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October 30, 2009 8:52 AM   Subscribe

As parents scramble to get one of the 25,000 items in the Disney Princess range, this article, What's Wrong with Cinderella?, gives perspective from a mother and feminist.

(Yes, I realise this article isn't new, but I came across it when doing research for work, and found it interesting indeed. Especially learning that Tinker Bell was dropped from the princess canon...)
posted by mippy (124 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have embraced my daughter's princess nature, rather than make it A Thing, though I do try to steer a bit of the princess energy to the relatively harmless Hello Kitty. Fortunately the princess movies are too scary so we watch Star Wars and fight storm troopers in a Cinderella costume. Anyway, it seems to be passing.
posted by shothotbot at 8:57 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


the relatively harmless Hello Kitty

Harmless?
posted by hippybear at 9:00 AM on October 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, HK has her own issues, at least she does not give up her voice and body to win her man. On the other hand, when she was 4 I brought my daughter to the Hello Kitty store in Times Square and she questioningly picked up a Hello Kitty thong. That's for big girls, sweetheart.
posted by shothotbot at 9:03 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh shit the Sid Vicious Hello Kitty mural is awesome.
posted by shothotbot at 9:04 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


related
posted by delmoi at 9:05 AM on October 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


When one thing is so dominant, then it’s no longer a choice: it’s a mandate, cannibalizing all other forms of play. There’s the illusion of more choices out there for girls, but if you look around, you’ll see their choices are steadily narrowing.”

Oh Lord, yes, this. I loved dressing up as a little girl, though frankly, I thought Princesses were simps and went straight for Queen. Sometimes even Evil Queen, because let's face it, Snow White was freaking annoying and talked like a two-year-old.

But the toy aisle is where, apparently, gender determinism is staking its last stand, and things that used to be just neutral (jump ropes, art supplies, swing sets, fucking LEGOS) are now color coded too.

I have a boy, but I hate for him to absorb this stupidity, and feel like he has to determine if a toy is right for him based on whether it's coded for his gender status. If I had a girl, I'd be even more angry, because the pink ghetto is a mighty small and regressive place to be boxed into.

The one good thing to come out of this dilemma; we buy fewer toys than we otherwise would, and don't spend much time in toy aisles. If I had a girl, I'd allow princess stuff to avoid The Lure of the Forbidden effect, but I'd also introduce her to Pippi Longstocking and Harriet the Spy at the earliest possible opportunity.
posted by emjaybee at 9:16 AM on October 30, 2009 [16 favorites]


I was just talking to a friend here at work who told me that a friend of hers is dressing her 1-year-old son up as Chucky, which I think is brilliant and perverse.
posted by rtha at 9:17 AM on October 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Harmless?

I was so sure that would be a link to this.

In any case, the princess thing really does irk me--not that I have kids, yet--chiefly for one of the reasons she points out here (and illustrated by the image delmoi links): Disney princesses don't actually do anything. It's like having Beavis and Butthead as role models.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:18 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


To ensure the sanctity of what Mooney called their individual “mythologies,” the princesses never make eye contact when they’re grouped: each stares off in a slightly different direction as if unaware of the others’ presence.

Yep. Sounds like chicks to me!

(on a side note, as the father of two beautiful girls, I'll take "Princesses" any day over "Divas" or those dolls with the big eyes that look like they need a spanking. "Bratz". Yeah, what dad doesn't want a brat?)
posted by ColdChef at 9:18 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gah, posted too soon.

When I was little, I eschewed all girly princessy things. On Halloween I was a cowboy, and Indian (and not an Indian princess, mind you, but a face-painted warrior). I don't think I ever had a ready-made costume for Halloween.
posted by rtha at 9:19 AM on October 30, 2009


My girls like to play "Star Wars", although they're not really sure of how the story goes.
posted by ColdChef at 9:23 AM on October 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


When the linked NYT article first appeared in 2006, my daughter was five years old and completely in the thrall of Princess Madness. Now, three years later, I can report that she has completely outgrown her fascination with All Things Princess, and even shows less interest in having her world be entirely painted in pink. She wants to be a marine biologist, thinks fart jokes are the funniest thing EVAR, and isn't even all that much into Hannah Montana anymore.

So, y'know, breathe and realize that for many little girls, this is just a phase they grow out of pretty quickly.
posted by briank at 9:23 AM on October 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


(Though on further review, they do both want to be PRINCESS Leia.)
posted by ColdChef at 9:23 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't fret. Girls change. (Although the relentless, greed-head marketing aspect of all this Princess bling is discomfiting.)

My daughter had a stage where she said the only kind of movie she liked was when they got married in the end. (One year.)

She dressed up as a princess countless times, frilly pink tulle and all.

She liked fashion magazines for a couple of tween years. Six months after plastering a whole wall with Teen Vogue models, she tore them all down, consciously realizing that the magazines were marketing too-thin models to her.

This was shortly after a one-semester experiment, inspired by countless teen/tween movies and TV shows, in which she tried to befriend the "popular' girls. She realized they were snobs and has since had friends of all types.

Instead of recycling the "Gossip Girl" books she had read through Goodwill, she recycled them through our city's paper recycling system to avoid infecting younger minds once again.

I don't know what phases boys go through, but as a dad who has made little effort to insulate my daughter from popular culture and little effort to indoctrinate her into my feminist, leftist, Buddhist world view, I have seen her go though many shades of pinkery and come out whole, strong, suitably cynical, funny and smart.

There is no such thing as a six-year old feminist. Surely the author can wait ten years?
posted by kozad at 9:24 AM on October 30, 2009 [22 favorites]


related

I would disagree with the characterization of Jasmine and Ariel.

In Jasmine's case, she succeeds in having the law changed to allow her to marry whomever she wishes, presumably including no one at all. She is shown to be Aladdin's physical equal, as well.

In Ariel's case, the moral lesson is quite clear that giving up her power to speak was a bad idea for two reasons: one, it prevented a proper relationship from developing and two, her voice was at least as important as her physical beauty. And of course Ariel's song about the value of young women's independence serves as an overt counterbalance to the patriarchal subtext. Finally, her own direct physical actions save Erik's life on two occasions (at the beginning of the movie and at the end), and he in turn saves hers, so she is not nearly as passive as, say, Snow White or Aurora.

And although Mulan and Pocahontas aren't perfect feminist role models, it's somewhat disingenuous to leave them out.

Anyway, hopefully The Bear and The Bow will finally give us a truly independent female Disney/Pixar protagonist. I'm less hopeful for Tiana, since she's directly cast as a princess-type, but I'd be happy to be surprised.
posted by jedicus at 9:24 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Twisted Disney Princesses
posted by various at 9:27 AM on October 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


the relatively harmless Hello Kitty

You wouldn't say that once you met a dude in a HK costume at Dragoncon... and then while taking a picture with him he felt you up. I'm not kidding.

I admire the mom for working out her princess-distaste as best she can, but I still feel bad for her kid. At 3 years old, this little girl has to wonder why Mommy dislikes princesses so much when she (the daughter) obviously has an affection for them. It may give her the sense of "Will Mommy not like me too?" Plus.. she's trying to reason with a 3yr old. How is a child so young supposed to understand feminist concepts at this age?

