Being between jobs, I spend a lot of time trying to keep myself busy during the day. I tend to do a lot of chores and small projects that have gone neglected. Over the last 2 months, the small projects have led several afternoon shopping runs. During my shopping runs, I tend to swing through the toy section and see about something small for the kids.
When I was a kid, Barbie dominated the toy section. In a normal department store, Barbie controlled about an aisle and half. And in a toy store, whether it was Toys R Us, Circus World, Child’s World, or Kay-Bee, Barbie owned the girls’ section.
Don’t look now, but in Target, Barbie controls about a 1/3rd of a full aisle, and in some cases it’s less. Why? The domination of the Disney Princesses. The Disney Princesses are now the dominant force, and they are being positioned only to increase their strength.
Everyone is aware of Disney’s marketing genius, but what they are doing now is fucking brilliant. And, they are taking it to the feminist audience.
I first noticed it about 4 years ago, I would go shopping for my now 6-year-old son Moose and walk either by or through the PINK section of the department or toy store. Little-by-little, more and more toys were popping up with the Disney Princesses. The packaging featuring at least 3 Princesses, and typically led by either Cinderella or Snow White.
The Disney Princesses are presented as if they are The Justice League or The Avengers. They are a team of badasses wearing gowns and tiaras. And with each movie, the team just gets stronger as they add the new regime.
The original Disney Princesses, or Disney Princesses “Classic” consist of the familiar faces we grew up with: Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine (to a lesser extent Pocahontas and Mulan fit in too). But let’s look at the level of role model they are.
Snow White: I am a beautiful, dark-haired woman who shacks up with seven little people named after emotions (except for Doc - because emotions need a good physician). Although, in order to be saved, I need to be served up under glass to a passing by Prince.
Note, until Aladdin, all the Princes are very nondescript Go back and look, the prince always seems to look like Superman wearing Captain Stubbing’s uniform. Even Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid look fits the mold except he wears Pirate garb.
Cinderella: I am an abused shut-in, who has detached myself so much from reality that I have become way too intimate with mice and other nearby animals. The only way I can be saved is if a Prince happens to stop by with my shoe. Although, when he finds me, don’t worry, I will not report the horrible atrocities I endured.
Ariel: I am a mermaid Princess living under the sea, but wanting more out of life. I want to break free and see what is out there for me. In order to get my shot, I have to give up my ability to speak in the hopes that a man will kiss me and allow me to talk again. I am allowed to adventure out on my own, but only if I find a good man first.
Belle: I was kidnapped by the leader of the Thundercats, I think. He holds me hostage with an army of animated furniture, knick knacks and china. But really, he is misunderstood. He didn’t mean to keep me as his prisoner. He really is sweet and loving. I better kiss him. This is my best shot at a good man.
Jasmine: I am a strong, arabic woman, who stands up to my father. I should not be forced to have a husband, I should find someone who I love and connect with. But my god, I am surrounded by a SHITLOAD OF RACISM!!
Enter The New Regime.
Tiana: I am a tough as nails business-owner-to-be. I end up becoming a frog trying to save some asshole who got mixed up in voodoo. Being stuck with this asshole, I find out he’s actually a nice guy. We scratch each other’s backs in the end. He regains his fortune from his family because they also realize he’s not an asshole, and in the process, he hands it over to his wife.
Rapunzel: Respect the do! This shit can heal. When some fuckhead tries to hide out in my tower, I smack him around with my frying pan and take him hostage. Show me the lanterns, mother fucker. OK, he’s hot, he cleans up well, and he gave me a great haircut. He can have a clean slate.
Merida: I am being told I have to get married. Problem is, it’s not my choice. My choices are the crybaby jock, Baby Huey with the Raj Koothrappali complex, and a future dungeon master. And of all people, my mother won’t listen. So I turn her into a bear to get her attention. In the process of fixing what I did, we discover a lot about each other. Most of all, we learn that together we can change the world.
Anna / Elsa: We are the Arendelle sisters! We learn that separately we are strong, but together we are invincible.
Disney has dethroned Barbie. And rightfully so, Barbie is not royalty. The Disney Princesses “Classic” and The New Regime stand together as a team.
How do you keep the franchise alive? You cannot take 10 princesses with their own stories and not have a catalyst to bring them all together. & Can you?
Enter Sofia the First, Disney Junior’s first Princess.
Sofia: Hi there! My mom married a king, therefore I became a princess. I have to balance the life of a commoner with the new life of being royalty. How do I do it? I get help from all of the Disney Princesses with my magical amulet, which unites all of the princess worlds. They pop into my word, give me some killer life advice, and move on.
And there you have it. Disney created a world where it can not only make the Disney Princesses intersect, but at the same time it can prep the next wave of consumers.
And yet it does not end there, the end caps are now positioned to attract the boys too. For Brave and Frozen, the end caps were positioned between the boys and girls toy sections. And the toys were lined up so the figures would stand out to boys on one side and girls on the other.
It is not uncommon to see boys with Sven and Olaf dolls from Frozen, or Merida’s brothers/bears from Brave. Sure, they are not buying Merida or Elsa or Anna, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Maybe one day it will be common place to see boys wearing Merida and girls wearing Iron Man (not sexy Iron Man - just plain old FUCKING IRON MAN) on Halloween.
Photo Robert Hold