Disney Princess and Their Fatal Flaws
This story was written by Lonestar Writer Stephanie Tang
In honor of Disney’s new release of its most recent Disney Princess movie: Raya and the Last Dragon, and the mystery that is Raya’s fatal flaw — or in Greek terms, a “Hamartia”, a flaw or error in the protagonist, I have decided to take a rundown of every single Disney princess by chronological order of movies and break down what exactly their fatal flaw or flaws were that led to the specific conflict within the movie.
- Snow White
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, initially released in the year 1937, entails the familiar story of Snow White, a princess without parents with a witchy stepmother with a magic mirror. From the beginning of the movie, with Snow White being so young, she is quite innocent and, although not necessarily her fault, her pureness and innocence lead her to be foolish at times. When her stepmother disguised as an old woman comes to the dwarves’ cottage and offers her a poisoned apple, Snow White is too trusting and sympathetic, and eats the apple despite all the warning signs to not trust a stranger and all the animals warning her otherwise; Snow White ends up eating an apple and falling into an endless sleep before her Prince Charming can wake her up. But, Snow White’s purity and innocence actually prove to be her greatest strength in the end, as it is her pureness and good heart that makes her truly more beautiful than her stepmother, the Evil Queen; conversely, the Evil Queen’s jealousy of not only Snow White’s beauty but her purity, is what is the Queen’s undoing in the end.
Unlike Snow White’s storyline, Cinderella’s fatal flaw is a lot less clear than Snow White’s. We know the iconic 1950 movie and fairytale of Cinderella: an orphaned girl with an evil stepmother forcing Cinderella to do endless amounts of chores and taking care of the household until she is magically sent to the ball by her fairy godmother, where she meets the prince and they fall in love with each other. We know that the magic wears off at midnight and Cinderella runs from the prince, only for her glass slipper to fall off on the stairs and the prince to retrieve it, to try it on every girl in the kingdom to find his true love. When the slipper fits on Cinderella, the prince knows that she is his true love. I would say that Cinderella’s flaws include being too kind in general: shouldering all the responsibilities of the household when she could’ve at least tried to refuse her stepmother. We see that Cinderella never really stands up for herself throughout the movie, especially to her stepmother and stepsisters’ insults. Rather, Cinderella somehow and unrealistically gets everything handed to her like a perfectly-made gift and relies on luck throughout the movie rather than her own grit and spirit — going to the ball in a beautiful gown, the prince miraculously falling in love with her above all the other maidens, and, even after her stepmother locked Cinderella in her tower when the Duke is there to try on the glass slipper, the mice have to retrieve the key for her to get out. I actually think that the mice in this movie, Jaq, Gus and others, did more for the success of the ending than Cinderella did herself; she sort of just stood by and had everything done for her. Rather than Cinderella having a fatal flaw, it is more like the movie placed unrealistic standards that as long as you are kind and pretty, everything is going to be handed to you on a silver platter. That is something that I definitely disliked throughout this movie.
3. Aurora/Briar Rose
Princess Aurora, or Briar Rose as the three fairy godmothers name her, is the main character in Sleeping Beauty (1959) and has quite a few flaws herself. Because the witch Maleficent curses the baby Princess Aurora to fall into a death-like sleep upon pricking her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday, she is taken far away to be raised in the woods as a peasant girl by three fairy godmothers, who forgo magic and never tell her the truth to who she really is. Similar to Snow White, and although it isn’t exactly her fault, Aurora is much too pure and innocent throughout the movie. Gorgeous and gifted with a beautiful voice, Aurora longs for love and adventure; when meeting her Prince Phillip, she instantly falls head over heels after only meeting once — so much so that when the godmothers finally tell Aurora the truth about who she really is, Aurora falls into a deep depression and hates the fact that she really is a princess, as she would rather spend the rest of her life with Prince Phillip. Dang, she really fell in love deeply and fast. Thank goodness Prince Phillip wasn’t some creep and ended up being the prince, or Aurora would’ve been in serious danger. The depressed Aurora, upon returning back to her castle, cries alone in her room, which gives Maleficent the perfect opportunity to strike and lead her to the spinning wheel to prick her finger. Aurora’s obvious biggest mistake is pricking her finger, and although she was cursed to do so, that mistake in itself was the undoing to Aurora’s character and led to the fairy godmothers putting the whole kingdom to sleep because of Aurora’s mistake. She falls in love with Prince Phillip too fast and easily and is easily fooled by Maleficent due to the godmother’s not telling her earlier and raising her so pure and shielded from the world’s dangers. We will see as the list further progresses that this is the case for a lot of the Disney Princesses for some reason — they are raised far too innocently — their protectors try so hard to shield them from the outside world and the dangers within them that they have no idea how to handle the world’s dangers when actually facing them.
