Will There Ever Be an LGBTQ+ Disney Princess?
From Snow White to Moana, Disney princesses have come a long way. In many ways, these royal heroines have actually reflected the current social climate.
When Snow White came out in 1938, the film mirrored what society thought a woman’s place should be. The Evil Queen’s primary motivation was to be the fairest in all the lands and Snow White, who blindly broke into the Dwarves’ home, decides the first thing she should do is cook and clean.
Cinderella, in 1950, wasn’t much better. Sure, she had the courage to rebel from her evil stepmother, but her great escape was to marry the prince. (I think we can all agree that she should have used her family’s absence to get the hell out of dodge, not sneak off to the ball.)
Yet, as Women’s rights have become more prominent, Disney princess films have progressed too — slowly becoming more feminist and inclusive. Mulan was a Chinese warrior who kicked ass, Merida was the first heroine without a love interest, and Tiana was the first African American princess.
Most recently, Moana seemed to Disney’s most progressive princess — not only was she Polynesian, but she also didn’t have a romantic interest either.
As Disney continues to try and represent princesses that aren’t your cookie-cutter, white, damsel-in-distress, it’s left me with one burning question: will there ever be an LGBTQ+ Disney princess?
According to Huffington Post, who interviewed Moana directors, Ron Clements, and John Musker, there could be an LGBTQ+ princess on the horizon:
Asked about the possibility of an LGBTQ Disney princess, Clements said, “It seems like the possibilities are pretty open at this point.”
Musker added: “It would be driven by a director or a directorial team that really wanted to push that and if [Disney Animation’s Chief Creative Officer] John Lasseter liked the idea, but I would say we haven’t ever really [had] restrictions placed on what we’ve done.” — PinkNews, 2017, [quoting from Huffington Post]
As great as this sounds, things are, unfortunately, a little more complicated than just Disney’s willingness.
Even if the studio is ready for an LGBTQ+ princess, the rest of the world might not be. When the director, Bill Condon, of the live-action, Beauty and the Beast, suggested that the movie would include an “exclusively gay moment”, he faced major backlash from the international market. The “gay moment” he spoke about didn’t turn out to be much of anything. It featured one character, LeFou, briefly dancing with another man in the background.
It was underwhelming, but still enough for both Russia and Malaysia to ban the release of the film in their regions¹.
If Disney did give Clements and Musker the go-ahead for an LGBTQ+ princess, they’d be doing so at the expense of any revenue they might lose from certain international markets — like Malaysia and Russia.
Aside from the backlash the studio would face from industry regulators, much of the US is still divided about the idea of an LGBTQ+ princess. Those who oppose the idea have a few key arguments they rely on:
“I’m not against LGBTQ+ rights, but I don’t want my kid watching a gay princess.”
There’s a couple of reasons why this particular argument falls apart. First of all, you can’t be pro-LGBTQ+ rights and homophobic. Second of all, what exactly is the fear here? That your child will watch a possible same-sex relationship and “become” gay? It doesn’t work like that. At most, your child might have a few questions afterward if they’ve never been exposed to same-sex relationships before — but starting a conversation about LGBTQ+ people might be a good thing.
I’d also like to add that LGBTQ+ doesn’t necessarily mean gay. That acronym encompasses a whole group — such as trans, queer, bisexual people. That being said, if Disney did choose to portray an LGBTQ+ princess, she would probably be gay. Not only would this be the “simplest” way to portray an LGBTQ+ character, but I can’t even imagine the uproar surrounding a trans princess. (But, hey, we’ll take what we can get, right?)
“It’s just a Disney movie, why does it need to be making a political statement? It’s just supposed to be a fun family movie.”
There are plenty of people who question why we even need to be having this discussion. After all, Disney movies are just lighthearted, kids’ movies — who cares about the love interest?
Perhaps there wouldn’t be a need for this discussion if Disney movies weren’t so popular — if they didn’t end up on movie screens with packed theaters.
Before I get into that, I’d like to point out that by creating an LGBTQ+ princess, Disney wouldn’t be making a “political statement”. Your sexual orientation is not a choice. It’s not even a political statement — it’s just a part of your identity. What is political is the fight for LGBTQ+ people to have the same rights as everyone else.
But really, the aim of Disney princess movies — at least in recent years — has been to be as inclusive as possible. They want to portray characters that are relatable. The kids (and adults) who watch Disney movies come from all different backgrounds — white, black, gay, straight.
Seeing as Disney has succeeded in representing different ethnicities and cultures, it only seems like a natural progression for them to try and represent an LGBTQ+ character. There are kids out there who watch Cinderella but can’t imagine being swept off their feet by the prince. There are kids out there who watch Sleeping Beauty and picture a princess saving Aurora instead of Prince Phillip. These kids matter too — especially since every other movie and TV show they’ll watch will probably feature almost-exclusively heterosexual relationships.
Disney may have hinted at a possible LGBTQ+ princess in the future, but the public and industrial repercussions they would face make instituting this idea a lot more complicated. Still, even with all of the negative backlash, so much good could come from having an LGBTQ+ princess: if Disney could successfully pull it off, it might mean that other movies and TV shows would follow. In a world where LGBTQ+ people are severely underrepresented in media, a gay princess could change everything.
¹Pink News, Josh Jackman, “Malaysia blocks release of Beauty and the Beast after ‘gay moment’ revealed”, 2017.