Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day 18: Night of the Living Disney Princesses (TM)

During a recent trip to the grocery store, while experiencing a certain degree of stress, strife, and desperation, I bribed Ellie with a box of Disney Princess Fruit Snacks. (Now with fruitier fruit-ishness!) It was either the fruit snacks or a carton of Camels, so I think I made the best parenting choice available, OK?

She clutched the giant pink box to her chest and declared, "Oh, I love them!" And I thought, "Great. Now, let's finish shopping before your brother loses it while we play a game called Follow Right Here Behind Me And Don't Touch Anything And If You Whine Even Once That Box Is Getting Flung All The Way To Hardware, So Help Me Disney."

At home later that morning, she enjoyed a pouch of fruity anti-feminism as I unpacked the groceries. I noticed that she was closely inspecting each piece before eating it. "Mama?" she asked. "This...is...Cinderella?"

I went over to have a look, and this is what I found:

Day 18- Night of The Living Disney Princesses (TM)
Behold: the terrifying, grinning visage of Skeletella. Or perhaps CinderZombie. (She dances with you until midnight, then eats your brains!) And, lest you think this was an isolated example:

Scarface Cinderella
Yowza.

Since I've spent the better part of this post proudly displaying macro photography of fruit snacks, I will compensate by linking to the excellent New York Times piece about the Disney Princess juggernaut. I first read it when Ellie was just a baby, and you can still view the full article here.

I have a serious aversion to the glut of Princess merchandise on the market, but I will admit my distaste is largely aesthetic and involves a violent allergy to pink and purple plastic. We've let Ellie watch many of the old Disney movies, including Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, and though the stories are pretty lean and hinge on an admittedly yucky precept (If you're beautiful and sweet, everything will work out fine, and by "fine" we mean "married!"), I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them with her. They are visually stunning films, truly, with great art direction and sweet music and pretty, pretty dresses. Did I say that out loud?

But really, at the end of the day, here's the reason I personally don't stress over the Princess phenomenon all that much: Ellie is far less enamored of the princesses than she is of the villains, witches, dragons, and cartoon mice. If they made a Maleficent or Evil Queen fruit snack, she would be all over that. (And, on second thought, maybe they do and that's what I bought. Ah-ha!)

So, what do you think? Are the Disney Princesses harmless, girlie fun or repellent, esteem-stunting garbage? Somewhere in between?

And, also, would you care for a fruit snack?

43 comments:

drnurse said...

I think they are harmless...My daughter was addicted to Belle from Beauty and the Beast when she was little and now she is a very independent, driven, forward thinking 14 year old who wants to be a surgeon someday...no princess/wife/heroine fantasies for her! I think the parents have much more influence than cartoon movies!

Melanie said...

@ drnurse: A surgeon! Good for her! Don't you wish there was a Cardiothoracic Surgeon Princess? With, like, little anthropomorphic scalpel sidekicks? She could wear a tiara AND scrubs.

hippyhappyhay said...

Gosh, poor Cinder's has seen better days huh?

We have done the princess obsession, and the Barbie obsession, all pretty harmless. Reality eventually sets in, none of them think they will ever get married ewwww, gross.
However, if one of my girls decides to run off and marry a danish heir to the throne, I'm all good with that :)

bluemountainsmary said...

My daughter loves pink but is not particularly in love with any dolls (funnily enough I was never very interested in dolls either).

She does love , LOVE Scooby Doo though.

Mrs. G. said...

I think princesses are harmless. I used to foist gender neutral toys on my kids, but my attempts rarely worked.

But I occasionally inserted my own agenda to balance things out:

I'm not going to buy a Ken doll. Barbie doesn't need man. Look what she's accomplished all on her own. A corvette...a dream home.

Darth Vader clearly has some childhood issues he's dealing with. He has some inner demons that could be addressed in therapy. He's made many inappropriate choices.

Beth said...

My daughter loves all the Disney princesses but she also loves Scooby Doo and Ben 10!

I am not concerned by it at this point. I think she just likes them because they are wearing dresses (she refuses to wear pants).

Tootsie Farklepants said...

It would appear that Cinderella's demise was caused by an ax to the face.

I have given thought to how fairy tales present children a false reality about relationships. It's no wonder we grow up wanting the dream wedding and then end up in therapy because Prince Charming is emotionally stunted and Camelot is coming unglued. There also were no colicky babies in any of the Disney tales.

bipolarlawyercook said...

Aren't they really "fruit" snacks?

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I, too, have an aversion to The Princesses. (Although it's not because of pink and purple plastic; I actually decorate my home in fucshia petroleum products.) I just don't like their message, and I didn't want to indoctrinate my daughter at a young age with the Disney mantra.

But at six years of age, she's managed to drink the Kool-Aid anyway. We haven't watched the movies (because she, unlike your daughter, is terrified of the evil creatures in the old Disney flicks), but she adores the Princess paraphernalia.

