What If Disney Princesses Weren't So Perfect

Israeli Illustrator Depicts Ariel & Co., Warts and All

Snow White doesn’t seem so pure as the driven snow after all.
rayut siman tov
Snow White doesn’t seem so pure as the driven snow after all.

By Ido Kenan and Jonny Silver

Published November 13, 2013.
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(Haaretz) — In a new series of illustrations entitled “The Trials of Disney Princessdom,” illustrator Rayut Siman Tov depicts Disney’s perfect princesses in human settings, complete with bodily defects and the ravages of the beauty industry.

To become human, the little mermaid in Hans Christian Anderson’s iconic story had to give up her tail for a pair of legs, which meant putting up with terrible pain whenever she walked or danced. She was told however by the Sea Witch that granted her wish that she would look beautiful and dance more beautifully than any other – which can be seen as a feminist metaphor for the exaggerated expectations women face.

But Disney’s “Little Mermaid” makes no mention of Ariel’s terrible pain. That version seems to pretty up the story for children, clean up the more horrific aspects, and create a happy ending for the whole family.

“In my illustrations they don’t wear princess’ gowns, they don’t look like Xena the Warrior Princess, or wear Princess Leia’s gold bikini,” writes Siman Tov. “No, no. In my illustrations they’re the same princesses, but we see them just a second before they go under the spotlight. They’ll show us how they are transformed into princesses, all of the gruesome, behind-the-scenes process that allow them to be so graceful that they look like they just walked out of a tampon commercial.”

Drat those glass slippers

The de-Disney-fied princesses in Siman Tov’s illustrations include Ariel, the little mermaid who finds a pimple on her forehead; Rapunzel struggling to wax overgrown leg hair; Snow White scarfing down a hamburger while her little birdies try to get her to eat an apple instead; Princess Jasmine from Aladdin threading off facial hair, and Cinderella removing calluses on her feet caused by her glass slippers.

“The inspiration for the project came from the current trend of illustrations of Disney princesses that change their wardrobe, gender or sexual orientation; illustrations that push them out of the hetero-normative conditions that Disney embraces. It’s stunning, as far as I’m concerned,” Siman Tov told Haaretz. “But I also wanted to bring up the significance of remaining within these limitations, what it actually means to be a ‘princess.’”

When she was a little girl, it was clear to her that a princess was gentle and naturally beautiful, she explains. “When a woman grows up, her attitude on the subject is much more cynical and critical. Gradually she realizes that no one is born a princess. Even women with the ‘right’ genes - that’s also a question, what exactly are the ‘right’ genes, and where do they come from? - can’t live up to the ridiculous standards, even with her natural gifts. At the very least, such a woman would be forced to spend hours removing every hair follicle that somehow dared to sprout.”

Pimple alert

The perfect woman can’t weigh over 40 kilos. Her breasts have to be perky at all times, Siman Tov continues. “She must confine herself to constrained, gentle gestures and through it all, her face must not break out from the stress.”

She decided to deconstruct that process, the process “all of us women know about, that goes on behind the scenes. All of the painful, disgusting and downright stupid things that if a woman doesn’t do, will earn her ridicule and social scorn.”

The choice of Disney princesses was obvious.

“I want to turn the spotlight on what these movies don’t show kids, because it seems that it’s worse than sex and violence: that women have body hair and weight, and that the war against these things is painful,” says Siman Tov. “And of course, it’s possible to take this discussion seriously and use academic terms, but I prefer to use my illustrations to discuss the subject with humor, in pastels.”

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