I do my best not to show resentment towards anything in front of my daughter because I never know when my words will come back to haunt me. I learned not to scoff at Dora because my daughter reflects everything that I do. I want her to form her own opinions and not look towards me for approval (even though I know she does). If she likes something and asks if I do.. I say "Sure" - If I don't like it, I tell her to ask her father. Let him be the bad guy. :) (slight hamburger there)
posted by czechmate at 9:28 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


this is just a phase they grow out of pretty quickly.

Problem is, I don't think I have. Sleeping Beauty still gets into my head more often than I would like to admit....
posted by repoman at 9:29 AM on October 30, 2009


My daughter, despite being inexorably surrounded by Princess crap because that's the world we live in, shows no particular fondness for it. She'll play princesses if one of her princess-obsessed friends insists, but left to herself, she's more likely to be an astronaut, a farmer, or a chef. Some of her friends love the stuff. But, yeah, as kozad says, kids are surprisingly little affected by whatever nonsense we try to sell them. They have their own ideas.
posted by rusty at 9:29 AM on October 30, 2009


Oddly enough, I was just looking at this.
posted by dead cousin ted at 9:30 AM on October 30, 2009


Is this where I mention that my daughter doesn't watch broadcast/cable TV and doesn't give a shit about princesses? However, due to the magic of Netflix she's going as Inspector Gadget for Halloween this year.

Also, did I mention that I don't watch TV and that you're a morally deficient person for doing so? Because you are. And I don't even watch TV.
posted by GuyZero at 9:31 AM on October 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


Kozad, your daughter sounds amazing. I remember getting annoyed at toys being gendered as a child. Though back then, the most popular dress-up for girls seemed to be nurse costumes rather than the princesses I see little girls dressed as now.

Disney princesses don't actually do anything. It's like having Beavis and Butthead as role models.

You know, as much as Barbie isn't the perfect role model, this was what made her much more fun and preferable to Bratz. All Bratz did was shop. Barbie at least had careers!
posted by mippy at 9:32 AM on October 30, 2009


Soon after joining Disney, Mooney attended his first Disney on Ice show. While waiting in line, he found himself surrounded by young girls dressed as princesses. "They weren’t even Disney products. They were generic princess products."

Oh, how dreadful.

What a horrible world in which girls pretend to be generic princesses!
posted by rokusan at 9:36 AM on October 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't really care one way or another about the supposed construction of gender norms or whatever, which is silly on both sides. I'm more concerned that parents are teaching kids to isolate fragments and characters of classical fairy tales that were originally meant as teaching aids and then encouraging identification with them rather than a higher level understanding of the implications of the story.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:36 AM on October 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


I have girls and I am NO fan of princesses but their prevalence speaks to the scarcity of female role models in history, including recent history like what choices nana had for a career. At least princesses can grow up to be queen (but queen is not as popular as princess for role play). As a second waver I was opposed to buying barbie until the Bratz dolls came out; then I choose the lesser of two evils (and for some reason the headless dollas are their favourites). I expose my children to as much non-mainstream North American media as possible (thank god for Miyazaki, the Worst Witch and the Dear Canada books). Witches are one of the few female archetypes that are powerful and attractive to girls. If Disney came up with a movie with young, powerful witches they would be sitting on a goldmine.
posted by saucysault at 9:43 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


If Disney came up with a movie with young, powerful witches they would be sitting on a goldmine.

Er, Disney is already walking on eggshells as it is trying to get the conservative Christian dollars. I don't think they'll make witches the heroines anytime soon.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:49 AM on October 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Regarding fairy tales, I think there is a movement among parents to go back to the original tales instead of cleaned up ones. On of my favourite Picture Books is Paul O. Zelinsky Rapunzel that includes the original storyline of her illegitimate pregnancy giving her away to the witch and her resourcefulness as a single mother. Plus it is gorgeous.
posted by saucysault at 9:53 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I read a fascinating article about the Disney Princesses brand a few years back. It was a peek at the brand bible, all the "rules" about how the princesses could be used.

Fun fact: The princesses are NOT friends. They never interact with each other. Even when there's a group shot, they are not looking at each other. When it's a group shot, they can either look at the "camera", or all look in slightly different directions. But the brand bible states that they should never even seem to acknowledge that the other princesses even exist.

Once you start to notice this, it's very, very creepy. And then you start to notice the same compositional trick in other media.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:56 AM on October 30, 2009 [14 favorites]


The Fallen Princesses Project. Little girls should dream bigger than Disney, always.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:00 AM on October 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


Hmmm...I'm trying to think of what the "princess equivalent" is for boys and I'm a little bit at a loss. I used to like princesses, but growing up, the emotion that that solicited was reserved for becoming a CEO or investment banker or head of a charitable foundation. I mean, Cinderella spent precisely one paragraph actually being a princess in the story and a rather short time actually being a princess in the Disney movie. They only show her waving to the commonfolk but she never had a princess phone or huge diamonds or anything. Also, as a child, I didn't know what princess meant other than being pretty and kind.

I was into toy trucks as a small child and then I started loving dolls. I loved dolls and still think they're lovely, but just to look at since I have no use for them. My cousin (also female) had one doll and one truck and never asked for toys. She didn't play at all. She was always sort of a model child to my extended family, so I always felt like a spoiled hedonist. Then again, thirty some years ago, parents didn't uber-engage or analyze what their kids were doing at their young precious ages. Well, Indian parents didn't.

Also, Ariel didn't really seem like a princess. She wore one skimpy unbranded bikini top and hung around naked. And under the sea, it seemed pretty cold and uncomfortable.

Also, why does she only touch on "A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett? Now I lusted after the beautiful descriptions of Sara Crewe's clothes when she was rich. It all sounded so warm and amazing and comfortable. She seems okay with that.

Plus, it's okay to be a fireman or ninja because that's what boys want to be so that makes everything okay? Because boys' popularized inclinations are better than that of girls? (I wonder if she would be okay if her daughter had been a boy and wanted to be a princess. I think she'd love that but it's not okay because her daughter is a girl. Or maybe I've had too much candy today and am manic and rambly. Sorry.)
posted by anniecat at 10:02 AM on October 30, 2009


(thank god for Miyazaki, the Worst Witch and the Dear Canada books). Witches are one of the few female archetypes that are powerful and attractive to girls. If Disney came up with a movie with young, powerful witches they would be sitting on a goldmine.

Saucysault, surely you must know about Kiki's Delivery Service?

I can't believe I'm about to stick up for Disney Princesses, but I have to say, as a feminist mother of daughters, I was very careful to keep my feelings of disdain to myself when my daughter started gettting interested, and I'm glad I did. For several reasons.

The idea that Disney princesses don't *do* anything is false. They may have amazing princessy wardrobes, but it ain't just a fashion show. Each of them has a story, a trajectory, and we've had tons of discussions about larger life subjects because of the Disney versions of stories. What is fair, how should people behave, what we think about the different kinds of friendships and romantic relationships that are modeled, what motivates betrayal, what is heroic, etc etc etc.

Also, I wanted to be very careful not to give off the vibe that the princesses are bad because they're too feminine. It's not that hard for these kinds of criticisms to tip over into that realm, or be interpreted as such. I'm not "girly" at all myself, but it's fine with me if my daughters grow up to be more femme than their butchy mom, if that's what they want. Or at least I don't want them to think that I'd think less of them, if that's how they're inclined.

