No, really. Having a love interest does not automatically deem a character dependent and a damsel. In my opinion, as long as the romance is not random, forced or rushed, having a love interest is fine. I believe that if we aren’t careful, a stigma could be formed that characters are not independent, strong women, just because they love a man. That is not true. We need to veer from both extremes, that women must rely on men and ALSO that women must be single to be considered independent and strong and that if they do love a man, that they are automatically of inferiority. You can love somebody and still have agency.
There is nothing wrong with not having a love interest, either, though. I think that it is great that we are exploring stories beyond romance. But I don’t care for this sentiment that is forming, as if the new princesses are superior to the others for not having a love interest. No, all the princesses have something unique and positive to bring to the table.
Also, about Cinderella and Ariel. Cinderella did not just dream about happily-ever-after with the prince. She did not even mention the prince before she went to the ball. She never expected him to save her, she only dreamed that an opportunity would arrive that could help her achieve a better life. That opportunity turned out to be with the prince. She wanted to go because she was hoping to leave her abusive home and have fun for once. It was her good fortune that the prince noticed her at the ball, that her beauty (inside and out) caught his attention. And after the ball, sure she was infatuated with him, but she was still realistic and assumed things would just go back to normal. It was the prince who made a big hoopla and searched the entire kingdom for her so that they could marry. Plus, we don’t even know how much time passed between the glass slipper fitting and the wedding. They could’ve spent more time getting to know each other. Just because the movie cuts from the former scene to the latter does not mean it all actually happened that fast.
As for Ariel, she did give up her voice and left home for Eric, which is not the wisest course of actions. But her longing for the human world did not just revolve around him. She wanted to be human and on land before she even saw him. Part Of Your World was sung before a romantic storyline even began. Ariel wanted to be human because she did not quite fit in underwater, she was not like her other sisters or father. Ariel was adventurous and wanted to explore a land unlike her own. I think a lot of us can relate to that. It was her attachment to a particular human that finally cemented her resolve. Also, she was willing to meet Eric as a mermaid, we see this is in a scene where she encourages Flounder to go with her to the castle and splash around to get his attention so that she could talk to him. It was not until Triton destroyed her collection that Ariel became distraught, and although she shooed away Flotsam and Jetsam, they knew she was upset and desperate for a chance to achieve her dreams after what just happened.
I just had to get that all off my chest. Sure, the princess love story has been done many a time and a single princess is a nice change. But can we please not demean characters who do have love interests? Can we not oversimplify their stories to “oh, this character daydreams about prince charming” and “this character gives up everything for true love”? Because there are more to Disney princesses than their love stories. They all have positive traits and actions to recognize besides that. There is nothing inferior about falling in love. Romance is not something to “steer clear of”.
In conclusion, I understand the importance of showing women stories that let us all know that we don’t always need a significant other. And that young women around the ages of the Disney princesses do not have to worry about falling in love and have other things they can focus their attention on. But let’s not antagonize the concept of having a love interest. Before we know it, young women and little girls could be looking down at female characters or even each other for having a love and that is counterproductive. That is not pro-women, that is women vs women. It’s okay to be single and it’s also okay to be in a relationship.
Snow White — Remained kind even under the most horrible circumstances.
Aurora — Dreamed and let her heart soar.
Cinderella — Didn’t show her step family negativity no matter how badly they treated her and remained courageous and kind.
Ariel — Followed her dreams and did anything she could to achieve it.
Jasmine — Went against tradition and followed her heart rather than law.
Belle — Wanted intelligence no matter how out of the ordinary it was and changed someone’s negative preferences to positive.
Mulan — Fought for her family’s honor and to find herself, despite being a woman.
Pocahontas — Fought for her family and showed a more peaceful side to previous savages.
Tiana — Worked for her dream and remained determined even at rock bottom.
Rapunzel — Followed her dreams and helped people find their own goals along the way.
Merida — Found her own purpose and fought for her own hand, against an arranged marriage.
Anna — Remained loyal to one who treated her horribly and kept standing tall, despite others talking down to her or ignoring her.
Moana — Followed both her dreams and went off to save her land, not giving up even when there was nothing left.
THESE are heroines. THESE are the ones who managed to do something. They didn’t run away for selfish freedom. They fought. They apologized. They made mistakes, but they fixed their mistakes themselves.