Re: What’s So Bad about Being a Princess?

by Nancy French

Have you seen the Disney “I am a Princess” video?  It feels more like a public-service announcement, but it’s obviously an attempt to rebrand the classic Disney products and movies for a more modern era:

Isn’t that a great commercial?


Martha Kempner does a great job of explaining why we Disney princesses are Disney princesses no matter how well done, inspirational, and multi-ethnic that commercial is:

The original princesses of the forties and fifties—Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty—all underscore the idea that a girl’s ultimate goal in life is to meet that one man, fall in love, and live happily ever after without ever really taking an active role in shaping her own future. Real women came along way in the next few decades but princesses seem to have gotten stuck in a gender-role rut as the 90’s entries into the genre had even worse messages. In the Little Mermaid, for example, Ariel makes a deal with Ursula, the sea witch, to give up her voice at least temporarily. She then has to get Prince Eric to fall in love with her without talking. What follows is a series of scenes in which she bats her eyelashes a lot but says nothing—and it works. The take away: shut up and look pretty and you’ll the get the guy. Beauty and the Beast’s Belle wants more than her small-town life and reads every book she can get her hands on which is admirable but as soon as the Beast starts being a little bit refined and kind of sweet, she seems to forget that he is still holding her captive.

… It is true that the newest major offerings in the Disney princess world, Brave and Tangled, have heroines who at least seem to be able to take care of themselves be it with a bow and arrow or a frying pan. But why must they still be princesses? 

Colette, you’re right that Kate Middleton is proving a princess can be a true partner in a marriage. But, as Kempner points out, “I don’t think becoming a princess is a realistic or worthy goal. (For one thing [Middleton] may have taken the only open spot.)”

For an alternative view on princesses, check out Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor breaking the news to a Sesame Street character that “princess is not a career.”

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