Saturday, August 11, 2012

color me annoyed

my daughter is in love with princesses – Disney princesses to be specific. i think color has a lot to do with it. marketing to young children means tickling their order-obsessed sensibilities, and color is one of the first to manifest itself (along with, of course, gender). even at a young age, my Sweet One was a stickler about putting the green cup with the green bowl and the orange cup with the orange bowl... Disney has picked up on that. Cinderella is associated with blue. Aurora is pink. Tiana is green. Rapunzel is purple. and perhaps the only reason Belle is my daughter's favorite princess is because Belle is associated with yellow, her favorite color. each princess has her place on the color wheel – that is, when they're not wearing white for their inevitable wedding...

the same goes for all the Disney fairies. Tink is associated with green. Rosetta with red. Silvermist with blue. and my daughter's favorite is Iridessa, who is, you guessed it, associated with yellow.

the obsession is wearing off a bit. my daughter still enjoys parading around in plastic princess high heels – excuse me, glass slippers – and when not wearing them is likely walking around on tip-toes. but lately she's also been known to put her Snow White doll in a Belle dress, and Cinderella in Ariel's. so we're getting flexible here. no doubt the coloring app on Daddy's smartphone helped to break the ice – the only thing more powerful than definitive color associations is the ability to change them by touching BUTTONS! (after a round of computer time, my daughter's imaginary play briefly turns into an online game: "to go visit Ariel, Cinderella, click 'go'!")

this isn't necessarily a bash on princesses. i recall seeing The Little Mermaid in the movie theater and thereafter playing endless games of underwater tea-party with my best friend, imagining we were mermaids too. princess culture aside, my daughter is in no danger of thinking she really is a princess. her own stories have her princess figures hanging by strings and heading to jail as much as attending tea parties and journeying to a castle. and i approve of Belle who, after all, loves books more than boys. i've heard Merida may break the glittery mold, too, which i look forward to checking out. unfortunately, i've yet to interest my daughter in the earlier fighting princess, Mulan. but, then, Mulan has not enjoyed the same marketing onslaught as her modern weapon-wielding counterpart. and here we come full circle.

it's the megabrand marketing i have a problem with. Disney is buying my daughter's attention – not only that, but a chunk of her imagination. it's not just that Cinderella can only be associated with blue. but Cinderella must also have blonde hair. given a choice, my daughter will choose the Disney version of the story over one that is much more subduedly enchanting. when ignorant of the choice, however, she is thoroughly engrossed in the version that will never star in a Happy Meal.

there's something to be said about good storytelling. the problem is when that story line is co-opted by the bottom line.

i wish i could be more positive. but even Merida may be a victim of Disney marketing, which is particularly effective at erasing the original story to feed the stereotype-driven retail beast. what to do? my husband and i aim to raise a discerning kid. right now, that means helping my daughter achieve balance, encouraging her when she makes her own creative leaps, and seeking out alternatives. in a word, i aim to add a bit of flexibility to that rigid, preschool worldview.

and there is hope. for awhile, my daughter insisted that my favorite color was red. yellow was hers, Little Sister gets pink, and Daddy's is blue – so how could blue be Momma's favorite too? no, i was assigned red. lately there's been a shift. she's accepting that blue is, in fact, Momma's favorite. and that's ok.

although, come to think of it, i do have blonde hair...

1 comment:

  1. Very well said! Violette lives in Disney Princess land ALL day long! I got yelloed at for not coloring "Tangled" correctly one day. Totally get the marketing/coloring issues.