princess

Girls dressed as Princess Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog” await her arrival at the Disney Princess Royal Court Crowning Event in New York, Sunday, March 14, 2010. CS Monitor/Charles Sykes/AP

In the battle for my child’s wallet (or soul) the Disney Princesses don’t even make my Top Ten Most Evil list.

Disney has unleashed yet another malevolent merchandising scheme on our innocent youngsters—at least that’s what certain harbingers of hype would have us believe. For approximately $115 US, you can purchase a seven-inch, three-dimensional figurine of a Disney Princess, customized to resemble your daughter.

As the Christian Science Monitor points out, this is sure to provide yet more ammunition for the “Princess Wars” – the debate about whether or not the Disney Princesses are good for our little girls.

Proponents see the princesses as good role models: even-tempered, kind, and occasionally resourceful and tough. Their detractors decry the craze as an overly successful Disney marketing campaign turning our daughters docile, uncreative, shallow, and obsessed with appearance.

I sympathize to some extent with the detractors: I once banned Barbie dolls from our home on similar grounds, but in hindsight feel it was an overreaction. Moreover, I think it’s just poor judgment to indulge in over-the-top spending and/or obsession with anything—the key to a normal life usually requires some balance. But the idea that the Disney Princesses, all on their own, will harm your child for life is ludicrous. To wit:

“It escalates the Disney Princess takeover of girlhood,” says Josh Golin, associate director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Oh my. “Takeover” sounds so…final. May I suggest that until Mr Golin actually meets some adult women whose lives have been irrevocably stunted by the Disney Princesses, he should perhaps chill? This is merely anecdotal, of course, but each of my seven daughters has, to varying degrees, been a fan of the Princesses. We own a modest assortment of figurines, pajamas, puzzles, posters and so forth. My eldest (now 24) is an independent, hard-working and successful college graduate (with honors) in a male-dominated career field. Oh yes, she’s also beautiful, but proportionally spends more time with her clients than she does on her hair or nails. My younger daughters (ages 8-20) are in various stages of schooling; when it comes to their mental health, spending habits and/or range of interests, so far so good. Having witnessed the daily ups and downs of marriage and family life, they do not seem poised to succumb to this notion:

On the feminist blog Jezebel, Katie J.M. Baker was even snarkier: “So they’ll never forget what they’re supposed to turn into when they grow up: a pretty pretty princess in a pretty pretty ballgown, ready for a Happily Ever After that begins and ends with marriage, male approval, and a disconcertingly tiny waist.” 

And my girls seem to be able to separate fact from fiction. “The princesses,” so the CSM article informs us, “all star in popular Disney films.”

“Star?” Need I point out that the princesses are not real people? They’re cartoon characters—you know, like Tweety Bird and Elmer Fudd. As a child, I enjoyed Yosemite Sam’s antics, but never (then or now) experienced the urge to drop an anvil on a wisecracking rabbit. Come to think of it, I never met any wisecracking rabbits. Which brings us to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Good luck with that. I for one am not opposed to all commercialism. My childhood was enriched by the likes of Bugs Bunny, Peanuts, and yes, Walt Disney.

This attempt at the modest moral high ground was frankly laughable: “Jasmine from “Aladdin” and her scandalous bare midriff were left out…” 

Scandalous? Oh please. I am deeply concerned about modesty, and personally do find Jasmine’s outfits inappropriate. But until media watchdogs start cracking down on the real offenders (Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Madonna, and other pop tarts too numerous to mention), they needn’t bother going after Disney cartoon gals. If you wish to critique ugly toys and entertainment, start with the skanky Bratz dolls (“Bratz by day; catz by night” — I kid you not) or the ghoulish things that glorify vampirism, death and decay.

Business Insider called the Disney Princess figurines “creepy.” For me, it’s not the dolls that are creepy; it’s how they’re made.

Disney said the 10-minute process features several cameras taking images of a girl’s face and storing them in a computer for processing.

It’s far more disturbing that a company will take and store highly detailed 3-D images of my child, given the potential for identity theft and downright abuse if this information and/or technology fell into the wrong hands (think computer-generated child porn with images resembling your child). But as ever, people seem to focus on the lesser evils.

According to Mr. Golin, no product franchise has been more successful at co-opting a firmly established childhood narrative than the Disney princess line… [It] boasts over 40,000 products, TV shows, live productions, and billions of dollars in revenue.

Mr. Golin, that’s called the “free market” and it’s based on choice and consumer demand. I don’t buy the arguments about the subliminal power of advertising and the brainwashing of children. By nature, most people, regardless of age, seem to want stuff; it takes a degree of common sense and self-control to limit the impulse. As I experienced in my own childhood, you can see (and long for) a toy on TV, but Mom and Dad can (and in my case usually did) say No.

If the cartoon character you liked as a child ends up forming your character or causing you financial distress as an adult, perhaps that says less about “commercialization” and more about the quality of parenting you had.

 

 

Mariette Ulrich is a homemaker and freelance writer. She lives in western Canada with her husband and six of their seven children. Mariette holds an Honours B.A. in English Literature...