Monday, September 29, 2014

Your Turn: What is Your Opinion of Princesses in Fiction?



Flickr Credit: Scott Smith
I spent a lot of time thinking about princesses as a little kid.

I liked Belle especially, because she read books and we shared the closed physical appearance among Disney Princesses (It was a long shot, but still). Ariel was also really popular—whenever I would draw myself I would give myself red hair. Deep down, I liked to think that I had been switched at birth and some kindly nobles (or rich people in general) would realize the mix-up and come for me, their real daughter.

I loved watching Barbie movies (especially the Rapunzel one, because Cleo from Clifford voiced the dragon) and Frog Princess books and Disney encyclopedias and Anastasia and so on and so forth. It didn’t leave me; right now I’m reading The Cycle of Inheritance and Thrice Upon a Marigold, both of which contain princesses as prominent characters. And I watched the fourth or fifth Swan Princess movie last night (eh, funny but no).

I’d even go so far to say that a lot of my preferences and ideals are shaped by the stories I read as a little girl—including the princesses.

But is that a good thing?

There are more controversies than I can name about Barbies and Disney princesses and female stereotypes in books and movies. They’re always too sexualized or not independent enough or they are beautiful and independent and strong and have absolutely no bearing on the plot. Little girls are growing up to want to be skinny pink princesses, blond haired and blue-eyed. I already posted about some princess clich├ęs—and there’s every chance they could be horribly damaging.

Then again, in books and movies I read there are princesses who are heroes. They do great deeds. They don’t wait to be rescued. They think for themselves and they still live happily ever after. I’ve said it before: a princess is a symbol of her country. But is it not also possible that a princess is a symbol of the girls who look up to her as well? Identifying with strong heroines seems like a valid idea to me.

She was fabulous, so I thought I'd include her.
Flickr Credit: tanakawho
A princess could be anyone.

A princess should have the potential to be anyone.

But fictional interpretations seem set in their ways. Is that a bad thing?

It’s hard to say.

As for me, I haven’t lost my faith in princesses yet. Sure, they have their faults. Sure, they may be bad role models. But I also know that somewhere out there authors are making princesses shine. And that’s awesome.

That’s just me. I know people who detest princesses. I know people who don’t. But what do you think? Are princesses in fiction a societal menace? Do you love them anyway? What makes or breaks the role of a princess in a book for you? 

(P.S. I thought the dog, Princess, was too fabulous not to share. That is why she is there.)

5 comments :

  1. This is such an insightful post!
    I've never actually thought of them in that way... but after reading your post, I guess my opinions on them has changed slightly. They should create princess movies with less stereotypical images of them...
    I love this post!
    June
    The Journeys' of my beating heart

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    1. If I'm interpreting right, you're saying we sometimes take our princesses for granted—and I'd agree with that. It would be cool to see some changes in the physical presentation of princesses in fiction and film, but it's probably going to take a while!

      Thanks for reading and commenting; I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  2. I agree with all of this completely. My favorite princess was Mulan even though I racially identify with Jasmine but she's just ew, not my type. I liked Mulan because she was independent and really wanted to do something for herself and she was smart and not girly xD which I can relate to.
    apart from stereotypical ness and gender degradation, people bring up the question of racial boasness too, since most of the princesses are white but I'm like to heck with race. You don't have to identify with someone who looks like you but is completely your opposite (jasmine cough cough). Anyway, good post. I liked Belle too (: I haven't watched the movie though I just know she reads books a lot xD

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    1. *biasness' not boasness sorry. Racial biasness.

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    2. Mulan is a great princess; I actually watched her movie instead of studying for finals last year. XD Nice choice!

      But I think you bring up a valid point—even though we set up princesses to belong to various racial identities, it doesn't mean those people will identify with those princesses. It's more about what they do than how they look, like you suggested. :)

      (And for the record, Belle's okay. I don't think she's extremely smart. But that's just me. She's still the reader, and that's good. And don't worry about the typo. Happens to everybody. ;) )

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