Princess culture is everywhere nowadays. For every heroine aimed squarely at girls like Katniss Everdeen, there are at least 20 who don’t have any interests outside of snagging a boyfriend and living happily ever after. But given that the majority of Disney princesses don’t aspire to function as anything other than romantic interests, one often wonders what that happily ever after would actually look like for figures like Belle, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty who don’t really do anything besides fall in love and be pretty.
Such was the quandary for artist Dina Goldstein who decided to interpret just what happened at the end of those storybooks — and in modern times. In a series entitled “Fallen Princesses,” Dana shows Cinderella drowning out her sorrows in a dive bar, Snow White home with a deadbeat prince and four kids, and Belle getting some plastic surgery.
The portraits are quite powerful as the artist manages to capture a real sorrow to these women who suffer their “fairytale” in a true-to-life setting . Ariel and Jasmine may just be fairy tales, but tell that to the millions of little girls who internalize the message at younger and younger ages that being beautiful, desirable, and getting a guy should be their sole route to happiness — to which no other achievement or joy can compare.
Dina explains that she was inspired to create “Fallen Princesses” after watching her toddler-aged daughters obsess over Disney, specifically as a new mother:
As a new mother I have been able to get a close up look at the phenomenon of young girls fascinated with Princesses and their desire to dress like them. The Disney versions almost always have a sad beginning, an overbearing female villain, and the end is a predictably happy one. The Prince usually saves the day and makes the victimized young beauty into a Princess…I began to imagine Disney’s perfect Princesses juxtaposed with real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction, and self-image issues.
And real issues there are, such as cancer, body image, and health — a lot of which often goes ignored for women in the name of achieving beauty. Seeing these ladies suffering the real-life consequences of their fairy tales aptly highlights the messages we relay to our girls about worth and value as well as showcasing the true problems that are plaguing women of our time such as co-parenting and obesity.
This smart interpretation of some of the most enduring notions of femininity have much to say about the way we raise our kids — but also how we ourselves have been raised as girls and women.