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PopStuff Show Notes: Episode 38: Defending Disney Princesses?

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We recorded this episode shortly after Holly and I returned from a trip to Disney World. While we were there, we ran a bunch of races (she ran more than twice as far as I did) and spent some quality time with some Disney princesses. We have pictures of me and Holly with Belle and of Holly with … just about all of them.

The princesses have stirred up their share of controversy, so we thought we’d talk about where that controversy comes from and whether any of it is short-sighted.

  • Holly loves Disney princesses. You probably noticed this if you’ve listened to other episodes.
  • Cinderella Ate My Daughter
  • Whether Cinderella “does anything” in the Disney version
  • Scholarship around “The Princess and the Frog” and how race relates to feminist criticism
  • The princesses that “marry up” vs. the ones who were born as princesses
  • Disney Princesses: a $4.4 billion entity to market things
  • Changeling fantasies in children, and gender play in children
  • The legacy of doll backlash, from Barbie to Disney Princesses
  • The dream of love or something more that is common to most Disney princesses, and whether that means they’re just after a husband
  • The picture on the Internet of all the  princesses and their terrible messages
  • Holly’s (and sometimes my) defense of many of the princesses
  • Snow White: Coping, helping, earning her keep and being an aristocrat who pitches in with the working class in a time of struggle
  • The “Should we tell girls they’re pretty?” debate
  • Cinderella: Making the best of a bad situation, dealing with being bullied
  • Aurora: It’s the fairies who really do everything in this movie! Aurora and the prince are similarly empty vessels. Also, ’50s-era relationships between doing/not doing housework
  •  Ariel: It starts with Ariel wanting more than what she has, and then totally becomes all about a boy
  • Belle: My favorite! Bookish, not about the boy, looking after her father, and the difference between the Beast’s decision to change due to her influence vs. her attempting to deliberately change him
  • Before anybody gets mad about Holly calling the princesses “good girls,” let me point out that none of them are adult women
  • The weird Magic Kingdom time loop where no movie has yet had its resolution, yet everyone is happy
  • Jasmine: The oversexualization/anachronism debate, and her own decision to marry for love
  • A throwback to our New Year’s Resolutions episode and the craziness of resolving to fall in love
  • The maybe-princesseshood of Mulan and Pocahontas and whether they are in the official Disney Princess
  • Mulan’s great-exampletude, even if she is not a “real Disney Princess”
  • Tiana: the first black Disney princess, an entrepreneur, and her active pursuit of her personal dream of owning a restaurant, and she still pursues that dream after becoming a princess
  • Increasing diversity among girls dressed as Disney princesses since “Princess and the Frog” came out
  • Rapunzel:  She copes with being a shut-in by being smart, artistic, and bookish, and her song that reminds me of the Major-General’s song from “Pirates of Penzance,” and how she does some of the rescuing
  • My search for Rapunzel/consent criticism to see if it existed, which it didn’t, which made me glad
  • The Disney Princess Half-marathon and the nerd boat which means I can’t run it
  • Adults’ suppositions of how princesses affect children vs. the one-and-only-one actual study of children that I found when researching (Wohlwend, below)
  • Listener mail! From Paul about our What’s in a baby name? episode, which is now the episode we’ve gotten the most mail about, surpassing even Should it be hard to be a geek?

My research:

  • Disney Products Chief Quits
  • Do Rozario, Rebecca-Anne C. “The Princess and the Magic Kingdom: Beyond Nostalgia, the Function of the Disney Princess.” Women’s Studies in Communication. Spring 2004.
  • Hurley, Dorothy L. “Seeing White: Children of Color and the Disney Fairy Tale Princess. “The Journal of Negro Education.” Summer 2005.
  • Lester, Neal A. “Disney’s ‘The Princess and the Frog': The Pride, the Pressure and the Politics of Being a First.” The Journal of American Culture. Vol. 33, No. 4. December 2010
  • Orenstein, Peggy. “What’s wrong with Cinderella?” New York Times. December 24, 2006.
  • Wohlwend, Karen. “Damsels in Discourse: Girls Consuming and Producing Identity Texts Through Disney Princess Play.” Reading Research Quarterly. Vol. 44 no. 1, 2009

Holly’s research:

Episode link: Defending Disney Princesses?

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