Princesses are also embarrassingly weak. In an age when we are accustomed to seeing sassy and resilient heroines with actual depth, the image of a timid young woman desperately yearning for a knight to whisk her away is so pathetic it's uncomfortable. There's a tendency to think this weakness stems from an outdated gender stereotype - that because these stories were written so long ago, they cast women in roles both passive and powerless. You only have to look at the wicked witches and the domineering stepmothers, however, to realize that this is not the case at all. These characters hold plenty of power, and they wield it with a calculating intellect. So princesses aren't weak because they're women; they're weak because they're princesses.
Evil women are strong. Good women are weak. [sarcasm]There's no gender stereotype problem at all there![/sarcasm]
They're not weak because they're princesses, they're weak because they've been written as goal-objects rather than characters. THere are hordes of video games with the exact same null position held by a female character who is NOT a princess. Usually, it's the main character's girlfriend, although it might be his boss's daughter or something.
That meme is so persistent that it even turns up in games about robots which have no need for gender or useless girlfriends.
Of course it's a stupid threadbare excuse plot. Of course it's bad writing. But it's something that people fall back on time and time again if they don't have any better ideas. And why they fall back on 'save the girl' as a goal rather than 'save the guy' is more about gender and culture than just about princesses. :)
It's not like there aren't any active, outgoing princesses in fiction, or even in video games. Especially nowadays, where there's a tendency to slap 'princess' onto any female character in the hopes of attracting a princess-loving audience.