I am predominately referring to the animated variety, you know the type: the princess’s lifelong happiness is contingent on being rescued, the poor prince a mere means to an end.
Allow me to elaborate. Cinderella has it pretty tough right? At the mercy of evil step-ma and step sissies, psychologically battered and bashed, physically pushed to ever more housekeeping extremes, her only hope of release is her fortuitous attendance, facilitated by magical godma, at the local kingdom’s female exhibition ball.
You know the rest: across a crowded room, blah blah, prince doesn’t even learn her name until after the shoe fits, (lucky for her she’s the only gal in the neighborhood possessing itty bitty feet), they marry and live happily ever after… So what’s the problem?
Only the underlying theme of powerless girl incapable of taking control of her own circumstances. Get Out Of The House! Leave. Go. Now. She could open her own cottage cleaning business, be a live in housemaid for someone who pays– why stay in the matriarchic abusive environment?
And the rest? Snow White? Victim. Sleeping Beauty? Victim. The Little Mermaid? Victim. Jasmine? Victim. Even Belle from The Beauty and the Beast is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.
Exceptions? Pocahontas, absolutely. Although in truth when she met Captain John Smith she was only thirteen, not quite the svelte young woman Disney portrayed. I wish I could add Mulan, but technically she’s not a princess and the addition of the comedic male dragon does diminish her as an example of self-reliance. And the new gal on the block? The frog princess? I will admit to being pleased to finally have an African-American represented, but she falls into the trap of hoping that a philandering egomaniac (the prince) will change his ways through the love of a good woman.
So why does it matter? When a million+ girls watch the movies a million+ times while deciding who they want to be, there’s bound to be an impact. I’ve seen that impact firsthand as friends and family buy into a $million+ industry that touts cartoonified girls with muppet-proportioned faces, big hair and obscenely tiny waists on everything from backpacks to dishware. Pretty princess faces pasted everywhere.
How about keeping some perspective? To get that waist you have to remove a few ribs from your lower ribcage. (picture credit “Bizarre Plastic Surgery from Elfin Ears to Rib Resectifin,” Ben Goldman, April 29, 2009, http://guidetoplasticsurgery.com/bizarre-plastic-surgery-from-elven-ears-to-rib-resections/ )
To be rescuable (invented word) you need to forgo that kickboxing self-defense class you were thinking about taking. You should wish upon a star for true love to magically find you rather than putting yourself out there, and why pursue college, career and independence- won’t prince charming take care of all your needs?
And what of all those really great guys that are not quite princes and not quite charming? Should they be passed over just because they don’t want to or can’t save you? Absolutely not! But trying to live up to princely expectations: prefect hair, chiseled features, and prowess with a blade, has got to be intimidating– I bet a lot of the good guys don’t even put their hat in the princess’s ring, so to speak.
So ladies keep it real– the guy working along side you cleaning pet cages at the local humane society could be “the one”, but not if you’re waiting to be saved. I’ll take the guy who prefers my low-maintenance ways, large thighs and sloppy house-keeping skills– but in exchange, I better be accepting of his less than perfect visage, economy car and propensity to belch his name.
In the words of Cameron Diaz, “I’d kiss a frog even if there was no promise of a Prince Charming popping out of it. I love frogs.”