Finally, it has been a motivation to go back and find and read the classic versions! Compare and contrast! They know the Disney versions by heart, so it's easy to discuss differences in story structure, character development, visuals choices in illustrations, etc, etc, etc. in the print versions of the classic stories. Andersen's Little Mermaid is so different than Disney's version and we've had lots of really good conversation about that. I think if we'd merely *read* two different versions of a story it'd be a lot harder to do this kind of comparison, with a kid of 7, 8, or 9.
posted by Sublimity at 10:05 AM on October 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


Plus, it's okay to be a fireman or ninja because that's what boys want to be so that makes everything okay? Because boys' popularized inclinations are better than that of girls? (I wonder if she would be okay if her daughter had been a boy and wanted to be a princess. I think she'd love that but it's not okay because her daughter is a girl. Or maybe I've had too much candy today and am manic and rambly. Sorry.)

I don't think you're being manic at all; I sensed this throughout the article. It really bothered me. My mother was a super-girly woman. And she raised 2 super girly daughters. When I started grad school, one of the things I had to combat was that idea other people had that I was too girly. The other women (few that there were) in my program just weren't as much as I was. One of them even told me to my face that the reason she didn't talk to me during orientation was because I wore a skirt. It was clear these men and women thought being into clothes and makeup and romantic comedies meant you obviously couldn't be into math and science.

By the way, my sister turned out to be a trauma surgeon, and I'm getting my Ph.D. in a mathy field. We both still love chick flicks and Disney princess movies. There's nothing wrong with pink.
posted by bluefly at 10:20 AM on October 30, 2009 [19 favorites]


If I were to ever have a little girl, I would be extremely disappointed if she were to become obsessed with being a princess. Why be a princess when you can be a Queen ruling over a prosperous Queendom with your stark, iron fist of power; laying waste to all that dare defy you with your vast princess army.
posted by stavrogin at 10:20 AM on October 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


My awesome friends that are raising an awesome eight year old daughter liked to watch the classic movie Roman Holiday with her and her friends. They pointed out that the princess in Roman Holiday is tragically blocked from being with her love because of the constraints of her noble position. I guess they thought that it showed that being a princess involved submitting to sometimes cruel rules and limits.
posted by umbú at 10:23 AM on October 30, 2009


I think one of the main appeals of princess for little girls is that they have the power to tell someone what to do (not that they use that power much in the disney versions). But every girl I've role played with has at one time or another told me to do something and when I question why, the answer is, because I'm the princess (and if there is more than one princess their is strict hierarchy usually along age lines such as older sister etc). Ah, class conciousness at work. So girls are learning their one true power is emotional manipulation and social standing and little boy role playing star wars, knights, ninjas and firemen (not firefighters) learn they can use their brains and brawn to get what they want. And yeah, disney isn't touching witches until the money from the pagans outweights the christian cash. And I suspect the christians (and other non-witch-friendly religions) are having more children.
posted by saucysault at 10:24 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


(and for some reason the headless dollas are their favourites).

Zombie-raising necromancer is a gender neutral career.
posted by Caduceus at 10:25 AM on October 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Personally I think that girls choose Princess because it's intellectually lazy. It's what you see at the store, so you buy it and play with it. The more there is of it, the more is bought, suddenly it's popular.

Back in the sixties and seventies, when we played with sticks, rocks and fire, we had more choices because we had less crap. We could be mountain climbers, jet setters, spies, sailors, whatever.

We had no furniture in our tract home in the suburbs, we just barely had the house. Our living room was furnished with slats of foam rubber covered in fabric and pillows. You could make that stuff into anything you wanted.

I think it helped that there were approximately 400 kids on my street so we could run around in a giant pack and everyone could be whatever they wanted. We could play army or school, and with so many people, everyone had a role they could embrace.

I look back on my childhood and the freedom that we had to run around like loons and I feel sorry for modern kids. They aren't outdoors, they're cooped up staring at screens and the hardly ever use their imaginations for anything.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:29 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Probably closer to Pantone® 224
posted by hubs at 10:31 AM on October 30, 2009


We had no furniture in our tract home in the suburbs, we just barely had the house. Our living room was furnished with slats of foam rubber covered in fabric and pillows. You could make that stuff into anything you wanted.

I am 100% convinced that for a kid between four and eight or nine, the best toy in the world is a giant ass cardboard box. I spent more time in big boxes pretending they were tanks or spaceships or time machines or enormous missile-laden robots (I was a Robotech fan as a kid).
posted by Caduceus at 10:36 AM on October 30, 2009


I think the difference between emulating princesses vs queens, is that queens have responsibilities and power whereas princesses just have power. I wonder if the same distinction applies for boys, most boys would rather role-play a knight (strong and smart) versus a king (responsible and relying on social standing for power).

Zombie-raising necromancer is a gender neutral career
Or you could call her a witch. (Am I the only one that can only think of male images in the media for necromancer? Probably.)
posted by saucysault at 10:36 AM on October 30, 2009


I feel sorry for modern kids. They aren't outdoors, they're cooped up staring at screens and the hardly ever use their imaginations for anything.

dude, do you KNOW any of today's kids, because the ones I know are awesome. Fun, creative and compassionite.
posted by shothotbot at 10:43 AM on October 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


queens have responsibilities and power whereas princesses just have power

I'm pretty sure Mom plays the Queen role in these fantasies. Kids don't really want to pretend to be adults, they want to be kids with more interesting lives.

the best toy in the world is a giant ass cardboard box

Except Balloon Boy ruined that for everyone too.
posted by GuyZero at 10:46 AM on October 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think the difference between emulating princesses vs queens, is that queens have responsibilities and power whereas princesses just have power.

It may also have to do with the roles of queens being more solidified. Kids like the princesses because there is still an identity forging struggle in any story with princesses. Queens already have attained some kind of status or notoriety which can translate to a kind of dead end for play.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:47 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


dude, do you KNOW any of today's kids, because the ones I know are awesome. Fun, creative and compassionite.

Dude, I taught school for two years. Some kids are great, but only because they're parents are going against the norm. Most kids spend a hell of a lot of time playing computer games, watching TV or didling around with their phones.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:48 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


God. My daughter is now 3 and full on into princess crap. I'm not really sure entirely how it happened. I guess the rot started when she saw the Tinkerbell movie and started demanding repeats of it, and we kind of gave in on that. But TBH Tinkerbell is actually pretty benign compared with the princess crap that it opened the door for - now she has various dolls and costumes and other thinsg that are pink.

The worst bit is that Disney princess themed books written by hacks have displaced a lot of the books I used to read her at night that were actually well written . Reading that stuff is *horrible*, it's basically crappy synopses of the movies.

Oh, also she knows about Princess Jasmin . Alladin is a horrible movie, and the one time she saw it she cried as a result. But whenever se sees Jasmine on something she demands it again. I'm sure Jasmines membership of the princess line is a good thing as it makes it less overwhelmingly white, but its kind of suspect as she's pretty mcuh a bit part in anything she's in.

