Manic Motherhood at it's FINEST!!

Why "I am NOT a VOLCANO!"

Why "I am NOT a VOLCANO!"
click the volcano for the due explanation
"In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured." — Gordon B. Hinckley
Exaggeration is the spice of life

Book I am Currently Reading: Peter and The Shadow Thief

Monday, March 1, 2010

Touchy Topic Tuesday- Disney Princesses and all the Controversy they Entail

Touchy Topic Tuesday: Disney Princesses and All the Controversy They Entail
(Unless otherwise specified, all pictures are taken from Google images)
Just for fun:
"twisted princess" pics
Slightly Dirty Disney Princes. (Peter Pan is my FAVE, for the record.)

As long as there are girls, parents are going to want to blame something else for their self esteem/image/weight issues.

Now, I have to apologize, because the article I am writing about is long lost. I read it back in December, maybe November, just before The Princess and the Frog came out. It was before I even STARTED my blog, or I would have saved it for sure. I have googled and searched and I cannot find the exact one. However, there is no shortage, whatsoever, of controversial Princess articles. Just google it and click on one. It will suffice.

The article I remember had many points of controversy:

*The new Princess Tiana of Princess and the Frog should be heavier. (Apparently it is not culturally or racially correct for a black girl to be thin.)

*Prince Naveen is not black. He is a mixture of many races including Indian and Cuban. But not black. (I don't really understand why this is controversial...but apparently it is.)

* All the Disney Princesses are apparently too skinny.

*All the Disney Princesses are white, and mostly blond haired with blue eyes- with the exception of Tiana, that is. The writer believed that this was racist on the part of Disney. (I remember this statement specifically because it kind of ticked me off. No, the majority of the princesses are not blond with blue eyes...but I'll get there.)

*All of the princesses are under-age. If it says an age at all, it says they're 16 years old. No 16 year old girl should be running off to marry some guy she is only in love with because he's handsome.

*It's terrible that our little girls are subject to the anti-feminism of being taught that their happiness is completely reliant upon their having a man.

I took my children to see The Princess and the Frog back at the beginning of January, and we all thought it was lovely. The princess is a beautiful, down to earth girl, while Prince Naveen is a slacker, though he learns, with Tiana's help, to be self sufficient. It's cute.

Now, I don't really have any arguments for the first statement. But I wouldn't have any argument if they were saying that racially and culturally a white girl shouldn't be so skinny. ( As highlighted in the second topic.) I'm an American. I see extremely huge black AND white women every day. Yes, the princesses are skinny. But they're cartoons, and a princess, by definition is IDEAL. Each princess, based on the time period is portrayed as the perfect woman. I do not believe that this is to sexualize her, but she is supposed to be a beautiful woman.
The unfortunate thing is that many would call this a case of "the Disappearing Waistline."
Please click here to see the article and where the pictures were taken from.

In My opinion, starting with Pocahontas in 1995, they start to get more realistic. She is neither a slip of a girl, nor is she hefty. And she has hips. Mulan, well, she's slight. She SHOULD be. She's Asian. How many husky Asian girls have you seen walking around China? Looks to me like, in that picture, at least, Tiana has at least some semblance of a booty. The point is, it doesn't matter. If they had MADE her curvier, people would have complained because it was a 'stereotype' or a 'stigma' that black women were heavy.

Anyway, is it really really wrong for our girls to have thin, in shape role models? Every day we battle a failing war against obesity. YES! Our girls should feel comfortable in their skin! But they should NOT feel comfortable with obesity. It's a health risk. It's a silent killer.

All I have to say about Prince Naveen not being black is "So effing what." ~eye roll~ Really, considering the movie's location: New Orleans, Naveen is, by time period definition: Creole. Is it really such a controversial subject? Really? Because in the '20's, when the movie takes place, yeah, most people who lived in New Orleans WERE Creole.

