So, my oldest niece, Miss SMJ, took down her old Disney Princess poster the other day. The one I gave her four or five years ago. This was a symbolic move, really, one representing a transition in taste that had already occured. I can’t remember the last time the girl mentioned wanting any Disney Princess gear. Out with the old, and clear off some wall space for more Harry Potter. (Forthcoming this holiday season…she hopes!)
And she isn’t alone in deep sixing the DP’s. A few years back, my other niece Miss LND, told me upfront “I’m not really into Disney Princesses anymore.” Just a generous FYI for auntie. No more Disney Princesses for her.
Am I nostalgic now for the times when the girls loved getting their new frilly Disney dolls and were pleased instantly by all things Little Mermaidian? I guess. Sure.
But really, the last few years, I’ve been happy to see the princesses go the way of Dora The Explorer– though not for the reasons some might think.
A moment on this, if you will…
The DP’s get a bad rap sometimes for promoting role models who are weak , superficial, stereotypical and boy-chasers. These arguments are well known and I won’t get into them here if only because I don’t want to give these critics and their upper-middle-class-mom-eyeball-bait theories any more time.
Except to say…lol…. even a quick rundown of the DP’s makes you realize some of them are actually really awesome. Okay, Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora mainly seem to specialize in talking to animals, sleeping, and cleaning. I hear that.
(That’s messed up. lol.)
BUT that’s not the full Disney Princess story…. Mulan defeated the Huns. THE HUNS! Both she and Belle were ready to take one in the neck for their respective dads. Both Belle and Ariel defied expectations and rules to go exploring, to push their horizons, to have adventures- and both of them along with Pochanatas (who also stood tough for her home and family) refused to give into bigotry and stereotypes, whether it be against foreigners, two-legged land-dwellers or beasts. Those are cartoony examples of prejudice, of course; but they’re examples that can sink in with kids.
And, yes, Pochantas could have used a less super short dress. And Jasmine’s belly dancing outfit, well, she was a sidekick in someone else’s movie, so, I don’t comment on her even though she was extremely popular.
(Sidebar: I will seriously sword fight anyone who says Mulan’s message is “You have to dress like a boy to get taken seriously.” I read that somewhere and the next person who says it: seriously…sword fight…)
But overall, a lot of the DPs were strong, curious, gutsy female characters. I consider myself just about as staunch a supporter of pro-girl power movies as you’re going to find, and I love a lot of these movies.
And plus,, even if a movie did have a bad female role model as the cartoon star, that doesn’t mean the doll of that character has to take on that personality once she’s in your kid’s hand. A movie can influence, heck, yes. But a doll is a tool for storytelling.
Did my nieces play-act stories about dances and princes like they saw in the films? Sure. But they came up with so much more. The DP dolls were mere plastic actors intermingling with Barbies and action figures and who knows what else in one big limb-missing, knotted-hair, oft-naked casting pool of toys. They sat with legless Ken’s and stuffed bears, waiting to be directed in the newest adventure my nieces could come up with. In short, it’s about the girl, not the doll . I have no problem with the characters of the Disney’s Princesses.
No, my problem became the insidious, soulless, overpriced , very random Disney Princess merchandising in all it’s omnipresent ugly pink and blueness.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I was just in the Disney Store today and the dolls really are still very pretty. But, that’s not where it ends. Dolls, clothes, doll’s clothes. Art supplies, games, sequel videos, bedding, posters, watches, glasses, soccer balls, fishing poles. It reminds me of that scene in Spaceballs about merchandising: ( “Spaceballs: the flamethrower!”) I read somewhere there were tens of thousands of types of DP items out there in the world. That’s sick.
LND even has a Disney Princess cash register. To me, that thing reflects not only the somewhat brainless over-saturation of it all (what the heck do you need the princesses on a cash register for?!). It also calls to mind the true purpose of the Disney Princesses: to make the company money.
Disney took a girl’s love of movies and fairy tales and adventure and used it to make a mint off the adults in her life by crass commercialism and the push-selling of products made and marketed without love, thought or care.
They took the magic out of it. They made it ugly. And I’m glad not to be helping them get away with it anymore.
So despite my liking of the characters, I’m glad SMJ and LND have DP stuff in their rear-view mirrors. I’m glad they’ve moved on to Harry Potter and So Random, to iCarly and Warrior Cats (whatever that is.).
Of course, I also hope the girls (and their brothers) will still be able to appreciate the coolness of the movies (“fun for all ages!”) . Because some of them are really very good.
And I hope that they have taken to heart some of the best characteristics of the Disney Princesses, their earliest fictional heroines. Fight for your dreams. Care for your family and friends. Don’t let anyone fence you in– or fence anyone else out. And also, you know what, if you want to sing in the woods, talk to animals and dress up fancy to dance with a prince, you girls go ahead and do that, too. Tell your story your way– take that lesson with you most of all.
Well, that and the number one rule of the Disney Princess world: if someone messes with you, no matter how old you are, you go get The Fairy Godmother. She’s always got your back.