(Yes, I am revealing taht I am a bad parentwho let's their kid watch more TV and have more crappy franchise toys than is appropriate. I now know more than any man 0 was ever meant to know about Ariel, Aurora, Belle and Jasmine as well)
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on October 30, 2009


Or you could call her a witch. (Am I the only one that can only think of male images in the media for necromancer? Probably.)

So you're going to fall back on gender stereotypes? Only boys can be necromancers, girls have to be witches? Real progressive of you.

Honestly, other than a couple of games and a few books, I can't think of any necromancers in the media.
posted by Caduceus at 10:49 AM on October 30, 2009


Honestly, other than a couple of games and a few books, I can't think of any necromancers in the media.

You don't watch The Venture Brothers? Dr. Orpheus RULES!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:53 AM on October 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I feel sorry for modern kids. They aren't outdoors, they're cooped up staring at screens and the hardly ever use their imaginations for anything.

You underestimate the primal desire of children to run around and be creative, whether they live in the 60s or 00s, in suburbs or cities, with money or without. Even today, you give a kid a shiny toy, there's as good a chance that they'll set aside the toy and do something crazy with the box.

Personally I think that girls choose Princess because it's intellectually lazy.

Oh come on, you're just being silly.
posted by brain_drain at 10:56 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude, I taught school for two years. Some kids are great, but only because they're parents are going against the norm. Most kids spend a hell of a lot of time playing computer games, watching TV or didling around with their phones.

Must have sucked for you. Not my experience at all.
posted by shothotbot at 10:58 AM on October 30, 2009


I came across those "twisted princess" pics earlier as well This is where they're from, And you can see the artist's entire gallery here
posted by delmoi at 10:58 AM on October 30, 2009


Personally I think that girls choose Princess because it's intellectually lazy.

Because five year olds should be paragons of intellectual virtue.
posted by delmoi at 10:59 AM on October 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh, the Twisted Princesses were part of an FPP.
posted by Caduceus at 11:10 AM on October 30, 2009


I'm less hopeful for Tiana, since she's directly cast as a princess-type, but I'd be happy to be surprised.

She's a young woman who is working as a waitress and who cooks/comes up with recipes with the intention to open her own restaurant someday.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:10 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Big deal... My daughter loves princess stuff, but she also loves shooting guns, and working with knives, and hiking. The message sent by decent parenting is stronger than that sent by marketers... and if it's not, the parent needs to reassess the amount of outside influence they are allowing.
posted by glider at 11:13 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because five year olds should be paragons of intellectual virtue.

I was thinking more of the adults buying the stuff.

Five year olds, left to their own devices, are much more inventive.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:14 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


A bunch of us were talking about this recently; particularly we talked about how we'd all grown up with FREE TO BE YOU AND ME. We even burst out singing "William Wants A Doll" for the benefit of the one person in the conversation who hadn't heard of it.

I got my copy of FREE TO BE YOU AND ME from my favorite aunt when I was about six. I gave the whole thing a re-listen recently and realized just how huge an impact it had on my psyche -- I was definitely more paper-bag princess than princess, more interested in being the kind of princess that would defend my brother and cousins against Bigfoot (I swear to god I actually said that to them all once when we were playing) than the kind of princess that was into shopping and fragile-twee-help-me-I-need-rescuing kind of stuff.

I'm the aunt now, and my own niece just turned one. I've made up my mind that I am now going to buy her a copy of FREE TO BE YOU AND ME in a few years.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on October 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Last year my daughter (who never was into princesses too much) did dress as Snow White.... ZOMBIE Snow White!
posted by vespabelle at 11:17 AM on October 30, 2009


Beginning with the caveat that I have no children, male or female, but I DO have a sister...

And she bought into this princess thing big-time back before it was a marketing niche. (She was born in 1970.) She would play dress-up and put on makeup, and always be talking about how someday she would meet her Prince Charming... All her life, I've watched her wait to find the Big Strong Prince who is going to come into her life and sweep her off her feet and carry her away to Happily Ever After.

I've watched this through three marriages, and into a fourth relationship. All of these men, she has hoped will be the ones to "save her from her problems" as she once put it to me.

It's really only been the past year or two that she has decide to stop looking to men as her knight in shining armor and decided to live a life under her own power. She's grown and blossomed in her own right, suddenly, nearly at the age of 40.

I remain convinced that it was her poison of the princess myth which set her into her decades-long stasis, waiting to be rescued by just the right kiss and treated like the supposed royalty she believes she is. And when I think of the Disney Princess phenomenon, I can only hope it's not doing the same to other little girls' lives.
posted by hippybear at 11:18 AM on October 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


BTW, seconding the suggestion above that a kid that is into Disney Princess stories is much easier to introduce to the classic literature that these stories are caricatures of.
posted by glider at 11:18 AM on October 30, 2009


Regarding fairy tales, I think there is a movement among parents to go back to the original tales instead of cleaned up ones.

That's a double-edged sword too, though. The original story of The Little Mermaid is, to my mind, way worse than the Disney version. For one thing, it's explicitly a Christian morality tale. For another, the Mermaid is defeated because she fails to win the love of the Prince. It is, perhaps, more subtle and ambiguous than the Disney version, but not, to my mind, necessarily better.

And the Brothers Grimm tales run the gamut, from really good and much more engaging than their modern-day watered down versions, to hideously racist (the Jew under the bush anyone?), to just plain puzzling. Some of them have morals that are just about the exact opposite of what I'd like to be teaching my kids. For good and ill, they reflect European folk culture of the 18th century, which in an awful lot of ways we have abandoned for the better.
posted by rusty at 11:19 AM on October 30, 2009


I suspect your level of interaction with your children, Sublimity, is several standard deviations greater than most parents. I mean, you actually read books with your children and then discuss them. That's seriously out-of-the-ordinary behaviour in this day and age.

Good on ya!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:24 AM on October 30, 2009


I think all the hand-wringing about Disney princesses and their effect on girls (a "concern" which seems to crop up every few years) is much ado about nothing. Kids aren't one-dimensional. And they're not mindless pop culture zombies, unquestioningly following wherever the latest marketing blitz leads them.

My daughter loved Disney princesses, but she also played with Tonka trucks and tool sets. My son loved Matchbox cars, but he also played with Barbies and kitchen sets. They both loved puzzles and games and art projects that had nothing to do with preconceived notions of gender. Kids have a remarkable ability to creative imaginative fun from all sorts of things and to adapt various toys to their own interests regardless of their parents' fretful ideas about what specific toys might be "telling" them.

As others have said above, our kids' minds aren't as fragile as society sometimes makes them out to be. Let them play with a wide variety of toys, let them watch a wide variety of movies and read a wide variety of books. Let them experiment with embracing and/or rejecting gendered stereotypes in their role-playing. They'll figure it all out and they'll be fine.
posted by amyms at 11:31 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


'I'm less hopeful for Tiana, since she's directly cast as a princess-type, but I'd be happy to be surprised.'

She's a young woman who is working as a waitress and who cooks/comes up with recipes with the intention to open her own restaurant someday.


Thanks for the correction. The trailers do not make that apparent at all. We basically only ever see her in a big princess-type dress in a fancy house or as a frog.
posted by jedicus at 11:35 AM on October 30, 2009


Kids aren't one-dimensional. And they're not mindless pop culture zombies, unquestioningly following wherever the latest marketing blitz leads them.

