I actually have a hard time articulating what it is exactly about the princesses that I loathe so much. Certainly, in part, it's the impossible-to-achieve standard of beauty and the fact that the "good" characters are always what to little girls would be gorgeous. Certainly, as someone who has battled the self-image struggle my whole life and who still, at 38, has a hard time getting dressed in the morning because I feel so badly about how I look, I want to do everything I can to spare Pk that struggle. On the other hand, I am not naive enough to think that keeping the princesses out of my home would stop Pk from being bombarded by the media and popular culture. The message that uber-thin is what's in and that her primary value comes from her appearance is everywhere. Fighting that cultural message goes a whole lot deeper than banning a few Disney movies and toys.
Part of my dislike is the way that the marketing is targeted at little children. It's crass and frankly, how Disney can pretend to have anything other than cash as it's motivation is ridiculous. That's distasteful but again, I wouldn't say that Disney is much worse than any other company selling to children. For that matter, the whole Veggietales franchise and Big Idea's marketing team, which I really like in so many ways for the values that the movies contain, has really ramped up the marketing machine in recent years and are pushing "stuff" on our kids. I am not boycotting them and, in fact, we have bought more than we should for Pk since she loves Veggietales so much.
In some ways, I don't like the way that Disney seems to move our children along through their machine. Disney princesses seems to lead to the really horrible (in my opinion) tween category (all of which seems to end up being consumed by my grade 2's who are not yet tweens) and then, down to road to the troubled and disturbed messages of the former Disney girls who go off the rails (and you know who I mean). But that isn't all of it, either.
My indecision is what really leads to my dilemma. I know that some of my closest friends "get it" and feel the same way but others do not. There are family members who think the whole Disney thing is just part of the joy of childhood and who would shower Pk with princess stuff. It hasn't happened yet but it will and that leads dh and I to have to make some decisions. If I can't articulate my feelings about why I don't want to go down this road, can I really expect these people to understand? Do I risk offending them by taking a firm stand on the princesses (as I would more confidently with, say, Bratz or crop tops or bikinis)? How do I draw the line?
In the midst of all of this, Focus on the Family's "Thriving Family" magazine had an interesting take of the princess culture that I hadn't really seen as an option before now. The author of the article shared that she had looked at the Disney films for the characteristics demonstrated by the princesses that showed good character (e.g., Belle's loyalty to her father in Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella's hard work) and she framed her discussions with her daughter in terms of character rather than appearance. She selected certain films and heroines as being better than others and allowed her daughter to watch those. She actively discussed the message of each film and tried to focus on what she saw as positive. That might be something we could do. While some of the films really don't have much to grab onto, Beauty and the Beast, for one, does have a positive message that we could share. That would mean having to sit down and watch through a bunch of these films (not something I relish!)
I'm not sure if that is the answer for us. There's only so much that we can do to keep the world at bay and realistically, trying to keep everything out that we don't love isn't practical or possible. On the other hand, I'm not sure how much compromise I am prepared to do on this without feeling a bit like I have abdicated my responsibility. I am not clearly seeing where the line should be and I don't know where the comfortable limit would be for us.
Just curious, what do you think?