|DD and SI in pretty dresses|
I love cousin LaLa. I appreciate how much she loves the girls and that she wants to make them happy, and I understand why she brought Cinderella into our house. That said...
I despise Princesses. I hate Disney Princesses in particular. I understand them for the most part, which is to say I appreciate the appeal that they have for little girls, but I can't watch a Disney Princess movie without wanting to throw bricks through my TV so that it never shills that crap again.
Allow me to explain.
As I have previously pointed out, children are constantly learning. Constantly. They learn from everything that we do. From every experience. From every dumb cartoon.
So let's examine the lessons of two Disney Princesses I've spent the most time with these last few weeks. Cinderella and Belle.
Cinderella has a crappy lot in life. She's essentially the slave of her wicked stepmother and spoiled brats of stepsisters.
|She could be getting paid for this.|
That said, she's a complete nincompoop.
Cinderella has SKILLS, seriously. She can sew itsy bitsy mouse clothes. She can balance trays loaded with full pots of hot tea on her head. Surely, she could have found a job- a paid job, as a maid in a much more wealthy household. One where she'd be treated with a modicum of respect. The fact that she continues to live with her horrible family is evidence only of her complete lack of imagination.
She relies on the assistance of a handful of, most likely, brain damaged mice. She seems to suffer from some chronic amnesia that makes her forget her family are underhanded, manipulative jerks.
What are Cinderella's assets? She's pretty. That's the most important. She can sing, that makes her even more appealing. She's meek. She never complains to her horrible family. She's obedient. She knows how to cook and clean and sew. These skills make her an ideal bride.
Yes, she's very kind. That's the best thing she has going for her. In fact, the moral is intended to be that if you ARE very kind, things will work out for you. But they don't.
Thanks to her kindness, one can assume, she acquires a Fairy Godmother. The fairy godmother is another paragon of feminine virtue- she's asexual, she's also very kind, and she is crafty.
Now, I have nothing against craftiness. I'm crafty. But this is absolutely the best thing that any woman in this movie has going for her. The women in this movie, from the Fairy Godmother at best to the evil stepsisters at worst, are awful.
Not just because the evil stepmother is an emotionally abusive, manipulative, cruel jerk. Which she is.
But because, as in all Disney Princess movies, they all despise each other. All except the fairy godmother, who's willing to help Cinderella out with a trivial party but not with the misery of her daily existence.
|The Grand Duke fears for his life.|
Even the stepsisters are always at each others throats.
Male characters can have male friends and sidekicks, female characters can have male friends and sidekicks, but there are no female friends, no female sidekicks. Because every woman is out for herself. There is no sisterhood in Disney. The only female characters in ANY Disney movie that seem to actually like each other are the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty... and they're always bickering with each other, they keep Briar Rose captive, and they're completely desexualized. Any woman in a Disney movie with any kind of sexual identity is automatically at war with every other woman who might be a sexual competitor. But I digress.
What does the Fairy Godmother do for Cinderella? Does she free her from her awful, manipulative, underhanded stepmother? No, she just helps Cinderella move from one abusive situation to another. From a matriarch with a knack for inflicting emotional pain to the home of the king- a homicidal maniac who constantly tries to behead his best allies.
...and that's the happy ending. The happy ending is that Cinderella can use her sewing, cleaning, and hot-teapot-balancing skills to please her new husband and his maniac of a father. Joy of joys.
Now, let's talk about Belle.
Unlike Cinderella, Belle is supposed to be smart. You know this because she likes books. All girls who like books are smart. But that's not what's most important. What's most important is that she's the biggest egotist in the movie.
In a movie that seems, on the surface, to be about how egoism is bad.
|Date rape is the stuff of Disney comedy.|
Belle shows her true colors after Gaston's frankly terrifying attempt to all but rape Belle in her father's house. After all the inappropriate sexual advances, after physically intimidating her, disrespecting her, and letting her know exactly where he thinks her PLACE is, what is Belle's response?
Does she decry his sexism? His sexual inappropriateness? His threats of violence?
No. She merely expresses her outrage that somebody as dumb as that could think that she, SHE, could DEMEAN herself by marrying him. Because she is SO much better.
In short, her ego leaves no room for his ego.
There's a bonus moral in that movie- love doesn't count unless you say it out loud. One can presume that Belle loved the Beast before confessing when she believed he was dead. But the magic spell could only be broken once she went ahead and told his cold, lifeless body. So our emotions have no validity unless we share them. Or, at least, until a man can tell us that he accepts our feelings as meaningful.
|DD playing dress up|
That said, I'm not stopping them from watching those stupid movies. As horrible as those lessons are, I don't think they're actually hurting my children. Yet.
...part of that has to do with the commentary that comes from Mommy while Cinderella pleads with her stepmother to let her out and marry the prince. (Cinderella says, "Oh you can't! You just can't!" Becoming SuperMommy says, "Not going to bargain? Not going to offer her fabulous wealth once you're the queen? Not going to start SCREAMING OUT THE WINDOW? Isn't there an officer of the law RIGHT OUTSIDE?")
As I said, and you no doubt don't believe, I get it. I get why little girls are into Princesses. They have pretty dresses, they get to dance and sing, everybody loves them (except the bad guys). They get rescued, they fall in love, they live happily ever after. There's dress up, there's magic, there's attention.
Aside from that, there are absolutely no redeeming qualities.
But I'm letting my girls have their stupid Princesses for now, because I can control the saturation. And more importantly, I can introduce them to other outlets for those impulses that don't involve simply being the prettiest, most well dressed girl in the room.
There's historical fiction. 100 years ago, women and girls wore pretty dresses every day. I remember reading the Little House books, and wanting to go get my OWN calico, and make my OWN pretty dresses. There are the old American Girl books, with girls in pretty dresses riding horses, and sneaking off to play with other children, and getting into trouble. That's an excuse for most Princess things, with the added bonus of kind of being educations. And not nearly so self aggrandizing.
|SI playing dress up at snack time|
And Princesses are all about a sense of entitlement.
So I'm gritting my teeth, and watching Cinderella on a regular basis. SI gets her week or so of total obsession (and to be fair, she's been very sick and sort of living on the couch with her sinus infection and croup), and then we'll move on to other things. Healthier things.
But you can bet your ass there will be no Disney Princesses sheets, paper plates, or themed parties in my house. At least until my children are able to buy that schlock with their own allowances.
I just want to say, there are exceptions to the Princess tripe. Princess Fiona is top of the list of Princesses that don't make me want to vomit. But again... that's not Disney.