Of course, she hasn't seen the "fruit" snacks. That might change her mind.

dkuroiwa said...

Not having little girls, I can't relate to the "princess" concept (though ask me about monsters, bugs and Power Rangers and the like and I can go on and on!!).
My friends have two darling little girls and EVERY SINGLE time we go over there, they are both in costume! They have all the princess dresses and accessories!! They are almost too cute to believe!!
And...I have eaten the Princess ("WTF is that piece supposed to be?") snacks....Princess Parts are not bad!!

Rose said...

She'll be fine. I was really into non-sexist toy research back when I had my oldest daughter (1984) and tried to make some conscious parenting decisions, but you're right. They LOVE the mean ones! And the songtracks, mostly. You keep reinforcing what you believe and she'll be fine. (mine swore she'd NEVER take a women's studies class in college, but she did)

Magpie said...

I loathe the Princess machine. I hate the plastic, I hate the branding, I hate the message.

I can deal with pink and sparkles, but I prefer them to be generic, thank you very much.

planetnomad said...

I, too, loathe the Pink and Pretty Princess Machine (which includes Disney-puke and Barbie-vomitous mass). But I really think the best thing to do is to not stress it. Allow it some, don't fuss over it too much one way or the other, and by the time they're 10, they're totally past it and into books and art and climbing trees. That's how it's worked for us, anyway.

MamaBird said...

I'm with you and Magpie; I hate the branding very very much. Hate the commercialism, the plastic. But I actually think fantasy play is pretty awesome. So we have a LOT of dress up (which includes a surgeon costume! natch) with many choices. The Disney movies are too scary for my kid so we don't really have to think that one through. Barbies? I got her 2 just to take the edge off, to make them not-forbidden fruits, as it were. Btw, I think that the princess ultra pink viral mess has almost wended its way through my daughter (she announced just yesterday she is only going to wear pants). From about 3.5 to 5.

I love the mutilated Cinders.

katydidnot said...

my motto? what-the-frick-ever gets you through the grocery store. faminism...bah, we'll deal with that after the grocery store!

sarah said...

i live by the all thing in moderation theory. i have 2 wonderful boys - and i'd love for them to choose cinderella or sleeping beauty on movie night instead of cars for the 12th time. b/c the story is fun - the movie is pretty - the music is good. i guess i just don't think a story will change who you are or will be...but i'm also catholic and a ginormous harry potter fan and also love the his dark materials books. so if the feminists in the world don't get me, the pope just might!

Joc said...

I never thought the day would come when I would say this but...

Give me the princesses anyday, at least they are better than the Bratz

Having said that my daughters would rather play with Darth Vader lol.

lapoflux said...

Love the shots of the snacks - terrifying!
As for the Princesses... we're in that phase too. I like how the more recent ones have heroines that are a little more - how shall I put it, not so much a slave to the stereotypes of the Princess being saved by THE PRINCE and riding off into the sunset happily ever after.
With a brother around my little one is also into super heroes, and he watches the princess movies.
I'll let you know how much therapy they need down the road...

Lisa Milton said...

I'm more concerned with the mineral oil content in said fruity goodness, but preschoolers can sniff those snacks out from 30 miles away. I know. I used to see if Zack could track us...

But Lexi used to be in pink, head to toe, princess crazy until recently. Now she'd rather play soccer or football with the boys - oh the pride in kicking butt.

I think she's in good hands.

And I love those shots.

Bea said...

We have picture-book versions of Cinderella and Snow White from two different publishers, and in both I'm disturbed by how often the concept of "falling in love" comes up, as Pie listens oh so attentively. Yikes.

Cheri said...

I think they grow up and eventually put Disney Princesses in their proper place, i.e., a discussion topic in their women's studies / sociology / psychology courses or a post on their blogs.

Loralee Choate said...

I just don't see the knicker twisting that people get into over princesses in general

I.just.don't.

(Princesses. NOT commercialism. Different subject.)

Just my two cents, though.

Amy the Mom said...

I never paid much attention to it, and the phase passed quickly. Annelise is surrounded by brothers though. Only one Halloween she dressed as a fairy ballerina, since then she's tried to outgross herself each and every year. She gravitated more to Jack and Sally than Ariel and...whatever her prince's name was. Eric?

Beverly said...

I think they're great. They are the surrogate mothers for my girly girl, who was born to a crunchy mom (me). Every time we watch "The Little Mermaid" is a chance for me to say -- again -- that I think Ariel is making bad choices, and that in real life, she would have ended up in a lot of trouble.
"We know, Mom. We know," they say.
It's funny, my kids all went through a stage where they didn't want to eat a fruit snack without me first identifying every single one.

I AM VERY MARY said...

I'm a fully recovered Barbie Addict.

Nora Bee said...

