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I heard on the radio the other day that the Disney Princess business is a 4 billion dollar industry and well on it's way to becoming one of the most successful marketing strategies in history. There is a woman who has written a book about it in which she suggests that it is a trend that has very negative consequences for girls and woman, and I agree. The marketing philosophy is that all girls want to be princesses and even when they grow up, still want to be princesses and will therefore spend mountains of money on items from tiaras to ball gowns in an attempt to come as close as they can to being Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella or some other beauteous and entirely apocryphal girly royalty.
When I was young, we liked the fantasy of crowns and beautiful dresses, but it was in a far less elaborate or intense way. When we played dress up we went to the box of scarves and our mothers' old dresses, petticoats, and nightgowns to put together a princess costume. I think I remember having a tiara, although it was pretty simple and not studded with rhinestones. I think my mother threw it together with a headband, glass beads, and a lot of Elmer's Glue. Today, thanks to those wild-eyed marketers, girls can dress up in outfits straight out of a Hollywood costume department because their mothers and grandmothers spent outrageous amounts of money acquiring them. They don't need to use their imagination or be creative, they can just go to the closet and pull out their miniature exact replica of whatever their favorite princess wears.
The princess fixation is not a new thing, of course, a modern wedding, after all, is the princess dream of many a young maiden and always has been. For one short moment in any girl's life she is dressed like a princess and the absolute center of attention, no matter whether she has ever resembled a princess or not or ever will again. The wedding dress is, after all, just a grown up version of the princess dress we all had, or wanted to have, when we were little. You can even wear a tiara and no one will laugh at you, or at least, not out loud. You get to be princess for a day and don't ever have to smash a champagne bottle on the bow of a ship or appear at a charity event.
In theory, the whole princess gig should be harmless enough, girls like pretty dresses, lovely flowing hair, talking and singing animals, and handsome princes, who doesn't? What bothers me is how monolithic it has become and how an entire industry is making a bunch of grown men filthy rich because they are feeding, manipulating, and capitalizing on the silly obsessions of little girls. Yuck. I saw Cinderella in the movie theater when I was a little girl and on TV when Disney had it's Sunday evening show for years, but now little girls have DVD's of their princesses that they watch, evidently, on the average of 57 times a year. How can that possibly be a good idea? On some psychological level that has got to be princess overload.
In the book about the over saturation of the princess mentality, the author suggested that being a princess has become such a fixation that girls carry it over into adolescence where it morphs into the Diva obsession, a rather nasty bit of business that creates demanding and unpleasant young women who think they are entitled to all manner of privileges because they are beautiful and wear nice clothes. Even the ones who aren't particularly beautiful and dress like very naughty pop singers who end up in rehab. These kinds of girls, who are often unkind, verbally abusive, and arrogant, are called, 'Princess Bullies'. I'm willing to buy that since I have come into contact with more than a few over the years of raising my children. They exist.
When my daughter was 4 I took her and her brother to see a re-release of Cinderella. When we were walking to the car afterward I asked her how she liked the movie. She informed me, in the strongest possible tone, that she hated it. I was shocked. I asked her why.
“Cinderella was a wimp,” she informed me.
She was right, Cinderella was a wimp. She let that horrible step-mother and those nasty step-sisters push her around and make her do all the work and never fought back. All she did was clean up their messes and wait around for some prince and a magical fairy to come and save her because, after all, she was beautiful. She should have saved herself, or at least tried. Out of the mouths of babes. My daughter liked to play dress up, but from a very young age she figured out the whole princess thing was a giant fantasy and she was not then, nor is she now, anybody's fool. She may never have had much in the way of royal ambitions, but she will always be my princess and I feel confident she has as good a shot at happily ever after as anyone who ever wore a tiara.
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