Monday, March 11, 2013

When "princess" is a bad word

For this week's family movie night, Abby chose Disney's Snow White.  Up to this point, we've mostly relied on animal documentaries like March of the Penguins and Disney's nature series (which are GREAT).  My child isn't ready for the movie theater quite yet, though; she's a jabberer.  Constant questions.  Constant commentary.  Still, it's good conversation.

It took us three nights to get through all of Snow White, all 84 minutes of it.  On movie nights, we like to get Abby into her jammies and ready for bed before we have some tv time.  She chose this movie undoubtedly because she has the Snow White book on her bookshelf, which was given to her when my niece got too big for them.  She also has the books for Hercules, Spirit of the Cimmaron, Beauty and the Beast, Aladin, and probably others.  Apparently, my niece likes this kind of thing.  As for us, we would be perfectly happy to not have any of the princess-y, Disney, uber-marketed producting in our house for our kids.  But here, they're just books, and that's not all bad, right??

Right...

Except for the overt weakening of female characters.
Except for the false masculinization of flat characters who still somehow save the day.
Except for the (really) scary evil characters.
Except for the adult themes.
Except for the Barbie-esque illustrations.
Except for how girls are now labeled and assumed to be a "princess" in the same vein as these stories.

Actually, we have some decided issues with this whole pantheon of children's entertainment.  We are those parents

Lest you think that I spent all of the movie seething and biting my tongue, fear not.  Abby and I enjoyed watching it together.  I kept my negative opinions to myself, and she was full-out laughing quite a bit.  (She's apparently a big fan of the dwarfs.  Slapstick comedy is not lost on this little one.)  But Snow White is not high on my list of favorite children's characters.  She's completely inept (except at housework), she's mincing, she's demanding, and she's ignorant.  I know that this movie was created in a wholly different era, but still...hello, stranger danger?!?  Does she really need to prettily hold out her skirt and bend flirtatiously when she is knocking ever so daintily on the dwarfs' door before she barges in and (inexplicably) takes over the house?

Snow White aside, I find myself talking about death and killing more than I want to now.  I'm not being hypocritical here because obviously while I could simply get rid of these books and encourage other television choices, I'm trying to use these moments as an avenue to talk with my child about dangers.  For a healthy three-year old, there is no true sense of what it is to either kill someone or what it means to die.  She sees the fish floating in the tank and skips on by, oblivious to how it won't start moving again.  I know that we need to address these topics, but I don't much enjoy it when I see pictures of guns in the books (what, Dr. Seuss?) and the evil queen falling off a ledge to her inevitable doom.

Maybe this is why I loathe it when others, especially strangers, so quickly smack the "princess" label on our daughters because they're girls.  We're doing our best to raise two girls who are anything but these prissy prima donnas, and there's no chance that the magical animated hand of Disney is going to swoop in at the pivotal moment with a well placed Prince Charming. 

As long as the mass marketed stuff stays with the occasional tv time, then we can live with it.  (I still don't think I'm being that hypocritical, but we do enjoy some Thomas and Super Why around our house though these brands both fall under the "mass marketed" label as well.  The message just isn't the same...)  Our daughters will just have to deal with the disappointment of not having princess sheets and princess dress-up costumes, though.  I'm sure they'll be fine.   

1 comment:

Crystal said...

You said it, sister! Way to raise strong, independent and intelligent, beautiful girls. You rock!