The garden used to be a wholesome place where you could wrest your child away from the tentacles of licensed products, right? No more. the ever-brilliant Rebecca Hains has made me aware of Burpee’s new Disney Princess seeds (oh yes, that’s what I wrote).
Needless to say, the ladies only grace flower packets—Mickey, Donald and the rest get vegetables because, as Rebecca notes, “princesses are meant to be gazed on; they are delicate beauties…” Too bad for boys who will now doubtless be expected to reject the flower patch.
Meanwhile, Rebecca points out that while regular seeds cost about a buck a pack, The DP ones weigh in at $1.99. That’s quite the royalty tax Disney’s levying ! Then there’s the mark-up accompanying Disney Princess plant labels which cost a whopping $2.97 for 6 while the regular labels are a mere $1.99 for twenty.
Rebecca concludes so beautifully and succinctly:
The Disney Princess marketing machine is SO huge, so far-reaching, that it’s hard to avoid and even harder to resist. Parents sometimes blame themselves for their daughters’ princess obsessions, but who’s really to blame–the parents, or the billion-dollar industry that is invested in profiting by shaping little girls’ dreams?
I think the answer is clear. In this kind of context, it’s hard to choose freely–and that’s something to think critically about.
Actually, it’s not a “billion dollar industry.” It’s a FOUR billion dollar industry (if you’re only counting Disney). One that is about to get bigger. Because yesterday kicked off—wait for it—the first annual National Princess Week!! Yes, Disney has teamed up with Target to create a brand new holiday celebrating….Well, it’s unclear what they’re celebrating, but who cares! It’s a week of festivities that allow—nay require—us to buy more newly introduced princess products!!!
The companies are positioning this “holiday” as embedded in other nationally-created occasions such as Mother’s Day. I suppose they have a point, especially when you recall that the woman who created that holiday died bitterly regretting its achievement, feeling that her “day to honor mothers” had devolved into little more than a consumerist “Hallmark Holiday.”
But at least Mother’s Day originally had some larger purpose behind it (actually its roots go as far back as 1870,when Julia Ward Howe, abolitionist and composer of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” issued a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” urging women, in the wake of the Civil War’s bloodbath, to call for disarmament). The purpose of National Princess week, according to Disney, is to: “showcase a variety of products designed to engage every princess,” especially the 10th anniversary re-release of the Princess Diaries movies on DVD, a book calle A Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes The Flower Girl and “an array of themed merchandise at Target stores….Blu-rays, books, toys, bedroom decor, games and more, inspired by Disney’s classic animated films, including Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog, and Tangled, starting at just $5.” The Disney site also helpfully directs celebrants to the Target web site where you can make these purchases.
Well, if that isn’t cause for national celebration, I don’t know what is!
What’s most painful to me is that they’ve enlisted Mary Poppins, aka Julie Andrews (who stars in Princess Diaries and, with her daughter, penned the above-mentioned Fairy Princess book), as the holiday’s putative Santa.
Everyone loves Julie Andrews. It’s churlish not to. I love Julie Andrews. Yet, as horrifying as it is, I must call her out. She betrays our trust and adoration when she disingenuously chirps: “Joining Disney and Target to create National Princess Week is an extension of my work—a moment in time for children to celebrate their individuality and let their inner sparkle shine.”
Because buying zillions of identical licensed products is always a good way to show your individuality? Because narcissism is the highest form of self-expression? Maybe something went whack with Ms. Andrews’ integrity after her most recent face lift (was that a low blow? Seriously–look at her! She can’t close her mouth!) but does she really expect us to (literally) buy it when she’s responds to an interview question on “why playing princess is really okay” by saying:
My personal take on it is that they may be trying on for size what it feels like to be, say, a real lady [emphasis mine]. [It] perhaps, in some way, helps them find their own identity later in life. I do think fantasy and play of this kind — whatever it is, if you want to play at being a nurse, or if you want to play at being a florist — it’s all important and should be allowed, because it would be an awfully sad place if we didn’t try on those airs and have fun doing it.
It’s an even sadder place when Julie Andrews has become little more than a cog in the Disney Princess marketing machine, her Poppins-esque authority used to convince us that bombarding girls with billions of dollars worth of crap that bulldozes all other forms of play is the same thing as choosing to put on your mom’s cast-off tiara and an old bedspread and flounce around the house on a rainy afternoon. In fact, that’s kind of like cloaking a sales-gimmick as a “holiday” in order to shove it down our throats.
I hate to say it, Mary, but sugar is not what’s on that spoonful.