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Disney Princesses in Order of Their Usefulness

I may have thought about this more than is healthy. The thought occurred to me one Sunday as I was hanging out with my in-laws: there should be a list ranking Disney princesses in order of how useful they are. Why? I have no idea. I feel like it’s important but I couldn’t tell you for what reason. Disney princesses are one of those things that have been a part of probably every girls life since she was small and they’ve grown and changed a lot as more have been added and new stories have been told. Everyone argues over who is the “best” Disney princess. I feel the more important question is who is most useful.

So I thought about it. I looked up who was official and who was not and it’s exactly who you’d expect. Except Anna and Elsa from Frozen. They’re not official yet, go figure. Anyway, I asked around how other people would rank these eleven official princesses and discussed at length who would go where and why. My poor husband had to listen to me explain each character and why I put them where I did on at least two different occasions. I even brought his friends into it. I’m thankful he’s a patient man. I made charts and weighed characteristics and listed pros and cons to each and I have come up with the list that is before you.

It is a biased list based on my personal opinions so if you disagree, good for you. Go ahead and tell me why. This list only includes the 11 currently official princesses as of this posting and only takes into account the first movie they appear in, not any of the sequels. I hope you all will enjoy reading my list and maybe give it some thought yourself. This is my list of the official Disney princesses in order from least useful to most. Enjoy!

 

sleeping-beauty11. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) – It is a universal truth that Aurora is not a character, she is a plot device. I realize that I have just disappointed every girl who’s favorite princess is Sleeping Beauty, but the fact that half of them have probably only just now remembered that she had a real name gives me some sense of justification in pointing this out. Aurora does nothing in the movie except pick berries and dance with a strange man in the woods. She doesn’t think for herself, ever. She does as she’s told, regardless of the feelings she may or may not have, and that is it. This is not her fault, of course, she was written poorly in a time when women weren’t expected to be useful or free thinking. However, this does make her the least useful of all the Disney princesses. I will say this, though, she must have been good for something, or else she and the fairies would have all starved to death long ago. We are shown in the movie that the three fairies are useless without their magic, even after sixteen years of living without it. So in theory, Aurora, with her lack of free will, must have contributed in some way to keeping them all alive. What she may have done and how, however, we’ll never know. All we’re shown is a brainless girl following orders.

Ariel_mermaid10. Ariel (The Little Mermaid) – Like Aurora some people forget that Ariel had a name. Far fewer people, but they exist. This is because she too, is pretty useless. I have just angered many fans of this movie, but that’s okay. I will admit that growing up I had her on my bed set, which is funny, because the movie actually scared me, a lot. I think I may have watched it twice as a child. Anyway, Ariel was the first of the second wave of Disney princesses, starting off in 1989. These are the more independent, free-spirited Disney princesses. They were meant to be more interesting and more marketable to the modern girl who was being raised to think for herself and make her own dreams come true. Unfortunately, they kind of flopped with this first one.
Ariel is kind of a feminist joke, and by joke I mean a source of great rage. Sure she thinks for herself: she thinks “I need to change myself to get a man.” She is selfish, not caring what it costs to get what she wants, regardless of if it’s what’s best for her. She doesn’t think before she acts and after she’s made her one big decision she does nothing for the rest of the movie. Sure, she saves the prince, sings him a song, and then flops back into the sea. Sure, she makes her dream of visiting the human world come true, but she also sells her voice to a sea witch for a pair of legs and then does nothing to make sure she keeps said legs. If you have to kiss the boy to stay with him, just kiss the boy!  I know, I know, he’s got to give her “true loves kiss,” but you know a great way to get a guy to kiss you? Kiss him first! 1, it’s practically a reflex to kiss back and 2, if he likes you and he knows it’s okay to kiss you, he’ll probably do it again. And if it doesn’t work, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Then, of course, there’s her lack of effort post second spell when her prince is sailing off to marry Ursula while she pouts. So what if he might be in love with her, you’re dealing with a sea witch for your soul and you want to be human, you might fight for him a little, just saying. Basically, Ariel is a dumb teenager and does nothing but cause trouble for everyone, the end.

