Disney Special Needs Princess Petition Raises an Important Point About Inclusivity
Disney princesses kind of rule the little girl world; it's not always a fortunate fact, but it is a fact none-the-less. Which is what makes two parents' petition for a special needs Disney princess so important. After all, representation matters. Big time.
Keston Ott-Dhal's daughter is only a little over a year old, but she's already fascinated by Disney princesses. And really what little girl hasn't been at one point or another? But, Ott-Dhal says, seeing her fall in love with the princess on the screen is also heartbreaking because "she has no role models like herself."
In the petition, Ott-Dhal explains that, "Disney does a great job of depicting right from wrong ... but sadly, the company comes up short in one critical area. Its movies have almost no representation of disabled people, those often bullied and looked down upon by their fellow children." Which is why Keston Ott-Dhal and her wife Andrea are asking Disney to develop a princess with special needs, in order to teach tolerance and "promote disabled characters as heroes and heroines."
The petition already has over 50,000 signatures and can be found here.
Naturally, of course, there are certain people who don't think that a disabled princess is necessary. After all, why would girls ever need role models who aren't traditionally beautiful, super thin, able-bodied, neuro-typical, straight women with perfect singing voices? That's not going to give anyone complexes at all. And just because about one in five American has a disability that doesn't mean any of those people need to feel included.
Overall, Disney has never been the best at pulling off diversity — just look at the stereotypes that cropped up in films like Pocahontas and Mulan or the fact that Disney chose to have their one black princess also be the only princess to ever spend most of her movie in non-human form. Still, having a bad track record with diversity doesn't somehow magically excuse Disney from their responsibility to not only include diversity but also get it right. And it would be great if they would manage to pull off such a feat for a disabled princess.
Would a princess with Down Syndrome be different? Yes. Would making such a movie would require a lot of hard work, intense creativity, extensive research, and plenty of outside-the-box thinking? Defintiely. Is it worth it? You bet your ass it is.
As someone who has a person with Down Syndrome in my family, I look forward to the day when more characters with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities have a place in American culture, not just so that real life people with disabilities have someone to relate to in the media they consume, but so that people everywhere gain more understanding of and familiarity with disabilities. Because only then will we be able to stop seeing people with disabilities as something scary and instead see them as part of our world.
So Disney, pay attention. Because a princess with disabilities sounds like an awesome idea.