As an Oshkosh-wearing, “Free to Be You and Me”-listening product of the late 1970s, it has taken some time for me to adjust to the pink-obsessed, sparkle-loving 3-year-old girl I produced. Part of that has meant coming to terms with princesses. And not just any princesses, but Disney Princesses.
Disney Princesses are my daughter’s current obsession, and it makes me nervous as a mother and a feminist, with all those sappy love stories, all those women being rescued by men. Indeed, a study recently found that even in movies starring princesses, men did most of the talking. Not exactly what a mother dreams about for her young daughter.
But today I come to praise princesses, not to bury them. Specifically, to praise Disney’s most recent addition to the pantheon: Moana, heroine of Disney’s latest animated film. Moana is the greatest of all Disney princesses. She is the Ur-princess. She is a princess parents can get behind.
A word about nomenclature — Moana has not yet been included as an official “Disney Princess,” at least as listed on the “Dream Big, Princess” Disney website. That is nonsense. Moana is the daughter of a chief on a Polynesian Island. She is going to be ruler of that island someday, if not of the universe. The film includes a joke that “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.” And we need Moana to be a princess, because she is the kind of princess we want our daughters to become.
She has all the qualities of the princesses — great hair, a cute sidekick and a killer “I want” song (the Oscar nominated “How Far I’ll Go,” written by “Hamilton’s” Lin Manuel Miranda). Almost all the modern princesses are feisty (Belle, Ariel, Jasmine) and the latest round are at least active participants in their own stories (Rapunzel, Tiana). Elsa and Anna of “Frozen” even save the day by themselves.
But unlike every other princess, Moana doesn’t have a love interest. At all. Her story is this: Her island is being destroyed, and she needs to go fix it. So she does. She has help from the demigod Maui (charmingly voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), but there isn’t a hint of romance there. She is too busy learning to sail, defeating a gigantic crab and restoring the heart of the Earth goddess. Even “Brave’s” Merida, another action hero in princess garb, had to deal with a subplot about which goofy chieftain’s son she’d marry. She evaded getting tied down, but the need for a man was a plot point. Not so with Moana. She is a hero and we don’t have time for any other nonsense.
The main reason, though, that I think Moana is the greatest of all Disney princesses isn’t her bravery, her intelligence or her self-sufficiency, although all those things are important virtues to teach our princess-loving daughters and sons.
It’s her feet.
Moana is the only Disney princess doll for sale that can stand on her own two feet — literally. The Moana doll is built like a real human person — muscular legs, normal proportions and best of all, flat human feet. Every other Disney doll comes with a Barbie body and those crazy feet that can’t stand flat. They all have high heels. You’d expect it from Cinderella (duh), Sleeping Beauty, or even Ariel and Belle. Mulan, however, comes not in her cool warrior clothes, but in her fancy robes, and you guessed it, high heels. Pocahontas has high-heeled boots that make me snicker as I think about Chief Powhatan’s Christian Louboutin-like cobbler. Poor Merida has the appropriate flat shoes that a horse-riding, arrow-shooting woman would wear — but she has the high-heeled feet, so she can’t stand at all.
Beautiful strong legs, and nice broad strong feet. They broke the mold when they made her, and I for, one, say hurray.
Carrie Dunsmore is a lawyer and mother in Newton, Mass. She blogs at queenofbooklandia.com.
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