Snowwhite9. Snow White – The fact that Snow White is the first Disney princess and yet is not the most useless is actually kind of impressive. But when you think about her situation over all, it’s not as surprising as you might expect. She’s a delicate princess, sure, but she’s also forced to do chores by the evil queen, so that probably built up some muscle on top of the house keeping skills. Sure, she gets a lot of help from her animal friends, and she does have a bad breaking and entering habit, but honestly, if you were lost in the woods, scared, and found a house in the middle of nowhere, wouldn’t you go in? You’re at the mercy of whoever lives there anyway. She also offers her services in exchange for being allowed to stay. She runs the dwarfs’ house, cleans and cooks for them; that’s not a wimpy job. And unlike Aurora, who just kind of got pushed around the whole time, Snow White’s downfall came from being too nice. She made a conscious decision to be kind to an old woman and try to help her out and her naivety got her killed. I never said she was smart, but if you need some house work done and don’t mind animals running around your house, Snow White’s not a bad choice.

Jasmine-aladdin-23125960-324-6508. Jasmine – A scantily clad Arabian princess with a tiger for a friend; what’s not to like? In the debate over which princess is most loved, Jasmine is always high on the list, and I too loved her as a child. Looking back on her, however, she is not actually as useful as you might first suspect. She is resourceful, sure – escaping from the palace for a day trip in the commons, using her charm to distract Jafar so Aladdin can try and steal the lamp – but she’s not actually skilled, and she’s not at all suited for life outside the palace. I doubt she could feed herself if left to it; she definitely needs Aladdin to look after her and in the palace she has servants to wait on her hand and foot. As far as skills go, not doing so great; however, the fact that she gives it a try goes a long way for her. She takes an active role in deciding her fate. She’s not going to let her father or anyone else push her around. She has to be chained up to get her to submit even a little and even then she’s fighting in every way she can. She’s full of spunk and spirit and with a little training could probably handle herself.

Cinderella_Photo7. Cinderella – The recent live-action movie has brought Cinderella back into the spot light. Naturally the live action movie was intended to improve on the animated film since the original was made in the 1950s, during the ‘princess prop’ era of Disney. Without commenting on the live-action version, the animated Cinderella actually holds her own pretty well. Acknowledging the fact that she’s been raised from a young age to believe herself unequal to her step mother and sisters, she makes the most of her situation, is kind to the only friends she has, and does her work without complaint. She finds her own happiness in dressing the mice and caring for the animals and singing when she does her work. If left alone, I’d definitely say she could take care of herself. When the ball is announced she expresses her desire to go, she does what she can to make that happen, and her kindness pays off when the mice help her out. Sure, she needs some help getting to the ball itself, but that help is not her first turn, it’s a last resort. Finally, when she’s locked away by her step mother, she actively tries to get out. She bangs on the door, she sends the mice for help, she shouts instructions to her friends, she makes an effort. She’s not exactly someone I’d want next to me in a fight, but she’s competent, she can handle herself, and she’s got a good heart. She may be the ideal Disney princess.

Belle26. Belle – After the disappointment of The Little Mermaid, Belle gave us our first real hope for Disney princesses. Belle is a dreamer, a reader, and a thinker. She’s her own person even when everyone around her is calling her strange. She doesn’t swoon for the village heart-throb, she doesn’t take notice of gossip and she doesn’t care what people think of her. She is a strong female lead and her own interesting character. Good for her. Belle’s most prominent traits are her brains and her compassion. She is driven almost exclusively by her love of her father. She is drawn out of her safe little village to look for her father. She volunteers to stay in her father’s place to save his life, and she leaves the castle to take care of her father when he’s ill and in danger. She is never selfish in her motives except when her curiosity gets the better of her, and even then I think we can cut her a little bit of slack. Everyone messes up once in a while and a little rebellion against your captor is probably healthy. Belle is only a captive as long as she wants to be. When the Beast blows up at her for snooping around his wing, she runs away. She doesn’t sit there and take it; she makes the attempt to get free and is thwarted by a pack of wolves. She could have kept running but she chose to repay the Beast for saving her life by taking care of him. And, as stated earlier, when her father is sick and in danger, she chooses to leave to take care of him. She also doesn’t sit by and mope when the angry mob is going after the Beast. She finds a way out of the cellar and goes after them to try and save him. She’s definitely competent, she’s strong willed, independent and she’s resourceful.

