It’s hip to be a Princess?

Schwa?

Okay, I’ll admit it. I love Disney. I have for many years. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to sit in an animation studio drawing and redrawing frames for a new animated flick just to say “I did that” when the credits rolled by. Then maturity came, and with it the Internet and the realisation that “outsourcing” was the new favourite and artists were liable to make diddly for their hard work.

So, no Disney. I still draw, but don’t have movie aspirations. But, for all of my love of Disney, I’m not a huge fan of the Princess movies. Never really have been. Asked “What is your favourite Disney movie?” I’m liable to say “Fantasia” or, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” rather than something mainstream like say, “The Lion King.” Great movie. Loved the Broadway show. In my top ten but not the top of the list. Same can be said of “Who is your favourite Disney character?”

Personally? Peter-freaking-Pan. Always has been and probably always will be. Next to him? Tinkerbell. Before her transformation (for some reason I don’t understand) Tinkerbell was a bitch, and she was awesome. Now, if someone were to ask me “Who is your favourite Disney Princess?” I would have to go with Snow White. NOT because of her story, or because she’s pretty, or she gets her man in the end, it’s because she was Disney’s first. And, in a time when “animated movies” were unheard of, the success of Snow White was absolutely phenomenal. She was the first in all respects, and for that she will be my favourite from now until, probably, the day I die.

So, where is all of this coming from you ask? Well, a friend posted on Facebook that she had just finished a book called “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”. The title hooked me. Had to find out more. So, I clicked on the link. The book is a look at how the Princess movement is ruining daughters everywhere, written by a well respected journalist and honestly, something I’m going to pick up and read. Not because I’m a mum, but because I was ruined by the Disney Princess phenomenon before it became something the blogosphere talked about.

Even when I was a kid (when Polly Pocket was still able to fit in your pocket, and there were no such thing as BRATZ dolls) Princesses dominated play. Not for me, but for others. I saw girls running around in their ridiculously poofy pink outfits with their sceptres, stamping their feet and shouting “I’m the Princess! It has to be MY WAY!”

I was busy being Scary Spice (when Spice Girls were big), climbing trees, or running around in the woods behind base housing in Spokane (Spook-a-loo) Washington.

My ruination of Disney came from my impressionable imagination and constant “why?” Why couldn’t I be that pretty, why am I not that thin? Do I have Belle’s personality? Am I more like Ariel or Jasmine? Will I ever be pretty enough to get a boyfriend?I have to be like Belle! I’m like her the most! Through her, I will find my identity!

I was six.

Yup. Six. Maybe seven, if I’m generous.

Already I was obsessed with how I looked. Still am, if I’m honest. I wanted to look exactly like the Princesses did. Ariel more specifically. She was so pretty with her hair and her tiny waist. And Eric? How cute was he? I told myself if I was ever that skinny I would get a guy just like Eric. Never mind that he didn’t have a personality until around the third movie Disney pushed out to keep the franchise going.

Gawd I was awkward growing up. All legs, arms and pudgy tummy that would not go away. Add to that, I was a total tomboy with a short hair cut that lasted until I was fifteen, went away for drill team, and came back when I joined the Navy to finally disappear at 24 1/2.  Adding insult to injury, I was teased for half my life about everything under the sun. Didn’t matter what about. I was teased. And, no matter how many times your parents tell you kids tease you because you’re smarter than them, getting teased still hurts.

It was no wonder I escaped to the world of Disney Princesses, where the girl always gets the guy. You know, because she’s pretty. And thin. And has a phenomenal voice. And is the damsel in distress. And her life will be made better if she gets married.

Damn. Disney is fucked up.

They really, really are now that I’m old enough to understand the hidden messages behind the stories. They’re fairly simple and hard to miss: Pretty girl embodies innocence and repressed sexuality under the guise of a curvaceous body, gets herself into a bad situation because of shoddy plot design but still has hopes and dreams of her own, but these hopes and dreams will not come to fruition unless she gets married. That whole “Happily Ever After” bit? Yeah, there’s never the Princess riding off into the sunset on her own. Always a guy next to her. And a kiss.

