Belle: The Best of the Prissy Princesses
There are so many things I can’t stand about Disney’s cartoon characterizations of women, I could write for days, and I know I wouldn't be alone in my thinking. Granted, the Princess production line is the result of American social expectations of women in the mid-1900s, but cultural relativism doesn’t excuse their vapidity or make me want to watch their insipid prancing with my impressionable daughters. There is one princess I'm okay with, however: Belle, the chivalrous nerd girl.
It's been tough for me to avoid the merchandise, try though I might--my mother works for The Disney Company, so pink and princess have been foisted on us since day one. Consequently, my older daughter caught princess fever early. Okay, okay, I can roll a little. But some parents carry it waaaay too far. A few years ago, I caught on film a little girl and her brother, dressed as Cinderella and The Prince, posing endlessly for their parents at the Disneyland Princess Fantasy Faire (see photo). That's just wrong on so many levels. My own daughter caught the 'Aww...how cute!' vibe of others nearby...you can see her charmed reaction in the foreground. Trust me, we didn't stick around for the rest of that show.
Snow White naïvely trusting the men around her is more horrifying to me than the pig’s heart in the box that the hunter returns to the evil queen. Sleeping Beauty, a pencil-waisted shell of a woman, is nothing more than the vehicle for a story about the etiquette of including everyone on your invite list (or else). And then there’s every little princess-wannbe’s favorite, Cinderella, who continues to let her evil step-family walk all over her and marries the first man she dances with, just to get out of the house.
But once in a while, there is a princess or two whose story line leaves room for a message worthy of a modern woman’s daughters.
Belle is the first princess I remember feeling might have been someone worth knowing, had she been real. A voracious reader, she isn’t afraid to be a geek. That was me, in junior high school, always hiding in a book to keep loneliness at bay when we moved away from friends and family right at the onset of puberty. I could totally identify.Continued on the next page