Disney Princesses Come With Controversy Before the Holidays 2016

Disney princesses are young children’s favorites.  This holiday there is a new princess.   The animated Disney movie, “Moana,” was number one at the American box office over the Thanksgiving 2016 weekend.  The review at Common Sense Media, this Grandma’s go to source for children’s movies,  says it is for age 6 and up.  The review says there are scary parts with monsters, ocean storms and waves, pirates, with a character dying off screen.  What this Grandma likes is that the review says the movie “should be fine for younger viewers, offering positive messages of self-discovery and empowerment. And Moana herself is a great role model, demonstrating perseverance, curiosity, and courage.”

That is what we grandmas like about Disney princesses.  But a new study calls into question the Disney Princess culture, contradicting what Common Sense Media says is a message of a great role model.  In, “Disney Princesses Not Brave Enough,”  the author, Jon McBride, reports on a new study involving preschoolers, published in Child Development found here  which shows that the Disney Princess culture “ can influence preschoolers to be more susceptible to potentially damaging stereotypes. These stereotypical behaviors aren’t bad in and of themselves, but past research has shown that they can be limiting in the long term for young women.” The long-term impact of the princess culture is what is of concern, not the short term.  However, the study looked one year out at preschoolers.  The study projects that it may impact women taking math and science and looking beyond what may be considered appropriate for women and women’s roles in future life.

Of course, the recommendation is that both young girls and boys be exposed to a variety of experiences, not just Disney Princesses.  Of course.  This Grandma can use common sense and does not even need to investigate Common Sense Media for that recommendation.

Time Magazine reported on the same study with a different headline, “Are Disney Princesses Hurting Your Daughter’s Self-Esteem?,” on June 22, 2016. The author of this article, Kirsten Salyer, admits that the study is a small study, and concludes that the study shows that the Disney Princess culture “influence could be good for boys-it could encourage better body esteem and being more helpful. But it could be damaging to girls-it could make them more susceptible to having bad body esteem and less confidence.”

She goes further in her reporting:

“Just like Barbie, the thin, perfectly proportioned, predominantly white characters perpetuate a potentially harmful ideal of beauty. As Peggy Orenstein outlined in her 2012 book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, an obsession with beauty can increase girls’ vulnerability to issues including eating disorders, depression and risky sexual behavior. Other research has shown that some Disney Princess films feature male characters speaking more often that women, which raises additional questions about the example these princesses set for girls’ independence and confidence.”

Her conclusion is exactly that of the previous author, both citing family-life professor Sarah M. Coyne, the author of the study, “Have your kids involved in all sorts of activities, and just have princesses be one of many, many things that they like to do and engage with.”

Yes, we want to expose young children to as many experiences as possible, taking them on outings, letting them try different activities, reading to them.  This is as much for their intellectual development as for self esteem and identity.  However, this Grandma remembers her youngest daughter who fixated on purple at age 3, so much so that she would not wear any other color.  For self preservation, I dyed all of her clothing and tennis shoes purple.  I can tell when she was three years old in pictures, because she is all in purple.  She does not now wear purple but occasionally, as an adult.  Yes, she too was into Disney Princesses at that age.  She is now a corporate executive.  This Grandma’s mantra is that children will be fine with love and healthy parents who care for their children’s needs, best interests, and development.  A short term compulsion is not of concern to this Grandma.  It is part of development too to have favorites.

So, this Grandma went to her best source of the best toys for children, the Oppenheimer Toys awards to see if Disney Princesses appear as a recommendation this holiday season for boys and girls.  October 26, 2016, they gave a gold award and recommended Disney Princess Bell Musical Tea Party Cart for preschoolers and pretend play, which preschoolers love, with a warning that real liquids should not be used with the set.  It relates to Beauty and the Beast and plays the song “Be Our Guest.” Buy at Amazon.

This same young daughter loved to dress up in costume, and the best grandma gift is a Disney Princess (or Prince) costume of the child’s favorite character, or even a box of costumes.  The Disney Store is one website to sign up on to get notice of specials.  There are constant sales, especially before the holidays, and immediately after, also perfect as a Valentine’s Day present.  You can even search by favorite princess or prince.

Every child should be allowed to pretend play and experiment.  If Disney Princesses or Princes are a favorite, or even the previous most controversial Barbie or Ken, so be it.  I would worry after age thirty five or forty.

Who knew that Disney Princesses would become controversial!  And before the holiday season 2016!  This Grandma’s recommendation is to spoil the child, buy what the grandchildren want, and quote this Grandma’s mantra to the parents of the grandchildren with

 

Joy,

 

Mema

 

 

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