This click-baity article at the Federalist: “Why Does Disney Hate Boys So Much?” way overstates its case. Contra the article, male Disney characters have not gotten lamer lately. As the father of two little girls, and as a boy who had a sister during the “Disney Renaissance”, I’ve seen my share of Princess movies. And when you look at them all, in total, the male characters have gotten much more interesting as the films have gone on.
Don’t believe me? Then absorb this totally objective analysis. Herewith, a selection of primary male characters in Disney Princess Movies, together with how much they speak, and what their function is in the plot. I exclude Aladdin and any other film with a male protagonist (which spares me having to re-watch Hercules and Hunchback of Notre Dame, which seems to be when the so-called Renaissance went through it’s Mannerist Phase, or something).
#1. Prince Nameless I (Snow White)
Speaks: One spoken line and a reprised song.
Function: To look like Justin Bieber, sashay in like a high-school drama star, kiss the Princess and ride off with her, while the Dwarfs who gave her shelter and chased her attacker to her death at great personal risk get a great big bucket of nothing.
#2. Prince Nameless II (Cincerella)
Speaks: 3-4 spoken lines and a duet.
Function: To look bored at all the pretty young things his father offers him until Cinderella shows up, then be spoken about for the rest of the movie until he shows up at the wedding.
#3: Prince Phillip (Sleeping Beauty)
Speaks:A good many lines, a duet.
Function: To be the first Disney prince with a personality. To dispatch the dragon like a knight sans peur, Beowulf-style.
#4: Triton (The Little Mermaid)
Speaks: Several scenes testifying to his cluelessness and rage issues, but no songs.
Function: To give charge of his unruly youngest daughter to a small crab, to terrify and alienate said daughter and then leave her to his own devices, to fumble about looking for her without once thinking “hey, could she have gone to the Sea Witch, maybe you think?”, to give no thought at all to all the mer-people said Sea Witch has entrapped over the years, to surrender (at the force of a CONTRACT, no less) his kingdom of mer-people and his six elder daughters to the mercy of aforementioned monstrous Sea Witch, and when all consequences for this are averted, to give the daughter who started all of this everything she wanted because why not?
#5: Prince Eric (The Little Mermaid)
Speaks: Several scenes demonstrating general decency and absurd romanticism.
Function: To be into sailing and stuff, to find other young women uninteresting, to be more into singing voices than a Glee fan club, to get mesmerized by Ursula, to be pretty okay with his lady love turning out to be half-fish, to kill the terrifying, now semi-divine Sea Witch with a sharp piece of wood (You hear that, Triton? A SHARP PIECE OF WOOD).
#6: The Beast (Beauty and the Beast)
Speaks: A complete character arc (I know, right?).
Function: To be a selfish, infantile bag of rage until Belle walks into his life, then to become the classic example of Fake It Till You Make It.
#7: Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Speaks: Some hilarious scenes and the best villain songs ever (sorry, Ursula, but the combination of “Gaston’s Song” and “Kill the Beast,” just edge out “Poor Unfortuate Souls”).
Function: To be a willfully ignorant but scarily persuasive jock.
#8: Captain John Smith (Pocohontas)
Speaks: I don’t know; I never saw it.
Function: White guilt, I guess?
#9: Prince Boring McWhocares (The Princess and the Frog)
Speaks: Some scenes, and songs, all of which kind of meld together.
Function: To be generally irritating yet inexplicably alluring to a young woman who otherwise seems to understand life pretty well. Also, to like jazz.
#10: Flynn Ryder (Tangled)
Speaks: Many scenes, part of a song, a duet.
Function: To narrate the story, provide a snarky counterpoint to the innocent heroine’s search for identity while displaying a sensitive, wistful side. To refuse to sing until forced at swordpoint.
#11: Prince Hans (Frozen)
Speaks: Several scenes, a duet
Function: To display Littlefinger-like dexterity in playing Arendelle’s game of thrones. To be the poster boy for Fake Nice Guys.
#12 Kristoff (Frozen)
Speaks: Most of the story’s second act, but no songs (even though a song is sung about him, in front of him).
Function: To be the grumpy, flea-bitten Han Solo to Anna’s wide-eyed, quick-tempered Princess Leia. Also, to give a voice to
Maximus with Antlers Sven.
What emerges? Clearly, the more the Princess films go on, the more roundly-drawn the male foils and love interests become. As do the princesses themselves. This isn’t a perfect, linear progression, but what is? And at any rate, it’s not like Disney has a shortage of male protagonists.