The Princess Phenomena

The Princess Phenomena

Why are girls obsessed with princesses and what do boys think about it all? Vanessa Beddoe-Sandstrom wonders if Disney princesses are good role models and braves the classrooms at Matakana School to find out.

With their long bouncy blonde hair, miniscule waists and the confidence to carry off a tiara, Disney princesses have become an obsession with many a young girl. But are they actually good role models?

“I like princesses because they are really nice and have long hair. I don’t like pirates because they’re mean and ugly.” Penny 6

On one-hand, princesses are normally fairly nice and sassy, but never in the history of Disney has one given up the search for their handsome prince to study quantum physics. Nor has there ever been an ugly one (unless temporarily suffering a dreadful curse from a jealous stepmother or witch). Admittedly, pirates as role models aren’t much better, what with all their looting and cursing, but at least they don’t have to rely on their looks to succeed.

“Princess movies are really boring. Only girls want to watch them. Pirates are way cooler because they have sword-fights and go to really cool islands.” Riley 7.

Disney has certainly doled out a little more sass to their princesses of late. Instead of pure (and lets face it, boring) Cinderella and doe-eyed Snow White, our girls now can look to princesses like Mulan for inspiration. Mulan is the ultimate anti-damsel, and defies gender stereotypes by secretly taking her father’s place in the army. She’s probably the most well rounded Disney princess - brave and selfless but also a bit clumsy and insecure. A pretty good role model to inspire our girls, and one of the only Disney princess films my boys will watch (Tangled being the other one, apparently there are some good fight scenes).

“Princesses are just for girls. No boys like princesses. I don’t like pirates any more. They’re for babies.” Charlie 6.

Not that I could get any of the boys at Matakana School to admit to watching princess films in public, mind you. Not one of the boys I asked said they liked princess films; in fact the overwhelming response was: “Yuk! Boring!”

I was left thinking that in an effort to close the boy/girl divide, Disney’s next princess production needs to be that of an inter-galactic warrior Princess who dresses like a pirate, fights aliens when she’s not studying and manages to succeed in spite of her frizzy brown hair.

“My dad downloaded Pocahontas and it’s my favourite movie. I love princess movies because they have stuff in them that girls like. I don’t really like playing pirates because they’re too rough and they make my brother go crazy.” Sandy 5.


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