Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Disney Princesses = Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

As a preschool teacher, I find myself confronted every day by The Disney Princesses. The most popular are Cinderella, Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel and Jasmine. Somehow, Snow White never seems to be any one's favorite. They appear on their own and in various combinations. The other day, I was sitting around the table with some Almost Four-year-old girls who were claiming identities. One with thick, curling blonde locks declared she was Sleeping Beauty. Another girl, who is scary smart when it comes to innate mathematics, said she would be Barbie.

So that we have a total of four horsemen, we will use Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine and Ariel, plus Barbie.

I have some reservations about including Barbie because despite marketing ploys, when kids play with Barbie she has a tendency to exhibit all manner of "bad" behaviors: such as getting naked with Ken in the bathroom sink which becomes, for the purposes of the play scenario, a jacuzzi. Barbie has a deservedly bad rap among many for the trouble she (or rather Matel) has caused girls about their body image. And despite Mattel's efforts to make Barbie into an educated professional the fact remains that at the end of the day, someone can say they have Astrophysicist Barbie, but she's still a naked party girl in a pink convertible. We could use the term "slut" but that word perpetuates a societal stereotype wherein men are allowed to fuck around but women are not allowed to experiment and explore their sexuality. Barbie does provide girls with that opportunity in a safe way especially since Ken is completely emasculated.

At this juncture, it is important to remember that Menopausal Stoners might have been called Post-Feminist Pothead Floosies except that we're not in the post-patriarchy. I maintain that more women need to embrace their inner floosie and through Barbie - with or without the intention of manufacturers and marketers - young girls embrace that floosie instantly especially if their brothers have GI Joes (are they still around? My Barbie was infinitely more interested in GI Joe than Ken)

Another problem with Barbie is that, despite her education and opportunities, she remains a Bimbo obsessed with clothes and shoes. Until recently, however, Barbie had sense enough to dress her age. In the beginning, Barbie was comparable to Ginger on Gilligan's Island. You never saw Ginger dressed up like a trendy teenager - and at the time there were already Pop Stars with Bubble Gum songs in the top 40 on the radio. So back in the day, it would have been possible for Mattel to sell outfits that would make Barbie look like a ridiculous tramp. Now that I think about it, though, I don't think anyone except street walkers went out in public dressed like that when I was a kid. With the advent of Brittany Spears and Sex in the City, Slutwear prevails.

These days, Barbie's fashion choices have deteriorated to the same level as Brittany Spears'. Mattel probably owns the same factory exploiting workers somewhere in the world where they make Barbie's clothes and the clothing sold to girls through mass marketers like Walmart. Ginger's dignity has been preserved. Poor Barbie lives on as a character subject to the styles of the day and that includes Grown Women dressing like The Charmed Girls.

The problem with the Princesses is two fold. One: They are all waiting on a Prince before they can get on with their lives. In point of fact, the prince is the culmination of the princess' life which brings us to the second problem. Princesses are NEVER Queens. I keep telling the girls at school that if they really want to have some fun, they need to be the queen because somebody is always bossing princesses around. Queens may have responsibilities, but ultimately they have the power of self-determination. Ask Prince Charles.

While Princesses may be terminally young, beautiful and filled with hope, they are no role models for anyone. But they are everywhere from Pull-ups to bicycle helmets with no prospects in life except for a Prince. It is also important to note that the Princes are virtually ciphers in the stories. They show up at the end, kiss the girl and live happily ever after. What real man can live up to that? The Disney Princesses cause problems for both sexes. Disney may have enough marketing savvy to introduce Princesses of various ethnic backgrounds, but when will we see a Lesbian Princess? Or Two Princes?

I understand the value of Fairytale, but perpetuating this hip-deep level of bullshit is reprehensible. It's like the revenge of Phyllis Schafly. We see a similar phenomenon in recent movies, for example The Three Hundred, which are Military Recruiting Vehicles. No one is immune - but I don't pay much attention to the Problems of Men. I believe wholeheartedly that The Patriachy causes just as many problems for men as it does for women because Dick Cheney is the Ideal Man. But back to Girls . . .

