Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter reminded me of Christensen’s “Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us” and Croteau’s “Media and Ideology.” Further, Brave, which we viewed in class, relates to these texts.
Like Christensen’s piece, Orenstein’s discusses the negative messages purported through Disney Princesses, centering on the desire to ultimately win a man. Christensen notes the same thing about the various interpretations of Cinderella/Cindy Ellie, in that the message remains the same: that beauty is important and getting a man should be a main goal in life. The only part of Orenstein’s princesses analysis I would nit-pick is her discussion of princesses’ lack of female camaraderie with other women. While this is true for 99.99% of these characters, it should be noted that, despite the many criticisms of Tiana and The Princess and the Frog in general, one of the aspects I admired most was Tiana’s friendship with Charlotte. There is no girlfighting amongst them, to my memory. Charlotte genuinely loves Tiana and vice versa. Even better, they don’t fight over the male love interest. Charlotte only wants to help. That is, as noted, if my memory serves right. And if so, then at least that example does depict positive relationships amongst girls. Orenstein, like Christensen, discusses the impact Disney Princesses have on children, but also talks about the gender division of toys and merchandising (fueled, in my humble opinion, by capitalist greed and corruption), indicating the affect these influences have on children, both boys and girls.
In this way, to me, it connects to Croteau. As she speaks about the pink-ifiying of toys, it seems as though these companies are attempting to create a new hegemony for gendered toys (because as Orenstein notes, it increases profit by impelling parents to buy the same product twice for separate children, for example, a blue bat for a boy and a pink one for a girl). These capitalist enterprises are trying to make “girls” and “pink” synonymous, indicating that a love of “pink” is “natural;” in fact, several of the people Orenstein speaks with admit as much about their opinions, claiming that they’re just giving girls what they want. I, of course, operate under the opinion that gender segregation of toys is damaging (and that Sweden is correct in their gender-neutral advertising). But I digress.
Merida from Brave is interesting in regards to all of these texts. On one hand, the background characters of the movie are depicted in gender segregated roles: the males are the ones that go off to battle, hunting down the bears, and are rowdy and quick to fight while the women are seen doing domestic work, such as working in the kitchens, or acting as dancers during the festivities rather than performing more masculine sports, but are also level headed in regards to fighting (though that poor maid is clearly traumatized by the end). However, unlike the other Disney Princesses, Merida does not seek to find a man. Although her mother (and most of society –except for her father) pressures her to choose a husband, she ultimately is allowed to fall in love in her own time, when she is ready, which defies the messages of the other movies. Merida doesn’t have a Disney Prince, and this movie doesn’t focus on one (like, say, Aladdin – which, side note, I still love despite valid criticism). It should be noted, however, that Brave is a gender neutral name. I remember hearing that Tangled was renamed from something like Princess Rapunzel to attempt to bring in more male audience members; likely something similar happened with Brave just as it’s happening with Frozen (and upcoming Pixar/Disney Princess movie). This is interesting because it reinforces the message from Orenstein’s piece: that girls will buy products for boys, but boys won’t buy products for girls (despite that they like them) because there’s something wrong with being a girl. As she notes, her “progressive” friend will proudly give his daughter Matchbox toys, but balks at giving his son a skirt. And it should go without saying that there is something fundamentally wrong with this opinion on girls and femininity.
Finally, I feel the need to comment on the toy production for Brave. As a cashier, I can say with confidence that they used to, at least, sell toy bows for Merida. I remember that one being a big seller a while back. It was this little plastic bow affixed to a shiny blue cardboard piece; I recall, particularly, because I wished I could have had one when I was little. However, I find it troubling that a quick search of the Walmart website now has Merida dolls and a “Disney Brave Merida Royal Dress.” Though, the dolls do come with bows and arrows. One of them is called the “Disney Brave Fashion Play Doll,” which, like Orenstein notes with Mulan and her dress, Merida (as a character) would likely be appalled to be a “fashion” anything.
I’m interested in how everyone else in the class interpreted Brave: what crtiticms did you find in it? Do you think it presents positive messages? Is it a step forward? What about Orenstein’s piece? Do you agree with what she says about Disney Princesses or do you see a benefit in them? What about the pinkification of toys?