The Cult of Disney Princesses
Lately it seems like almost every little girl goes through “the princess phase,” at least for a little while. The princess phase seems to evoke a huge range of reactions, from “adorable” “precious” to “expensive” and “pain in the behind.”
Some also worry that the whole princess thing is sending the wrong message to little girls, creating the idea that passivity is ideal, and that a woman’s worth is measured by good looks and how great she looks in a tiara.
Are Disney princesses some kind of cult waiting to take over the minds of otherwise strong and opinionated young girls, or is it a benign cultural obsession that will take its course?
Active vs. Passive Heroines
When you take a look at Disney princesses, and even popular fairy tale characters, two distinct types emerge. On one side, there’s the passive heroines, the ones that embody goodness, beauty and charm, who do very little besides sit and wait for rescue or true love in the guise of prince charming. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella.
But then there’s all those “active” heroines, you know, the ones that actually do something! Princess Fiona from Shrek and Princess Mononoke (okay, not Disney), Ariel, Mulan, Pocahontes. Even Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Are you seeing a trend here? Looks like the newer princesses actually do stuff. Sure, some of them keep their tiaras on while doing it, but it’s a far cry from sleeping away half the movie while the prince gets all the action.
The Marketing Machine
My hope is that maybe the passive heroine is becoming a rather outdated concept. Strong female heroines are increasingly taking a more leading and active role, and that trend is likely to continue. It is true that the marketing geniuses at Disney one day decided that princesses were big, and voilee, the creation of an empire! (It’s called Disney Princess, a franchise company of the Walt Disney Company).
But even though princesses are likely to stick around for a while, there’s nothing to say that they need to be the meek and annoying drones of yester-year. In fact, one could argue that many of the newer princesses actually unsettle rather than reinforce existing gender stereotypes. Witness Fiona belching and eating fried river rat, or whatever it is she likes to chow down on.
The Princess Legacy
My final thought is that, while I can’t help but be irritated by the whole cult of princesses, it’s a big eye-roller for me, I’m not sure that its really that detrimental. How much do these roles really do influence us? Sure, Cinderella and Snow White are pretty unempowering for women. I also loved them as a kid, so much that I asked my mother to make Cinderella my middle name.
Although the cult of princesses has quite thoroughly pervaded our modern day tradition of fairy tales, when I look around me, I do not see hordes of women living passive, inactive lives. As I look at the women just here on Hubpages for example, I'm sure many would confess to having some sort of princess experience growing up, but it doesn't seem to have done much damage at all. Are we the exception to the rule, or is it that Disney isn't quite as influential they’d like think? Or has the Princess stereotype been just one more negative image in the long list of things we've had to learn to overcome?