As for the majority of the princesses being blond and blue eyed, well, Aurora and Cinderella are the only two (out of 9- and that's not including the heroines who aren't princesses) who are blond and blue eyed. And it suits. Disney, while they have not stayed true to many of the stories (as many of them have unhappy endings) they HAVE stayed true to the culture the stories first came from:

Snow White: Germany. Hitler prefered blond blue eyed youth. But not all of them were so. NOT TO MENTION- the story is CALLED Snow White because her fair, pale skin and her blood red lips and her pitch black hair are a distinct part of the story.

Cinderella: Vaguely Scandanavian, but suspected to be from Sweden, Cinderella's blond hair and blue eyes are accurate, as is her pale skin.

Aurora, AKA Sleeping Beauty: Medieval England. Again, Blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin suits.

Ariel: Denmark. Red hair and blue eyes are once again accurate. (I know. I'm part Danish. That's where I get my serious red highlights.)

Belle: France. Okay...look at her and TRY to tell me she does not look French.

Jasmine: Again, this one is obvious. She LOOKS like she's from Arabia. Anyway, the story is Aladdin's, not just hers.

Pocahontas: Pocahontas is the first story that is based on history instead of a fantasy. She is Native American, and yes, I do believe she resembles her heritage.

Mulan: Well...Mulan's not really a princess, but her story is also based on historical fact. She is Asian (Chinese) and looks rightly so.

Tiana- Our first black princess, though, the story is originally German. I love the story, and I love Tiana (she may be my FAVORITE!) but she is the first to deviate from the accuracy that Disney has so far followed in the originality of their Princess's physicalities and localities.

When it comes down to it, it's not a racial thing. It's a cultural thing for the most part.

Now, something that is very important to remember, and will include a lot of the topics above because they are, in essence, all part-and-parcel. What people who criticise these stories are not taking into account is that they are very very verrrrrrry old stories. These stories were told to girls back when getting married at 16 years old was normal, if you weren't married earlier. They were told to girls who would never find a Prince, and they knew it. They would never find a lover, even. And the most they could hope for was that he would be gentle. (Think of the song "Matchmaker" from Fiddler On The Roof.)

Many people think it's sexist because the Princesses seem to fall in love with a Prince at first sight. Really, that's exactly what they were hoping for because they did not usually know the man they married, or even see him until their wedding day.

I DO, however, agree whole heartedly that a little girl should never think that her happiness depends on a man. Though, I have to say that I do not feel that MY daughters are achieving this kind of complex by watching the Princesses. (Lilly has every single dress up gown, except for Jasmine's and Tianas, just because we haven't gotten to them yet.) Though I think that probably has more to do with the way her mother allows her father treat her than it has to do with her watching a princess movie, and feeling the hope that she might someday find the ONE she belongs with.

Likewise with the body image and self worth. It relies more on her mother than it ever will on an animated princess.

The way I see it is, every little girl, whether she is a feminist, or submissive, or passive aggressive, is going to grow up and find a man. Wouldn't you rather her be looking for a man who treats her like a princess than a man who ignores her because they are both so independent that they don't have time for each other? My husband is not stifling or controlling in any way. And he DOES treat me like a princess. (I guess the movies ruined me.)

I suggest parents stop worrying about the subtle, negative subliminal messages your daughter might contrive in watching a prince swoop in to the rescue, and think about the look on your daughter's face when she sees "true love's" perfect first kiss.

Honestly, the subtle things about the Disney Princess movies that DO bother me are things like:
*Why are all the mothers dead? (perhaps because this was also a norm in the times the stories were told originally. MANY more women died in childbirth then than they do today.)

*Why are all step-mothers evil? (Possibly because 1.a step mother was a relationship they could identify with, knowing my possible answer from the above topic, or 2. To easily create a villain without making the girl's own mother the one to hurt her.)

THESE are things that my children have actually asked me about. Never have I seen my daughter behave in such a way that I fear that she will be submissive (on the contrary, she is stubborn and bull headed to no end.) to a man, and daily, we talk about how beautiful, smart and kind she is.

Speaking of kindness, all of the princesses are famous for their kindness. And princesses such as Belle, Mulan, Pocahontas, and Tiana, are obviously very intelligent girls. I don't feel that this, in any way, can be considered a kind of setback.

All in all, I think that when my daughters COULD be into Bratz dolls, they ARE into Princesses. There are a lot of worse things out there than childhood love stories.


