BBC News

If Disney princesses were Filipina

By Heather Chen
BBC News

image copyrightGoh Wei Choon

Once upon a time, Disney's famous princesses were re-imagined as zombies and even as bowls of water. But one of the most intriguing spins on the iconic characters is what is happening among fans in the Philippines.

The hashtag #IfDisneyPrincessesWerePinay regularly appears on Twitter, much to the delight of local fans.

The fairy tales have taken on a new life, which is poignant but with a bittersweet edge. So princesses were re-imagined singing karaoke, but there were also Disney princesses to reflect the political and social preoccupations of the Philippines.

"If Disney princesses were Pinay, then Mulan would definitely be claimed by China," said one user from Cavite province.

"They are the faces of fairy tales today and are huge internet favourites," said Rebecca-Anne Rozario, a professor from Monash University who has written on the cultural significance of Disney princesses.

"Their happy endings aren't discarded - new stories are being told. Fan artists are "freeing" them, re-imagining them in different styles and ethnicities but what's also interesting is that new stories involving tweets and memes are fleshing out the lives of the princesses themselves."

This is the take of Disney-mad Philippine social media on the trials and tribulations of ordinary Filipina women.

Cinderella gets stuck in traffic

image copyrightGoh Wei Choon
image captionNot even Cinderella would be able to escape Manila's infamous traffic jams, as Twitter users in the Philippines pointed out

"Cinderella wouldn't make it to the ball because of traffic," read a bemused comment from one Twitter user. She would miss her midnight curfew.

Princess Jasmine probably wouldn't be able to escape the Manila traffic either, and would, like many Filipinos in the capital, "arrive at least 30 minutes late to work".

She would ride a traditional 'Jeepney', the country's most popular means of cheap public transport, and not a converted pumpkin.

Cinderella as a domestic helper

She would be an overseas foreign worker, a domestic helper, which is a path that awaits some Filipina women who travel to find better incomes than they would get at home in households in the Middle East, Hong Kong and Singapore.

"If Disney princesses were Filipina, Cinderella would be an OFW in Hong Kong," one post read drawing the direct comparison with Cinderella's harsh beginnings.

image copyrightGoh Wei Choon
image captionWhat would life be for Cinderella, if the fairytale took place in modern day Hong Kong - home to thousands of Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs)

Disney and fairy tales in the news

Elsa the snow queen would create ash and floods, not blizzards

Elsa, one of Disney's newest princesses, is known for her ability to produce or manipulate ice, frost and snow at will. But that didn't stop users talking about her weather powers, the kind of conditions that frequently wreak havoc in the Philippines.

"Elsa would not be creating snows but flood," remarked one user. "More fun in the Philippines!"

image copyrightGoh Wei Choon
image captionElsa wouldn't be a snow queen in the Philippines, home to volcanoes

To another user, a Filipina version of Elsa would be more adapted to creating ash, not snow at Mount Pinatubo, near the island of Luzon.

Others were more optimistic. Elsa should maintain the ice rinks at mega-malls in Manila.

Whitening products...for the fairest of them all

Fair-skinned princess Snow White, was another popular focus among many Filipinos discussing the trend.

image copyrightGoh Wei Choon
image captionIf Snow White were Filipina, she would have been enticed by a mango, not an apple

"The evil queen would have given her a poison mango," said one user.

Her much vaunted fair complexion would make her the perfect ambassador for whitening products, used by a number of Filipinas, others pointed out.

"Snow White would also be on a lot of whitening commercials because she's the fairest of them all."

Karaoke microphones and singing competitions would be the obvious choice for a Filipina Ariel: "She and Snow White would be fighting it out in singing battles," said one Twitter user.

The princesses imagined in the Filipina context play on both the power and powerlessness of women.

This social conversation has cleverly twisted the popular global trend and recreated a Philippine version with humour and ruefulness.

But the Philippines already has its own Disney princess

World-renowned Filipina singer and actress Lea Salonga, has voiced not one but two Disney icons: Princess Jasmine and Mulan.

And while many saw the dark side of Disney in putting her in Philippine scenarios, others remembered her role in one the world's most enduring entertainment phenomena and cite her as a role model for Filipina women.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionLea Salonga: The Philippines' very own Disney legend

"Idina Menzel and Mandy Moore may be modern and nice but Lea Salonga will always be the reigning 'Disney princess' in the hearts of Filipinos," said a fan on Twitter.

Another said: "When I hear Lea Salonga, I get emotional because she sang as my two favourite princesses."

Illustrations by Goh Wei Choon.

Related Topics

  • Philippines

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