Very much like Aurora, Ariel, who stars in Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989) was raised to be way too innocent; her father, King Triton, forbids Ariel from going to the human world. Ariel’s fatal flaw is being too curious about the human world, a 16-year old who will disobey her father at all odds to explore the human world. Ariel’s curiosity leads her to fall in love with the handsome Prince Eric. When Ariel comes across the evil sea witch Ursula who offers to turn Ariel into a human for three days to meet the prince in exchange for her voice, Ariel is much too innocent and foolish dealing with this situation. Although it is ultimately Ariel’s purity, kindness, and good heart that allows Prince Eric to fall in love with her, Ursula is much too clever and casts a spell to turn her into a human and make Prince Eric fall in love with her. Although Ariel eventually stops the marriage between Ursula and Eric, destroying Ursula’s shell to break her spell on Prince Eric, it is no use as Ariel’s three days are up, and she is enslaved to Ursula forever. Until King Triton offers himself in Ariel’s place and Ursula inherits his powers through the trident. Ariel and Eric only are barely able to overpower Ursula in the end, by stabbing her with the boat’s splintered bowsprit. Although Ursula and King Triton do contribute negatively to the plot, the entire conflict could’ve been avoided if Ariel wasn’t so curious about the human world and listened to her father, or if Ariel wasn’t so foolish trusting in Ursula and could’ve found a much safer, less risky way to meet Prince Eric. But, Ariel to this day remains one of my favorite princesses, so all is forgiven!
Beauty and the Beast (1991) is a classic Disney fairytale. Belle — a classic example of Stockholm syndrome, where she falls in love with her captor, the Beast. From the beginning, Belle is coined as a “strange, peculiar but beautiful” girl from the people of her town. What I actually admire about Belle is that she didn’t let her own identity and self-worth be defined by other people, but rather accepted herself for who she was and owned it, not caring about what other people thought. I would say that a “flaw” of Belle that caused the majority of the conflict was that she was perhaps at times too aggressive, and stood her ground way too much and stood up for herself way too much throughout the movie, such as when she stood up to the Beast without fear when he unfairly imprisoned her father, and got herself imprisoned instead. When Belle stands up to Gaston for denouncing Maurice for claiming that Belle is imprisoned by a Beast, she unintentionally reveals that the Beast is real to the villagers, and sets them off in a hunt against the Beast to kill him. Although Belle’s quality leads to a lot of problems within the movies, I would also say that this quality of standing her ground against men is also one of her best qualities along with her flaws; it made her an extremely strong and resilient character, unyielding and unafraid against adversity. This is one of her most prominent qualities as a Disney Princess.
