Artist David Trumble recently released a collection of drawings of famous women from history. The images are highly stylized, mimicking the aesthetic of Disney princesses. The project, which Trumble refers to as “a prototype for Disney’s new ‘World of Women’ collection”, seems to be a satirical response to Princess Merida’s makeover:
Trumble’s models include Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Hillary Clinton, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Anne Frank, Malala Yousafzai, Harriet Tubman, Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, and Gloria Steinem:
These images show how insulting the real Disney princess images are to women and girls. Trumble includes photos of the real women next to his drawings, so we can see the discrepancies between the women’s strong, confident body language and the coy “on display” poses of the illustrations. All these women have accomplished incredible feats and committed their lives to amazing causes. Instead of capturing their power and unique traits, the Disney-style illustrations reduce the women’s images into flat “Look at me – aren’t I pretty?” cartoons with vacuous smiles. For years I’ve been aware of how unrealistic Disney princess images are, but this project really drives home how ridiculous they are. Girls deserve to see princesses and warriors who look and move and act like real women.
A more positive aspect of this project is the notion of making women from history the new Disney princesses. Although I don’t expect Disney to change their stories or character designs anytime soon, hopefully the discussions fueled by Trumble’s work will inspire more children’s authors and illustrators to both create realistic portrayals of women and tell stories from women’s history.
Finally, this project made me think about what kind of images I’d like to see in children’s media, and if I’d ever seen them before. I remembered one of my favorite books, The Serpent Slayer: and Other Stories of Strong Women – the stories are folklore from around the world, featuring heroines who use their intelligence and strength to succeed. The illustrations show characters who have strong bodies and real facial expressions:
What do you think of Trumble’s project? And do you have any favorite storybooks that feature strong heroines?