Would You Actually Want A Disney Princess's Fairy-Tale Ending?

Photo: Everett Collection.
Long before Netflix existed, I was binge-watching Cinderella as the older sister of a Disney-obsessed sibling. (Okay, I was also into it.) Right after the moment "Happily Ever After" scrolled across the screen, I would pop out the tape and put it in our VHS rewinder. Then, we’d shove it back into the VCR and settle down to watch Cindy's rags-to riches-transformation all over again.

My fond memories of that era have since been overwritten by the realization that all those princess narratives may not have had the most positive impact on our young brains. Earlier this year, Refinery29 readers told us about their favorite Disney princesses: Coming in first place was the ass-kicking Mulan, followed by the intelligent Belle, and then, the curious Ariel. This trio stands apart from the rest of the bunch because of their strength, independence, and drive. But they also wound up with their own princes charming. In the end, were they really good role models for little girls?

I don’t have a fully formed answer to that. Aside from their role-model status, though, I’m wondering just how relatable these characters were. So as a self-described millennial cynic, I decided to consider whether or not seven of the Disney Princesses lead post-fairy-tale ending lives I would actually want to lead. I evaluated their existence based on wardrobe (because clothes tell a lot about a woman), squad (trustworthy sidekicks are crucial), and the presence of an arch frenemy (Haven't we all dealt with someone who has been inherently evil?). I'm putting their love interests aside (Beast is least relatable bae, obvi), because this is about the women and their lives.

Let's see how they fairest of them all really fared.
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7. Jasmine, Aladdin

Outfit: I am not Kim Kardashian and would just never, ever wear Jasmine's sapphire two-piece. Especially not in front of my dad. And especially not in front of the creepy man trying to marry me. Also, unlike the other Disney "princesses," Jasmine was born a royal (something Cinderella and Belle were not) and she also remained awake during the entire movie (Aurora and Snow White did not), which makes her the most princess-y of all the princesses. As someone who is far from royal, this makes her inherently un-relatable from the get-go.

Sidekick: A tiger...that's a little dramatic. I mean, Rajah seems adorable and cuddly, but I've never been a cat person.

Villain: Her villain is THE WORST. I would NEVER even want to be in the same Uber as Jafar. His squiggly goatee is vom-inducing.

Relatable? No. She's too rich to feel sorry for.
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6. Pocahontas, Pocahontas

I'd rather wear John Smith's Canadian tuxedo than Pocahontas' tan number. Her waist is also the size of my pinky and there's never any mud or dirt on her dress, which is hard to believe. But that necklace is a stunner.

Sidekick: I will admit that Meeko is plumply adorable, but this is the only time a raccoon has ever been cute. And even with that in mind, he's too nosy, always grabbing and touching things around the forest. He loves Pocahontas, but is truly only loyal to food, as most raccoons are.

Governor Ratcliffe is trash. He is a gluttonous pig in every sense of the word. His lack of morals, intelligence, and overall soul makes him one of the chilliest villains, mostly because there were hundreds of real explorers that were just like him.

Relatable? No. She's too brave and risky for me to vibe with.
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5. Ariel, The Little Mermaid

Outfit: This is harder, because she's a mermaid. I do love her shell bra. I would totally (attempt) to pull that look off on a beach in July. Once on land, Ariel goes for a more normcore look, with solid color maxi-dresses. Into it. (But giving up her voice so that a man will notice her? Not into it.)

Sidekick: Flounder is the shit and Sebastian is a bit of an Eeyore, but together, they create a classic angel-devil duo. (At the end of the day, don't we all have a Sebastian in our lives, always pointing out the shades of negativity around each situation?) Sometimes, they're party-poopers, but often they become a necessary voice of reason. I wouldn't mind having that around.

Villain: Urusla is fucking terrifying. As are her own sidekicks: the eels, Flotsam and Jetsam. She is not only an evil sorceress, she is also one of the only villains to ACTUALLY get to the princess and make her nearly succumb to the villain's demonic wishes. That is some scary stuff.

Relatable? Sort of. As a rebellious daughter of an overbearing dad, yes. As a desperate girl willing to marry a man before even talking to him, no.
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4. Snow White, Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

Outfit: Her outfit is adorable, but not my style. I'd give that hair bow and severe bob a hard pass. But her ruby-red lips are a major yes.

She has seven of them, but she is also responsible for cooking, cleaning, and maintaining the peace between them all. A woman's place is not in the kitchen — or with the dirty clothes.

The Wicked Witch is awfully wicked, indeed. And I, too, love apples, making me a total sucker for that poison scheme. I would have absolutely made the same mistake as Snow White.

Relatable? Not really. I hate cooking and cleaning for other people. Also, stand up for yourself, girl!
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3. Cinderella, Cinderella

Cinderella could have been the face of "Before & After" girls (Before: rumpled, dusty, dirty, frumpy, bandana. After: shining, glowing, sparkly, gown.), an extremely overdone trope. And those glass shoes look SO uncomfortable. I would never in a million years wish to slide that bulky, breakable footwear onto my dainty toes. When she's running down the stairs, how did they not shatter into a million tiny pieces, cutting up feet and leaving a trail of blood right back to her house? Just saying.

For Cinderella, the more sidekicks, the better. I would love to have a Gus in my life and some birds to help me manage my tangled, curly hair. The animal helpers weren't as assistive as the other sidekicks in the Disney sagas, but they seem like good company.

God, the stepmom and stepsisters are so mean. I wouldn't be submissive to their bullshit, which means I probably would have been left on the streets, homeless, years before I ever made it to the grand ball at the palace. Having said that, I'd rather face off against a narcissistic, delusional old woman and her two ugly daughters than, say, Ursula.

Relatable? Yes. You can't choose your families. But you can choose your friends. Cinderella did just that and she came out on top in the end.
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2. Belle, Beauty & The Beast

I love every single thing Belle wears. But I'll admit that I always have had a soft-spot for this small-town princess, wardrobe included. If the whole being married to the Beast thing doesn't work out, she could totally go into fashion and trend forecasting.

Sidekick: The whole castle is budding with the singing, dancing friends of both Belle and the Beast. They remind me of my eclectic crew back home.

Villain: Gaston is set on vengeance against the Beast and is a man-whore. He isn't trying to harm Belle herself, which is a plus.

Relatable? Yes. Belle is smart, stylish, and optimistic: traits I find very valuable.
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1. Mulan, Mulan

Outfit: Although Mulan is clumsy as hell in her formal garb, she looks effortlessly comfortable in her athleisure-soldier outfit and her colorful daytime look. She also embraces her culture in both a masculine and feminine sense, which is very progressive for her time.

Sidekick: Mulan has two great sidekicks: Mushu the dragon and Cri-Kee the cricket. I'd say they are the most helpful of the princess bunch. They're also portable and pocket-size for maximum transportability.

Shan Yu, the ominous and ruthless king of the Huns is pretty intimidating. But the whole nation of China is building a wall to keep him out! She also has the assistance of a whole army when battling him, something the other girls did not.

She uses strategy, deceit, and improv to defeat him — all qualities I like to think I possess. I'm more of a "misery loves company" kind of gal. (Also the matchmaker is a low-key villain. As a survivor of etiquette class, this woman is so real.)

Relatable? Yes. She comes from a humble family and worked her way through life's challenges on her own. You go, Mulan.
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