Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Post About Disney Princesses: Inevitable

Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors and it's totally because she's all about the girl power. Her books are about strong, smart girls who rescue themselves (and usually the boys as well). I try to pick a favorite book of hers to recommend to people, but I can never pick just one and end up just telling people to read them all.

So, she posted this post on her blog the other day and, coincidentally, I have been thinking a lot about the Disney Princesses lately. Possibly because I spend a good portion of my day coloring and drawing Disney Princesses to the delight of the 6-year-old girl I babysit. I've been staring at these characters and started to really think about who they are and what they represent. They are all different ages and from different places and situations. They all (except for Snow White, she's just trying to not get killed) are rebelling against/asserting their independence from another main character; a step-mother, father, fairy caretaker, etc. They all end up with a handsome prince who comes and saves the day just in the nick of time.

Don't get me wrong, I love all of those movies (Sleeping Beauty especially, and it's one of the worst offenders of feminism). They are like romantic comedies for children. You watch and you dream of ways life could be or adventures that await you in some far off land. I think it's good to do those things. There's often talk about Disney movies instilling unreal expectations for life, but they really just tell some funny, exciting and beautiful stories. Also, Disney is doing a pretty good job, story-wise, in offering new princesses that learn to fend for themselves, save the day, achieve their dreams AND marry a handsome prince, Giselle and Tiana specifically. If you remember, Giselle climbs out onto a steep rooftop in an evening gown in the middle of a rainstorm to fight a dragon and save the life of her true love.

Still, with these small steps in a good direction, there is the notion of catering to an audience and making changes in order to sell more tickets to a wider audience. This isn't something that can be avoided, really, but it can be lessened (as Shannon Hale remarks). It's all about what we are showing our boys and girls. I know plenty of little boys who like princess stuff purely because it's the stuff their friends and sisters are playing with. On the other hand, I know plenty of girls who like dinosaurs and trains and cars because it's the stuff their friends and brothers are playing with. It's all fun and new and exciting. Kids develop their gender issues based on what they are taught by the world around them. And boys are not going to be fooled into going to see the new Rapunzel movie simply because the name was changed to "Tangled." That sounds more like a Harlequin Romance novel, if you ask me.


Miri said...

I read that article, and the one about Disney renaming Rapunzel that Shannon had posted on her blog, yesterday when I read your draft of this post, and they were pretty disappointing. For one thing, I think they're wrong in assuming that the reason The Princess and the Frog didn't do well was because of the word "princess"--for me, at least, it was because the title implied a boring remake of a boring fairy tale story, and one that I didn't want to see. It turned out to be hilarious, and I've seen it three times.

But Shannon is right about "girl movies" and "boy movies." It isn't Hollywood's responsibility to prevent that kind of segregation--like she said, Hollywood goes where the money is. It's the job of parents and caregivers, who create those gender biases by assuming that boys only want to watch Cars and Hercules instead of Beauty and the Beast or Sleeping Beauty. (You'll notice there are no such biases the other way, though--girls have no problem watching the "boy movies.") Little boys shouldn't be taught that they can't be expected to take interest in female protagonists, and that movies about princesses are for girls only.

Sean and Jennie said...

I love you Lindsey! I especially like this picture:)