Wednesday, August 29, 2012

More on the "Princess Cult"

I mentioned a few weeks ago when I wrote about my thoughts on this article that I wanted to hit on one item more specifically, namely the "princess cult". Apparently, to some people the article wasn't really anything new or revolutionary, but for some reason, stuff like that (sociocultural norms and gender roles) fascinates me and this really piqued my interest and brought about several conversations with Peyton. He and I do ten to analyze things to the extreme, so if that bugs you, or if this isn't your cup of tea, just skip this one, too ;)

I really want to be careful with this post because several months ago I stepped on a few toes when I said I was happy Ann Peyton wasn't into princesses yet.  I explained what I meant, because it really came out wrong.  So, I'm really trying not to do that in this post.  First off, though, if it's not apparent (and if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, it is), Ann Peyton changed her mind in a big way on princesses and it's quite the obsession.  So, it's not like I don't have a dog in this fight.  Or rather it's not like I don't have my own sweet "princess" to look after- one that in the coming years I will daily be facing the challenge of trying to teach her the balance between being as "wise as serpent and innocent as a dove." I'm not just on the sidelines anymore, y'all.

Okay, so here's what I think about the fact that princess movies indoctrinate our girls to think that they'll find happiness in marriage, a man, ect.....

- I think, at some level, it's a valid point.  Excepting a couple (Tangled and Brave were the examples cited in the article) most princesses do find their ultimate "happily ever after" with a prince.  While Peyton and I *highly* value marriage and family (and if I'm honest- personally I'd love for all my children to experience the joys...and um, the growth...that comes with matrimony), we know that a spouse may or may not be in the Lord's plan for our children.  Again, if I'm being truthful, I don't think many people will bat an eye if Graves is thirty and unmarried, but the same doesn't hold true (in my experience) for our daughters.

- Along those lines, I worry more about other sources more than the media feeding her the lie that marriage is the "end all, be all".  Specifically (and it pains me to say this) the church.  That's a whole other post, though.  [One that is written in drafts, for the record.]

- But back to the movies.  I really think that, while it is a theme, even a dominant one, these stories have more to them.  A lot more.  For example, in Cinderella, it's my understanding that ultimately she really owes her good fortune more to her Fairy Godmother than any prince, if we look at the big picture.  Also, in Cinderella (it's a favorite lately), a great deal of the story focuses on her goodness and how being a good, kind person brought her to the end that it did.  While I don't feel like this is a totally Biblical principle (um, listen up, Joel Osteen), I don't think it totally lacks merit, either.  It's not like "karma" doesn't exist at a very basic level (not in a mystical sense, but in the sense that if you work hard, (most of the time) you'll advance, ect.), but as Bono says, grace basically overrides it.  And in this story, WE SEE THAT.  In the version we read (which is a super old one), the story ends with Cinderella inviting her stepsisters to live in palace with her and the Prince- abundant grace on her part, in my opinion.  No, I was not above redirecting to the Coat of Many Colors and showing Annie the similarities because how could I not make a Joseph analogy at that point?

- As far as general media exposure, I think there's several points to be made here.
  • First, I think the most important thing (my mom taught me this in the way she parented) with any media exposure, is that as much as possible, we make the time to sit and watch (or read)...and discuss. It's up to us to find the redeeming qualities and point them out and find the negative things and discuss them, too. We don't do this enough, honestly.
  • Second, I think that I want to make sure I watch out for this message in lots of areas, not just in fairy tales.
  • Third, I think it's important to realize that, while this is a draw back of this type of movie, virtually every thing we expose her to (save Scripture and (sometimes) that which is based on it) can/will have potentially conflicting messages with what we are trying to teach.  For example, we love Fancy Nancy, but spend too much time in her closet and you'll be a three year old obsessed with materialism. Of course, they'll (mostly) have redeeming qualities, too, but overall nothing secular is going to teach her the not-so-secret secret to a full and joyous life (i.e. the Gospel).  That doesn't mean that they don't have worth, but it does mean, it's up to us to point her to that and explain it.
So those are my thoughts in a nutshell. What do y'all think?


Kristal said...

I largely agree with you.

I hate to say too much because I don't have a dog in the race, but I'm really not a fan of the princess culture. The two big issues I have are a) prince=happily ever after and b)the prince falling in love with the princess is usually solely based on looks (Ariel had no voice, Prince Charming met Cinderella once, Sleeping Beauty isn't even awake...or worse, while not based on looks, in the case of Beauty, Beast holds her captive and is an abusive jerk...but she still likes him?)

Regardless of my feelings on it, though, I have a feeling that should we have a daughter, I won't have a lot of control over her love of princesses. I guess I just hope that we can have a lot of conversations about it and not focus all our attention on the princesses. We'll see, I guess...

Mallory Pickering said...

Ha @ what Kristal said about the Beast. Yeah, that was a pretty bad situation. At least she was able to see the good in him. It could be a good picture of grace.

SD--I really agreed with how you said the church puts too much emphasis on marriage as the only way. So many single people are burned going to church where everything revolves around family. Plus, it's so contrary to what the Apostle Paul says.