Rapunzel_and_pascal5. Rapunzel – Just as I have disappointed others with low placement of favorite princesses thus far, this one is my own disappointment. I love Rapunzel and on my original list I had her much higher up, but after talking with some friends and collecting other lists I was forced to admit that she belongs here in the middle. Rapunzel is an amazingly spunky character, she’s spent her whole life in a tower and yet her only real desire to leave is just to see the floating lights once a year and then come back. She’s intensely loyal to the only person she’s ever had contact with and incredibly creative. She takes the time given to her and uses it to learn all she can and hone every skill possible to learn in a tower from some books. She can paint, sew, cook, clean and sing, just to name a few of her talents. She is feisty and, though she’s scared, she’s willing to do what must be done to make her one dream come true. She is, however, very naïve and has the potential to get into so much trouble without someone watching over her. On the other hand, though, she can also get herself out of said trouble. As seen in the tavern scene, her charm alone can get her out of a tough situation, her way with animals comes in handy and she can swing a mean frying pan. I wouldn’t want to pit her against anyone super competent, but in most basic cases, she could probably hold her own. She’s the jack of all trades of Disney princesses. She can do a little of everything. She is my favorite and that alone may have earned her the last untrained spot on the list, but I truly believe, of those who haven’t had formal training, Rapunzel is the most useful.

Pocahontas_Disney4. Pocahontas – This is where things get tough. There have been many spots were I’ve debated who deserves it more. In this one, I think I’m alone, actually. Everyone else put our Native princess in the top three. I’m putting her here, and I’ll tell you why. The next three princesses are each super specialized in skill. Pocahontas is skilled, and could take care of herself, but she doesn’t actually have a specific skill set to set her apart. That being said, Pocahontas is still really competent and a very useful character for her movie. She’s a free spirit, she doesn’t let anyone hold her back and she struggles with the idea of conforming to her tribe’s traditions when her heart is leading her elsewhere. In the end, though, what does she really do? She looks past the strangeness of another culture to befriend a white man. She shows him her world and how she sees it and gives them food to eat, and then insights a war between the two which she stops because she loves a man. This is where I kind of question her motives. Yes, stepping in to save the one you love is brave, but would she have done it if she didn’t love him? If it had been a different white man, would she have put herself in the place? I’m not sure it matters, but it does lower her in my mind. Yes she was brave, but people also do dumb things when they’re in love. How much of it was bravery and how much was crazy love? Either way, Pocahontas is a competent princess who would be able to live off the land by herself if needed, probably.

Merida_web_small3. Merida – Oh Merida, you had so much potential. Merida has wormed her way up the list from number 7 to number 3. How? Well, she’s trained in combat, she knows the forest, she can climb a giant cliff without dying and if left alone in the woods for a week she’d probably be fine. She is a stupid sixteen-year-old girl who makes selfish decisions and has to deal with the consequences, but at least she actually deals with them. She makes the effort; she doesn’t leave it to be dealt with by other people, like a certain mermaid we all know. In the end, I had to over-look her teenaged stupidity for the fact that she is well trained and competent. So what does Merida do? Well, she’s trained in combat from a young age, she’s exceptional at archery and she’s a free-thinking Scotswoman who knows what she wants and won’t take no for an answer. She doesn’t handle that part super well, though. She runs off, finds a witch and pulls an Ariel, but at least she doesn’t sell her voice for a pair of legs. Then again, at least Ariel knew what exactly she was getting. Merida goes through with this spell, turns most of her family into bears and then has to fix it. And she does. Sure, her mother does a lot of the work, but Merida also pulls her weight with thinking through the problem, finding the solution, and getting them fish to waste most of their first day. So, yeah, Merida is maybe not the sharpest tool in the princess shed… which is a weird sentence, but she can definitely take care of herself and, let’s be honest, how many of us made great choices at sixteen?

Princess-tiana-disney2. Tiana – When I went in search of outside opinions for this post I found that a lot of people haven’t seen The Princess and the Frog, which is a shame since it’s such a good movie. A little scary, I’ll admit. I probably would have been frightened of it when I was a child, but I remember a lot of movies I was scared of as a child, so that’s not saying much. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, you should do so because Tiana is a shining example of a strong female character. She’s a black woman in the 1920s who wants nothing more than to open her own restaurant and make her father’s dying dream come true. She works two jobs to save up the money needed to buy an old barn she intends to turn into the restaurant. Her whole life she’s been taught that if you work hard enough all your dreams can come true. She’s spunky, sassy, and knows how to get things done. She’s unique in that she’s probably the only princess with business sense and the skills needed to make a business run successfully. Her ambition is what gets her into trouble, but to be fair, if you were at the end of your rope and were offered a way out that cost you no more than a gross kids’ dare, you’d probably take it too. Tiana is smart, she’s capable, and she doesn’t take crap from anyone. There is no pushing her around, and in the end, (spoilers) she makes her dreams come true, and gets the guy, but not because she got the guy. That’s important. Yeah, she marries the prince, but she’s willing to stay a frog and give up her dream to stay with him, learning that sometimes love is more important than working hard. Also, let’s be honest, if they’d stayed frogs, she’d totally have opened the first swamp restaurant for animals. You know it would have happened.