I have an anecdote that may counter that -- my mother taught at a preschool for many years, and said that the way that the kids reacted to anything related to Barney the Purple Dinosaur really freaked her out. Anything Barney-related made their eyes light up and their heads gravitate towards the screen/radio/whatever, to the point that she was thinking "what the hell is this, a cult?"

....But, then again, it WAS Barney, so that could be an exception...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:39 AM on October 30, 2009


"I'm trying to think of what the "princess equivalent" is for boys and I'm a little bit at a loss"

As a parent of a young boy with many young boy friends, I can give with absolute and unwavering authority and correctness the answer: Star Wars, LEGO, and most importantly LEGO Star Wars.
posted by majick at 11:43 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Plus, it's okay to be a fireman or ninja because that's what boys want to be so that makes everything okay?

"Ninja" came from where? I'm reading this article and thread in bits and pieces when I wait for a recompile or a test to finish... but I must have missed that one.

Calling a fire fighter a "fireman" is a bit sexist, but there is nothing sexist at all about the belief that risking your life to save others and avert disasters is a more noble profession than happening to be born to royalty.

There is indeed currently a social perception that for a girl to act "masculine" is often good but for a boy to act "feminine" is usually bad, and that perception is often just due to prejudice. But not in this case.
posted by roystgnr at 11:45 AM on October 30, 2009


There are aspects of the whole princess business I'm not thrilled about, and while I haven't exactly banned princess-y stories from the house, I haven't gone out of my way to buy any, either. One area where I thought the article was right on point is the observation that all little girls are assumed to be dainty princesses until proved otherwise. I remember taking my kid, then 2 1/2, to a dentist appointment, and the hygienist asked her to open wide so she could examine "your princess teeth." Aletheia just stared at her. "Hey, kiddo," I said, "will you open your mouth wide like a hungry lion and show off your fangs?" That worked.

Maybe kids aren't one dimensional and aren't mindless pop-culture zombies, but pushing so many diverse kids into this one mold, where girls from 2-7 are routinely greeted as princesses and have their little princess teeth cleaned from to prevent wicked cavities caused by the royal syrup on their princess pancakes is pretty over-the-top. I'm sure other people's experiences differ, but my kid, now three, gets this sort of thing a lot. And I've gotten some looks that made me think some clerk was on the brink of calling CPS when I've explained that at the moment, this particular girl is more into dinosaurs than tiaras.

If there were such a prevalent mold for boys, I'd be equally concerned, and I suspect that others would generally share the concern. "Hey, soldier, let's check those fighting muscles. Remember to eat all your vegetables so you can grow up to be a strong mercenary."

My three year old eventually came to princesses via Dora's Fairytale Adventure, mentioned in the article. In that story, Dora's monkey friend Boots is put into a deep sleep by a wicked witch, and Dora has to become a "true princess" so she can rescue him, because only a hug from a true princess will wake him up. After that, it's the preschool version of your standard quest story. All in all, it's not a bad way to come to princesshood, treating it as something that is earned, not just a birthright, and that enables you to help others in need. Aletheia wants to do everything that Dora does, and since Dora does a lot of different things, that's okay. I'm already used to hearing "can I walk in the forest like Dora?" "Can I find bananas like Dora?" and "I got stuck in the mud like Dora." When we walked into the costume shop this year she said, "Daddy, will you help me become a true princess so I can wake up Sleeping Boots?" That sounded to me more like a request for assistance on her quest (which all growing wanderers need) than a desire to be pampered and coddled, so we picked up the princess gear that she would need to prevail against evil and undo the curse. Occasionally someone needs to temporarily become a princess to rescue a boy who got into trouble, and that's a good thing, I think.

I've been accused of overthinking this stuff, and, truth be told, I probably would have bought her a tiara even if she had baser motives. But little kids excel at living out narratives, and it's worthwhile to be careful what narratives we are giving them. There are better and worse ways of being a princess, as with so much else.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:07 PM on October 30, 2009 [13 favorites]


Why be a princess when you can be a Queen ruling over a prosperous Queendom with your stark, iron fist of power

Praise Roberta!
posted by JHarris at 12:10 PM on October 30, 2009


delmoi: "related"

Quickly followed by...
posted by Rhaomi at 12:18 PM on October 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


I watched my nieces go through this phase but they were the bossy "evil queen" or made up stories that put the "princess" in control. They still play with their Barbie dolls and have "princess" and "bride" storylines occasionally but what's wrong with that? They also love playing softball and soccer. They love Star Wars and Hotwheels cars.

They remind me of me and my sister when we were kids. There were no "boy" and "girl" toys. Our mom let us play with whatever toys we liked and gave us craft kits, puzzles and science kits to encourage creativity and curiosity. Girls are not being brainwashed at this age and they aren't as "fragile" or "impressionable" as some parents think they are. Just let them have some fun and play!
posted by Eclipsante at 12:25 PM on October 30, 2009


My three year old eventually came to princesses via Dora's Fairytale Adventure

So, no offense to parents who let their kids watch Dora, but the whole Princess thing is a stubbed toe compared to the cholera epidemic that's Dora. What a horrific show that wraps a hollow, empty core in a cheap veneer of education and multiculturalism. Your children will learn more if you beat them for half an hour instead of watching that garbage.

Additionally, I'd like to reaffirm that I'm morally superior to you. And that you're a bad person for not living your life the exact same way I live my life.
posted by GuyZero at 12:30 PM on October 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I can give with absolute and unwavering authority and correctness the answer: Star Wars, LEGO, and most importantly LEGO Star Wars.

QFT. This is the princess phenomenon of little boys.
posted by GuyZero at 12:32 PM on October 30, 2009


Stepping back for a moment, this strikes me as a peculiarly American discussion.

There are still parts of the world where, Disney's pernicious marketing aside, "princess" is a technical term for a juvenile dynastic incubator that will be used to manufacture the next iteration of a hereditary dictatorship.

(And don't get me started on flowers. Why the hell do we consider it "romantic" to make a gift to our mates of a gruesome bundle of slowly-decomposing amputated hermaphrodite genitalia?)
posted by cstross at 12:39 PM on October 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Stepping back for a moment, this strikes me as a peculiarly American discussion.

North American at least, as it's as widespread in Canada as it is in the US and I think it has some traction among the American-esque Mexican upper class. I suspect that it's visible to a lesser degree in Western Europe but Disney for all it's "It's a Small World" talk is essential American and is a cultural export industry for the US the same way oil is for the Middle East and cars are for Japan (or whatever Japanese export good you want to choose).
posted by GuyZero at 12:44 PM on October 30, 2009


And don't get me started on flowers. Why the hell do we consider it "romantic" to make a gift to our mates of a gruesome bundle of slowly-decomposing amputated hermaphrodite genitalia?

Hey, not all flowers are hermaphroditic, you know.
posted by jedicus at 12:51 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


See also
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:52 PM on October 30, 2009


I feel sorry for modern kids. They aren't outdoors, they're cooped up staring at screens and the hardly ever use their imaginations for anything.

You underestimate the primal desire of children to run around and be creative, whether they live in the 60s or 00s, in suburbs or cities, with money or without.


