Look, you all know that I love the idea of being a Princess, they have the pretty dresses and the tiaras, the handsome princes, dashing white horses, some sort of involvement with dragons, etc.
But in my head the princess is a kind of kick-ass figure. One of my favourite books as a kid was The Paperbag Princess in which the dragon carries off the prince and the princess has to put on a paper bag (because everything else is burnt up) and rescue him through outwitting the dragon. Or Amy in The Practical Princess who learned how to do housework and farming, etc.
The Disney Princess marketing strategy and merchandise bothers me not because it is about princesses, but because it only shows said princesses doing passive things, prancing about in ball gowns, looking at themselves in mirrors, gazing winsomely at the viewer, head on folded, gloved hands. (Although it does crack me up that sometimes they’re all in their ballgowns except Ariel’s still in her seashell bra and fish tail.)
I’ve seen all the Disney movies, I know that Ariel is capable of so much more than wistful gazing. She worked hard to get her man, she was active, not passive. She spent maybe one evening in a ball gown. Sure, she may not have lead the charge against the villain at the end of the movie, but she did stand up to her in some way.
Belle is the one that really breaks my heart to see reduced to the Disney Princess duvet cover. Again, she only wore that yellow ballgown for one night. She proactively went searching for her father through the dark cold night, through the scary wolf infested forest and when she was confronted by the Beast she stood up to him and offered to take her father’s place in the prison tower. She was scared, but she acted anyway, which is a pretty good definition of bravery if you ask me.
She refused to marry the man she didn’t love, she was bookish and ‘odd’, she disobeyed the Beast and snuck into the forbidden wing and was totally going to touch his magical rose (not a euphemism). She was brave is what I’m trying to get at, and she had way better things to do with her time than pose for photos in her ball gown. She would have been reading for Heaven’s sake.
If the Disney Princess range would just show them doing what the movies had them doing I’d be a lot happier. What the hell is wrong with showing Aurora fetching mushrooms from the forest? Or Cinderella scrubbing the floor? How about Belle curled up in a chair reading a book?
One awesome thing about the movie Enchanted is that it showed Giselle moving away from (some of) the trappings of the Disney Princess and towards more suitable actions. Example: at the start of the movie she is happy to marry Edward even though they have never talked, just sung a song together. After talking to McDreamy about how things work in the Real World, she is not satisfied with that and wants a ‘date’ to get to know each other better and ensure that she really does love the man she chooses.
Another thing is they show her at the end of the movie running her own business. Andalasia Fashions is a huge store with heaps of workers (animal and human if I recall correctly) and is shown to be a success.
It also includes the fantastic scene when Giselle and Edward are reunited and he sings their song and she doesn’t.
Edward: You’re not singing!
Giselle: No, I was thinking.
Edward, bewildered: Why?
None of this even touches on the whole ethnic side of things. Sometimes Mulan and Pocahontas are included in the Disney Princess pictures but more often they aren’t, which leaves Jasmine as the only girl with any colour to her skin. Jasmine, Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
I don’t know. I don’t think it’s inherently damaging to little girls to like the princesses, I just think they need a more rounded princess experience.