Hmm.

As my sister is quick to point out on most movies; “misogynistic, much?”

Add to that all of the make up kits, bath stuffs, ridiculously gaudy costumes with disappearing hemlines, and so much sparkly shit it makes me wonder if Freddie Mercury is really dead (no offense, love Freddie, couldn’t think of a better analogy!) it’s no wonder little girls are so messed up!

And can we talk about the Princess boutique that just opened up in Disneyland/world?

Package starts at $81

Um. No.

Am I good enough yet?

WTF?!

Five year olds should not be allowed anywhere near that place! A five year old girl does not need a freaking make-over to bolster her self confidence! The quickest way to a mental disorder, is that.

package starts at $150 an hour

It took my mum fifteen years to get me to wear make up. I didn’t like it. Still don’t. Not really at least, but whereas I once held the idea that make up was a mask to hide a person’s identity, now I understand that it is a necessary evil in a corporate world.

I keep it to a bare minimum.

I say again; five year olds should not be coming out of a boutique looking like something from “Toddlers&Tiaras” and then lauded because “omigoshyou’rsopretty!” Girls should not be taught that pretty=valuable to society.

Jesus, just say NO!

It’s enough to make anyone lock their daughter into a closet and never ever utter the word “princess” again. Or to make someone like me, who was ruined for life by the unachievable standards the Princess’ set, to cringe and hope for the intelligence of mothers to raise wholesome little girls who develop their brains rather than focus on aesthetics as a means of self-definition.

*gets off soapbox*

Okay, this is a writing blog, so, I’m going to connect all of this back to writing. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know that I’ve been working on Blood on the Quarter for quite a while now. You also know that I’ve just finished the outline and am very happy I know where my story and its sequel are going. Reading Peggy Orenstein’s blog, however, makes me take a hard look at the story I’m telling and the message I want to send out.

Blood on the Quarter is intended for an older audience. It deals with themes that may not be suitable for young minds. It will never get “explicit” but certain things will be implied. Given the time period in which the story is set, I believe I’m well within my rights to explore that territory. However, I’m not stupid. I know there’s a chance that 14+ are going to pop it open and see what the story is about. Without going into too much; I can say that the story will deal with suicide and two of my characters will need to get married in order for the monetary funds to exact revenge on the antagonist.

I have to ask myself; am I buying into what Disney is selling? That Melanie can’t have a “happily ever after” (so to speak) unless she gets married? Or, am I playing into the 1920s time period? A woman really couldn’t do much unless she was married. Taking away the feminist movement, the desire to look more like a man, and the fact that women made up more of the workforce in this time period than any other sans-WWII; without the financial security and stability of a man, a woman was still very limited. Am I still playing into established gender roles in that, Melanie can’t run her own speakeasy without Thomas Reddington’s money? And, in order to get that money, Melly’s gotta get married.

I certainly hope not. I really hope that Melanie and Lizzie and Claire will come across as strong women who do what is necessary to obtain their desires. I hope that their faults will strike a chord with any girl, whatever her age, that reads my story. I hope that said girl will find my characters relatable enough to root for them when things go wrong and cheer when things go right.

Disney, for all intents and purposes will always be my favourite. For nostalgic reasons, if nothing else. I loved the old Disney movies. Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmations, Bambi all well-loved and watched about a million times.  I would stay up late at night to watch Walt take me behind the scenes of Disneyland before the Disney Channel turned to crap. I’m sad to see what was once an innocent childhood fantasy turn into something cheap and tawdry and come with so many negative repercussions.

It’s not fair. And should not be tolerated. Not by women, not by mothers, and certainly not by little girls who just want to play Princess.

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9 thoughts on “It’s hip to be a Princess?