Mulan-mulan-32266732-400-6001. Mulan – You knew this was coming; if only because she’s the only one left. Mulan is easily the most useful princess, or so I thought when I was first composing the list. After several conversations with fellow Disney fans I found that there’s actually a very good argument for Tiana to be in this spot instead. Still, I’ve got to go with Mulan for my top spot. Mulan is raised in a traditional Chinese family with traditional Chinese values, but still exhibits her own personality and will for her life. She doesn’t necessarily know what she wants at the beginning, but she knows she doesn’t fit the mold she’s supposed to. Like Tiana, her love for her family and her father specifically prompts her to take her fate into her own hands. Mulan, however, acts to protect her father and the family honor, risking much more than a dream in order to do so. Mulan’s bravery is what pushes her into the lead. Tiana is brave to stand up to the social norms and strive to achieve her goals in an era where everything is against her as a black woman, but ultimate, in a Disney universe, the worst that could happen is she fails, people ridicule her, maybe, she goes back to working as a waitress. Mulan, even in the movie, risks death in battle, death by discovery and dishonor to her family. We see people die in the movie, we know it could happen. If she hadn’t saved the Captain’s life, she would have been killed outright for dressing as a man. When you get down to it, the stakes were much higher for Mulan and she steps up to them without hesitation.
     So what does Mulan do? Well, let’s start with the dressing as a man to join the Chinese army in her father’s place. If that doesn’t make her the most useful princess on its own it definitely should. How many other princesses do you think could have pulled that off? Second, she excels in the army, training hard, despite being picked on by the other soldiers, to become one of the best warriors they have. She’s smart, resourceful, and quick thinking, as seen by her move with the rocket. She’s not afraid to do what is required of her, whether in battle or at home. Also, she’s a soldier. That means dealing with harsh conditions, blood, grime and death and she does it. It’s painful, we see that in her expression when they find the ruined village, but she deals with it and presses on. And, of course, let’s not forget that she SAVES CHINA! An entire country, saved by this girl dressed as a boy. So to recap, Mulan was raised and groomed to marry and take care of a house, so she’s got the whole household thing down, she dresses as a boy, trains in the Chinese army, and saves the whole country. She can basically take care of everything herself and then some. That is why Mulan is easily the most useful Disney princess ever.

So there you have it! My long winded list of Disney princesses in order of usefulness. I hope you enjoyed reading it! Feel free to comment, object, agree, whatever, just do it nicely, please. And, as always, have a lovely day, my friends!

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One thought on “Disney Princesses in Order of Their Usefulness

  • Elsa says:

    Hi, Bekah! First off, I really appreciate this topic, as I, too, have thoughts on the Princesses that I would love to share. As you know, I’m often very blunt, but that’s just because I see no reason for beating around the bush. I don’t mean any offense, that’s just how I communicate.

    I, personally, take offense at your use of the term “usefullness.” I wonder if you would make a similar ranking of Disney Princes? By even thinking about the Princesses in this way, you are labeling them as commodities, something to be used, not as characters, people to get to know and appreciate. Also, it really seems as if what you mean when you say “useful” is actually “skilled” — and with a specific skillset, at that.

    When it comes down to your final 5, it seems that what kept certain characters back was the fact that they fell in love, and the only holding Merida back is the fact that she’s sixteen, which is ridiculous, because, as you point out so frequently, most of them are sixteen. If you’re going to choose to rank them in such an arbitrary manner, you should at least try to define some tiebreakers, because it seems like you say the same thing about a lot of the characters (See: Merida and Ariel, Aurora, Snow White, and Cinderella, etc) but you interpret it in very different ways.

    While I would never choose to rank the princesses based off something so specific and trivial to the plot, working within the framework that you set up, I would prefer to use the term “ability to survive on her own,” since this seems to be essentially how you are ranking them.

