If I were to ask 10 people on the street to give me three attributes that they associate with princesses, they would be able to label various adjectives and buzzwords that can replace many of the words I've used in the paragraph above. But what about princes? What if I asked for qualities they associate with being a prince- Brave, strong, handsome... maybe smart? What are his other qualities? What are his passions? Why is he looking for love? Is he looking for love? Does he too believe that a woman will be the answer to all of his woes and longings? In most stories, he is forced to go rescue a lover and return with her as the prized proof of his charming ability to save and protect and be... a man. A lesser version of the caveman hit her over the head and drag her home; the assignment remains "go bring back some woman", a woman he doesn't even know. Is he bummed out? Is he scared? What does he think?
I would fairly note that as Disney progressed, so too did the depth of character and storyline behind the princes. No longer were we fed the idea that the invisible man was every princess's dream "because Disney said so without some sort of back story" we got some words and an actual face with features. However, this further exploration of character development still falls short. Even fairy tales where the male character is a predominant feature- like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Mulan, The Princess and the Frog (which I will analyze another time); the male characters are still flawed in their perfect " boringness". It is one thing to scrutinize female perfection, true, but we should look harder at her counterparts and demand more of a woman's vision of her "ideal" man.
Gone are the days where we believe in the knight in shining armor, but gone too should be the days of a prince who so perfectly smiles, sings, lifts, whisks and dazzles us away to an ever after ending. Where's the pushback? Where's the tension? We can't reserve these complexities for villains alone. We send the message that layers for a man are unreasonable, when in reality, most men, most people have more than a few layers to peel back when you get to know them. I charge Disney to create a flawed prince. A man who I can believe is a man and not an ice sculpture or stoically chiseled god. For girls, mysticism of masculinity is continuously and pedagogically reiterated through the stories of our childhood. Show us something other than a hero and a villain. Show us a real man.