Editor’s Note: This article features salacious images and situations, including BDSM, of beloved Disney characters courtesy of Cosmopolitan magazine. Please view at your own discretion.

Never could I have predicted the Disney princesses from my childhood would be reimagined in the setting of BDSM.

However, thanks to an article that re-imagines the princesses based on scenes from the erotica novel Fifty Shades of Grey, the princesses who once represented innocence and inner beauty, ooze sexuality and confidence.

It is not the provocative and submissive way in which these women—animated or not—are portrayed I am calling into question, but rather what the images imply.

The portrayal of Pocahontas and John Smith specifically left me feeling rather unsettled. Posted on Cosmopolitan’s, a popular international fashion magazine for women, snapchat story, the image was used as a reference in an article by associate editor Tess Koman titled, “These Pictures of Disney Princesses on their Cell Phones Are So Real It Hurts.”

Seeing an image of John Smith, a white man, holding a belt while Pocahontas, a Native American woman, is bent over a stool, with what appears to be a belt mark on the side of her derriere, is not romantic or sexy in any way.

Instead, it is an image that inadvertently glorifies the power-dynamics of the past, when white men had inherent power over non-whites.

I am sure that Alex Rees, author of the article that contained this image titled “If Disney Couples Starred in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’” did not mean to disrespect anyone with this seemingly innocent picture. In fact, the picture was true to the topic of his article given that is focused on giving Disney characters a BDSM spin.

However, in Ree’s or the anonymous Deviant artist who created the depictions, attempt to be creative, there is a risk of polarizing Cosmopolitan’s subscribers, specifically those who are activists concerning topics of race, objectification of women in today’s society and feminists in general.

Rees should have also taken into consideration the historical background where Pocahontas is concerned.

The movie focuses on the Europeans arrival to the “New World,” and their attempt to overtake the land of the Native Americans by any means necessary. Recreating Pocahontas in such a light wasn’t the smart move here, not when there are people like me who will take one look at this image and automatically think “and here we have the glorification of a white man beating a woman of color.”

I understand the intent behind the article.

There’s something so alluring about challenging the air of innocence surrounding these iconic female characters. Ever the good girls, Disney royalties are regarded as regal, pure-hearted and family oriented.

Seriously, name one Disney princess who did something, anything, that would call their morality and values into question.

Ever the picture of innocence, I understand why it is fun for some to reimagine these women in the image of women today, as beings who own and glorify their own sexuality without a care for the opinions of society.

It’s always fun to challenge the image of “good girls,” portraying them in a light that lets everyone else know that yes, they are human, and yes, they have deep, dark depraved fantasies just like the rest of us.

However, when those challenges to the status quo become pictures that not only disrupt the overall image of a character, but make “beating” a Native American woman with a belt while she maintains a submissive position seem glamorous, it is no longer a laughing matter.

The issue becomes that of pushing boundaries and limits. Some are meant to be pushed and in the case of this picture, those boundaries should not be pushed at all.

I am not saying the author, Rees is a racist nor am I suggesting he longs for the days when beating non-whites into submission was prevalent.

I am also not suggesting Rees is a sexist and believes all women should be submissive to men, though I do point out the fact that Rees is indeed a man.

What I am simply trying to convey is that, as the popular culture editor for Cosmopolitan, he should have been aware of the implications behind such an image.

If an editor is going to focus mainly on popular culture, then he or she should be hyper cognizant of everything and anything going on within that field.

While race relations and feminism technically fall under social issues, the ways in which they overlap with popular culture has everything to do with the fact that musicians, actors, actresses, etc., are speaking out about these issues.

Political correctness does not, and should not, apply to words and words only.

It applies to all forms of communication be it movie, song, or picture. Social issues such as race and gender equality are taking precedent in our society today. With an increased focus on how words and images can have either a positive or negative effect on one person or a large group of people, one can never be too sure he or she did not cross some sort of boundary.

In that same sense, if it seems like it may be pushing just a little too much, it’s pushing just a little too much. Unfortunately for Rees, this image is pushing, and it’s entering territories the author probably did not intend to explore.

Still, if you’re going to publish an article that focuses on Disney princesses in BDSM, maybe you should think about excluding Pocahontas from the list.

Or, better yet, maybe Disney princes should switch roles with their female counterparts. Instead of the women playing the role of the submissive as they typically do, why not have the men do it?

An image of a Disney prince, say Aladdin, playing submissive to his Dom (a.k.a Princess Jasmine) is something I wouldn’t mind seeing.

Maybe next time Rees can publish that as his focus.

The Cosmopolitan article may be found here

Octavia Hutson is a senior English major and may be reached at octaviahutson@gmail.com

2 comments

  1. I have mixed feelings of this. While I do enjoy relevant re-imaginings of classic characters, these seem almost pointlessly provocative – just for the sake of being provocative. So while it’s kinda sexy, it doesn’t seem particularly self-aware.

  2. While I can see your point, I really disagree. I’m black and native American and I practise BDSM with an all white man with British origins. I’d love to take a picture with his belt marks on me when I act up ;). That being said, the artist took already established Disney couples and put them into a stereotypical BDSM setting. I will agree it would be nice to see other dynamics in play but for Cosmo, this isn’t horrible.
    Anyways, just my two cents!
    -A

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s