Belle, dressed in her yellow ball gown, is sharing a dance in a piece of Tumblr fan art by college student Samantha Urrata. It would be an unremarkable scene if it weren't for the fact that Belle isn't waltzing with The Beast; she's in the arms of Pocahontas. Urrata's Tumblr page is full of Disney-princess couples of own her imagination (or, in fan-art speak, from an "alternate universe"). Esmeralda flirts with Meg, Mulan carries Jasmine, and Ariel is getting cozy with Lilo and Stitch's Nani. Disney has yet to create a lesbian heroine, so fan artists are imagining a world where the Disney princesses are only interested in the princes as good friends.
Urrata, who is studying English lit, film, and women's studies, sees femslash (the fan-art romantic pairing of presumed-straight female characters) as a way to do "what fan artists do best: attempt to close the gap between the media we are given and the media we want." Like racebent casting (fans adding actors of color to movies and TV shows that lack diversity), Disney femslash is a way of taking action rather than simply discussing frustration over the lack of representation. "Instead of just accepting what is given to them, they refuse to not been seen and included, and so they create what the source material would not give them," Urrata wrote in an e-mail, "This is by no means a solution; media needs to be more inclusive, because there is only so much that fan-made representation can do, but by creating and sharing their work, fan artists and fan fiction writers are touching a lot of people and doing a lot of good."
Kate, a 20-year-old animation student, was inspired to create altered GIFs depicting a relationship between Brave's Merida and Frozen's Elsa after noticing queer themes in Frozen. "Elsa, to me, was obviously gay; her hidden ice powers were a metaphor for keeping her sexuality a secret," Kate explained in an e-mail, "Her fears of letting people see who she truly was were the same fears that LGBT youth go through every day. I guess I was inspired to tell the story that Disney couldn’t tell."
Both Kate and Urrata have hope that Disney will someday officially introduce a gay princess, but until then, LGBTQ Disney fans looking for themselves in their favorite movies have the new narratives fan artists create — including the story-style GIF collections of fan artist Michelle. Kate describes the Disney femslash community as small but passionate, and she hopes the attention of fan artists to this kind of representation will let studios know it's something the movie-viewing public wants. Because despite their love for their own community, fan artists realize the importance of getting LGBTQ characters into mainstream children's media. As Urrata says, "hurry up, Disney!"