Can Disney Princesses be transformed into more positive role models?

From attorney Mulan to animal rights activist Cinderella, illustrator Matt Burt has given Disney princesses powerful new jobs.

Disney princesses may be adored by millions of little girls but they are rarely applauded as role models. Since Snow White hit the big screen in 1937, there has been debate over the message Disney princesses send to the women of the future.

The Washington Post condemned ‘princess culture’ as bad for girls saying the princesses ‘potential as positive, prosocial role models is limited’.  The piece does acknowledged that Disney have come a long way in recent movies, for instance in ensuring that princesses receive more complements for their skills than their looks. The World Economic Forum last year said that what it called ‘Disney’s retrograde princesses’ have seen some improvements in recent years, but stressed how important it was not to reinforce ‘negative gender messaging’.  Of course it’s not necessarily an easy path to navigate.  Even today in the real world the latest addition to the royal family, Meghan Markle has had to give up her career to become a mere Duchess.

Now a personal finance website Simple.Thifty.Livinghas had some fun reinventing the heroines. Illustrator Matt Burt has taken away the tiaras and cumbersome ball gowns, re-casting them as empowered modern role models with fulfilling careers and no mention of potential husbands.

Disney Princess Snow White psychotherapist role model

“I’ve seen numerous re-imaginings of the princesses but not one like this — showing them as successful career women,” says Matt Burt in an interview with scarymommy.com. “To many people, the Disney princesses have become so much more than just characters in movies. I wanted to create these to inspire others in hopes that they can find a career that they love and a career that makes a difference.”

Burt says the makeovers were a team effort at Simple.Thifty.Living. “I worked with my co-workers to determine what careers the princesses might have based on their personalities and the events of the movies,” he says. “We knew we wanted these women to be in strong roles so it was a matter of not only choosing a career that would fit them from a backstory standpoint but also one that would fit the theme of the project.”

Powerful new jobs for the princess posse

Burt re-imagined an array of Disney princesses. They include:

  • Elsa and Anna as climate change scientists. “Anna and Elsa recognize what a rising global temperature might mean,” says Burt. “They have dedicated their careers to studying climate change.”
  • Snow White as psychotherapist. “Snow White has always been known for being caring, thoughtful, and willing to lend a hand to those in need. She is a leader in the field of mental health.”
  • disney princess sleeping beauty ceo coffee company role modelMulan as attorney. “After experiencing discrimination both personally and in the military, Mulan turned her sights on a law degree,” says Burt. “She now fights for equality on university campuses.”
  • Pocahontas as head of a non-profit fighting for environmental conservation. “Through a combination of activism, action, and promoting awareness, she fights for protection and sustainable use of our natural resources.”
  • Cinderella as animal rights activist. “She used her position of influence to found a non-profit organization committed to promoting animal rights,” says Burt.
  • Ariel as pop star and record producer. “She now both writes her own music and is a producer at her own label, Seven Seas Records.”
  • Moana as naval officer. With her love of the sea combined with natural leadership skills, “Moana has excelled in the Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander.”
  • Jasmine as United Nations ambassador. “A natural politician, Jasmine now advocates for her country at the United Nations. One of her primary initiatives is protecting women’s rights by ensuring that women are treated fairly across the globe.”
  • Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty) as founder and CEO of a coffee company. “Aurora knows how hard it is to wake up,” says Burt. “She has made it her career to help others stay awake.”

“The Disney princesses have become more than just characters in movies for many people,” says Burt. “They’ve become icons and influential women and it’s important for them to be portrayed as strong women both in the movies and outside of them. I hope people are inspired by them to follow their dreams and achieve success.”

Images: MATT BURT / SIMPLE THRIFTY LIVING