Interestingly, at rest time in the classroom the only girl who keeps her blanket strategically placed between her legs with the right amount of pressure is the one who chose Barbie. The others drift off to sleep stroking their own long hair. The worst of them spends nap time playing with an Ariel who has a sparkly mermaid outfit as well as some gowns for when she chooses to have legs. When stating her identity, our little ray of sunshine won't be a Disney princess at all. She goes straight for Mermaid.

This three year old beauty (a Gemini - coincidence? I think not) whose looks have been applauded since birth recently told me that she was unable to clean up the art table because she is a mermaid. Mermaids don't clean; they sit on rocks and sing. She settled back into her chair preparing to serenade the children as they wiped away the crayon marks with tiny sponges.

Thank G*d I grew up with those same damn mermaids, princesses, fairytales and Barbie dolls so I could straighten Sunshine out in an instant with a glare. Remember the Evil Fairy in Sleeping Beauty? All preschool teachers should master such glares. My assistants are clueless when it comes to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I imagine if they think about The Four Horsemen at all, they think of specters on ghost horses like in Lord of the Rings.

If I understand my Revelations correctly, the Four Horsemen are one of the signals that the Antichrist is among us. Since I don't believe in the Bible in any literal sense, I figure that's another lovely story like Creationism, etc. However, I fully believe in the Hell in a Hand Basket syndrome and see evidence everywhere which brings us to Idiocracy and the "Dumbing Down" of America which we can securely fasten on education that relies on high stakes standardized testing as an indicator that someone knows his/her head from his/her ass. Standardized testing, as it is used in this country, also guarantees a perpetual socioeconomic divide wherein people must go into the military or jail - both of which are big money makers in the USA. Without the Idiocracy, questioning authority would be common place. Not so. Princesses may hope and dream with orchestration, but they don't question and rebel. As a matter of fact, neither do the Princes.

This 2006 movie is every bit as provocative and chilling as Network. When Network first came out, plenty of people thought that vision of the future was simply impossible speculation. Today we see TV that is even worse than Network could imagine. Idiocracy finds us in the very same boat. It's happening this very minute as more and more people abandon simple grammar. But that is a topic for another day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's to party girls (hic)

April 23, 2008 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger emily said...

I recall playing that same "let's assume an imaginary Disney identity" game with my girlfriends. We were at that innocent age of knowing the differences between boys and girls, but not necessarily knowing what those differences were for. As we went in a circle apportioning our aliases (I was Belle,) claiming our princess with decisive airs, it came to be Wei's turn. Wei was our little social circle's Asian member, and without skipping a beat, she announced her assumptive heroine: Mulan.

April 24, 2008 at 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a lifelong, self confessed slut, I take enormous offence to the stereotypical depiction. And I think, that as you come to know me better, you will see clearly that I cannot be pigeonholed into any typical category at all.
I do agree with you, however, that if were all just a little bit sluttier, the world would be a far better place.
And just to set the record straight, I don't understand my revelations at all, but I believe that the 4H club of Austin has been trying to give the 4H club of Apocalypse a bad name. Clearly, the antichrist has never left, not even for a moment.


April 24, 2008 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger PENolan said...

Since you are a man, JAWS, I suspect you have not personally experienced the social presure to be a Nice Girl, hence your perception and subsequent definition may not match that of a female.

Now, on a purely theoretical level, what if a person is Jewish or doesn't believe in a Christ/Savior at all? There could never be an antichrist or four horsemen except in a Christian context.

April 26, 2008 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Brilliantly thought out, and right on track. Thanks! Oh, and from one preschool teacher to another, I fully support the use of The Look. My days would be much longer without it.

June 15, 2008 at 11:38 AM  

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