Elizabeth said...

I like this post! I, too, was happy that my daughter really wasn't into princesses. And then it hit her and she became obsessed. I still sort of cringe thinking of the messages the movies are possibly sending her. This past spring we went on a disney cruise and Lilly was enamored with the princesses. She was speechless. We were with some friends and their oldest daughter (who was in first grade) was too cool to talk to princesses. I then decided to relax about the princess stage. It won't last forever and then I"ll be sad my "little" girl has moved on. We were recently given some books called "GiGi, God's little princess". They are very sweet and has a great biblical connection.

Ashley said...

I'm going to be honest (because we've already talked about this) - I just don't overanalyze this. I grew up in Disney culture, and while the marketing wasn't as strong then, I still adored the princesses. I never, ever thought for one second that my security was in a man.

My parents never had a discussion with me or my sisters about the princesses or Disney movies, etc. They simply lived and breathed that Jesus holds our future. I honestly think it would be weird to sit Evy down and get into this super deep conversation about the princesses and how she shouldn't depend on a man, etc. I would just never do that.

For me, this just isn't an issue at all, but apparently I'm in the minority....? Ha!

Carrie said...

I agree with Ashley (shocker). I grew up watching Disney Princess movies, and it never occurred to me for a second that "Prince Charming" was necessary for my happiness. I don't remember any deep conversations with my parents regarding Disney movies either (not that I don't think that would be a good thing). I guess by the time I was old enough to be into boys and think about that type of thing, I was wayyy past the Disney movie stage and they definitely had NOT shaped my "word view" or the way I viewed myself or men. Ha! To me, loving princesses is just a very sweet and innocent stage that a LOT of little girls go through. I try not to read more into it than is actually there.

Mary Louis Quinn said...

I agree with Ashley and Carrie above and most of what you said, and I think I commented along these lines before, but I think a way bigger deal is made of this issue than need be. Why do we need to overanalyze everything?! C is VERY into the princess stage, but I know it will pass and then she'll be obsessed with something new. I'm way more concerned about her being influenced (negatively) by her peers one day than by what she sees in a Disney movie. C is more concerned with the pretty dresses and the music- I don't think she even cares about the "happily ever after" part of the movies. And if one day in the future it appears that she thinks she can only be fulfilled by having a man (and highly doubtful that seed will have been planted by a Disney movie), then I will jump all over it at that time. But I'm certainly not going to keep her from watching the movies now.

Sarah Denley said...

I think y'alls comments are so interesting. Thanks for getting me thinking more.

I do want to clarify that I'm not sitting Annie down and having forty five minute conversations about where her ultimate happiness does and will come from :)

It's a much more organic thing and something I'm sure lots of parents do and just maybe don't think about it much. For example, Ann Peyton is also very much enthralled by the princesses beautiful dresses. The other day we were playing with a Cinderella doll and I said "Isn't she so pretty?" and Annie responded with "Yes, and she's such a kind princess, too". I was so proud in that moment and I do hope it was related to many a time when we had an exactly opposite dialogue (e.g. "Graves is such a cute boy, Momma"..."Yes, and he's a very sweet brother, too")-- conversations that were intentional on mine and Peyton's part.

As y'all pointed out (and as I tried to make a point of myself), I think that, though there is a somewhat valid issue here, the more difficult combat zone will probably be in later years among her peers and when she's getting bombarded with more direct messages from the media.

ML, I had this conversation with Carrie and Ashley recently, but Peyton and I do tend to analyze things a lot, so that is probably the reason I latched onto this. If you know Peyton very well at all, marketing/consumerism/focuses on appearance are also big issues to him, so this stuff resonates with him for that reason and we end up talking about it a good bit. All that to say, I think every person that commented here does- or will, in Mal's case :)- parent intentionally. We just sometimes have different ideas of what's important.

Also, for what it's worth, I did latch on to the idea EARLY (as in late elem/early middle school) that I would not be happy without a boyfriend/husband and my sister struggled with that as well. Interestingly, we really didn't have much princess exposure, but that's probably another reason I have a piqued interest in things related to this and why I'm intending to engage AP on the topic (at a developmentally appropriate level) when she's still pretty young.

Mal, maybe I'll get brave and publish that "other" post one day =)

Mary Louis Quinn said...

From reading your blog I know you and Peyton love to analyze things. :) And we ALL do that! And I totally agree that we need to be intentional in our parenting. I just think it's so easy to drive ourselves CRAZY about some of these things when we already have so much to worry about.

The Niemeyer Nest said...

Evie likes GiGi God's princess too. I have never really thought about this much either since every phase goes by super fast. Evie used to love balls just like princesses are her current obsession. I wonder what the next obsession will be! Lots of good points in your post, SD. Carl does not over analyze anything! I over analyze most things.

Mallory Pickering said...

I think it's something good to think about. Without sounding too fundamentalist, I do believe media is a seemingly innocuous way that the devil works in his messages. It seems like you're doing a good job of training her to think analytically about what she sees, which will be a lasting help as she makes weightier decisions further down the line.