Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fairy Tale Discussions Pt. 1

For almost two years I've been on a forum called "indiebride." I started glancing at it when John and I began considering setting a date to get married. One of the topics has to do with the icon of princesses (specifically the marketing of the "Disney Princesses") and how it affects feminism. Now I'm not necessarily a feminist but I've been raised in the post-feminist world. At the same time I had a mother who after working for a while made the decision to stay home with us until my youngest sibling was six years old when she decided to go back to college to get her degree. Again, not necessarily feminist but most certainly a strong, intelligent women archetype in my mother. In addition my sister and I were little bookaholics. We would regularly check out books from the kids side of the library which either had the tales of the Greecian myths or the early fairy tales. I don't know how much it affects me today as a 25 year old married college student.

While I liked the stories of most of the Disney princesses, none really gelled with me until Cinderella. She was the first somewhat feisty "princess" to click with me as an average girl. I had to clean my room. I had to listen to my parents even if I didn't want to. There were times that I wished I had a fairy godmother to help me out of the house for a bit.

The first Disney animation that I remember watching in the movie theater was "the Little Mermaid." Again the idea of escape gelled with a little girl and the idea of a crush on a man was only just coming into my head (albeit in the traditional "Fairy tale" sense).

In seventh grade I retreated into my shell and books when I felt like I was an outsider within my small school. I became even more a bookaholic, even letting my grades slip in favor of reading (even if the books were educational). During that time I found myself identifying with Belle. I borrowed a cassette tape of the Disney soundtrack from library and would dance to it all the time. At that time I had been about two years into toe dancing and began creating my own choreography to what I used to call "The Town Scene" (on the cassette tape it was called "Belle"). I identified with the well-read girl in a town of unintelligent people. My school was really small so the conversations in the small town always seemed to be the same sort that I saw and felt around me. The strength and intelligence that I saw in Belle was something that I wanted to emulate in everyday life.

In 2000 my high school marching band went to Disney World I made the decision that I would begin collecting Belle, but only Belle in Blue. For some reason it was the only outfit that I felt fully emulated her in her intelligence and silent strength. I found that there were few things with her in Blue and found it a little odd. They had begun the process of celebrating the ten year anniversary of the premiere of "Beauty and the Beast" and yet just about all I could find of Belle was Belle in the gold dress. Too me it just didn't fit with the part that I loved about her in the first place; the passion, the strength and the intelligence. The Belle in gold was the meek, quiet Belle to me. When I tell people what I collect I always have to explain why I choose Belle in Blue over the gold. If they give me Belle in gold I accept graciously but will never buy it unless it shows her with that outfit either reading a book or in the library. In that instance the Belle in Gold becomes and intelligent woman, not a simpering princess of yore which many of the Disney princesses are played to be today.

More recently Disney has released a new movie which in some ways shows both and old and new Disney princess. I have yet to see it but from what I can tell the movie itself is a commentary on their own princesses. I plan to go see it and hope you will as well....if only to give me someone to talk to about it.

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