The Princess Syndrome

December 13th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  6 Comments

“Princess Snow White!” screamed Sasha one day last week in the middle of the East Broadway F-train station. I looked around: Huh? There were no subway posters advertising Disney’s oldest animated princess, no kids dressed up as Snow White—nothing. Then I gazed down two sets of stairs to the train platform, where on another kid’s backpack was a tiny image of said Snow White, barely visible. My 3-year-old’s eyes: damn fine!

All of which is to say that, like many if not most other little girls, my kid is mildly obsessed with princesses. Princesses, princess fairies, princess dresses, ballerina princesses—they all capture her attention, even though she’s still too young to really have any idea what “princess” means. That whole scenario of royalty escapes her. Princess, to her, means getting to wear beautiful dresses. In fact, it’s synonymous with “fairy” and “ballerina.”

I bring this up because DadWagon subsidiary Disney has, in all its infinite wisdom, created “Sofia the First,” a princess targeted at preschoolers like my Sasha. Quoth the local paper:

This week the company plans to announce “Sofia the First,” a television movie and series centered on a girl princess. It’s a first: Disney’s princesses until now have all been adults (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and so on).

“Sofia the First” will play on both Disney Channel and Disney Junior, a channel aimed at children ages 2 to 7 that is set to make its debut in the coming months. The company’s hope, of course, is for the character to spawn all kinds of consumer products. It’s a solid business bet; the Disney Princess toy line generates about $4 billion in annual retail sales.

But Disney is also keenly aware of the potential for criticism and emphasizes that “Sofia the First” will focus on learning and what it says are age-appropriate themes. Lessons will include the importance of getting along with siblings and how to be a kind and generous person.

My thoughts? Eh. Sasha’s only just turned 3, and she’s already indoctrinated into the cult of princessdom. Creating a new highness won’t make things better or worse than they already are.

But one line from the Times’ write-up does intrigue me: “the importance of getting along with siblings.” That’s because, do any other Disney princesses have siblings (and not step-siblings)? Ariel, maybe? It’s really kind of amazing to me how small these Disney royal families are, with their only children forever plunging into mortal danger. Wouldn’t it be great for Disney to create “Natasha, seventh in line to the throne, that is if her father’s younger brother and nephew don’t assassinate him first”? Or “Princess Aparna, whose father the king recently entered into an agreement with a colonial power that will flee the land in a few decades, precipitating the rise of a militant anti-royalist movement so that she’ll have to live out the best years of her life in a two-room Manchester flat”?

Okay, maybe I’m asking for too much. So, how about twin princesses? Seriously, that would be cool.


  1. lucy says:

    December 13th, 2011at 12:43 pm(#)

    I actually have an issue with the term princess or Princesa in Spanish.

    I know the grandparents love to call our daughter Princesa but I don’t want her to think that as she grows older that I am going to bow down to her every whim. I like what you wrote about the princess having a modern day twist with siblings.

    My daughter already loves seeing her dresses in the closet. I am not a girly girl that wears earings and bracelets or dresses. But I guess it is in her genes via dad’s side of the family to love all things that glitter.

  2. Raúl says:

    December 13th, 2011at 1:57 pm(#)

    Wao I had never seeing it from that point of view. You kind of opened my eyes when it comes to how the dynamic in these cartoon families give all the attention to one person when Equality should be taught at all levels.

    Having a 11 month daughter I really think that this post will stay in the back of my mind.

    Hopefully I can create a rebel daughter than a Princess wannabe.

  3. Christine says:

    December 14th, 2011at 7:52 am(#)

    I have a son who could care less about princesses, but Hurray! I have missed you Dadwagon! I was concerned that you had found, like, paid work that would prevent you from wasting your time entertaining me with tales of parenting.

  4. Matt says:

    December 15th, 2011at 9:29 am(#)

    Glad you’re glad we’re back! We’ll try not to go away again.

  5. Ben says:

    December 15th, 2011at 10:34 pm(#)

    I’m with you, man. My 3-year-old daughter is in EXACTLY the same phase. Remarkable. Interesting twist is we’ve been encouraging princess hybrids, like the “monkey princess” that she dressed up as for Halloween. (Initial “Chuck Norris princess” suggestion was just met with a glassy stare.) Regarding the Disney creation, the sibling angle is clever. With that one detail, don’t you feel like they’ve handcuffed parents into cooperation?


    I like princesses who wake up in the night and take on trolls and wolves « Dispatches from Daddyland

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