Representation in Raya and the Last Dragon: Examining the Progression of Gender, Sexuality, and Race in the Disney Princess Franchise


  • Sarah Hicks


The Disney animated film Raya and the Last Dragon was released in March
2021 to great acclaim, becoming the third-highest streamed movie of 2021
(Hayes). The Disney Princess franchise has long been criticized for cultural
appropriation and privileging traditional gender and heterosexual norms. If
Raya is canonized into the Disney Princess franchise, she will be the second
Asian Princess and the first Southeast Asian Princess.1
In contrast to historical
Disney Princess films, Raya has garnered praise for the film’s pro-feminist
ideals, nuanced homosexuality, and careful representation of Southeast Asian
culture. This essay analyzes the representations of race, gender, and sexuality
in Raya and the Last Dragon in relationship to other Disney Princess animated
feature films, especially the 1998 animated film Mulan. Raya reflects an almost
one-hundred-year progression in the franchise and represents a significant
advancement by Disney in terms of feminist and racial representation, but, at
the same time, falls short in the area of queer representation.