Disney Princess FAIL


A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. ~Naomi Wolf

merida

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 BeastYes, Belle was beautiful, but she was also intelligent, courageous, and unafraid to be different. A few years later, I was enchanted by Mulanthe 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.

ralph

What do you love/hate about the Princess brand and Disney? If you are a parent of girls, how does it affect you?

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on May 11, 2013.

5 Responses to “Disney Princess FAIL”

  1. That is why I have a high respect for Studio Ghibli. When Disney wanted to throw their weight around at the time Ghibli was working on Howl’s Moving Castle and wanted Ghibli to change the way Sophie looked when she became old so she looked beautiful and Ghibli didn’t relent. This wasn’t the first time Disney fucked up with Ghibli, I honestly do not think they understood the full meaning of when the studio sent a sword with the note “Do not cut” when Disney (Miramax) wanted to edit Princess Mononoke. Ghibli also sued Disney when they first released Spirited Away in the States and the dubbed version was edited.

    Back to the subject at hand, before I go on a tangent. I loved the way Merida looked. I loved that she looked curvy rather than another toothpick with a couple of globules of glue in the middle, too bad they had to change her to appeal to the Disney status quo of what a woman/girl should look like.

    Wreck-It Ralph was awesome! Vanellope was cool! As for “Lilo and Stitch” not my cup of tea, didn’t like that film enough.

  2. http://blog.disneystore.com/.a/6a013481198b41970c016766c2f0b4970b-600wi

    ew.

    Who this could be:
    little orphan annie
    a girl at an irish step-dancing fete

    Who it is not:
    Merida from Brave

    When I was little I loved dressing up like a boy and I also loved dressing up like a girl. However, Merida’s long green dress with the bow would have definitely been my choice as a kid running around outside and getting dirty. Guess what – they don’t even make that costume. All I found was patterns to make your own.

    The only thing I am mildly impressed about is that there are still a few rogue curls out of place on new Merida’s head. There is actually a more depressing rendering of the new Merida where she just looks like a flat out Miss America contestant, so I don’t know which is the real plan.

    In any case, Disney sucks.

  3. Ok I stand corrected- there is a green version of the dress that is a bit better, but still much more feminine and glittery than her dress in the film

  4. I loved Mulan very much. Still do. I don’t hate the princesses in their respective movies, I despise the marketing to young kids. Any princess gives me an opportunity to talk to my kids about why this or that was a good choice or a bad one. Sometimes the princesses can be their bad example to learn from. Take that, Disney!

  5. I get annoyed in general about the huge role of ‘beauty’ in the lives of women from baby to crone!

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