I think they are harmless. Though I was upset to find out I would have a boy, the princesses were not the reason, indeed the fact that I would likely be spared a house full of them was one of the ways I made my peace with my baby's impending gender. Though is that Cinderella swooning, back of hand to brow?

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Replace Disney Princess with MTV's Sweet Sixteen and you'll see what your dilemna will be ten years from now.

My solution? Watch it with them and inject your own commentary.

Family Adventure said...

I'm not big on princesses, but I don't think they are particularly harmful. Girls need strong, positive role models, but it isn't - and shouldn't be - Disney's job to provide that.

Take it for what it is - mindless entertainment for children. Not unlike American Idol, Dancing with the stars, or Dr. House is for adults.

FANTABULOUS pictures...Skelerella!

Heidi

Susan Carlin said...

The weird part for me is the whole cannibalistic thing. Eating effigies of those we love. Is it a Catholic plot... practicing for communion? I don't know, I was a frilly girl- lots of ruffles and pink and emotional swooning and crooning, but I turned out just fine. Uh, HUH! I did SO!

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

I just wish for every Princess product out there, someone would make a not-so-princess option. And I don't mean a Bratz girl.

Melanie said...

@lisa: Amen. Don't even get me started on Bratz.

standing still said...

Harm - Less! I'd rather a daughter ask for princesses than a son ask for an M-16. Heck, if those were my only choices, I'd raise the boy wearing a princess tiara. Hmmm. Killing machine or fantasy in which everyone lives happily ever after? Yea, that's a no brainer.

Lola...again said...

I'm not worried about my girls and Barbies! I am worried about my boys! For some strange reason there are always naked barbies everywhere! My 3 year old boy makes me put shoes on the naked ken...just shoes!! More unrealistic plastic nudity than Hollywood!

Denise said...

It's 6:23 am and I'm still on my first cup of morning coffee (1 of 3 needed to jump start my enthusiasm for work) so I don't have any insightful comments on the whole princess issue. Plus? I have only boys so what do I know.

Anyway, just wanted to comment that your pictures of the zombie princess fruit snacks and related commentary made me laugh so hard my eyes watered. So - thanks!
:-)

Oliver Rain said...

I hate that the princesses have been package into a complete set. I love watching the movies. My daughter was never really fond of the princesses and not really of dolls in general for that matter.

The fruity snacks always seems like a good idea, but hmmm, I think these photos are evidence of what they really are, evil zombie princess trying to take over the kindergarteners & preschoolers of the world.

richgold said...

Sure, I'll have a fruit snack, though I'd much more prefer the caramels.

We too went through the Princess phase - though with daughter #1, had almost NO pink or purple in her wardrobe (there was a lot of blues, reds and greens to compensate though). She did get a t-shirt that said "Princess" on it though - probably from Grandma.

She abandoned the princess phase for the cow phase ... if you like the Arrogant Worms, you'll appreciate and understand why we taught her all the versus to "I am cow, hear me moo."

Minnesota Matron said...

Princess, yes. We went through that phase but it just came to an abrupt end. I honestly think that the reason there's so much marketing toward that Princess impulse is that the impulse has some degree of universality. So the guys who make money jump on it and blow it up. My daughter one day toss off that tiara and renamed herself Louisa The Tomboy. She never looked back. I guess I lean toward the go with the flow regarding these gendered roles they assume and toss off-- easy to say because mine have tossed off the problematic ones.

stephanie said...

I am so with the moderation idea, and lots of discussion.

Moderation means it's not actually banned, which really only screams MUST HAVE AT ANY COST! to a kid, and discussion serves two purposes: 1) obviously, the intelligent parental insight & experience we have to offer and 2) boring & irritating the kid into not wanting to bother with the item/fad/whatever anymore.

And no, thank you, to the horror movie-inspired 'fruit' snacks. But it was nice of you to offer. (Awesome macro shots though!)

Optimist said...

"fruity anti-feminism" - Hah! Thanks for making me laugh - I need to today...

Bonnie

Camellia said...

The best way to encourage a fixation to become a compulsion is to make it verboten. Princess Power while they're young, Woman Power when they grow up.

Ophelia Rising said...

You know, I don't mind princesses per say. But if that's ALL little girls have as a role model, then there's something wrong there. What about some kind of scientist? Or artist? Or doctor? Or...or...or? Any other kind of image that isn't quite so pink. Or dainty. Or helpless. (Although, admittedly, Cinderella can be quite spunky and resourceful.)

As long as girls know they can be and do whatever they like, without judgment or assumptions attached, then the pink princesses of the world might be more welcome, in my head.

Anonymous said...

My SON is the one who loves, loves, LOVES the princesses! He prances around the house with a blanket around his waste and a spatula "magic wand," making princessly proclamations. I figure I'll never have a daughter, so I'm just happy to have the two-fer!

Anonymous said...

Previous poster here: I meant to say a blanket around his "waist" not "waste" (that would be so icky...)