My almost two-year-old daughter got one of those Little People Disney princess castles for Christmas this year. It came with two princesses, Cinderella and Snow White — but you can buy a variety of other princesses to come hang out in the castle; Belle, Ariel, Tiana, and Rapunzel to name a few. I was happy she got it: she’s the second child so she’s very into hand-me-down boy toys. Okay, she might be forced to be very into them — it’s all she really has. It was cute to see the princesses in her little hands — I thought, “Why not?” Each princess, when set upon this little stand in the middle of the castle, activates her own personal song and sayings.
It was a while before I really paid attention to what the songs were. I’d hear the melodies, but I never really focused on the words — I knew they were familiar and derived from whatever respective fairy tale the princesses came from. Then one day I was sitting next to her when her little fingers propped Cinderella on the stand:
I’m waiting for my prince
The one who’s meant for me
My dreams can’t all be wrong
I know he’ll come along
As handsome as can be…
Maybe I should have paid attention sooner.
I couldn’t remember the song at all, so of course I turned to Wikipedia. Apparently the song was made for a CD compilation called “Disney Princess Tea Party.” It was amongst other gems like, I Just Love Getting Dressed For Tea, Every Girl Can Be A Princess, Way To Bake A Delicious Cake, and Manners And Etiquette. No way am I brainwashing my daughter with this crap.
I’ve been known to stick up for Barbie, but frankly, some of these princess stories are just ridiculous. Barbie is a blank slate. Yes, her tiny waist may be problematic, but at least girls can pour their imaginations into her. When we buy our daughters these princesses, they each come with an extensive narrative — one that usually involves being rescued by a prince. Some of them veer from this narrative — Rapunzel has magic powers, Tiana is taught that only she can make her dreams come true, and the Frozen girls take control of their own destinies – but Cinderella? What are her redeeming qualities? Oh yeah, she’s kind. That’s something. And also beautiful. But she has no future until a prince comes to rescue her.
Cinderella is everywhere thanks to her 2015 makeover. The movie made 70.1 million dollars its opening weekend. One can only imagine Cinderella swag is going to be coming at parents from every angle for a while. Honest Trailers released a take on the original story a few days short of Cinderella’s big box office open last weekend:
It’s a not-so-gentle reminder of the various troubling aspects of the “fairy tale.” Fairy tales are meant to be fantastic, out there, and unrealistic. Fine. But I’m not going out of my way to tell my daughter the Cinderella story or show her its 2015 incarnation. It just seems silly, dated, and sexist.
And luckily, her favorite song in her princess castle is Tiana’s rendition of Almost There:
I remember Daddy told me: ”Fairytales can come true
You gotta make ’em happen, it all depends on you”
So I work real hard each and every day
Now things for sure are going my way
Just doing what I do
Look out boys, I’m coming through
(photo: Getty Images)