Anastasia: OG ‘90s Feminist

image credit: YouTube screenshot

image credit: YouTube screenshot

Growing up, I dressed as Anastasia for four Halloweens straight. Like the Disney princesses, I thought she was stunning; I liked to admire her twirly yellow dress, her graceful gait, the way her unmatted hair swayed in the wind, despite her orphan status and presumed lack of hair products.

Unlike the Disney princesses, I also thought she was funny, sassy, and inspiring as hell. 

Of course, Anastasia doesn’t clear every purist feminist hurdle. It is, after all, still an animated princess movie where everyone is white and she gives up her title for a man. (The day I give up being princess for a man is the day I die.) Still, Anastasia is one of the few princess movies I rewatch as an adult and don’t question the negative impact it had on me as a child. 

The title character is undisputedly funny, whip-smart, and heavily sarcastic. She has more one-liners in this film than I’ve seen in the whole of the Disney princess canon. The movie passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, and ends with what is perhaps my favorite animated scene of all time, which features the male love interest knocked out cold in the corner while she single-handedly defeats the evil Rasputin.

Here is every time she made me visibly nod while I watched:

When she wasn’t here for double standards:

“You really think I’m royalty? Then stop bossing me around!”

When she was the most adept one in the group:

“Men are such babies.”

When she used the feminine stereotype against Demetri:

“Please don’t talk anymore, it’s only going to upset me.”

When she refused to be objectified:

“Why are you circling me? Wha, were you a vulture in another life?”

When she demanded accuracy:

“It’s Anya.”

When she defied gender roles time and time again:

When she owned her title:

“Just please, remove him from my sight!”

When she was flirting, but still unabashedly corrective:

“I AM wearing it.”

When she mocked gender roles:

"I think the Russian circus is still in here."

And, finally, when she single-handedly saved herself and the whole Romanov family:

So, no, Anastasia isn’t on the bad-ass feminist level of The Color Purple or even last year’s Ghostbusters. But for an animated 1997 princess movie? A snappy, quick-talking, able-bodied, independent woman who proves that she doesn’t need to be proper to be a princess is a pretty damn amazing feat. If I ever have any daughters of my own, I will be steering them away from the trading-your-voice-for-a-man messages of The Little Mermaid and the patriarchal Cinderella, and towards Fox’s Anastasia. And when my little girls watch Anastasia, I will at the very least have solace in knowing that the message is soaking in for them — as it did for my sister and me — that you can fall in love without compromising who you are. 

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