I am not an expert on Disney princesses, I don’t think that I have seen any of the princesses in a movie except for Cinderella (front row, second from the left). I am pretty sure that the redhead, second from the left in the top row, was originally a Pixar princess from Brave, and the princess on the far right might be Pocahontas. It is my understanding that at least some of the princesses – Cinderella and Snow White (where is she?) for sure – came from old European fairy tales.
The European fairy tales, in turn, came from earlier folk tales that were rooted in the deep humus of the collective European past. According to Robert Bly, those classic fairy tales lay out stages of initiation into adulthood which we’ve entirely forgotten, that our ancestors apparently knew a lot about. However, the new Disney Princesses, and the fairy tales they are in, are not rooted in a deep wisdom, they are made to sell dolls or amusement park rides. Additionally, they do damage to susceptible little girls by setting an impossible standard of what a woman should look like (a Barbiesque caricature of European homogeny).
As a protest to this, an English artist, David Trumble, Disneyfied a group of women who he considered real feminist heroes. As I understand it, he thought that, by showing how the Disney treatment trivialized these very real, heroic, women, it showed how Disney trivialized all women by their depiction of Princesses. I drew this picture because I wanted to analyze how unnecessary it is to collapse a heroine into one specific mold, to give them all the same sparkly fashion, the same tiny figures, and the same homogenized plastic smile.
But a funny thing happened, not everybody thought the Disneyifacation of real women was bad. Some women liked it, at Feminist Disney, one woman said Of course it’d be nice if there was more diversity (they have one less WOC than the actual disney princess lineup!), less western-centric, more modern women, and women who are not cis hetero, as well as disabled and/or fat women. But I thought it was a cool take. I am here for Princess Malala Yousafzai. One woman started complaining and then, sort of, turned around. In an article in Women You Should Know, Marijayne Renny said, Sadly, (my daughter) was immediately drawn to the sparkly dresses, but on the flip side it made her ask questions about these women and she was genuinely excited to know each and every one of their back stories.
I first ran into the Princesses in an article in Atlantic, Why Shouldn’t Gloria Steinem Be a Disney Princess?, whose title, more or less, is self explanatory. Disney Princesses are not something that I think about very much, but, when I do, they do seem somewhat pedophilic what with the big eyes and all. But I am not a woman and either is the artist who made these satirical images and that is the problem.
A couple of years ago, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a blog post on the backhanded apology to an insult that is actually a new insult, Oh, I’m sorry if you feel insulted by the way I said what I said, I didn’t mean to insult you. The assumption here is that the person feeling insulted is wrong because the insulter didn’t mean to be insulting and that, somehow, that makes the insult non-op. Coates argued, and I agree, that the insulted party should have the right to feel insulted. I think that the reverse is the case here, it seems that Trumble felt women should be insulted when alot of them were not.
His drawings, designed to show how insulting Disney is, turned out to not say that to many women who don’t necessarily regard Disney as insulting. Answering that, Trumble said, I feel like good satire shouldn’t be understood by everybody. Some people were angry at me because they thought I was reducing the women, which was obviously the point. But if it gets children interested in these real women and what they do, is it so bad? Leaving aside that I agree that good satire should be close enough to the truth that some people don’t see it as satire and it is is great if these cartoons end up making children, especially little girls, want to know the back stories of these remarkable women, a man shouldn’t be deciding if the original Princesses are objectionable.
As a postscript to this, there are now drawings and cups of the Princesses available at søciety6 for only $15.oo. They seem to me that they would make a good gift, but what do I know?