Monday, May 20, 2013

Disney Princesses and Politics

Parenting is a minefield. Everything you do is open to criticism from the peanut gallery, and every decision, no matter inconsequential to you, is some sort of political statement. You thought you were just buying a fruit pouch because your kid likes them and you can stuff it in a diaper bag without it going bad in the Texas heat.* But no, you are actually rejecting the home food music and you should be blending fresh fruit in a processor at home, you monster.

*The fruit pouch, not the baby. Babies will spoil if left in a diaper bag in the Texas heat. 

One of the ways to navigate this minefield, or at least the one that works for me, is to not give a shit. If you think I’m a bad parent for giving my kid gluten, well, there’s really not a whole lot you can do about it. I will note your disapproval in my diary. But the big thing here is to follow that old cliché and not sweat the small stuff. The key is figuring out what is the small stuff.

This week’s tempest in a teapot is Merida being named a Disney princess. Now, I rather enjoyed the film, but I can’t say I’m much emotionally invested in the Disney marketing team’s official princess designations. I thought she was already a Disney princess by A) appearing in a Disney film and B) being a princess. The thought she might have to later be inducted into the Disney Princess Hall of Fame or something never really occurred to me. Then again, you don’t see many Princess Eilonwy toys despite The Black Cauldron being awesome.

Anyway, an online petition actually worked, as Disney backed down from its attempted makeover of Merida.  Fans of Merida objected to her makeover and Disney, in the business of actually selling things to people, listened to the marketplace.

As the parent of a little girl, I’m sensitive to the images that my daughter is subjected to. I don’t want her sexualized at an early age and I know I’m fighting a losing battle against a lifetime of body issues. Thanks, Hollywood. But I just couldn’t care less about this one.

First off, it’s a picture. The LP is not gonna play with a picture, she’s gonna play with the toys. Right now, she loves her Disney princess castle. It plays music, it has a tea kettle that blows steam, and she can put her princess toys in any of the rooms she wants as they chill out and do whatever princesses do on the days off. She loves it. And the princess figures aren’t tall and skinny, they are short and fat, so they can fit in the designed holes to make them dance.

Let’s stress this fact. The one Disney princess toy my daughter owns has a short and fat Snow White. Now, somewhere there is marketing image of Snow White giving Prince Charming a come hither look, but the LP doesn’t care, because she doesn’t know about it. Same here. And her conception of Snow White and Cinderella do not come from a marketing package, but from the movies, which we have on DVD and can watch over and over and over.

We own Brave, too. To the L’il Poseur, that is Merida, not some image on the internet she will likely never see. So chill out people. This is one of those things that isn’t a big deal. Besides, your complaints are stupid and inaccurate. I’ll quote the petition:

“Merida was the princess that countless girls and their parents were waiting for — a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure with her bow at the ready. She was a princess who looked like a real girl, complete with the ‘imperfections’ that all people have,” it says.

Anyone see the problem? Anyone?

Yeah, apparently the authors of this petition have never seen a Disney film made in the past 30 years.

OK, I grant you that Snow White is a problematic heroine. She spends half of the movie in a coma, waiting for someone to come save her. She gets top billing, and she only exists as a prop to move the action, as more interesting characters make decisions and affect the action. The woodland creatures thing is pretty neat, but I do have to admit that I don’t want my daughter looking up to an empty headed girl like Snow White, pining away that one day her prince will come.

But I haven’t been waiting for a “strong, confident, self-rescuing princess” because those already exist. Belle is a smart, confident, bookish girl who rejects the oafish town strong man to create her own destiny, and makes serious sacrifices to save her father. Nala and the lionesses actually run the kingdom in The Lion King. Pocahontas literally lives in the woods and is pretty darn self-sufficient. And she rejects the love interest in the end. And, oh, Mulan raises a friggin’ army.

The idea that Disney has been churning out swooning princesses waiting for their prince to come save them is completely contrary to the movies they have made in my lifetime. Sure, they still churn out the occasional Ariel, but it takes all different strokes to move the world.

Merida was not the first Disney princess who could go out and find her own adventures and save her own skin. She was just the most recent one. Stop looking for things to bitch about and keep railing against the things that actually need bitching about. Disney has been making positive role models for girls for three decades.

And just because she can shoot a bow and toss a caber… what’s wrong with wanting to wear a pretty dress for a special occasion? Can’t she do both?

1 comment:

brad_blogger said...

Great read, Mr. Baker... as I am a man and only have a son, I only understood 63% of the words you said.