I was driving my daughter home from dance class and listening to her talk about her newest obsession: princesses.
“I need a tiara like Cinderella,” she said. “I like Cinderella. She’s very pretty and her dress is awesome and she….”
She goes on and on and on about Cinderella and I’m wondering how she knows so much about her when I’m pretty sure she’s never seen the movie. Out of curiosity, I ask a simple question:
“Sweetie, who do you like better: Cinderella or Princess Tiana?”
“Cinderella,” she says, happily.
What? Now I’m confused. In our house, Princess Tiana rules and has ruled since before the movie came out. We saw it twice in theaters, own it on Blu-Ray, and have watched it a couple times a month since its release. Her room looks like her parents actually worked on the movie and got all that stuff for free. She adores her Tiana dolls and plays with them regularly, so how did Cinderella just come in and steal the show?
Was this just some innocent ramblings of a child or something more? I had flashes of the “black doll/white doll” experiments in my head and wondered if that was in fact what was going on.
“Why do you like Cinderella?” I ask.
“Because she’s pretty.”
“Is Princess Tiana pretty?”
“Yeah, she’s pretty, too.”
“So wouldn’t you want to be like Princess Tiana?”
“No, I want to be Cinderella.”
Hmm…ok.I personally liked The Princess and the Frog because it was about a woman who had a dream of opening a restaurant. She worked hard and wished on a couple stars, and finally got that restaurant, along with the man of her dreams. Cinderella, on the other hand, was mistreated by everyone she knew and was pursued by a dude who wouldn’t have even known what she looked like if she didn’t leave that glass slipper behind. But of course, my daughter is 4 and isn’t thinking of the nuances of the movie. She just enjoys a good story. Plus, Tiana spent most of the movie as a frog. Nothing too princess-y about that.
Again, I had to circle back. When did she even see Cinderella? I asked her.
Turns out, it was during an episode of the PBS Kids show, Super Why. In that episode, Cinderella wanted to go to the ball but didn’t have a ball gown or a fancy carriage, so her friends told her to just be herself and go without one. Wow. Maybe I ought to give my daughter more credit. She’s already soaking up more than I thought she would have.
Even still, I used that conversation as a jumping off point to reinforce what I already tell my daughter: That beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is no law saying that anyone is automatically more beautiful than anyone else. Brown skin is beautiful; thick, curly hair is beautiful; deep brown eyes are beautiful.
I also make it a point to tell her that being smart, considerate and passionate about your dreams will get you very far in life. (Something that Princess Tiana had in abundance. I’m just sayin’.)
I’ve never discouraged her from playing “princess” or watching princess movies, but I also pay attention to the underlying themes within. I try to expose her to a variety of media images that I’ve carefully selected. Women who are strong, intelligent, kind, compassionate””those are the images I want my daughter to be inundated with. I guess I sit somewhere on the fence when it comes to the “princess culture.”
Do you think fantasizing about being a princess is harmful or just plain innocent fun?
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