It's the End of the Disney Princess Fairy Tale, But It Ain't Happily Ever After
By Suzanne Reisman on November 23, 2010
BlogHer Original Post
Once upon a time, in a magical land with more or less excellent public transportation, lived a woman on a ground floor apartment facing the street. One day as her practically-clad feet glided down the sidewalk, she stopped to marvel at an advertisement in a bus shelter. The ad depicted what she thought was a very mean-looking cartoon female sneering through a mass of yellow-blond hair with a handsome cartoon guy at her side. It seemed that the ad was for the newest Disney Princess Spectacular Extravaganza Event Designed to Make Girls Everywhere Squeal and Beg for Toys and Princess Costumes, Tangled, which she thought was about Rapunzel, so she was surprised that the ad featured a lady villain.* She shrugged and continued on her way into the enchanted tunnel known as the subway, which features rats with super powers that enable them to eat through concrete and metal and walk on electrified rails. (They interested her much more, anyway.)
Then, in a truly hair-raising twist, the woman learned from the LA Times that Disney is ending the Princess Spectacular Extravaganza Event Designed to Make Girls Everywhere Squeal and Beg for Toys and Princess Costumes era. After their last movie, The Princess and the Frog which featured Disney’s first African-American Princess (and as Melissa at Latinapop points out, a working class girl who has more than one job) performed poorly compared to other Princess films, they decided to change the name of the Rapunzel flick to Tangled and beef up the beefcake’s role in order to appeal to “wider audiences.” (Ellen Keim at Femagination wonders what evil force brainwashed the powers-that-be at Disney into forgetting that there were no “problems with audience identification” in past films featuring female character names in the title.) The next step was not to make movies that they felt only appealed to “little girls” for the foreseeable future.
The woman digested this news while sitting on her microfiber lavender sofa (selected, she wants to point out, by her Prince Charming). She was both gleeful and enraged. Like many of the wicked witches (aka feminists) who ruin everything fun in the kingdom, she had no real love for the underlying sexism, racism, and classism of the various Disney Princess Spectacular Extravaganza Events Designed to Make Girls Everywhere Squeal and Beg for Toys and Princess Costumes. (Domestic dilettante, feminist shrew Meghan Conrad has her own excellent story about a quest and these issues.) The Princesses, in fact, kind of made her want to barf up fairy dust with all their feistiness, teensy waistlines, flawless faces, and beautiful flowing tresses. (The woman more resembled the Princesses’ various squat, furry or scaly sidekicks and admired with their courage and loyalty to their friends.)
Still. The woman was disturbed that Disney decided that it is not worth making products that they thought would only appeal to “little girls.” Obviously, they’d been doing quite well exploiting this audience (and more -- even in the strangest world, little girls do not go to movies by themselves and purchase all of the merchandise on their own), so the woman did not believe that this was the real reason. She saw some evil magic at work, like the idea that boys are not interested in things that appeal to girls and that the only things that appeal to girls involve lots and lots of pink. Her very good friend had two sons who loved Disney Princesses (which made the woman cringe -- not because they were boys who loved Disney Princesses but because she was then forced to have discussion about Disney Princesses and play Disney Princesses with them). She wanted Disney Princesses to be banished to another realm, which is ironic because now that she got her wish, she regretted it, sort of like in a Disney Princess story.
The woman turned again to the magical world of blogs, where no one seemed to be rejoicing at the vanquishing of the Princesses. Samantha Royce at Hepburn Girls pleads, “Dear Disney, please go back to making movies like Beauty and the Beast. Girls need positive role models. You can make princess movies and still appeal to boys...” The woman who lives far away in the ground floor apartment agrees. Everyone needs positive role models, and it is as good for boys to see strong female characters as it is for girls. Perhaps only in a fairy tale did Disney accomplish that in the past, but her fondest wish is to see this come to pass. Where’s the fairy godmother now? (On the cutting room floor! Woe is she!)
*Later she was even more surprised to learn that the character with the super mean green eyes in the ad is Rapunzel. Perhaps making her a mean girl is part of the evil plan to appeal to boys? The woman does not understand.
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