How the Disney princess story might be different if Sheryl Sandberg steps in

Sheryl-Sandberg.jpg

Image Credit: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Earlier this week, media circles were buzzing when Anne Sweeney announced she was leaving her position as co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group. After 18 years at the company,  Sweeney is now going to pursue her dream of becoming a director.

Dubbed “Hollywood’s most powerful woman” by The Hollywood Reporter, Sweeney’s exit nearly immediately incited speculation regarding her successor. Whomever Disney CEO Robert Iger taps next will be handed an immense task: overseeing ABC’s broadcast programming and Disney’s cable slate, and matching — or topping — the impressive $2.6 billion in profits Sweeney helped generate for the company last year alone. Among the names reportedly in the mix for a race that’s being compared to a political election are Disney CFO James Rasulo, Disney parks chief Thomas Staggs, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Sandberg, a billionaire and top name in tech, immediately piques interest as Sweeney’s replacement. Like Sweeney, Sandberg has been heralded for breaking the glass ceiling; unlike Sweeney, Sandberg has a public reputation for being feisty and feminist, thanks to her 2013 tome Lean In. Sandberg’s campaign urging women to “lean in” to achieve their goals and greater visibility in the workplace has both its supporters and critics. That being said, what would a Disney brand — built on a foundation of pretty, pretty princesses — look like if someone like Sandberg had been there from the very beginning? Move over, Walt Disney — meet the princesses who “lean in.”

Snow White (1937)

Disney’s first princess was perfect and sweet in every way. But given that Sandberg just launched a news-making campaign to ban the word “bossy” — she cites its use at the core of an inequality problem between young girls and boys — we think Snow might have given a cheeky, yet assertive “no, thanks” when the evil Queen offered that oh-so-shiny red apple.

Cinderella (1950)

Cinderella is pretty good at sewing clothes. In fact, she’s damn good. If Sandberg had been there to lend Cinderella script writers a hand, we bet that the story would have ended with Ella owning a fashion design company and multiple pairs of glass slippers. What’s one shoe when you have an entire closet full?

 Pocahontas (1995)

Aside from the film being chock-full of historical inaccuracies, there’s one major problem with Pocahontas: She falls in love with colonialist John Smith at first sight. As Sandberg advises in Lean In, perhaps she should have waited to find out if he “thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious” and was “someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home.” Yeah, somehow we don’t think studly John Smith would have washed the dishes.

Mulan (1998)

In this animated feature, Fa Mulan’s love, Li Shang, deserts her on a mountaintop. The two ultimately end up together, but we think Sandberg might have preferred that the martial arts-trained heroine stayed solo until a prince truly worth her time arrived.

Rapunzel (2010)

Rapunzel seems harmless as far as millennial princesses go, but that hair — you know, the endless feet of it — totally got in the way of her truly taking over. How about a more practical ‘do, huh? And that whole stuck-in-the-tower thing? We’re sure Sandberg would have shaped that into a storyline where Rapunzel embarks on an epic journey of self-discovery rather than staying hidden and unsure of herself.

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