Who’s your favorite Disney Princess? Why? Was she an intellectual, a warrior, or a scientist? Many of the stories we tell our children have been sanitized to make them more palatable, but for that reason many women’s stories have not been told because they would be nearly impossible to sanitize.
Jason Porath was working as a background animator when he started thinking about these women and their stories. As an experiment he began asking his friends about women whose stories could never become Disney acceptable, and the Rejected Princesses project was born.
Porath started writing blog posts where he illustrated the women and told their stories, which were eventually collected and published into a book. (Name or link to books maybe?) He has since published a second book and continues to research, illustrate, and retell women’s stories. Many of these women are famous such as Amelia Earhart, but many have been forgotten by western history due to the controversies surrounding them such Wu Zetian the female Chinese Emperor.
His unique writing style combines honesty, simple language, and humor. It is a refreshing change compared to traditional historical writings that become bogged down by jargon. Porath’s writing style allows for casual reading of incredibly complicated histories about controversial women. History is never so sweet and innocent as the movies and many of these women’s stories deal with violence and rape, but Porath uses a light and personal tone to ease the reader through such difficult topics. He says that his writing style is meant to reflect the casual and joking conversations that he had with his friend that eventually lead to the Rejected Princess project.
Porath does not have a background in history, research, or writing and uses the simple tactic of reading everything. Porath rarely thinks in terms of traditional research like artifacts or secondary sources. He does his best to find all available writings on the woman he is researching and cobbles together a cohesive narrative based on what he can corroborate. It involves a certain amount of guesswork and common sense that is rarely employed by traditional historians because Porath’s subjects often leave behind few personal writings to tell the “real story”.
Porath’s work is not without controversy. While Porath says he has received an incredible amount of support from the historical community regarding his research, it is just as common for him to encounter detractors. The internet was his original platform for this work, and Porath has faced harassment from trolls about his methods and chosen subject of research. Porath has faced backlash for his honest descriptions of these women’s stories that have included sticky topics such as transgender persons, rape, racism, etc. Porath tries to deal fairly with those that have honest feedback for him, citing sources and making sure to tag triggering entries that people may prefer not to read, but it is nearly impossible to make everyone happy.
In the face of these issues, why has Porath continued this work? He doesn’t want to do anything else. Porath explains that he has found so many incredible stories that returning to his old work as an animator would seem comparatively tame. He enjoys researching and evaluating sources as well as laboring to create depictions of these women. Porath has already gone far beyond his original intention of creating a few interesting blog posts, and he sees no reason to stop now.
When asked where he sees the project going, Porath has no real answer. He was never anticipating the reaction that his blog and now his books are creating. A tv series of some kind is in negotiations, Porath does confirm, but the talks have been dragging on for over two years and he doesn’t have much hope of a resolution. He would like to see some of the most popular and interesting entries he’s written be turned into a live-action mini-series complete with some original music to harken back to the Disney roots of the project, but Porath is unsure that it will ever become a reality.
In the meantime, Porath continues to illustrate and research the lives of these women, while responding to fan questions and recommendations for entries. He can be reached on the Rejected Princess Tumblr account and via the Rejected Princess website, and copies of his books “Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics” and “Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs” can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Susannah Frey is a senior at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in the History and Arts Management departments. Her love of history and her passion for art have led to her current ambition of becoming a curator at the Smithsonian. Miss Frey is always seeking new ways of integrating historical learning with arts practices. When she is not traveling to new countries, researching the history and culture of ancient civilizations, or creating original works of art, Miss Frey can be found curled up in front of the fireplace in her New England home with a good book.