Heroine Pusher
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa  (Jan 2014)

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            It has come to my attention that an online quiz exists to identify which Disney princess you are. I’ll wait here while you rush to your computer to search for it, because I know how long you have been pondering that very question.

            A friend posted a link to this quiz, noting not only her results, but also which Disney princess is her personal favorite. It brought to mind my own favorite, Mulan. She isn’t a princess, per se, but she’s a Disney heroine, so it is all the same to me.

            I really wish more little girls – and their mothers, and their fathers – would pass over Cinderella from time to time to watch Mulan instead. Not that her martial arts skills are influencing my judgment. OK, maybe they are. But tell me, how many Disney heroines can defend themselves? This one thinks on her feet, is a creative and clever problem-solver, and shows tremendous courage to do what she believes is right. Do you prefer her as a role model for a little girl, or a woman whose most urgent wish in life is to make it to a really awesome party? 

            Of course, it might be cool to go to a shindig in a custom, magical couture gown and meet a prince. That would make for a fantastic status update. That said, the idea of dance shoes made of glass is immensely stupid. Am I supposed to pretend otherwise? What a horrible, horrible idea. Who among you would have any desire to dance until midnight in shoes made of glass? Hard, heavy, fragile glass? On your feet? And high heels at that? With no insoles? I didn’t see any insoles. Did you? I mean, the shoes were transparent, so.... Anyway, if my fairy godmother put me in high heels made of glass, I would have to make it clear – no pun intended, so wait, I’ll try again. I would have to break it to her – OK, that’s no better. I would ask for better shoes. There. I wouldn’t want to seem ungrateful, but imagine how those might feel if your feet begin to sweat. And what happens when you do one of those line dances with stomping, and your shoe explodes? Or when some heavy-footed moron dancing nearby steps on your foot, bursting your shoe into bits? Then it’s all blood, glass shards, amputated toes, and tourniquets, and that’s not at all sexy on a first date. But maybe the fairy godmother was on top of this all along. For all I know, the shoes were made of that car window glass, and I am fretting over nothing.

            Back to Mulan vs. Cinderella. Not in a fight, obviously, unless the fairy godmother or the singing mice would step in to help. Or maybe Cinderella knows how to use her handy broom as a staff, and I have been underestimating her. So, to be fair, I will consider how they match up in a few other categories.

            The Parents: Mulan’s parents love her dearly, though mom puts pressure on her to be all frilly for the matchmaker. Still, dad offers comforting words at just the right time. She goes to war disguised as a man to save her crippled father from certain death.

            Cinderella’s mother died, her father remarried, then he died. Soon afterward, Cinderella was forced into servitude in her own home by her sociopathic stepmother. I now wonder if there was ever an inquiry into the circumstances of the father’s death, because the stepmother is looking more and more like a suspect.

            Advantage Mulan.

            The Disguise: Mulan makes it all the way through training camp and into war disguised as a male soldier. She is discovered only after suffering a wound sustained in battle. The doctor can’t help but notice a few things.

            Cinderella’s disguise as a wealthy socialite comes about entirely at the wand of her fairy godmother, and it has an oddly strict time limit. She is outed by the clock striking midnight.

            Advantage Mulan.

            The Goal: Cinderella gets to the party.

            Mulan saves the emperor and her entire nation.

            Advantage Mulan.

            The Guy: Army Captain Li Shang is a total jerk when he realizes that Mulan is a woman. He ignores her later when she, dressed as herself, tries to warn him of danger. When he realizes that she was right, he heeds her advice and they work together to save the day. He recognizes how impressive she is as herself, the woman, and he travels to her home to say hello.

            Prince Charming became obsessed with finding a woman who left him at a party. He swept the entire kingdom to try to track her down. We, the audience, knew she left because of the spell. For all he knew, she just wasn’t that into him. She actually ran away from him, for goodness’ sake. From that perspective, his behavior is a bit stalkerish.

            Advantage Mulan.

            The winner is clear. And that is without including a sparring competition! This means the results must be accurate. Don’t misunderstand, though. Hooray for sparkles, magic wands, tiaras, bursting into song, all of it. There is nothing wrong with having fun with those things. It is strange, though, how Cinderella’s story is so often diminished to her “getting the guy” as well as a fabulous makeover. Didn’t she also get out of a twisted, abusive household? It intrigues me that people who refer to Cinderella do not focus more on that part of her story. I mean, was there therapy after the wedding to Prince Charming? When she told him the whole story, did he use his royal authority to exact revenge on the stepmother and the sisters for their horrid treatment of his beloved? And if not, is he really as good a catch as you thought he was? So many unanswered questions. But in a story where singing mice become horses, and where no one calls child protective services on a stepmother like Cinderella’s, I suppose I should learn to let these things go.

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