Shopping as the New Prince

When I first started writing about the Disney Princesses, people assumed my beef was with the girl waiting around to be rescued by the handsome prince. But honestly? I don’t get that passive vibe from little girls playing princess or from the merchandise sold  them. For instance: how often do you see a prince doll at Toys’R'Us? (Though, personally, I think Prince himself is a doll…).

No, today’s princess is not about romance: it’s more about entitlement. I call it “girlz power” because when you see that “z” (as in Bratz, Moxie Girlz, Ty Girlz, Disney Girlz) you know you’ve got trouble.  Girlz power  sells self-absorption as the equivalent of self confidence and tells girls that female empowerment, identity, independence should be expressed through narcissism and commercialism. 

Think of it as the Kardashinization of girlhood (or maybe just the apocalypse): whether it’s craft kits, science kits, summer camps, birthday parties, dolls, games it’s all about the bling.

One of the things that set me ticking on Cinderella Ate My Daughter was wondering whether the very thing that we trusted to protect our daughters –Princesses and, by extension, the Disney Brand–was actually doing the opposite: priming them for early sexualization and an obsession with appearance. So it was important to me to look at what the brand hoped to move girls to next. And so I give you the brand new Disney City Girl Game. 

Here’s the description:

With suitcase in hand, it’s time to leave your small-town life behind and head to the big city to make your dreams come true! Do you have what it takes to skyrocket to stardom? In the spirit of Sorority Life, Disney City Girl gives players the chance to engage in a stylish and aspirational virtual world!

As a recent New York transplant, the player will explore the city with the help of her fabulous friends, from BFF Jenna to adventurous Auntie Kate. She’ll discover the best places to shop and hang out, choose from a variety of glamorous career paths, and visit exotic locations. As she progresses through her career, your City Girl will accrue style points, continually decorating and upgrading apartments, expanding her wardrobe, and facing off with her friends in “Daily Look” fashion competitions! From a grungy studio to a Park Avenue penthouse, from overworked intern to successful CEO, from country bumpkin to glamour girl, City Girl will keep you coming back again and again.

Have the makers of this game seen the TV show “Girls?” Because last I checked, there was a little more to deal with in the Big City than snapping up some Louboutins (retail, yet). Like trying to get a job. Astronomical cost of living. Rent. Grossness. Bad boyfriends. And messy, messy life. 

I did the moving-from-the-midwest-to-the big-city thing myself once upon a time, living on equal parts moxie and cluelessness.  Just the other day I was recalling those pink-and-yellow fur walls at the Palladium. And my daughter begs for the story of why I will never eat pizza again. I will not even go into my litany of giant cockroach and rat stories or what it was like to live next door to a crack house. That may be too much realism for a game–or maybe just the right amount. There could be an amazing video game about moving to the big city, right? 

You may have noticed above that Disney promises “a variety of glamorous career paths.” Right now that extends to being  either a chef or a fashion designer. Yep, that’s it. Players land an immediate paid internship in their chosen field (now that’s a fairy tale). To earn a promotion you have to work hard: the only way to advance is to collect “style points” with which to upgrade your apartment and wardrobe. Yeah, that’s right: the only way to move up at professionally is to shop for better clothes and decor. Oh, and you can compete against “friends” in the game’s “daily look” competition. Because whatever else is going on, you still want to be the fairest of them all.

The girls who play this game may be up for a rude awakening some day.

Seth Meyers mentioned Disney City Girl on SNL’s Weekend Update on Saturday. 

Disney has developed a new video game called ‘Disney City Girl,’ which lets players shop and work their way up the social ladder. To win, all you have to do is defeat all the progress women have ever made.

Really, I don’t have a lot to add to that….

Here’s the game’s trailer.

P.S. Thanks to Robin Wolaner for making me aware of this one. 

P.P.S. Amy Jussel over at Shaping Youth reminded me of an earlier post in which I discuss Disney’s attempt to rebrand princess with its recent “I Am a Princess” video. I wondered whether it signalled a change in how the company viewed girls, if they were authentically trying to shift things. But compare it to the one for City Girls  and all I can say is….nah.