Here's my thought on the whole Disney Princess......nonsense,
You know you want to know
I grew up with the Disney princesses. My mother, the nazi-bra-burning-feminist, adored them from her childhood and wanted to share them with her daughter. So she did; and with that sharing came the many feminist pre-and-post-viewing clauses that we are all so familiar with now...
You don't need a man to rescue you.
You don't need a man to feel complete.
Don't play the fragile, weak damsel in distress.
You'll go blind and possibly grow hair on the palm of your hands.
At the time I remember not having a CLUE what she was talking about, I just really dug the sparkly, pretty dresses. It wasn't about the subtext of the story, it was about the fashion cause I've always been about the deep issues. Only later as I matured did I come to understand the subconscious effects those fairy tales had on me. During difficult times (and with a teenage, single mother there were many difficult times) I dreamed of my Prince who would come and take me away from all my suffering...."Someday My Prince Will Come....." Instead of learning to cope in real life, I filled my head with romantic fantasies.
Forget the fashion, forget the crowns and tiaras or the preconceived idiot notion of "true" beauty (dictated by other women unfortunately) - I don't want these characters to be my daughter's role models because they are whimps! They are victimized, helpless twits. They never slay the dragon, play sports, pilot jets or do open heart surgery. Instead they fiddle with their coiffures, linger over invitations to the ball, flee ineffectually from evil crones and swoon. They all wait for life to happen to them, they never forge their own way. They are helpless. And yet when I look at any department toy store or toy department that's all I see...Princess this and Princess that. My girl is 2 and she's already stereotyped and pigeon holed by toy manufacturerers. It's sad dude.
And what about the mothers in these stories? Cinderella and Snow White? Mommies killed by some mysterious illness. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid? Mothers all missing. Even if you go outside of princessland; Bambie's mother shot dead by a hunter, Nemo's mom was eaten by a barracuda. The only character I can think of who had a "nuclear family" was Sleeping Beauty, not that it did her any good.
Bonus points if you can tell me Sleeping Beauty's real name?
In our world of Birth Mothers and Adoptive Mothers, what does that conjure in the minds of our small children? How does it effect the processing of their own story?
It might also be worth mentioning the *original* Cinderella story was Chinese in origin. The emphasis on the small feet was more insidious (foot binding of course). It alluded to how small and perfect Cinderella’s feet were compared to her step-sisters’ feet. And the original Grimm’s fairy tale (not the later sanitized one or the Disney rendering) it mentions that one of the step-sisters had to cut off her toe in an attempt to fit the glass slipper, and the other step-sister had to cut off part of her heel to try to fit the glass slipper. Makes the story much more interesting don't you think?
Around tween time for me I came to adore the villains in the fairy tales far more than the wuss heroin - bare minimum they had character and personality. They were strong, self reliant, they forged their own paths and took control. And of course, the strong chick was the bad chick.
Believe it or not I really do struggle with this one. Had Emma shown even the slightest interest in the princess propaganda at Disney, I would have bought her the crap. I. Do. Get. It. Really. I get the appeal, I'm just not quite convinced in the long run confusion as to her "role" as a woman won't be, in part, dictated by these antiquated story lines and I think that would be a great shame.