Now let us know what YOU think! Do you think Disney Princesses are a bad influence? Do you think they're a good influence? How about issues such as race, age and weight? I'd love to know!
REMEMBER: PLAY NICE! We all want to respect each other around here!!


Buckeroomama said...

I don't think Disney princesses are a bad influence per se. I grew up loving the fairy tales, but thst didn't make me want to have blond hair and blue eyes. Yes, I had dreams of living in a castle and riding away into the sunset on a white horse with my Prince Charming, but so what? :) You are right in that the parents do have a role in what their children's take-away from each movie is.

Casey said...

APPLAUSE APPLAUSE... I give you a standing ovation for this post. I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to write this but couldn't because I couldn't get the words out kindly or in a way that could really tell how I feel. My girls love anything Disney, probably because I love anything Disney, and the Princesses are a staple in our house. I have to agree that I want them to look to their father and I for relationship advice and body image. I think it is wrong if a child only has TV to look to for advice on how to treat a woman or man and how to view yourself. It is part of being a parent.

Again, applause to you!

Casey said...

Oh, I forgot to add this... I can't tell you how many times people question me on the fact that I am a Christian and let me kids watch The Disney Princess movies and other Disney stuff. I don't get that and don't think that by letting them watch these things or like them that I am lessening my faith in any way. I guess I just don't view the films as being life lessons for my children I just view them as entertainment.

Lindsey said...

Great post, Brae! The only danger I really see in our adoration of the Disney princesses, and all fairy tales for that matter (the romanticized ones~ I wouldn't want to play leading lady in many of the Grimm's fairy tales) is that it can lead to an unrealistic understanding of love and marriage and relationships with members of the opposite sex in general. However,this is not something to worry a 4 year old over, or even a ten year old. Like you said, it is a parent's responsibility to be sensitive to how ANYTHING is affecting their child and be accountable for providing understanding into the realities of life.

I love the princesses, I love their cultures and personalities and I would much rather my daughter identify with a princess than with a BRAT. People are ridiculous sometimes and need to make issues for the sake of making issues instead of appreciating creativity and realizing that Disney's legacy is one of integrity and family values.

Pam, mom, honey, said...

i have a love hate relationship with princesses for all of the reasons you have mentioned above. it is hard because i see my little girls trying to act like the princesses. so i think i have to keep open communication. after they watch a little princess movie we talk about what real women are. we talk about the positives are in my marriage and how i could be a better wife

Kristyn said...

I am here. I am reading. I have LOTS to say :o) and now I have to drive my kids to school ! ! It always works like that I guess :o) I'll be back.

Anonymous said...

My youngest is in LOVE with the Princess' and loves to dress like them everyday when we get home from school/work. Personally I have no problem with it. My oldest LOVED Bratz dolls. That I HAD a problem with! I would much rather my youngest be infatuated with Disney then any other forms of dolls, including Barbies. :)

I'm NOT a VOLCANO! said...

Lindsey- you could be very right. I think that unrealistic expectations of marriage and love are a big tribute to divorce rates today. But I also think that when a child is old enough for media to affect the way they think about love, I am not going to be worried about Disney Princesses anymore. Little girls stop caring about that in their pre-teensish. I'm more worried about things like "High School Musical" and "Twilight" and such. Even then- let a girl swoon a little. LOL.


Ms. LaPointe said...

Wow. I've never been even remotely interested in Disney (I just don't like animation) but reading this post was super informative and I LOVE that you took the time to carefully consider the original source and the secondary sources before drawing and then presenting your comment/conclusions.

Save this for your children - it is a great source for them to turn into a research essay some far off day!

Jamie said...

I think Disney princesses get the blame for the unrealistic stereotypes and expectations in our culture. I'm torn. I loved Disney movies as a child (I still think I can quote the entire Beauty and the Beast movie), but I can see and agree with some of the criticism against them.