Jasmine was one of the first Disney princesses to be in a movie where she wasn’t the main character. Instead, Aladdin (1992) was the main character, and he was definitely the one with more character flaws than Jasmine. I would say that Jasmine can, at times, be too fussy and opinionated, as well as incredibly stubborn. She can also speak without thinking from time to time. Throughout the movie, we can see her standing up to the conventional rules of being the princess of Agrabah, not wanting to marry who her father, the Sultan, wanted her to marry, but instead marry for love — which leads her to fall in love with a handsome street rat, Aladdin. I also criticize the movie’s writers for using her as a “product” at times for Aladdin’s affection, only serving a purpose of leverage for the sake of the movie’s “stakes being higher.” For example, when Jafar gets control of the Genie and becomes all powerful and the Sultan of Agrabah, he imprisons Jasmine and wants her to be his bride in order to get the viewers to hate him even more, and for the stakes of Aladdin saving the world to be more high, but in doing so, the writers, perhaps unintentionally, made Jasmine seem like a product or object of affection, rather than a character who really made a difference in the plot and do something for the story other than being the “main love interest”. Come on Disney, the incredible character of Jasmine deserved way better than what she got in the movie Aladdin.
Now we’re getting into one of my personal favorite Disney princesses. Not only are the songs in this movie, Pocahontas (1995), total bops, this movie is so touching and always (embarrassingly) never fails to make me cry when I watch it. Seriously. One of the most touching Disney movies to date. It literally never fails to make me cry seeing two people from two opposing groups of people not only put aside their differences but foster such an incredible love and learn so many things from each other and absorb each other’s perspectives. So Pocahontas is absolutely a Queen. Not only is Pocahontes a fiery daughter of the Chief of the Powhatan tribe, she is also so beautiful, smart, kind, brave, and always longs for adventure. Her pets, the raccoon Meeko and the hummingbird Flit, are so charismatic and never fail to make me giggle a little bit when I watch the movie. She, like a lot of the Disney Princesses, such as Ariel, Belle, Merida and Repunzel, is so curious about the world around her and vies out of convention (a little disobedient like the others if we’re honest). When her father, Chief Powhatan, wants her to marry Kocoum, a man she sees as too serious, Pocahontas refuses and instead falls in love with an English settler, John Smith. Pocahontas, like the others, definitely has the flaw of being way too curious about the outside world to the point where it puts her in danger (yet moves the plot along and leads her to great results like a really hot guy), and honestly uses her heart and emotions way too much when making decisions, although (lmao) this is exactly what Grandmother Willow tells her to do in the movie. She also, like Belle, isn’t afraid at all to stand up for herself and the ones she loves, even though everyone else may be against her. When John Smith is about to be executed by Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas flings herself in front of John Smith, refusing to let her father kill the man that she loves, even though John Smith is English and the English and Powhatans are sworn enemies at this point. Again, we see the Disney Princess is so strong to stand up against people to the point that it puts her in danger. Strange pattern, Disney.
MULAN. IS. MY. FAVORITE. DISNEY. PRINCESS. PERIOD. Mulan (1998) is also one of my favorite movies of all time. This movie’s so many touching movies makes me cry EVERY time, and then I start laughing so hard again over its funny moments. Plus, Shang is not a bad looking character at all, and Shang and Mulan are such a badass couple. Not the live action movie, though, we don’t talk about that *hides face. Not only is Mulan Han Chinese (my neck of the woods), she is the OG Queen! Mulan is one of the most badass of the Disney princesses (along with Raya); she is the strongest, most resilient, most intelligent, and has some of the best sidekicks in Disney history. Mushu is seriously one of the most funny and charismatic characters in the Disney universe, shown in the first and second movie (Mulan II). The banter between Mushu and the cricket Cri-kee (well, it’s not really banter because the cricket never utters a single word ever but you can tell he’s really sassy, but so is Mushu so the banter between them is super sassy in general lol) is absolutely hilarious. The movie Mulan hits so close to home and covers themes of family, sacrifice, resilience, tradition versus the right thing to do, romantic love, really good combat scenes, and even highlights feminism of how women in China were treated historically.
