Re-imagining the fate and implications of Disney Princesses has never been so popular as for every artist who tries to square the values that they impart to girls with real life, others try to make them empowering figures. But Parisian artist Thomas Czarnecki has taken his Disney Princess-themed work in a different direction and depicted the Princesses in their untimely deaths — and I’m not certain there is much critique at all.
Czarnecki doesn’t necessarily pull from just the Princesses in his collection “From Enchantment To Down,” as we’re still met with the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Little Red Riding Hood. But among these corpses are the standard six: Cinderella, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Belle, and Jasmine. And all the two-dimensional ladies have been transformed into full-fledged women who have been violently murdered, ominous titles suggesting the cause.
Alice has been bound and tied to a chair in some deep dark underground. Sleeping Beauty lays sprawled out on a mattress looking like the victim of sexual assault or a drug overdose — perhaps both. And Ariel, in maybe the most disturbing retelling, lies nude and dead wrapped in plastic wrap on a beach.
With obscured faces and sometimes missing high heels, these Princesses are frightening to behold primarily because they’re media-infused ideals for women and girls that have encountered the real risks that girls and women constantly face: kidnapping, murder, rape, etc. I suppose there is also the interpretation that all women and girls are “princesses” in our culture given how we raise them, and so these Disney-esque interpretations remind us that the victims are all somebody’s “princess.”
But although the artist may be criticizing how we raise girls or what they’re told to value, I personally find the depictions to be much too akin to the glamorization of dead or abused women that keeps resurfacing here and there. Heather Morris may have tried to make domestic abuse seem sexy, but everything from Kanye West‘s “Monster” video to Lindsay Lohan‘s sultry poses in blood-doused lingerie also seek to make a lifeless woman seem erotic. And whatever the artist may be trying to tell us, his arresting images seem to be relying very heavily on that “sexy dead woman” trope rather than criticisms of princess culture to provoke the onlooker. And that means all the difference in the case of our daughters.