Fairytale princesses don’t fade into the past with our childhoods. Oh no. They lead thriving, frolicsome lives on the Internet. For real, those chicks got their happily ever afters. Congratulations to them. But that doesn’t make them any less vapid.
Something I will always recall from college: the famous, whimsical pack of fairytale Disney princesses. This is a strange phenomenon. Throughout my four years living on campus, I’d walk through dorm halls and what would I see? Images of Disney princesses taped to the outside of girls’ doors. Pages from coloring books. A popular recreational activity was to express yourself by filling in Disney princess outlines with crayons, colored pencils, markers, the blood of your enemies, etc. And I’m pretty sure there was a Disney princess karaoke party in the student union last year, but I must have blacked out. People are really obsessed with certain aspects of their childhoods, which is an understandable reaction to the stress of almost-adult life. If that’s fun for you, keep at it. I’m writing my observations, not condemnations. The Disney princess trend amongst people in their late teens and early-mid twenties does not necessarily signify immaturity. But ironically, it’s not charming– unless you incorporate the blood of your enemies into your little art hobby.
I have had a Facebook account since middle school, and the constant presence of Disney princesses was not in my newsfeed back then or throughout high school. Perhaps this is because Harry Potter was still peaking in popularity; weren’t those the days? Well-written characters doing well-written things! But the Harry Potter film franchise wrapped up, and then this overrated movie Frozen seized the Oscar and reminded us of our true golden days of Disney princess glory! Over the past few years, probably depending on your friend demographic, Disney princesses have been inescapable; oftentimes, Buzzfeed is the culprit. Those damn quizzes. No longer are we, with bated breath, making sure that we would be placed in Ravenclaw, or that we channel Hermione Granger’s courage and intelligence. The overwhelming question is, “Which Disney princess am I???” Or to make things more interesting, “Which Disney princess wedding should I have???”
But now for the super fun stuff. We love looking through picture galleries, do we not? Feel like looking at various versions of Disney princesses all effing day? You can literally do this, because there are so many. A few examples: Real Life Disney Princess Portraits, Disney Princess Fashion by Decade, Disney Princess College Students, Hipster/Glam/Goth Disney Princesses, Disney Princesses Reimagined as Different Ethnicities, Comic Book Disney Princesses, Disney Princesses with Realistic Waistlines, Vogue Disney Princesses, Disney Princesses Redesigned as Lingerie Models…! I can’t go on. This is a cultural obsession.
People react to these trendy galleries with much glee and praise. And it does not stop here, by any means. Just today, I discovered “Prom Dresses Inspired by Disney Princesses.” And my inspiration for this blog post came yesterday, when I read “13 Inscrutable Requirements to Be a Princess in Disney Parks.” The author, an aspiring Disney (theme park) Princess, wants to bring dreams to life (!!!) so she researched the criteria for working as a costumed actress in Disney World. Ya know, height and size requirements and such. Fascinating. In the comment section, readers recounted their unforgettable interactions with magical Disney-approved actresses who didn’t make it to Broadway.
Everything in the comment section was sunshine and lollipops. Until one commenter, Lyndsie, ruined the fun for everyone: “It’s kinda not fair for a size 18 like me who dreams of being a Disney Princess not to be allowed to because of size. This is why they need a plus size Disney princess. So girls like me can actually have a dream that’s possible.” Hold up. This person’s most passionate dream of all is to dress up, hug little children, and smile till her face just cracks open from the pressure. She responds to the inevitable fat-shamers by explaining that a heart condition prevents her from losing weight to meet the standards. The fat-shamers then tell her to accept her fate. Lyndsie then performs the most important monologue of her life: “No I won’t accept it. And no I’ll never get over it. That’s not a true Disney fanatic…Honestly Disneyland or World would just be the coolest place. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it small places like play Elsa around town (like last year) or be Belle in a musical.”
That’s the spirit, Lyndsie. But why are you such a Disney fanatic if they are so rigid about the appearance required to attain a dainty crown, a ridiculous wig, or a mermaid fin? When Frozen came out, I was pretty astounded that the female characters were more perfect looking than ever. Because of that, I questioned the integrity of the story. Dear Frozen, you’re not impressing me with the cliche “embrace the strength of your womanhood” message. The aesthetically flawless femininity betrays your attempt at edginess or feminism and reveals that something is holding you back from more creative character design.
Lyndsie, your dream is kind of crazy from my perspective, but it is still valid. Our experiences affect our psyches, and our psyches affect our aspirations. I just suspect she has fallen victim to the trendy psychological condition that causes unwarranted passion for these wholesome female icons from our childhoods. Some call them role models, though I don’t see why. I mean it, Disney princesses are some of the most vapid characters. Reading books and having Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t make you a role model. Giving up your voice so that you can meet a hot guy does not make you a role model. Pricking your finger on a spindle does not make you a role model. Shacking up with seven dwarfs and keeping things tidy…well that kind of does make you a role model.
Anyway. If you need cartoon females to fill some void in your life, plenty of interesting, well-rounded female cartoon characters exist who are not Disney princesses. This includes other Disney characters and non-Disney characters alike. My personal favorite is Anastasia. :)
But people, by nature, like collections. Disney princesses come in a neat little package full of predetermined color pallets and hairstyles. People like neat little packages tied up with bows. The neat little princess collection, as uninspiring as it actually is, satisfies our longing for control. Identifying one’s favorite princess out of the collection adds another level of satisfaction. It’s like getting a beautiful box of assorted chocolates and picking out your favorite one. Again, I’m just making observations and not trying to take your fun away. We all have our own versions of escapism. But if it’s true that people simply like collections, do we really need to keep rehashing the Disney princess look? If we like collections, how about we imagine & collect Shakespeare female characters? An eclectic array of the sick & twisted, the romantic, the powerful, the witty, the traumatized…you name it! Ophelia, Lady Macbeth, and Tamora Queen of the Goths would be a part of my collection, for sure.
Maybe some escape from empty childish regression would be nice if we give it a try.
Edit: I just logged into Facebook to share this blog post and the first thing I see on my newsfeed is “This Woman Transforms into 15 Disney Characters and It’s Amazing.”