Okay, I’ve mooned over the movie enough lol let’s get to Mulan’s flaws. I would say throughout the movie, she sometimes didn’t have enough confidence in herself and her own worth, so she was shaky at times when making decisions, and even awkward and shy around other people where Mushu had to direct her on what to do, which is understandable because of how women were treated during that time. But, the character development is ON POINT with this movie because Mulan finds her voice and her confidence by the end of the movie, and learns to stand up for herself and what she believes in to the fellow soldiers, her family, and the emperor, and they all admire her immensely for it. I really liked how, rather than having the “disobedient, always standing up to people” personality at the beginning of the movie like Belle, Pocahontas or Ariel, the gain of self-confidence for her brave decision of impersonating a boy to replace her father in the army was done beautifully in my opinion. Rather than being portrayed as wanting to go outside of convention, instead, Mulan at the beginning desires to be like other girls: to go to the matchmaker and marry into an honorable family to bring honor to her own family, but she realizes that she is different, and decides to own it in the end. Even though Mulan’s awkwardness may be considered a “flaw”, I would definitely say that her awkwardness added so much personality and flair to the movie and made it more realistic, and made her character growth that much more impactful. Seriously, I could literally go on and on about Mulan the movie and her character, but this article would take an hour long for you JSAers to read lol so let’s move on.
I vividly remember watching The Princess and the Frog (2009) on at least six different occasions when I was six years old; I was absolutely in love with this movie because it was the first Disney movie to come out during my lifetime. Tiana, from when she was a kid, is very practical and doesn’t fancy dreaming of “fantasy”, like kissing a frog, for example; instead, she has big dreams of opening a restaurant one day because she has a very capable knack for cooking. But, her family being very poor, her father tells her that it is only hard work that will get her to achieve her dreams. When her father unfortunately dies in the war, it only adds more fuel to her fire. As a grown woman, Tiana continually works very hard, working two jobs in order to save money to build her dream restaurant; however, because of this, she never has any fun. This is a flaw because, although she has an amazing work ethic and is very goal-oriented, she is too serious and never learns to let loose and have some fun for once, although everyone around her encourages her to because they know she works way too hard and deserves to let go and have some fun. However, when she kisses a frog who happens to be the handsome Prince Naveen, who happens to be exactly the opposite of Tiana: privileged, lazy, laid-back — only wanting his life to be an easy breeze of partying and no responsibilities . I really like the character development in this movie, with both Naveen and Tiana. Tiana teaches Naveen how to work hard and take some responsibilities, whie Naveen teaches Tiana how to have some fun for once, and gives her a great love. Also, I have to say Louis the alligator and Ray the firefly and Mama Odie are some of the best side characters in Disney history.
Rapunzel, from the movie Tangled (2010), is arguably one of the more problematic characters of the Disney Princesses. She has Snow White’s innocence and Ariel’s drive and curiosity to explore the unknown world around her. Repunzel was originally a princess, but was stolen by the evil and selfish Mother Gothel for wanting to use her hair as a source of magic to keep her youthful for years. Gothel keeps Rapunzel locked in a tower basically all her life, never allowing Rapunzel to set foot in the real world; this makes Rapunzel to grow to be very, very curious about the outside world — always dreaming so hard to go out and especially see what the lanterns that always shows up on her birthday every year mean. When Flynn Rider, a thief, comes into Rapunzel’s tower to hide from the Stabbington Brothers, Rapunzel’s whole world changes. She gives Flynn a deal: to take her to see the floating lanterns in exchange for his satchel with a valuable crown inside it. During their time together and Rapunzle going out into the real world for the first time, Rapunzel learns a lot and really grows as a character. At first she is very flighty, way too innocent, and almost annoying in how she’s so curious about the world as an eighteen-year-old; she also doesn’t understand how evil Mother Gothel is for shutting her out from the world to only use her for selfish purposes. I like how, by the end, when she realizes that she is the missing princess, she learns to stand up to Mother Gothel and becomes so independent. Like, Prince Naveen and Tiana, Flynn and Rapunzel have a lot to learn from each other. Flynn learns to become more sentimental, less arrogant and superifically suave, and more genuine; he opens up to Rapunzel in a way he never has before, and falls in love with her. His love for her makes him a better person and a better character overall; Rapunzel also definitely learns to be more mature from Flynn and also learns some of his antics as a thief lol. Overall, Rapunzel’s growth as a character is remarkable and both Flynn and she learnt to fix their flaws in their time together and definitely become better characters because of their experiences and love for each other by the end of the movie.
