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.
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?
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.
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.
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.