Which Disney prince would make the best real-life boyfriend? This question is constantly up for debate; though honestly, I wonder if the answer is really any of them. I mean, think about it: would YOU really want to date any of the Disney princes?

Don’t get me wrong: I love Disney. The movies are like security blankets for me. I’ve been to both Disney World and Disneyland a disgusting amount of times. In fact, I’ve spent my birthday on Disney property once every four years from the year I turned sixteen onward (this was largely by accident, but it’s still true). But though I love the movies and maintain that you’re never to old for amusement parks, I’m still rather baffled by the whole Disney princess thing– or rather, the aggressive marketing of all things princess to little girls. And this is why I think that most, if not all, of the Disney princes should actually be filed under the category of At Least Mildly Troubling, If Not Downright Abusive, Boyfriends.

Most little girls– or at least, most American little girls– grow up these days with “the princess phase” factoring prominently in their development. This is hardly a new phenomenon; in fact, I’m pretty sure that as long as there have been fairy tales, there have been little girls (and probably little boys as well) wishing fervently that one day their prince will come. It only starts to get weird when money starts to come into it. Peggy Orenstein examines this issue in depth in her recently released book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and she may have a point. It’s painfully obvious that the main point of all the marketing and retail hullabaloo is really all about making companies lots and lots of money; but at what psychological costs to children?

The Disney Princess line caters specifically to this dream, with its key players being Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora of Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, and most recently Tangled’s Rapunzel. Through toys, costumes, even complete makeovers at Disney’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for as much as $280, the Princess franchise seeks to turn your little princess into an actually Little Princess, often at absurd costs. Consider, though, the princes that go along with these plucky young heroines:

Prince Ferdinand
Yes, Snow White’s prince has a name. And yet, I’m not surprised that we don’t know his name, given that all he does is suddenly appear at the end, solely for the purposes of falling in love with a dead chick. He’s a plot point more than anything else, and he’s a necrophiliac plot point at that.

Cinderella’s Nameless Prince
This is the guy we usually think of as Prince Charming, but Charming is not his name. Unlike Ferdinand, he doesn’t even have one; he’s just the Prince. Furthermore, he’s a prince who doesn’t want to get married in the first place, so he’s sort of a deadbeat. I can’t really blame him– in a world of arranged marriages, who can?– but even allowing for that, he still wouldn’t make great boyfriend material, purely because it’s unlikely that he’ll stick around.

Prince Phillip
Aurora’s prince, on the other hand, DOES have a name. And you know what? In spite of the fact that he may be a little bland personality-wise, Phillip is the only prince on the list that may actually be worth the trouble. He’s just as in love with her when he thinks she’s a peasant as when he finds out she’s a princess, and he’s willing to fight for her either way. He even stands up to his dad for her. And then he fights a monster for her. That’s dedication.

Prince Eric
Ariel’s prince? Kind of a problem. You can make the argument that he falls for Ariel because she’s a free spirit who opens his eyes to a different way of living, which is in fact pretty admirable; but the bottom line is that he never hears her utter a word, so it’s unlikely that he’s interested in her for her brains. Not that there’s anything wrong with physical attraction– it’s just that physical attraction usually isn’t enough of a foundation on which to build a relationship.

The Beast
Aaaaaand you guessed it: Beast has a name too. It’s Adam. Who knew? Here, though, we’ve got what I consider to be one of the weirdest situations on the list: he kidnaps Belle, he’s got some serious anger management issues, and in spite of all that, she subsequently goes all Stockholm Syndrome. He also has no friends of his own (I’m not really sure we can count the talking candlestick as a friend, given that Lumiere lives to serve), which means that he relies on Belle for all of his human (beastly?) contact. This cannot possibly be healthy.

Falling for Aladdin is the equivalent of falling for one of those internet sweetheart scams. He’s not who he says he is, he’s a compulsive liar, and he’s a con man. Stay away.

Captain John Smith
The guy’s a colonist. He’ll trash your family, he’ll try to change everything about you, and then he’ll drag you off to his choice of residence and display you as a trophy. Fun!

Captain Li Shang
Mulan had a pretty awesome military career in the works, but she was forced to give it up because the astoundingly sexist Captain Li Shang told her girls can’t be soldiers. Sure, he excused it by saying that in disguising herself, she dishonored herself, her family, and probably the entire nation of China; but I mean, really? Really?!

Prince Naveen
Naveen’s parents have disowned him, so he treks on down to New Orleans with the intention of marrying a rich southern belle. If he’s only after you for your money, he’s not worth it. Gold diggers are never good news.

Flynn Rider
Rapunzel’s supposed prince isn’t too dissimilar from Aladdin: he’s a thief who lies about who he is. He’s also kind of useless– Rapunzel is always saving his ass. Good for her!… but then again, she’s always having to bail out her guy. Lame.

On a case by case basis, not many of these guys are making a strong case for a caring partner. Phillip is the exception, but he’s only one out of ten. What are we supposed to take away from the other nine? Is this really the best we can expect to do in the boyfriend department? If this is what Disney is telling us, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope for finding a guy (or girl) with whom you can have a happy, healthy relationship. Furthermore, do we even need to end up with a prince in the first place? It’s possible to be perfectly happy without one. Gone are the days of the spinster aunt– it’s not a stigma we need to worry about anymore. So why not embrace it instead?

It’s true that the princesses have gotten stronger overall as time has gone on. While the earlier princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, etc.) take a mostly passive role in their own stories, the later princesses have gone on to join the army (Mulan) and run their own businesses (Tiana). And yeah, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look like a pretty pretty princess, no matter what your age or gender. Perhaps most importantly, I suppose that the flip side is that we can look at these couples as examples of love going strong even in the face of some pretty serious flaws. But I don’t know. Something still makes me go “eugh” about the whole thing. Maybe it all boils down to the fact that the princes are largely non-entities. I suspect this is why so many of them either don’t have names or have names that no one can actually remember– they’re ideas, not people. Furthermore, when they ARE people, they don’t appear to be terribly GOOD people (why, for example, are there so many thieves in the bunch?). I can only conclude that when you consider all of these supposed “Prince Charmings”, who wants to date a guy who yells at you, lies to you, steals from you, and is only interested in you for your looks?

What do you think? Can princes and princesses be a healthy reality?

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