I dunno. I live in a semi-suburban area with a lot of families, and I *never* see kids playing in the street. Anecdotal, yes, but I think the freedom for children to just "go outside and play" has been curtailed quite a bit.

I got my copy of FREE TO BE YOU AND ME from my favorite aunt when I was about six. I gave the whole thing a re-listen recently and realized just how huge an impact it had on my psyche

Me too. I think I could still sing every song by heart. (It's alright to cry!) My favorite bit on the record (I think mine came with a book and a record) was "Boy Meets Girl" with Carl Reiner and Marlo Thomas. It still cracks me up.

I bought a copy of the book (with CD now, natch) for my 11-month-old daughter. Never too early. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:53 PM on October 30, 2009


I don't feel that strongly about the Princessy stuff, but the problem with being a historian and being bad at censoring myself around kids is that everytime a little kid brings up princesses, I can't help but talk about arranged marriages and pressures to bear heirs, and complete lack of even what freedoms which other women in their society had/have.
posted by jb at 12:54 PM on October 30, 2009


MetaFilter: a gruesome bundle of slowly-decomposing amputated hermaphrodite genitalia
posted by hippybear at 1:13 PM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this the thread where people talk about how their daughters, real or imagined, aren't princesses?
posted by frecklefaerie at 1:16 PM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this the thread where people talk about how their daughters, real or imagined, aren't princesses?

Yes, my daughter is a paragon of non-normative gender neutrality and we wouldn't dare of imposing such primitive, sexist notions of princess on her even if she naturally just likes the stuff.

I have no actual children
posted by Burhanistan at 1:29 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


My offspring are beings of pure energy, who have transcended flesh, space, and time. That's right, they're Azathoth.

A bit more topically, a while back I was solemnly informed by my honorary niece--3 and change and smart as a whip even if she is still bounded by flesh, space, and time--that girls must always dress pretty and look nice. And that was certainly a moment that made me feel like I was contemplating some of the wronger angles in R'yleh. I informed her back that was silly and that girls don't have to do any such thing, a point which one of her older brothers backed me up on as he dopplered into the room.

Then he announced he was throwing fireballs at her, and she retaliated by throwing lightning bolts back, so that put passing princess horror into perspective.
posted by Drastic at 1:39 PM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh shit the Sid Vicious Hello Kitty mural is awesome.

If you like that, you might like Hella Kitty.
posted by asterix at 1:46 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


My imaginary children all wear unisex footsie pajamas all the time, watching endless repeats of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, The Electric Company, quality Warner Bros animation, and love The Beatles. None of them think they are princesses, except for one boy that I'm keeping an eye on because he reminds me of myself at that age.
posted by hippybear at 1:56 PM on October 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Er, Disney is already walking on eggshells as it is trying to get the conservative Christian dollars. I don't think they'll make witches the heroines anytime soon.

Au contraire.
posted by ErikaB at 2:20 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, Disney is already walking on eggshells as it is trying to get the conservative Christian dollars. I don't think they'll make witches the heroines anytime soon.

Not really the hero of the piece, but Donald Duck in Trick Or Treat certainly does use a witch as the method by which a rather cantankerous Donald gets his comeuppance for being mean to his nephews.

(It's always a bit hard to tell WHO is the hero in Donald Duck cartoons...)
posted by hippybear at 2:25 PM on October 30, 2009


I'm really surprised by the people here who think that kids aren't molded and formed by dominant cultural pressures and expectations.
posted by kathrineg at 2:55 PM on October 30, 2009


Jeez, they're whoring out Tinkerbell now?
posted by madajb at 2:56 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


little boys role playing star wars, knights, ninjas and firemen (not firefighters) learn they can use their brains and brawn to get what they want.

A fairly cruel lie, considering that emotional manipulation and social standing are probably more potent tools.
posted by weston at 3:02 PM on October 30, 2009


I'm really surprised by the people here who think that kids aren't molded and formed by dominant cultural pressures and expectations.

Well, it's because WE certainly weren't. *sniffs haughtily* You know who gets molded and formed by dominant cultural pressures and expectations - OTHER people. Not us, not OUR children.

(Well, I haven't got any children, but if I had, I'm sure they would be Above Such Things, as well. Right? Right?)
posted by ErikaB at 3:30 PM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


So you're going to fall back on gender stereotypes? Only boys can be necromancers, girls have to be witches? Real progressive of you.

You seems to have misunderstood me. I was bemoaning the lack of female necromancers I have seen/read of and you accused me of being retrogressive. When I think of the names for people that work with magic - witch, wizard, necromancer, magician, fairy godmother - I feel a lot of them are very gendered in the media (Is Harry Potter ever called a witch? )

I think little girls do often limit themselves to the roles they see female role models take. I actually just had a conversation with my nine year old correcting her mistaken impression that Doctors and Nurses do the same job but when men do it they are called Doctors and when women do it they are called Nurses. I have raised her as feminist as I can but because she had never seen or heard of a male nurse she thought they couldn't exist.
posted by saucysault at 3:45 PM on October 30, 2009


I winced when she mentioned Princess Peach as the happy medium. She has obviously not played the game, where Peach fights with her emotions (even has a crying attack). It could seriously be super pms peach.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 3:51 PM on October 30, 2009


I think that children are more than capable of recovering from being indoctrinated into any particular world view -- their parents' or some overwhelming pop-cultural paradigm. What they have a harder time recovering from is being forced into being something that they don't want to be.

You are not doing your child any favors by discouraging their self-expression, even if you find it trite or if you think it's somehow being forced upon them by some evil corporation.
posted by empath at 3:52 PM on October 30, 2009


What sucks about this is that the "family values" social conservatives can now point to articles like this and say, "From the mouths of babes..."

Granted, it's pointless. Kids go through tons of phases. I'd start worrying when your daughter is 16 and saying that women shouldn't work and that it's the man's job to get a job and treat them like a princess.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:53 PM on October 30, 2009


I loved princesses as a child. I suppose I still do.

My favorite princess was Sarah Crewe from A Little Princess. It didn't matter that she wasn't technically a princess, because she acted like one. Sarah was imaginative, compassionate, and maintained perfect composure even when treated cruelly.

Cinderella, likewise, refused to betray her feelings and maintained a cheerful disposition.

They both demonstrate extreme emotional control, to the point of stoicism. No, stoicism might not be the emotional model we want to present to any child, but to say that all the Disney princesses are weak and passive is a gross oversimplification.
posted by mmmbacon at 4:06 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, Disney is already walking on eggshells as it is trying to get the conservative Christian dollars.

The really conservative ones left years ago on account of Disney being nice to gay people on occasion. For their kids, there's Christian Princess Molly. You think Disney Princess art is saccharine -- Molly makes Ariel look like Marlys in comparison.

Personally, I think She-ra and Jem should get reboots. They were sparkly and they kicked ass.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:36 PM on October 30, 2009


So, no offense to parents who let their kids watch Dora, but the whole Princess thing is a stubbed toe compared to the cholera epidemic that's Dora. What a horrific show that wraps a hollow, empty core in a cheap veneer of education and multiculturalism. Your children will learn more if you beat them for half an hour instead of watching that garbage.

