Monday, November 29, 2010

The Demise of Disney Princesses

Disney Studios have announced that they have no more Princess or fairytale movies in the pipeline, and have significantly changed their approach to the movie about Rapunzel. Because of the way these depictions are poor role modelling for girls? Oh, no.

In the age of mega-franchises when movies need to appeal to a broad audience to justify a sizeable investment, Disney discovered too late that The Princess and the Frog appealed to too narrow an audience: little girls. This prompted the studio to change the name of its Rapunzel movie to the gender-neutral Tangled and shift the lens of its marketing to the film's swashbuckling male co-star, Flynn Rider.

The movie was reconceived as a musical with fast-paced action and witty banter. The only surviving elements, Catmull says, were ''the hair, the tower and Rapunzel''.

So,they changed the name, and the advertisements now focus on the male character, because they want to increase their audience. Hmm. I wonder.

And girls are over princesses by the time they are six. Then they want to be cool and hot.

So why has the clock struck midnight for Disney's fairytales?

Among girls, princesses and the romanticised ideal they represent - revolving around finding the man of your dreams - have a limited shelf life. With the advent of ''tween'' TV, the tiara-wearing ideal of femininity has been supplanted by new adolescent role models.

''By the time they're five or six, they're not interested in being princesses,'' says Dafna Lemish, who chairs the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois University and is an expert in the role of media in children's lives. ''They're interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values.''

MGA Entertainment, the maker of Bratz dolls, knocked the toy industry's blonde bombshell off her stilettos by recognising how little girls' interests have morphed.

''You've got to go with the times,'' MGA's chief executive, Isaac Larian, says. ''You can't keep selling what the mothers and the fathers played with before. You've got to see life through their lens.''

Clearly, they see this is what society values.

Clearly, an opportunity to offer a counter message.

Clearly, an opportunity missed.

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