Disney Princesses Going Viral!

Mon, November 30, 2009

Feminism

the-princess-and-the-frogI noticed over the weekend that all of a sudden I was getting quite a few new comments on a post I wrote back in the early summer, called If Only the New Disney Princess Could be More Like Mulan, about my thoughts on Mulan as a Disney princess and the then-unreleased, but much talked about, movie, The Princess and the Frog, that would feature an African-American Disney Princess.  The topic of whether this breakthrough in the realm of princesses would be a good thing in terms of girl empowerment or whether it would just be another opportunity to sell merchandise.

I was pretty shocked when I realized that somebody Stumbled the post from almost six months ago, creating a peak in readers and commenters that I don’t usually see!

The comments are really good and raise a lot of issues, both good and bad, about how girls are portrayed in these movies and whether it’s harmless fantasy or the foundation of sexist media portrayals of girls and women.  As a mother of a daughter who spent several years ensconced in all things Disney Princess and who is now happily a fourt-grade tomboy, I have mixed feelings. In terms of her clothing choices, she’s definitely forsaken the pink and the frilly for the drab and the practical.  But when we serve up stories of girls who are willing to give up their voices and their futures for the happily ever after, are they damaging messages we’ve put into our children’s brains we’ll never be able to change?

If you have thoughts on the hold that the Disney princesses have on many of our daughters, or if you’ve gotten a sneak peak at the new movie and have some thoughts on it, I’d love to hear your input, either here or at the original post!

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10 Responses to “Disney Princesses Going Viral!”

  1. thefremen Says:

    My daughter likes the princesses just fine, but if anything is far more influenced by the Tinkerbell videos/expanded fiction. I honestly have no idea what happened to Tinkerbell later on in life, perhaps it’s Peter Pan’s Machismo which is so strong it warps the very fabric of time and space, but in her earlier years in pixie hollow Tinkerbell was quite a different fairy.

  2. Emily Says:

    I think my daughter always like the Mulan and Pocahantas movies best of all the princess movies and in fact was both of them for Halloween at different years. She was more into the whole Barbie princess thing although she always had a tomboy side anyway. So she has no illusions of happily ever after at age 13.

  3. nonlineargirl Says:

    I feel a bit conflicted about whether to take my daughter to the new movie. She has just gotten into the princess stuff (Disney makes a KILLING selling merch on that line!) but I do like the idea of a non-white lead.

  4. magpie Says:

    I’m kind of happy that my 6yo is enamored of her Bakugan right now. I avoid the Disney stuff as much as possible, preferring the Miyazaki movies instead.

  5. Daisy Says:

    I highly recommend Robert Munsch’s “The Paper Bag Princess” for any and all princess fans. This princess is one feisty royal!

  6. Tonggu Momma Says:

    I second “The Paper Bag Princess” and also the newer book “Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?” I am so not a princess kind of gal, but my daughter is obsessed with the Disney princesses, even though she’s only ever seen the movie Mulan. I wish I DID understand this hold they have over our children. Then I could actively work to minimize it.

  7. Debbie Owensby Moore Says:

    I always detested the whole princess thing. I was relieved when my daughter skipped the experience, since a girly-girl she is not. However, I had a paradigm shift a few years ago after reading “The Woman with the Alabaster Jar” by Margaret Starbird.

    In her search for the revival of the sacred feminine, Starbird believes that we modern feminists have turned the “Cinderella” fairy tales upside down. She points out that we miss the true point of the story. In all the princess fairy tales, “it is the prince that is passionately seeking his lost counterpart.” Only when he reunites with his true equal is balance restored.

    For those interested in the “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and the role of women in the early church, Starbird’s book is a fascinating read.

    Maybe Walt Disney was actually ahead of his time!!

  8. Gina Chen Says:

    I have a lot of mixed feelings on the Disney princesses. On the one, hand they certainly perpetuate the dominant American beauty ideal – white, blonde and thin. Plus, the princesses’ plot lines tend to involves sitations where a man is the rescuer.(except Mulan, thankfully.)

    I don’t love that they aren’t diverse and when there are hints of diversity in them — like with the first black princess (finally!), it does bug me that she looks a bit like Cinderella with a tan.

    But I’m also a realist. I think our jobs as moms are to help our children navigate the world — not shield them from it. Yes, I’m the mom who has discussions the impact of media beauty depictions with her 7-year-old daughter.

    My daughter is bi-racial (white/Asian), so we’ve talked about why Cinderella and Barbie look the way they do — and what that means and, particularly, what that means for my daughter’s concept of herself. (Obviously, I use different words with my daughter.)

    I try (don’t always succeed) to make just about everything a teachable moment for my kids. Disney princesses can be part of that.

  9. PunditMom Says:

    Yes, I am conflicted, as well. My daughter is just now talking about how she thinks her beautiful Asian nose is “fat” and she wants her nose to look like my Caucasian nose. Yes, all these issues would come up even without the Disney princesses. And she did have a fun time when she was little dressing up as Belle and Jasmine (at least she wasn’t white), but in the end I wonder — does each little thing about how we view girls and women build upon each other and create the “monster” of managing our daughter’s perceptions and expectations?

    *sigh*

  10. Emily Says:

    Actually J those issues would come up even if she was Caucasian! My daughter certainly obsesses over her looks and she is a pretty slim blond 13-year-old! I remember thinking my nose looked too long even though it is more of a Roman nose than a stereotypical Jewish one.


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