There’s been quite a bit of controversy surrounding Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog,” which, for the first time in Disney’s 70-year history, stars a black princess. First her name was too stereotypically slave-like, so it was changed from Maddie to Tiana. Then the blogosphere was in an uproar because Princess Tiana has a racially-ambiguous love interest who has lighter skin.
Now a not-so new debate has come up about whether little girls should be indoctrinated into the princess culture in the first place. Blogger Monique Fields, who has daughters ages 2 and 4, at The Root questions the impact of princess values and ideals, preferring a healthy dose of reality for young women to counteract this fantasy.
Fielder’s main gripe with princesses is that they seem to have made at least one of her daughters very attracted to sparkly things, whether it be a wedding dress-style “big tutu,” or engagement rings and wedding bands at a department store jewelry counter. But children, like animals, are attracted to shiny, sparkly things — it’s only natural. One of the things that makes children children is that they have inquisitive spirits and don’t dismiss something the way adults do just because we’ve seen it before.
Fielder writes that Disney and toymakers are selling a fantasy, but little girls should be given a dose of reality to counteract the fantasy damage. We try to shield children from things they don’t understand, so how much of reality should little girls be given? Should they know about waterboarding and other forms of torture? Or that mommy and daddy liked to swing before they became parents? Or that spanking isn’t a punishment for everyone?
Let’s not forget that the Disney princesses and female protagonists do understand reality, in a way. All stories, including fantasies, have to have a conflict. Mulan took a girl power stance and went undercover as a male soldier to take her aging father’s place in the Chinese army. Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” broke away from life under the sea to explore the human world.
Fielder says she would like her daughters to aspire to be doctors or lawyers, not princesses. But Ariel and Mulan both rebelled against their society’s norms instead of fitting into its traditional social constraints. The other princesses also tried to take the moral high ground or obey their parents without losing themselves. I agree that there are little girls who aspire to be princesses, but that doesn’t mean their parents and everyone else has to treat them that way. My own niece was virtually force-fed the whole “I’m a princess” idea by her mother. But that excuse doesn’t fly when my niece is acting up with my family. We discipline her like children are supposed to be.
I think young girls will learn about rejection and how makeup and glitz don’t make the person even if they indulge in the princess fantasy. I learned about heartache through the divorce of my parents, but that didn’t make me hate fairy tales. I also wasn’t sitting at my window sill pining for Romeo instead of applying to college. It’s up to parents to expose their children to the reality of life when it’s appropriate, but they still need entertainment to help their imaginations wonder. So I say Fielder should let her daughter wear her sparkles and glitz and wave her girly-girl flag with pride because, who knows, she may turn out to be a goth. [The Root via Black Voices]