How To Be Okay If Your Fav White Disney Princess Isn’t White Anymore

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So you’re walking along, everything’s normal, your favourite Disney princesses are white. Then one day… boom. They aren’t. What do you do? 

Does this situation sound familiar? It may have happened to you — over and over again — in the past. But most recently, it probably happened to you if you love Rapunzel.

Fans have been hyping up various actors who they’d love to see as Rapunzel in a hypothetical live-action adaptation of Tangled for years. Florence Pugh was a fan fave. Dove Cameron was another.  

When Avantika’s name was tossed into the ring, presumably because her face card never declines, it was all too much for some Rapunzel fans. It renewed the discussion about the possibility of a South Asian Rapunzel, which garnered a lot of attention back in 2022 when Maitreyi Ramakrishnan posted that Rapunzel was her dream role. But for some people, that really crossed a line. And they let everyone know about it. 

Normally, I’d be tempted to aggressively dismiss these “arguments” as deeply misguided and white supremacy-adjacent. But what would that achieve? So I’m calling you in, My Rapunzel Is White gang. 

First of all, directing any of your hate or disdain towards Avantika and Maitreyi is unhinged. They’re just like millions of other girls all over the world through the decades who probably wanted to be Disney princesses at one point. Plus they’re actors, so of course they think about roles and characters that they’d love to portray. 

And also, to clarify: while Maitreyi has been pretty vocal about how she’d love to play Rapunzel if the opportunity came up, Avantika hasn’t said anything publicly. So to ambush her Instagram comments to argue why white Disney princesses should stay white is insane behaviour. 

The race-swapping with existing characters is an ongoing conversation that keeps coming up again and again. It seems ridiculous, but maybe we need to talk about it more gently and recognise that these people may be in real pain. They’re mourning their nostalgia. I get that. But claiming that wanting your cherished white characters to remain white is simply about sticking to the source material, and not at all about race is… something. And as valid as it is for people to claim that it’s not racist to want Rapunzel to stay white, I think it’s valid for me to explain why it actually kinda is.  

So here it is: 

The quote “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” always comes to mind in these discussions. I know it feels like there are double standards when people talk about recasting white princesses, but not with Jasmine, or Mulan, or Tiana. And a common justification for that is that stories like Aladdin and Mulan and The Princess and the Frog are rooted in their culture, which is central to the story. 

But doesn’t that itself strike you as odd? That the POC princess girlies almost ‘have’ to have a real reason to not be white. It’s crucial to the story, we say, while race isn’t central to princess characters like Belle and Cinderella and Rapunzel. And people often use that as a defence for colour blind casting, since it wouldn’t drastically change their stories.  

But I think the real tea is that white princesses have stories that aren’t dependent on their culture. They are a blank canvas. Default characters who, by the way, people of colour have long been able to find relatable, forge connections with, and develop nostalgia for.  

So if you find yourself thinking that you would no longer find a non-white, non-blonde Rapunzel relatable to you anymore, first, ask yourself why that is — and be honest. Then, just know that you will be okay. You can figure out a way to connect anyway, like I did with many white, or male, or, I don’t know, non-Australian characters. 

I understand if you feel like it’s forced and unfair for a classic character to be “changed” for the sake of diversity. But maybe it only feels forced because there’s such an active, kneejerk resistance to it. If we were all open to the idea of non-white Disney princesses, it wouldn’t be forced diversity — it would be a really exciting chance to rethink the way we celebrate influential and iconic characters.   

Wouldn’t that be nice? 

Image: Disney