Lately, Disney Channel itself (our daily dose of Disney, though quality has fallen in the past few years--anyone else miss Kim Possible?) has been airing commercials targeting girls (little and otherwise) with the pivotal line "I am a princess." The commercial goes on to describe all the things a "princess" should be (brave, loyal, strong of mind, heart, and body, etc.) and it made me think: Why do I want to be a princess?
Now, be clear, I'm not saying I specifically want to be a princess. Sure, all that magicalness and beauty would be super cool at first, but it seems that the life of a princess kind of stinks--constantly getting tricked by evil witches and wizards and getting cursed for no discernible reason except that you're pretty. And, oh sure, princesses are great. They're all sugar and nice (there's very little spice in Disney's princesses) and they get to fall in love and...well, people want to be them, don't they?
But I don't want to be a princess.
When I was younger, after I had pretended to be a princess with my Barbies for ten minutes, I decided to play the villain. I practiced my evil voice, my laugh/cackle, my faces in the mirror. I had more fun being the villain, even had so much fun that often, in my little stories, the villain won more often than not in the grand scheme of good vs. evil. (I don't know what was wrong with me.)
But thinking back on it years later, I feel like there were so many lessons those villains, and other, non-princess characters taught, lessons that were far better than the "A dream is a wish your heart makes" or "Someday my prince will come" of the official princesses of the Disney family. So I have assembled some villains and ordinary non-princesses to show how awesome they actually. (We'll not even speak of how much better their songs are.)
Ursula: Be cool with who you are, cause no matter what anyone says, you are awesome.
Hey, not all of us are the perfect princess type, and most of us don't feel princess-y most of the time, even if we are the "perfect type." Ursula's totally cool with it, she's totally rocking it. And no matter what anyone says, she knows she's a first class witch and no one can take that away, and she knows she deserves better. And, while she is a villain, and I in no way condone her actions, she doesn't just sit back and accept her fate. She fights for herself, and that's something all of us should do. And, hey, she gets pretty close.
Megara: Don't let anyone push you around.
Megara is one of my favorite heroines. She's sarcastic and prickly on the outside, but loyal and caring on the inside. That's why it takes so long to get past her shell; being hurt before, she's all walls and wards against getting hurt again. But at her heart? She's a good kid; strong, loyal, she never backs down, and is willing to sacrifice herself for those people who make it through her walls. Even when she's indebted to Hades, Megara fights him every step, and remains true to her friends (if she had any).
Scar: Take every opportunity you get for success, but minimize chance for disaster.
Sure, he's evil, but he's also capitalizes on every opportunity he gets to get to where he wants to be. Some people let opportunity pass them by, too afraid of failing. Scar doesn't; instead, he meticulously plans in order reduce the chance of failure--if Scar was on Wall Street, he would be great. He might steal all your money, but he would definitely make you a huge chunk of change before he did it. If he looked out for more people than himself, he might even make the transition from villain to hero--he's that good.
Pocahontas: Sometimes you have to make hard choices.
(First: No, while she may be close to a princess, she is not officially a princess) One of the things I love about Pocahontas (Disney version) is that she's the only classic Disney character--perhaps one of very few in all Disney films--that falls in love twice onscreen. That makes her great in my book, because I have personally never subscribed to the whole "there's only one person in the whole world made for you." Not only that, but Pocahontas is the only heroine I can think of right now that makes the choice between duty and love--and no matter what you say, she did love John Smith. And she makes the choice of duty. Everyone gets a by, finds a loophole. Pocahontas makes the hard choice, and while it's the road less traveled, and while she's by no means perfect, that makes her more of leader than the official princesses of the Disney canon.
Are there any others? I know this is a short list, but I think it sums up what I'm trying to say. Sometimes our life lessons come from the strangest places, and there's nothing wrong with admiring a villain's confidence and ambition, nor with not wanting to be a princess.