One of my favorite web series is the Nostalgia Critic, wherein Doug Walker of That Guy With The Glasses plays a cynical, often histrionic reviewer of old-timey flicks and assorted media. Lately, the series has added a recurring, bi-weekly opinion segment where the NC talks about some aspect or other of pop culture and its effects on society in general.
Today, he put forth a rather thoughtful look at the much-bemoaned “princess” archetype (especially as popularized by Disney) and the lackluster role model it generally provides to young girls. While I don’t agree with every argument he makes and I think he misses a few logical connections, it’s still an interesting and insightful perspective to consider:
(I have got to start writing shorter summaries …)
I would personally take it a few steps further than he dared to and posit that one reason for the historical popularity of the “princess” role model, particularly instead of the much more logical role of “queen”, is that it’s essentially another subtle manifestation of that ol’ bugaboo, the patriarchy. It only makes sense for a society that’s long been geared towards emphasizing male dominance in most fields (especially leadership) to depreciate the value and contributions of women in society at large. This would also help explain the long-running trope of the “evil queen”, given the precious few good queen characters that exist in our culture. (I can’t even think of any off the top of my head, though that may well just be my own ignorance showing.)
Another issue that Doug failed to mention is how the “princess” archetype is usually (if not inherently) attached to the romanticized concept of “true love”, where the implication is that not only should girls wait around ineffectually for some dashing male knight, but they should fall in love with them at first sight. This is perhaps a more ancillary point, but it’s nonetheless a grotesque caricature of actual romantic love, and it can become harmful when more gullible youths are encouraged to give themselves over to the first minimally suitable man that comes along, regardless of whether or not they’re actually compatible.
If anything, it’s disturbing how reminiscent this concept is to certain religious-fundamentalist circles, where rigid emphasis is placed on notions of female docility and delicateness, along with this deeply bizarre and creepy ideal of “purity”, where a woman’s worth is determined by how “clean” they’ve kept themselves by avoiding sex (because while men’s sex is a sign of virility and prowess, women’s sex is just icky, filthy shame, of course).
Then again, given how deeply and pervasively our society has been influenced by theocratic ideals throughout history, it shouldn’t be much of a revelation that religion might be a source for a popular archetype that essentially encourages girls to meekly know their place at the side of their rugged and heroic man.