Oh, word. Though my main complaint with Dora is that the entire show is YELLED as opposed to voiced. IF YOU WERE TO TYPE UP A SCRIPT IT WOULD ALL LOOK LIKE THIS. My second complaint is that it doesn't so much "encourage" interaction as pander. Dora stares at you blankly when she asks you to help, and I have never seen a kid so much as burp when she asks what their favorite part of the adventure was. And yet, they always say "We couldn't have done it without your help!" Without you sitting your lard butt on the couch, this wouldn't be possible!

(Blue's Clues has that flaw as well, but I still love it because it's the only truly gender neutral show I've seen, and it isn't screamed.)

As for me: My Barbie rode on a tractor and I chewed her feet off and my favorite record was Free to Be You and Me. I learned that "Ladies First" also meant that ladies got to be eaten by the tiger first. As for my potential children: I draw the line at Disney Princess sneakers. I also hope I have boys, but that's mainly because having grown up as a girl in American society, I know that it's a fucking MINEFIELD and while I would like to raise strong daughters, I know that it's a mess out there and that the world also needs feminist men.

(I'm damning myself to a future where I have eight daughters all of whom want to be cheerleaders, I just know it.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:40 PM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Though my main complaint with Dora is that the entire show is YELLED as opposed to voiced.

Yeah, that would be my objection - the horrible, horrible noise the thing makes when it's on.
posted by Artw at 5:59 PM on October 30, 2009


Jeez, they're whoring out Tinkerbell now?

I've found Disney's depictions of Tinker Bell a little disturbing for a while now. I'm not a prude by any means, but take a look at this and tell me that's a good role model for my daughters. It's just a weird, cheesecake-y, sexually submissive kind of image to be selling to little girls. I was happy to see the new redesign they're apparently giving her.
posted by EarBucket at 6:33 PM on October 30, 2009


I'm really surprised by the people here who think that kids aren't molded and formed by dominant cultural pressures and expectations.

I don't think anyone is arguing that, so much as saying that those social pressures are far more modulated, ambiguous and pliable than popular upper class opinion supposes them to be.

The idea that kids are passive sponges, idly soaking up any media that happens to float past only to replicate on a smaller scale is a bit old school I think, and frankly flies in the face of so much lived media experience these days.

If the postmodern existence is about anything, it's the idea of creative de - and re - construction; pastiche is not homage. This is one of the things I really like about postmodernism - the spirit of play that infects it, and I honestly think that we have largely formalised and theorised actions that simply echo the way we learnt and interacted with the world as children. Encouraging a skeptical and rigorous engagement with the text - and crucially a sense of equality with the text - is I think a really important and vital step to becoming accomplished media consumers and creators in the world.

It's one thing to be critical of the message, but I think adults often pick the wrong reason. They are the old school, hegemonic ones, with their rigid insistence a text can and will only be read a certain way. As if that's why fairy tales have endured for centuries. Fie. Its their very flexibility that grants them longevity.

As anyone who spends time with children knows, these stories they see on television, in toys etc. are the first chapters rather than the last. May it ever be so.
posted by smoke at 6:34 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was happy to see the new redesign they're apparently giving her.

That's not a redesign, that's her look for Fall. See, the first movie was Tinkerbell arriving amonst the nature fairys who make Spring happen, trying to fit in by coming up with innovations to impove the whole Spring process, failing, accidentally dooming Spring and then finding that her inventions can actually save spring after all.

The next one is Fall and the one after that, and there will be a one after that, will be Winter.

/has Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasures stashed away as a present for daughter, knows far too much about CGI incarnation of TInkerbell.
posted by Artw at 6:43 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really loved princesses when I was a kid. I knew every word to The Little Mermaid by heart in 6th grade, when it was first on video. I thought Belle was the coolest, most kickass heroine ever, excepting She-Ra, who was also, yup, a princess. (I also really liked Xena too, but I was much older then; I also had such a thing for books where girls turned out to secret princesses.) I have been so thrilled in the last five years or so with the Disney Princess line, because I can buy so many Princess branded things that weren't around when I was a kid. It makes me ever so happy. I dressed up as Aurora for Halloween. I have Princess book covers on my books! Princess folders! Princess dolls! Princess video games!

And you know what? I'm still a feminist. A lesbian feminist, at that. Take that, Princess haters!

Little girls are not just unquestioning automatons who are going to wait around for the rest of their lives a prince to rescue them if they watch Snow White once, really. They won't absorb anything more pernicious from Disney movies than from the rest of our culture, and they might get some really good messages along the way ('reading is awesome' -- Belle; 'you can dress up as a boy and not just get married as your family intended' -- Mulan; 'your abilities [singing] are more attractive than your body' -- Ariel; 'you might just have to save the prince and yourself' -- Giselle, Enchanted). Little boys could use some of those messages, too: be yourself, be kind, stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves, endure hardship gracefully.

The problem isn't having the Princesses around. The problem is when we think gender means that one must (or must not) act a certain way or like a certain thing. We simultaneously legislate and devalue femme as a gender expression. It ought to be okay for a little (or big) girl to like pink, sparkly things, but instead we spend much of our time telling women the only way to be accepted and taken seriously (by men and women) is to not be 'cute'. Femme-y people can still be smart, competent, serious, geeky even. No matter how many Disney Princesses may be on their lunch box.
posted by lysimache at 6:45 PM on October 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Mulan is better than the other princess movies, but it plays into my biggest gripe about so much supposedly "empowering" entertainment for girls: the heroine insists she's just as good as the men, who all treat her like she's crazy until she shows them up and proves she's right. I'd much rather have movies to show my daughters that depict girls as being just as good as boys, without it being a surprise to anyone.
posted by EarBucket at 6:46 PM on October 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


...that would kind of mean not having a plot in the case of Mulan though.
posted by Artw at 8:02 PM on October 30, 2009


Well, sure. It's not so much a problem with that specific movie as a general trend I've noticed in kid's entertainment.
posted by EarBucket at 8:05 PM on October 30, 2009


I know it is gauche to self-link but
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 PM on October 30, 2009


Fuck that thread is awful and vile. I severely regret having anything to do with the spawning of that thread, with it's race to the bottom negativity and bile.

Though - I know it is gauche to self-link but - the parralel Ask Me actually turned up some really good animated movies staring awesome female characters - not all of which have been entirely swept away by the annilhiating tidal wave of pink that followed after Tinkerbell.

I really loved princesses when I was a kid. I knew every word to The Little Mermaid by heart in 6th grade, when it was first on video.

The Little Mermaid is responsible for my daughter knowing the phrase "boobie holders", which is an important component of Ariels attire.

I'd say Little Mermaid is actually not super horrible - it seems to be Disney digging itself out of a bit of a slump, and the cheapquels are actually kind of okay, with Ariels Beginning being a firm daughter favourite - It's basically a young Ariel doing her thing without any drastic body modification to appeal to the profoundly dull Prince Eric, who is not in at all (yay!) and has good songs and she's pretty proactive in doing things. Yet again King Triton is a total dick until right at the end though.

Tomorrow is halloween, and an important choice will be made - Tinkerbell costume, mermaid costume, or princess costume. Me, I'm kind of hoping for Tinkerbell or Ariel.
posted by Artw at 9:24 PM on October 30, 2009


I've found Disney's depictions of Tinker Bell a little disturbing for a while now.

