I grew up in what I would like to call “The Golden Age of the Disney Princess.” From 1987 (my birth) to present, there have been at least 10 princess-centric Disney films released. That’s not counting sequels and direct release videos. They include:
Beauty and the Beast
Lion King… I’m counting it because I was obsessed with Nahla as a child
Princess Diaries (1 and 2)
Princess and the Frog
As I’ve grown up, the nostalgia towards Disney Princesses have not died. In fact, I’m sure I am not the only 20 something who got a wee bit giddy when she heard that Beauty and the Beast was to be re-released for the super secret Disney vault.
I’ve always assumed Scrooge McDuck guarded the Disney Vault with his visceral Scottish accent and three meddling nephews.
In fact, it is my age group that drives and scorns what myself and others call Disney Princess syndrome.
Disney Princess Syndrome is (not) medically described by symptoms that include:
- An unhealthy obsession with pink and other various jewel tones
- The owning of several +, officially licensed Disney Princess goods
- The ability to sing at least three songs from any of the listed in character voice
- Fostering long term, serious relationships against the will of a Father figure
- Desiring to run away for adventure
- Frequent attempts to talk to small, woodland creatures or household goods
I’d assume Disney Princess Syndrome also includes dressing like Mrs. Potts and other various inanimate objects featured in these movies (found here)
Recently, there have been several crusades against the Disney Princess Brand. After being inducted in the Disney family, the sale of merchandise related to Disney Princess has been over $100 million in 6 years, and has sold over $3.4 billion since the first Disney Princess, Snow White, graced the screens. There is no denying that Disney has created an evil stepmother of a marketing scheme by marketing Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora as a pivotal part of childhood. (source)
Those who fight against the Disney Princess trend look at the emotional stability of the young girls that fall prey to the pastel gowns. There have been several studies that dive in to the emotional or psychological effect that Disney Princess have on elementary aged girls. In every study, doctorate paper, and blog article I’ve seen, nothing has pointed that the idealizing of a pretty in pink life will lead to anything out of the ordinary. In other words, girls do not become an ivory tower, lady in waiting just by being exposed to the stories. Fantasizing about becoming a princess at a young age is just a part of growing up, just as superhero play for boys is common between the age of 4-10.
For all of you DP haters out there, consider that the Disney Princesses have grown and shaped society. Just looking through my list, you can note that many of these princesses have been portrayed as highly intelligent, brave, and independent. All could have stood alone without the romantic element in their stories. And let’s face it, the men in these movies are often quite daft and in need of much more help then the girl using a ancestral dragon to burn the bottoms off of the Huns.
But who, if anyone, is to blame for whatever mixed messages these people protest against? In my opinion, it is the parents, not the marketer who bring on the emphasis of romance over independence in these stories. For centuries, we have told the story of Helen of Troy as one of romance, not of stupidity. Instead of mentioning her long rule and defeat of the Spanish Armada, Queen Elizabeth I is simply known as the Virgin Queen- famous for never marrying a man. It is the parents and teachers who fail to give their children the lesson or to discuss the importance of stories of these famous women.
It is also up to the parents to not project the Disney Princess lifestyle on their young, impressionable youth. Instead of buying only castles and fake lipstick from the Disney Princess Brand, take them to karate (like Mulan), go on a hike (like Pocahontas), sew some doll clothes (as in Enchanted), or learn to cook (Princess and the Frog). Integrate their adolescent obsession in to the world instead of playing into the perceptions that these anti-Disney bloggers and researchers are crusading against. It is the only cure without a total loss of the Disney culture- one that I would be especially sad to loose.