Over vacation, we went to see Moana the latest Disney Princess movie. I went in without much expectation; I usually like Disney movies but the recent Pixar ones have been so much better. I was blown away by how good it was! It was a fun, well-told story about a fascinating part of the world (the South Pacific) with good music and great voices. But my favorite part was the fact that the heroine didn’t have (or need) a love interest.
In every other Disney Princess movie, the story is about romantic love. There is always a boy (never yet a girl and usually a prince) and they (almost) always end up together at the end. The list of Disney Princesses shows a progression, but Moana breaks the mold in a great way.
The classic princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora) all were tales of prince saves princess. The narrative shifted in recent decades with princesses who were more self-sufficient (Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel) but they were ultimately still about a girl needing a boy. Merida changed the dynamic from romantic love to mother-daughter relationship but the conflict stemmed from the expectation that the princess marry a prince (if not for love, for the good of the kingdom). Anna and Elsa adapted the narrative to sisterly love, and that was a nice change but again the romantic swings of a princess were a main story-line.
Moana is different. Not only is she set to inherit the role of chief from her father without one word about gender, but she is also not pressured (or seemingly interested) in a romantic relationship. It’s just not mentioned. It is so nice to see that a strong, young female character can be represented without any focus on her love life. There are still male characters in the movie, but she relies on them not based on their gender, but on their skills and their abilities to help her achieve her goals.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a depiction of a Disney Princess that did not involve romantic love, and I highly recommend the movie to everyone!
Note: Elsa, Anna, and Moana have technically not been added to the official list of capital-P princesses as defined by Disney. Rumors are that Moana will be added, but no word on the Frozen sisters.