Disney Princess FAIL
A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. ~Naomi Wolf
Hard to believe, but a piece I wrote last year (Lesbian Disney Princesses Are All Right with Me) continues to garner the most hits. It isn’t even close. And, as fate would have it, the subject was brought up again. I just can’t help it…there are wars going on, children going to bed hungry, and this is what gets my goat. I feel like such a bad American.
Not that I’m their target consumer or anything, but Disney has re-designed Princess Merida from last year’s hit Brave to better fit its monolithic Princess brand. Her bow and arrow, untamed curls, and tomboyish posture appear to have been stripped away. (Apparently, no wild-and-free Princesses are allowed in the Magic Kingdom.) I could also throw in my outrage over the Abercrombie and Fitch CEO’s idiotic comments about who is “cool” and who isn’t, but that would be superfluous.
Why do I care so much about what is, after all, a very First World problem? I don’t have kids, I don’t plan on having kids, I don’t go to Disney parks, and I certainly don’t buy any Disney merchandise (well, OK, I made an exception for Wreck-It Ralph.) In fact I’ve made a point to stay far, far away from the sparkly pink monster that is modern Disney Princess-dom.
I care because I am a woman. I care because millions of little girls are growing up right now thinking their only worth lies in their beauty and not their creativity, their intellect, or their unique qualities. I care because I, like the vast majority of women, am not gorgeous and cannot live up to impossible standards set by Madison Avenue and Hollywood. We live in a world where too many women are considered objects and not people. And it has to stop.
When I was a girl, back before the Princess Borg arrived to assimilate millions of unassuming young consumers, my favorite Disney flick was Beauty and the Beast. Yes, Belle was beautiful, but she was also intelligent, courageous, and unafraid to be different. A few years later, I was enchanted by Mulan, the awkward girl who became a warrior and helped save her country (and, incidentally, was NOT a princess.) I didn’t want to be thin and impossibly beautiful because of these characters. If anything, they inspired me to be strong and celebrate my differences.
I wanted to think Brave would be a modern-day equivalent. In some ways it was: a rebellious heroine who was not gorgeous, fought with her mother, and preferred archery to tea parties. In the end it was just another marketing ploy for Disney, whose current focus on money over quality would have Walt spinning in his grave. To Disney’s credit, they have featured animated heroines who aren’t princesses, but, of course, have to be impossibly beautiful (Esmeralda, Megara, Pocahontas.) I give up.
Thankfully, I have two fallbacks for Favorite Disney Chick. I can see a bit of my quirky Aspie self in both of them, and I’d recommend them to my friends and mothers of young girls who aren’t all about the pink. Since Merida appears to have been turned to the Pink Side, I give you, ladies and gentlement, Lilo (Lilo and Stitch) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck-It Ralph). There is still good in the world.
What do you love/hate about the Princess brand and Disney? If you are a parent of girls, how does it affect you?