This is what a Princess Looks Like: Fictional Edition
The other day, I heard a story about a little girl who didn’t understand how Leia from Star Wars could be a princess if she wasn’t wearing a pink dress. This got me thinking about princesses and how we look at them in our society. When I searched “princess” in Google images, almost every single picture was of princesses from Disney films. I challenged myself to think of what other princesses look like in TV, movies, and comics. Many of them fit the classic fairy tale aesthetic, but others are portrayed quite differently.
As the documentary Miss Representation revealed, telling girls how they should look and behave can have devastating effects. I’ve discussed this concept with others, in particular how destructive it can be to make girls desire to be the Fairest of Them All like the princesses they see on TV. For example, the princesses that girls dress up as for Halloween tend to be ones focused on superficial things like beauty and out-dated etiquette (Except maybe for this little Batman Princess or these Darth Vader Princesses).
However, there are some fictional princesses who aren’t vain or weak—who are portrayed as intelligent and compassionate leaders, leaders who might become a queen someday. The list below is a few of the fictional ladies I believe break the typical princess mold in some way. I admit that some of these princesses are still not perfect examples for young girls, but they do exhibit characteristics that should be encouraged.
Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars Episodes IV, V, & VI and various novels.)
Since Leia was the inspiration for this post, I felt it was prudent to make her the first on the list. Although some might remember her just for the “slavekini” she was forced to wear in Return of the Jedi, she does wear a variety of clothing throughout the trilogy. We see her in a white dress on the Death Star, white snow appropriate clothing on Hoth, camouflage gear on the forest moon of Endor, and many more. All of these outfits, besides the bikini, cover her modestly and are efficient for the task at hand.
Moving past her appearance, we find that Leia is not only a princess, but also a member of the Imperial Senate. She is comfortable taking command in both diplomatic and military conditions. Not only can she shoot a blaster with precision, she becomes a Jedi Knight in the novels.
Princess Adrienne (Princeless)
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Princeless yet, you are really missing out. Princess Adrienne is locked in a tower by her parents so that a knight can come rescue her. Adrienne finds a sword under her bed and instead of waiting for a prince, she teams up with her dragon guardian, Sparky, and flies off to save her sisters. She initially wears armor that she finds around her tower and is later disgusted to see what options were available for female warriors (including an obvious parody of Xena’s armor). Her newfound friend, Bedelia, makes her some real armor after receiving input from Adrienne.
You may notice that Adrienne is the only princess of color on this list (unless you count the color green). Besides the few Disney princesses, I found it difficult to think of fictional women of color with the title, “princess”. I know there must be more out there, but I find it depressing that no other examples came to my mind right away.
Fiona (Shrek film series)
When we first meet Fiona she looks, behaves, and speaks like the classic princess locked in a tower. As she corrects Shrek on his rescue, it becomes obvious that she is following a script from a storybook. It is not until the second day of traveling that she reveals that she is highly trained in hand-to-hand combat and perfectly okay with letting out a belch in mixed company. Later, when she finds out about her ogre form, she is ashamed of it. Ultimately she realizes it is her true form and accepts herself. In the second movie, she even becomes upset with Shrek for wishing for them to be human.
Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess)
Though she is not a princess in the traditional sense, she still holds the title of Warrior Princess and that is good enough for me. I remember watching Xena when I was younger and admiring her fighting skills, especially with the chakram. Not only was she a great fighter, she was also a good friend to Gabrielle. It seems that strong female fighters are often placed among men to prove themselves. In Xena: Warrior Princess, we get to see two women work together as friends and partners.
The costume Lucy Lawless wore as Xena and the weapons she carried are iconic. The leather and metal armor do not provide the full coverage one would want on a battlefield, but they do provide her with a wide range of movement. Even Lucy Lawless said that she found the costume to be functional once she got over the shortness of the skirt. I’m not saying that it is perfect, especially since her thighs, part of her arms, and her chest are exposed, but it gives a better illusion of protection than the spandex of other female fighters.
These are only a few of the princesses that I considered for this list. Honorable mentions include The Paper Bag Princess, Wonder Woman, Princess Mononoke/San, Princess Bubblegum, and Princess Adora/She-Ra.
Join us next week for “This is What a Princess Looks Like: Nonfiction Edition”
What princesses would you add to this list? Why?