Merida, from the movie Brave (2012) is very much like Ariel, Jasmine, and Pocahontas in that she is disobedient against her parents, who are the King and Queen of Dunbroch. Merida doesn’t want to be a princess who wears pretty dresses and has proper manners like her mother tries so hard to teach her, she loves archery and wants to ride her horse out into the world, free from the duties and responsibilities with being a princess. Unlike Ariel, Jasmine and Pocahontas, interestingly, Merida wants to forgo being a princess all together — absolutely despising all the rules and responsibilities that come with being a princess. It all comes to a head when her parents arrange for the allied clan chieftains to compete in the games of Dunbroch for Merida’s future hand in marriage; Merida makes a scene at the archery competition (of course) of the games and gets in a huge fight with her mother, Elinor. This leads Merida to ride her horse out into the woods and meet an eldery witch, who conjures her an enchanted cake that will “change Merida’s fate” if she feeds it to her mother. Back at the castle, Merida gives the cake to her mother as a fake gift of apology, her mother eats it and BOOM! her mother turns into a giant bear. So — all of Merida’s flaws of being so disobedient and rebellious against royal life and trusting the old witch to change her fate results in this horrible scenario where her mother is now a bear. At first, it’s pretty hilarious to watch Merida sneak Elinor the bear throughout the castle and to watch Elinor try to act all “ladylike” as a bear. However, problems arise as Merida sees Elinor slowly turning into a real bear and will stay a bear until the second day’s sunrise until Merida can “mend the bond” — whatever that means. This culminates into a very emotional scene where, not going to lie, a few tears were shed, it’s the second sunrise and Elinor is about to become a real bear when Merida finally forgives her mother and “mends the bond” between their relationship and BOOM! Elinor turns back. I, personally, really like both Elinor’s and Merida’s character development throughout the movie as they both to learn to understand each other while Elinor is a bear; Merida learns to love and forgive her mother while Elinor learns that her daughter’s survival skills as she longs for adventure is incredibly valuable; it’s obvious that by the end of the movie, they learn to accept each other for who they are and will coincide better as mother and daughter in the future :) As a girl who’s very close with her mother, I give this movie an approving salute!
So, this is where I am going to end this Disney Princesses and Their Fatal Flaws list. I am leaving out Moana (2016) and Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) because, to be honest, with these two movies there’s not much character flaws/character development between these two characters. I mean, like Ariel, Moana longs to explore the outside world, in this case, the sea, but is never a flaw that causes any conflict in the movie. For Raya, on the other hand, she never really had any flaws except for trusting Namaari too soon in the movie (but that was done to further the plot rather than show Raya’s imperfectness as a character). She really didn’t develop as a character throughout the movie — we just know she is a kind character who’s a really good fighter and hates Namaari — whose only motivation is to get her ba back after the druun destroyed him. and honestly the side characters had more of a personality than she did. The character that experienced the most growth in the movie with Namaari. Both movies are very similar in that they feature princesses who seek to cure the sort of “curse” on their lands, and have to find some sort of higher entity to do so and a magical object that will fix everything. But a heavy criticism is how the movies didn’t really focus on the main character and portrayed them as having more flaws, giving more attention to the plot and visual effects rather than the main characters. Disney! For your next Disney Princess movie — do better — and focus more on the princesses rather than the visual effects/plot please! That’s all I have for this article. See you guys later!