Spoiler alert: This post contains information about the endings of Maleficent and Frozen!
There is a really interesting and cool recent trend in Disney movies these days: girls, not handsome princes, are delivering the “act of true love” that will save a princess in trouble. In the case of Frozen, the act of true love required to save Princess Anna is delivered not by Kristoff, the sled driver she’s fallen in love with, but by her sister, Queen Elsa.
The coolest (no pun intended) part of this is that it’s a warm hug, not a kiss, that saves Anna. Traditional stereotypes in fairy tales of the prince saving the day are getting turned on their heads. It’s no longer the men in tights who come galloping out of the woods just in the nick of time to save the princess, whether it’s Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.
Frozen makes a point of sending up this fairy tale cliche by having several of its characters frown upon the idea that Princess Anna plans to marry Hans, a prince she just met and barely knows. They essentially debunk the “love at first sight” myth, suggesting that Anna really doesn’t know anything about love if she plans on going through with it.
What a refreshing change. For centuries, princesses have been waiting for their princes to come. Most of the time they aren’t even awake when the guy gets there. They rely on them to take them to their happy ending, which they are never able to create for themselves.
In Maleficent, it’s the title character, the villain herself, who has been reinvented. The narrator, presumably Aurora when she is much older, explains that the story wasn’t quite how we were told. Instead of causing harm and destruction as her name implies, Maleficent, who has become Aurora’s fairy god mother, saves the damsel in distress, awakening her with her “true love’s kiss.”
What do we make of this new take on the traditional fairy tale? It shows that lots of different types of love can be “true love.” The fairy tale is being transformed before our eyes. Fairy tales have evolved somewhat over time to remain relevant, but throughout most of their existence they haven’t changed much. Elsa saving Anna and Maleficent saving Aurora represent a new paradigm for the fairy tale, one that makes sense for the modern girl.
It’s one of which I hope we see much more.