  1. beyondearthseries says:

    My favorite movie quote from one of my favorite characters in one of my all time favorite movies is when Cate Blanchett plays the part of Queen Elizabeth and she walks into a room full of her staff who had been pushing her to get married because that was the ONLY THING THAT WOULD SAVE ENGLAND and when she walks in she looks at them, shows them a ring on her finger and says, “I am married to England”. Powerful stuff. As for the disney princesses, its not Disney or the kids its the parents. I have a five year old girl who loves pink and princesses but she also wants to go see Dark Shadows and prefers Velma to Daphne in Scooby Doo because “Velma is smarter”. Insecure parents can make for insecure kids. There is hope! I enjoy your blog!

    1. rjkeith says:

      Yay! Your little girl is awesome! There certainly is hope! I agree that it’s insecure parents pushing these ideas on their kids and it makes me sad. However, Disney isn’t helping by pandering to these insecurities and then hyping them to an extraordinary level. There’s a balance, I think,that needs to be found for little girls everywhere.

  2. changingalways says:

    I love your take on the princess thing. I allowed my daughter to enjoy Disney princesses and the Barbies. Unfortunately she was spoiled because we had so many boys throughout my family. I couldn’t believe that my daughter could be such a beauty since I myself was only cute up to age 8 when my breast started to develop and soon after, I ate my weight up to a size 18 when I was 13. My princess image fled before it even began.

    We grew up knowing we were nothing without a man, men didn’t like it if you were fat, and wore no makeup. I also grew up knowing that I was never as good as my older sister because she was thin and had gorgeous tanned skin always. (Not to say that I didn’t finally come into my own acceptance of the fact I am okay. And not bad looking now for an old lady.) Also, if you were fat, you were stupid. Add to that the fact I was blonde.

    My daughter being the beauty she was, had severe learning issues that now limit her options. She however, instead of buying into the princess idols, loves the horse idols. When we got her involved with horses, it helped immensely.

    So back to your blog, I see the princess attitude everywhere. It’s horrid and I’m going to buy that book and read it.

    All of that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to get married, however, that also depends on a few things.

    Keep writing and I’ll catch up on your stuff. I love it. And just so you know, you and your sister are raving beauties as well as my daughter and the girls who will become my daughters. The one that is your friend is beautiful inside and out and I don’t even think she realizes just how beautiful she is.

    Also, it’s more important to be a queen than a princess. The queen controls the castle and gets things done.

    1. rjkeith says:

      Amen to that statement. And you are gorgeous in your own way, Cathy. Aesthetics aren’t everything, my dear. If my life has taught me one thing, it is that.

  3. changingalways says:

    Thanks. By the way, a new Pixar movie is coming out with a completely different type of princess. She wild with a mass of unruly red hair. She thinks she can do it all. The movie comes out in June I believe and is called Brave.

  4. bubbe says:

    So well said and having raised four daughters I completely agree! Unfortunately, I didn’t get that message through to ALL of my girls and bad choices were made by some while others are quite well-adjusted. I’m going to recommend the book to our daughter who is pregnant with her first daughter. This is my step-daughter who was raised by her biological mother and participated in those toddler beauty pageants! So not cool IMO but I wasn’t there and wouldn’t have had a say in any case. Hopefully if A reads the book she’ll have a better understanding when it comes to raising her little girl. Thanks RJ!

    1. rjkeith says:

      I hope it helps! Like I said; I’m going to read it too, just because I’m interested in what it has to say. I was absolutely ruined by Disney and their standards. I’m sure the company didn’t intend it outright, but that it gradually grew out of greed. I’m terrified to have children of my own! How do you compete with that? How do you teach your daughters to love everything about themselves (flaws and all) when the rest of the world is giving them a different idea of what is and what is not beautiful (so on and so forth)? It boggles my mind. It really, really does. And those beauty pageants? Those should just go away all together. You want to talk about tearing down self-esteem, or mothers living their lives through their daughters! Whatever the reason, that is the biggest cause of self-destructive behaviour in girls. Awful, awful things.

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