I read the aforelinked blog by Melissa Silverstein sounding off on Disney's recent announcement that it will no longer be making movies about ye olde fairytales with great interest (and I must admit, no small amount of enthusiasm). I have griped and kvetched (two of my very favourite-est activities ,JYYV) Disney's Princess-ification of girl culture with great gusto in the past. But Disney's announcement is of course, a bit of a double (possibly triple or quadruple)-edged sword, as the blogger rightly notes.
For starters, Disney has decided that to be competitive, they don't want to be making movies that just appeal to girls (mm-hmmm - you read that right). There are a number of problems with that last sentence. 1. Girls = not profitable. 2. Princesses = just for girls. 3. Boys and girls clearly cannot enjoy the same kinds of movies, because they are so, like clearly and fundamentally (and programmably) different.
And for another, as Silverstein cleverly points out, this may mean that in the future, there will be precious little screentime for girls in kids movies. Period. Because apparently, girls are only princesses. Except for when they are very peripheral (like the cowgirl bit part in Toy Story) or love interests (whatever that girl car's name is in Cars or Dory from Finding Nemo or the dead wife from Up or the female reporter from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and so on and so forth and so on and so forth).
Now don't get me wrong here - I don't have a problem with princesses in general. Really. Yes. For serious. Princesses ain't so bad. What I have a problem with is Disney's presentation of fairytale princesses in a way that's designed to make us feel like they are empowered, strong characters when in fact the movies are filled with evidence to the contrary. There have been a few kick-ass princess flicks that I actually rather enjoy. Shrek, for instance. Mulan - not half bad, though too scary for my kiddos. There may be some romance happening, but these girls' aren't shrinking violets, spending their days pining, plotting, giving up their homes, families, freedom or selling their souls to fall in love with Prince Charming (who in one case, is actually her captor. Yup -that's right - 'cause felonies are sexy, baby).
It can't be so difficult to come up with a movie that appeals to all kids, that doesn't involve shrinking violet girls or 'to-the-rescue' boys. How 'bout looking to the vast and amazing (and current) children's literature to find ideas for the big screen. How 'bout putting some Robert Munsch-ness up on the big screen? The Paperbag Princess, anyone? (Or some other cool blue-jeans and tiara wearing kick-ass Princess who does cool stuff and, as she (or he!) is a child, isn't looking for an immediate love match).
How 'bout some kids of all genders doing awesome, fun, age-appropriate adventures? There are a wealth of really great kids' stories out there just waiting to be told. But I guess movies are more about margins and marketability these days than great storytelling and inspiring protagonists. (Too bad, though).
I am sorely tempted to take Boy-o to see Tangled for his birthday, so I can witness firsthand Disney's attempt at kids' movie gender parity... Could make for some excellent blog fodder, I suspect. (Wouldn't it be wonderful if they made me eat my words? C'mon Disney, I dare ya! Make me eat my words!!)