer.