Disney’s Royally Twisted Message to Girls

| 1/22/2008 2:04:21 PM

A couple of years ago, I was a guy who almost never thought about Disney, the self-esteem of adolescent girls, or super-teams of crusading princesses. Now that I have a two-year-old—or, frighteningly, a teenage-girl-to-be—these are matters of utmost importance. Especially when they disturbingly intersect, as they did last month in a revelatory online article from the Nation by Barbara Ehrenreich about Disney’s line of Princess toys based on the heroines from the company’s movies. 

To appreciate my fears, you should know that my house is an eerie outpost of that most manically psychedelic of realms: Disneyland. Spooky ceramic Belle figurines stare at me from the bookshelf; Beauty and the Beast bedding piles up in the laundry room; stuffed Disney dolls reach out to trip me in the dark. It’s a nightmare. And it gets worse. According to Ehrenreich, this paraphernalia of the bizarre is responsible for the assassination of a generation of girls’ ambitions. And yes, it’s the fault of Disney and those darn Princesses.

It would seem the dainty young lasses of Princessland have bigger problems than a propensity for enchantment-related somnolence. Ehrenreich points out that, besides nabbing a prince, the Princesses’ “only career ladder leads from baby-faced adolescence to a position as an evil enchantress, stepmother, or witch.” The Disney gal-gang is patently lacking in motivation and purpose. Beauty and youth are paramount virtues of femininity in the Magic Kingdom. And the Princesses are passing on an archaic ethos of a pre-feminist society to our daughters. 

If Ehrenreich is right, all possible outcomes are disastrous. Best-case scenario, my darling daughter gets hitched to a snobby prince, while her mother and I languish in exiled serfdom. Or she embraces the Dark Side—a never-ending version of the terrible twos. The final alternative afforded the Disney Princesses and their brainwashed harem of impressionable girls is spinsterhood. While a favorable alternative to evil, I’m firmly against adult children never leaving the nest. It erases the light at the end of the tunnel we parents secretly fantasize about. And this is exactly what will happen, given the Princesses’ lack of anything resembling survival skills. So not only are they wrecking it for girls; Disney’s dumbed-down damsels are also ruining dads’ dreams of someday reclaiming our basement man-palace turned playroom. 

To see Disney’s secret war against girls’ self esteem first-hand, check out the Disney Fairies site, where 85 percent of voters (read: girls) said they want to be fairies, and 15 percent are happy just being themselves. Go corporate fairy power! 

Morgan Winters  

1/28/2008 1:55:58 PM

Isn't this true of male archetypes in Disney as well? Men are either handsome princes/kind fathers or evil kings/beasts/wizards. To me, its all drivel, but to focus lack of female role models in Disney is only half the picture.

1/26/2008 3:52:29 PM

I deliberately protected my son from Disney versions of classic fairy tales. I encourage any parent to do the same. There are cartoon movies and programs that provide better models for children. Disnified fairy tales are a throwback to the 1950s cultural construct, a reflection of religious controls and biases against women that cast them as virgins (good and obedient) and whores or witches (independent and bad). The physical attributes they promote are just more super-icon baloney that pawns our girls' self-esteem to the fashion and beauty industries, and our boys to ideas of stiff-upper-lipped heroism that are equally limiting to their development as emotionally healthy adults.

1/26/2008 1:03:17 AM

Must have been a pretty slow news day at Utne to print this nonsense.

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