“She Might Like to be a Veterinarian”: Parents, Parent Companies, and the Princess Movement
by Caryn Murphy — University of Wisconsin, Madison
May 06, 2008 – 04:20
When I caught this segment on Good Morning America last spring, it struck me as an example of how media conglomeration might inhibit the free flow of information, as media outlets are motivated to regulate themselves in the interests of their parent companies. ABC News raises the issue of social fears surrounding princess toy culture and then concludes that these royal fascinations are harmless child’s play, well within the purview of capable parents. Although Mattel, Viacom, and Club Libby Lu all participate in marketing princess fantasies to girls, only Disney’s Princess brand products are named and displayed in this piece. The question of where this trend originates goes relatively unexamined, beyond the basic story that Disney launched a Princess brand and consumers lined up to buy its products. Opponents of the princess “movement” (meaning popular consumer trend) argue that it serves the interests of patriarchal capitalism by providing endless varieties of toys, clothes and accessories that validate a passive feminine ideal. This piece concludes that it is the responsibility of parents, and not parent companies, to monitor and guide their children’s cultural consumption. The creative parent who provides a negotiated reading of Snow White for her daughter by inserting, “She’d like to be a veterinarian,” is depicted as a reasonable gatekeeper for Disney’s fastest-growing vertically integrated consumer products brand. Experts emphasize that princess culture is less about forming lifelong habits and more about encouraging children’s natural experimentation with identity and role models, but what goes unreported is that Disney also markets Princess lifestyle products (including a line of wedding dresses) to adult women. Whether or not princesses serve as positive role models, a central concern that is not addressed in ABC’s coverage is why these figures of wealthy, entitled beauty have become the focus of young girls’ play in recent years.
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