    Diving in to the specific characters, then, when talking about Aurora, you say she “does nothing in the movie except pick berries and dance with a strange man in the woods,” which is true, but you wilfully ignore the things that you admit must be happening outside the lens of the film. You begrudgingly admit that “she must have been good for something, or else she and the fairies would have all starved to death long ago,” but you refused to allow that to factor into her ranking. I would argue that she is as least as “able to survive on her own” as both Snow White and Cinderella, since she has the same skillsets as them (the ability to do chores and run a small household).

    Also, I strongly disagree with your assertion that “She doesn’t think for herself, ever. She does as she’s told, regardless of the feelings she may or may not have, and that is it.” If she only ever does as she is told, why in the world would she have run away from the Fairies and pricked her finger? No one told her to do these things. In fact, by merely speaking to and dancing with Prince Philip in the woods, she is disobeying orders. As she says, “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.” When she is told that she is betrothed to marry a prince she has never met and must forget all about the mysterious stranger she met in the woods, she is devastated. Just because she doesn’t immediately run away does not make her any less admirable. She simply has a respect for those in authority over her, which is not a bad thing.
    Moving on to Jasmine, you discredit her, saying “she’s not actually skilled, and she’s not at all suited for life outside the palace.” This is a ridiculous evaluation. Jasmine is very skilled in political matters, as she was raised to run a palace, if not an entire country. Just because she has no street smarts does not mean she has nothing to bring to the table, just as Aladdin’s street smarts don’t naturally make him able to effectively run a palace and rule a country. Their various skillsets complete each other, making them the perfect couple. Judging Jasmine for not being able to survive on the streets when she has never been outside the palace one day in her life is ridiculous, but what is even more absurd is devaluing the skills she does have by completely writing them off. Jasmine is a lot more capable then you give her credit for, although she does not do well under the criteria “ability to live on her own.”

    Finally, you rank Merida so high on the list simply because she has talent with a bow and arrow, although you admit that “she is a stupid sixteen-year-old girl who makes selfish decisions,” much like Ariel and Rapunzel. I would argue that Ariel and Rapunzel have a lot more going for them then you give them credit for. You say that Ariel thinks “I need to change myself to get a man.” : this is not true. Ariel became human in order to explore an exciting new world she had not previously had access to. Upon meeting Eric, she is shown over and over again that unless she has a voice she will never be able to get his attention. It is not right to fault Ariel for a flaw in the movie’s entire premise. If anything, it is Eric who should be held accountable, as he is the one who is incapable of realizing that true love should be about more than superficial qualities.

    You also criticize Ariel for not fighting more against Ursula, saying “Then, of course, there’s her lack of effort post second spell when her prince is sailing off to marry Ursula while she pouts.” Do you really blame her for being devastated in this situation? She fully realizes what she is up against, as you say in the next sentence, she is “dealing with a sea witch for [her] soul.” Now, I will admit that it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen this movie, and I’m not actually sure that I’ve ever watched the entire thing. However, I do believe that Ariel was not as passive and “pouty” as you claim. If memory serves, she actually chased after the ship and attempted to stop the wedding, but was a little handicapped by the fact that she was a mermaid up against an extremely powerful witch. The fact that she even tried is admirable.
    As for Rapunzel, you fault her, saying she is “very naïve and has the potential to get into so much trouble without someone watching over her.” However, just like Merida, Rapunzel is a young woman, excitable and resourceful. As you admit, “her charm alone can get her out of a tough situation,” as shown in the Ugly Duckling. Also, when approached in her tower by a strange man, she is able to knock him out and tie him up, showing that she is very capable of defending herself. If Flynn had not been there to assist her journey to the “floating lights” I believe that she would have been able to make it on her own. Her largest handicap is just that she has no knowledge of the area and would have struggled to find the correct path. You fault her because Flynn was there to help her out, but I believe that she helped him at least as much as he helped her and that his presence should not count against her “ability to survive on her own.”

    To sum up, I found this post to be very degrading to these characters even though you seem to be trying to celebrate their skillsets. I could keep going, and talk about your treatment of Pocahontas and how you discredit her for overlooking racial differences and stopping a war, or the way you penalize Snow White for being “nice” and then applaud Cinderella for exactly the same thing, but I think I’ve made my points. These Princesses are various examples of different cultures from different times throughout history and should be treated with attention to this fact, something you seem to have missed.

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