I don't think the movies or the princesses themselves are the problem. I think the problem is that the market is FLOODED with these types of movies, and not much else. At least for girls. Look at the Pixar movies: Up, Wall-E, Cars, Ratatouille, Toy Story, Bug's Life, The Incredibles. In ALL of these, the main character is a boy or a man (or a male-gendered animal or robot). Sure there's occasionally the awesome Violet's or Jessie's, but they are clearly side characters. If the story is about a girl, most of the time, it will be a princess story. That sends the message that to be important or worth something (as a girl), you need to fit into that princess mold: be pretty (thin), fall in love with a boy, and get married. Even with the slightly more progressive princesses: Mulan, Tiana, and Pocahontas, a dominant part of their story is related to falling in love with a man. The only princess that doesn't end up with a man, Pocahontas, is in arguably the least successful Disney movie and is rarely considered part of the "pantheon" of Princesses. (Mulan is also often left out.)

There are girls that will grow up and not ever find Prince Charming. It could be a result of circumstances beyond their control or as a personal choice. I just wish there were more movies that showed that there are happy endings for those little girls too.

Jamie said...

Here is a link for a great Princess-related photo project, that explores some of these issues:

I'm NOT a VOLCANO! said...

Jamie- this is a great point. My girls ADORE all those movies just as they do the princess movies, but I think you have a point. I wracked my brain trying to think of some movies taht have girls in them without love being the main point, but all I could think of is Monsters VS. Aliens

Still, I think a reason this could be true is not because Disney (or pixar or anyone) feels like our girls only goal in life should be love, but because commonly, it IS a subject of interest in a girl's life. Honestly, I ahve been in love with the idea of being in love since I was very young,a nd the boys didn't seem to feel the same way about ANY girl until highschool or so. And wasn't into the princesses until I had kids and we were planning a DisneyWorld trip and I thought they should know some of the characters.

Jamie said...

The more I think about Mulan, the more I think it's a really good example of a story for a girl that isn't centered around a love interest. The love interest is more of an after-thought. And I don't want ALL love interests taken out of movies. Even the boy-centered movies have love interests, in fact, it'd probably be just as hard to think of a story with a male character that doesn't involve love.

There are some really great movies in anime, especially from Hayao Miyazaki. Movies like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke have amazing female main characters in very empowering stories. Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo have heavy romance themes, but they are done in ways that don't always fit that perfect American-Disney princess mold. If you haven't seen his movies you should really check them out. They are distributed by Disney with really good English dubs, plus they are gorgeously animated.

melissa said...

my girls LOVE princesses and i'm generally okay with that. but i REFUSE to let them watch little mermaid. i just cannot abide the thought of them watching a movie where the 'heroine' GIVES UP HER VOICE and must win the princes heart WITH HER BODY! NO THANK YOU!!!

Lourie said...

Here's my two cents...let them watch those lovely princesses. Let BE those beautiful girls who are kind and sing to birds. Here's why: by age 7(if you are lucky!) they are going to give them up for something else. I was crushed the day my little middle turned her nose up to a shirt with Cinderella on it. She was 8. Enjoy it.

Muthering Heights said...

What a HUUUUGE topic to tackle!!

I wonder what Disney critics have to say about the newer animated movies...the women in those films practically disappear!!

Sarah said...

WOW! I really love this post! I was going to say something about eras but I think you pretty much covered all the bases. And as far as criticizing for Tiana size - What about the thin black girls that feel out of place because culturally they have been known to enjoy heavier women? I really think the complaining is just that, complaining. It's noise pollution. Very informative!

Bathwater said...

You can not apply standards of today to movies made in the 1930, 40 and 50's either. The fact that these movies are still popular is a testament to how generic they are not how dated.

smh said...

Holy cow I think this is brilliant. I live in a house of boys, so I haven't battled this personally. But I love your approach to what is - in my opinion - a pretty ridiculous debate. Bravo!

Dolli-Mama said...

I love the disney princesses! I think it is important to teach our children the difference between fantasy and reality. They will learn about real life from US, not from princess movies. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with sitting down and having a little "Cinderella" time. I have always thought the debate was quite dumb.

Missy said...

Great Post,Brae. I love the Disney Princesses & my daughter loves them too.
I agree with what Jamie said about Mulan and also about the Hayao Miyazaki movies.

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