Here are a few movies I've been watching (a loose term) with Squeaker: Finding Nemo (I've heard they're coming out with a movie called Finding Dory in 2015, I hope it doesn't disappoint), The Princess Bride, and Cinderella. I've missed watching these movies so much, being a kid is awesome and I'm so happy that I get to watch my children experience it all for themselves.
While watching Cinderella, and even The Princess Bride, I've decided that we need to encourage Squeaker to watch more films like Mulan and Brave. There just aren't very many strong female characters or actresses to admire out there, especially for young girls to look up to and emulate. The one thing that most princesses can be sure of is that they will be saved by a strong and handsome prince. I won't mind it if Squeaker goes through a princess faze and decides that everything she owns needs to be pink, although I will be very happy when she gets over it. However, it would be nice if she decides to be a strong and independent princess, not committing to the role of a damsel in distress. You know?
On the other hand, as a child I remember playing the damsel in distress and loving the color pink, but I turned out to be a strong feminist anyway. Maybe all girls go through something similar in order to affirm their young self-esteem and femininity, but in the end they choose for themselves the role of damsel in distress or independent woman anyway.
Not too long ago I heard about a book called Cinderella Ate My Daughter and on the local radio station KRCL Peggy Orenstein was interviewed about writing this controversial book. In general her book deals with this exact issue and I decided to read it, now that I am confronted with raising a daughter of my own. So far in my reading Orenstein starts a full attack on the Disney Princess industry, one that is actually fairly new. Before the year 2000 Disney apparently didn't sell their own princess line of dresses and accessories. A man named Andy Mooney created this massive brand after noticing at a 'Disney on Ice' show that all of the little girls around him were dressed up in homemade outfits; a massive selling opportunity had been overlooked and Mooney capitalized on it. It turns out that before this time Disney hadn't ever marketed its characters separately from the character's film release and it was seen as a big risk, one that obviously has paid off. Now there are few little girls in all of America who don't own some sort of Disney Princess regalia. I wonder though, like Orenstein does, where Mulan, Merida (princess from Brave), and Pocahontas fit in. I wish these strong and independent characters were better represented.
The question still remains at this point though: does playing princess and owning such merchandise damage little girl's self-esteem or encourage them to take on similar roles to the ones of those damsels? More specifically, would watching the Little Mermaid and owning Ariel merchandise encourage little girls to think it is OK for them to give up their own voice in order to be with their handsome prince? So far in my reading Orenstein does not directly make headway on this topic, but I look forward to continuing the book and finding out more about her argument.
In the end, I think that little boys have it just as difficult as little girls. Many times if a boy wants to play with certain "feminine" toys, such as barbies and baby dolls, then his parents worry about his masculinity being compromised. However, many times if a girl decides to play with "masculine" toys, such as tools and GI Joes, then it's OK and no one worries about her femininity being in danger.I am not saying that all parents react in the way that I just described or that if parents do react in a similar way they are not good parents. All I want to do is investigate this issue further, possibly discovering the hows and whys of children solidifying their gender and self-esteem as they develop. I would love to hear from you about your ideas and feedback, maybe in my next post (after I have completed my reading of Orenstein's book) I will be able to answer more questions, or even offend some of you by deciding that Disney princesses are evil.