Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And someone saved them

E has been antsy to see the new Rapunzel movie that comes out this weekend since the very minute she heard about it. It's not called Rapunzel, it's called "Tangled," and the reason is that the movie-makers wanted it to have a gender-neutral title so boys wouldn't be disenfranchised so quickly as they might by knowing they were seeing a princess movie.

That it's a princess movie is, of course, exactly why E wants to see it.

E is very into princesses right now. It's typical for her age but it makes me skittish. Too many typical princess stories paint the female protagonist as helpless, or worse, reliant on her beauty. The princess message makes me nervous but E is drawn to the fantasy. I think she enjoys the make-believe of a world where she has no anxiety, where solutions can be found by twirling a fancy dress.

And it's interesting that I worry about the messages she derives from the princess tales, the studios are disbanding the princess formula altogether. In their eyes, E is already too old for princesses and should be fawning over Hannah Montana or something similar and more mature. Since princesses are still on the risque end of E's cultural exposure, I guess I've succeeded at something. Who knew childhood was such a hard thing to protect.

With reservations, we'll probably take her to see Tangled, and I won't really be sad that there won't be an annual sequel to the formulaic princess trope. She'll be a child of the post-princess era, and none of us yet knows what that means, but she and her friends and siblings will have to craft new definitions of heroes.

I was heartened about this today when she brought home the latest book she crafted in school. She makes these books all the time. She makes her drawings (in today's book, based on some new animal stencils they had out) and then asks her teacher to spell the words she needs for the narrative. Today's book was three pages with a sympathetic character, a crisis, and a happy ending:

One day a bunny was hopping along.

The lion was chasing the bunny.

And someone saved them.

She read it to me, and pointed to the last page. See her? she said. That's me. I save the bunny. Do you like the blue crown I'm wearing?

So she's a princess, but the whole story is that she's a princess-animal rescuer-writer/illustrator. I'm okay with that kind of dreaming. Pin It


Emily said...

I really like the picture she drew of herself at the end. I love all the colors she used and the way her body extends all the way to the ground. When did she start drawing stick figures? (I don't think K's ever done them.) Oh, and what's that she's holding?

(Wow! I'm really curious about this picture for some reason! Maybe because her art is so different from Katherine's?)

Anyway, I think she'll make a brilliant princess/animal-rescuer/writer/illustrator. That girl's nothing if not empowered!

Emily said...

Perhaps on a more relevant note: I think it's really strange that Disney is shutting down the fairy tale franchise. I'm skeptical of the "princess fantasy" and its effect on little girls, but I wonder if part of the problem is that they're marketing these movies to three-year-olds and then making them scary enough for ten-year-olds. My kids are as into princesses as any kids can be--we have the costumes, the accessories, and the stories--but they don't even WANT to watch the movies because they're too frightened. (Or are American kids just THAT desensitized already?) Maybe if they would market the movies to the age groups they're designing them for the company would make more money.

Even now, the princess fantasy makes way too much money for me to believe they're going to stop it completely: my prediction is that the worrisome pretty princess scenario will survive somehow...even if the next movie is about Never Fairies.

Emily said...

Also, (I've got to stop): it annoys me that this article implies that the shift away from princesses is going to be a shift toward appealing more to little boys. They mention placing their marketing focus on the male hero in Tangled to draw more boys into the theater (because, I guess, Rapunzel's dress in the background is all the little girls need to see? Which might be true, but...) and that the princess have to make way for new heros like Buzz Lightyear and Woody on the toy shelves. Those are both great characters, but why can't we focus on bringing more fun, spunky girl characters (like Toy Story's Jessie) into the mix?

Am I missing something here? (I'm certainly rambling)