It's funny, because I just happened to be in the store today looking for bits for the girl's first Halloween.
Went by the Disney/Princess section in the clothing department and thought, "Well, Tinkerbell has apparently discovered sex sells."
It just did seem rather inappropriate and, dare I say, a bit on the slutty side.
posted by madajb at 10:30 PM on October 30, 2009


At least the Princess models teach behaviours that are peaceful. Many of the cartoon models for boys are terribly violent or foolish. And, hey presto, little boys in school tend to do poorly in education objectives and tend to behave poorly when compared to girls.

As a society, we really should get our heads on straight about what we allow the media to do. We don't have to allow such negative role modelling to be so prevalent. We can set standards and hold media businesses responsible for the content they present our children.

I'm not a prude by any means, but take a look at this and tell me that's a good role model for my daughters.

Do children self-identify with Tinkerbell? I can't say I recall ever perceiving her as anything but "other." Not a role model, or at least no more a role model than, say, The Great Gazoo on the Flintstones. In fact, I find the newer version rather more disturbing: it looks much more like a young human in modern dress, something much easier to "connect" to; too human.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:06 PM on October 30, 2009


Do children self-identify with Tinkerbell?

Ahem.

To quote: "I'm Tinkerbelle. I'm a nature fairy. I make the leaves fall." - this repeated to pretty much everyone we met on the way to the Library and back today.

I can't say I recall ever perceiving her as anything but "other."

She has a movie now! And stuff.

Allow my daughter to further demonstrate what a Disney persons reaction to all of this would be.
posted by Artw at 11:21 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


something much easier to "connect" to; too human.

That speaks to what I mentioned previously. I'm more concerned about the dismantling of elements of classic stories than I am about some proscriptions or prescriptions about supposed gender construction. In fairy tales, as in sufi tales or other folklore, each character represents some element that is played against the whole story. Naturally, kids will identify with some things more than others, but learning how to see how the whole story works is what will be edifying.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't mind all the pink/princess stuff if it wasn't like dominating the kids section of the store. I was in Kmart today (in New Zealand) and it seemed like literally everything for little girls was pink, and everything for little boys was blue. Boys stuff had like a pirate on it. Girls stuff always had some passive pretty bullshit. Flowers! Hearts! Rainbows!!!!1!! Barf.

If I ever have a daughter I'm seriously going to try to dissuade her from this stuff. I hope I can communicate that I don't not like it because it's feminine (there's nothing wrong with feminine), but rather because I find it so unutterably stupid.

Then again I've hated princesses since I was a little girl. When I was 6 the person I really wanted to be in a Disney movie was Maleficent. That's a lie, I still want to be Maleficent. As I'm giving birth I hope I can yell, "Now shall you deal with me oh Obstetrician, and all the powers of hell!" by way of encouraging my children to be like me. Also hurling some thunderbolts around might help.
posted by supercrayon at 12:23 AM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone told me recently that they visited Disneyworld and the walkabout character of either Maleficent or the wicked witch from Snow White was played by a guy. Which to me sounds like they're probably the happiest drag queen in the entire world.
posted by Artw at 12:25 AM on October 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


either Maleficent or the wicked witch from Snow White was played by a guy. Which to me sounds like they're probably the happiest drag queen in the entire world.

Or the angriest witch EVER. Like, okay, that bitch tricked you and now you're trapped in The Happiest Place On Earth (FOREVER!) but at least you get to torment small children.

What? No you can't eat them.

Yeah I know, but it's this or the dustbin of history.

Yeah I know, fuckin' rat.
posted by The Whelk at 8:12 AM on October 31, 2009


"I'm Tinkerbelle. I'm a nature fairy. I make the leaves fall."

Incorrect -- Tinkerbelle is called "Tinker" Belle because she's a pots-and-pans fairy -- that is, she's a "tinker". She can weld and repair stuff and so on, which is in many ways a traditionally male job.
posted by glider at 8:52 AM on October 31, 2009


In the original Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie writes of the fairies, "The mauve ones are boys and the white ones are girls, and the blue ones are just little sillies who are not sure what they are."

I was a little interested to see, in the new Tinkerbell movie commercial, that the boy fairy had a mauve jacket. I suggest that, culturally, it is time for the blue fairies to return.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:10 AM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


stuff [weeps]

I hate Disney.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 AM on October 31, 2009


"I'm Tinkerbelle. I'm a nature fairy. I make the leaves fall."

Incorrect -- Tinkerbelle is called "Tinker" Belle because she's a pots-and-pans fairy -- that is, she's a "tinker". She can weld and repair stuff and so on, which is in many ways a traditionally male job.


Dude, my daughter is three.

Also without the tinkers the other fairies wouldn't be able to go to the mainland and get cool nature stuff done. That's kind of the point of the movie.

And also another thing not really adressed by the movie: Tinkerbell esentially automates all the fairies out of their jobs at the end, what with getting spring ready in a couple of hours when it usually takes months. Are there mass fairy lay-offs after that?

posted by Artw at 10:38 AM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pantone 144

Pantone and Halloween related. Nothing about princesses.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:19 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tinkerbelle can weld? Kick Ass! (I now know what I'm replacing that insipid NASCAR logo on my MIG welder with.)

Seriously Artw, you don't have to start her out with welding - but she's in five years she'll be too old to be the oldest girl I've ever seen installing a micro-controller in a stuffed animal on the internet.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:05 PM on October 31, 2009


From the article:
"On the other hand, there is evidence that young women who hold the most conventionally feminine beliefs — who avoid conflict and think they should be perpetually nice and pretty — are more likely to be depressed than others and less likely to use contraception. What’s more, the 23 percent decline in girls’ participation in sports and other vigorous activity between middle and high school has been linked to their sense that athletics is unfeminine. And in a survey released last October by Girls Inc., school-age girls overwhelmingly reported a paralyzing pressure to be “perfect”: not only to get straight A’s and be the student-body president, editor of the newspaper and captain of the swim team but also to be “kind and caring,” “please everyone, be very thin and dress right."
Those of you saying "it's just a phase" or "don't worry until it turns out that she's an unfeminist teenager" - do you think that these attitudes and problems just pop out of nowhere when a girl turns 16? They're not born with these attitudes, so it must be coming either from family or society in general. And yet no-one goes around directly telling girls these things. So where do you think these messages are coming from, if not from the clothes and toys and stories we provide for them?

Making a pink ghetto for girls, with a segregated system of toys and stories, seems like a pretty crappy thing to do to our daughters. At the very least they deserve the same variety we give our sons.
posted by harriet vane at 3:18 AM on November 1, 2009


Unless things change drastically we've very little to worry about on the avoiding conflict and perpetually being nice fronts.
posted by Artw at 6:11 AM on November 1, 2009


Wouldn't every girl rather be a knight than a princess?
posted by jb at 11:40 AM on November 1, 2009


Free to Be... You and Me hasn't aged well. My kids have a copy and they never ask to hear it. It might even be counterproductive; they'd never heard of some of the stereotypes it's supposed to be busting before this. It's taken for granted that boys can have dolls and that it's okay to cry when you're upset, and I'm certain this album is the only place they've heard the phrase "Ladies First."

And then there's Girl Land, which is creepy as hell.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:57 AM on November 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


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