The Disney Princesses were only sort of around when I was growing up. Sure, I knew about Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, but they didn’t have the same cache as Disney Princesses do today. They didn’t command the same following (read: marketing) as Ariel, Belle, and the others do.
Truth be told, the Disney Princesses piss me off. I’ve got no beef with the original three because they’re all based on very old fairy tales and were fairly innocuous – and still are. I was just in DisneyWorld and they dance around on stage with their assigned Princes, bosoms mostly covered and weird, mortuary-style makeup plastered on. Disney slutted up the newer models something fierce though – Ariel the mermaid most often wears a bikini top and nothing else (aside: when I asked my class of ninth graders if they thought it was strange that my toddler son was obsessed with her, one fifteen year old boy raised an eyebrow at me and said, “Hell no, have you SEEN her?? She’s HOT.”) and Jasmine looks exactly like a pole dancer. Every now and again Disney takes a stab at introducing a non-Caucasian Princess but it seems to me that their marketing isn’t quite as vigorous for Pocahontas, Jasmine, Mulan, or Tiana (whose name I had to Google because I don’t think I’d ever even heard it before). Disney doesn’t seem so much down with the brown. Granted, Rapunzel didn’t make it into this group shot, but Tiana isn’t in there either.
But even though I wasn’t gaga for the Disney chicks, I certainly had my fantasies of wanting to be a real-live princess myself. Doesn’t every girl at some point think it would be pretty cool to marry a prince? Have the fairy tale?
If you think about it, though, the “Princess” label has some negative baggage associated with it. Being called a princess isn’t a compliment. A modern day princess is pretty much a bitch, right? And when you call to mind the archetypal fairy tale princess, you imagine a hothouse flower, waited on and tended to, generally emotionally fragile and coddled and fussed over. ICK.
Princesses have been given a bum rap.
If gays can take back the word “queer,” I say daughters of monarchs and those married to the sons of monarchs upon whom the title previously assigned to daughters of monarchs is bestowed take back “Princess.”
Think about what modern day princesses do! Kate Middleton looks like she’s got it good right about now – big wedding, lots of nice clothes, buckets of cash. Holy inbreeding, people! She has to watch every word that comes out of her mouth for the rest of her life. Every ounce she gains or loses will be commented on. Every friend she has will be suspect – is that person her “real” friend or some hanger-on hoping to capitalize on the royal connection? She’ll be busting her ass doing charity work, traveling as a representative of a dusty monarchy with only nominal authority yet a disproportionate superficial burden. Never a hair out of place, not too many girls’ nights out, she can’t lose it on her kid at the grocery store if she wants to because 1) she doesn’t actually go to the grocery store and 2) if she loses it on her kid, which she will inevitably want to because, hello? it will be all over the newspapers in about five hot seconds. She has to have at least one CAUSE – and it has to be a good one. And the thing is, because she is smart as hell in addition to being beautiful and generally a kind person, she will actually care about this cause, but her concern will probably most often be taken for the smarmy fakery of obligation. If she manages to convince everyone of her sincerity, she will probably end up fighting the frustrating feeling that she can’t ever really do enough of what she wants to do or could do, hogtied as she is by her social position and the expectations of others. She will always do her best, smile stuck on her face until it hurts, mostly thinking she’d just like to be normal for a month, a week, hell…a DAY. Plus…you know. All the normal stuff of being a person and a wife and a woman.
Need proof this job is a beast? One word: Diana.
Princess Caroline of Monaco isn’t any kind of slouch either. And if you don’t rise to the occasion, you’re Princess Stephanie – and then you’re just tabloid fodder.
And here’s a cautionary tale…they didn’t make Sarah Ferguson a princess when she married Prince Andrew – they stuck with her a Duchess title and she crashed and burned – topless photos, some guy who wasn’t her husband sucking her toes by a pool in Spain, dropping f bombs here and there. Bet you a ticket to the royal wedding that if they’d made her an honest to God princess she’d have risen to the occasion. Her daughters, Eugenie and Beatrice are princesses and you don’t see them on ads for Weight Watchers or sitting on Oprah’s couch.
Being a real princess isn’t all tiaras and glitter and fancy dress balls. The tiaras probably weigh a ton and seriously interfere with a decent hairstyle, glitter is a nightmare to wash off, and fancy dress balls are tedious, especially if your mother-in-law, the Queen, is there counting your champagne cocktail intake.
And this is to say nothing of the princesses who actually step into positions of leadership, when the going gets really tough because everybody is just basically standing around waiting for you to fail so they can say, “See, I TOLD you she was just a stupid princess.”
Here is where I confess that my daughter, mother, and I are going to a friend’s house tomorrow at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. to watch the royal wedding on the telly (you have to say it like that because it’s BRITISH). I sat down with my daughter tonight to read some princess books.
“The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses” is a series of six books by Shirin Yim Bridges about real historical princesses – tough chicks – who were leaders and fighters and rebels and thinkers. The books were a bit over my daughter’s head. She’s seven, and though she could read them on her own, she got hung up on people dying and being sold into slavery and the “Strong Woman” message fell by the wayside. My nine year old son overheard us reading one about Hatshepsut of Egypt, and intervened. He loves all things mythological and the story about an Egyptian anything was irresistible to him. Because he was interested, she became more interested. We read all six in one sitting. During dinner the kids blasted their dad with facts about each princess, what she ate, what she wore, what she did, who she beat up, on and on.
So take it back, Kate! With the knowledge that you have Hatshepsut of Egypt, Artemisia of Caria, Nur Jahan of India, Sorghaghtani of Mongolia, Qutlugh Cerkan Khatun of Kirman, and Isabella of Castile behind you, take back The Princess! I’ll be there tomorrow, sleepy and disheveled, sipping tea (coffee) and watching the telly at 5 a.m., cheering you on.