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Disney’s New Princess Is A Little Girl, Will Teach ‘Lessons’

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sofia the first new disney princessWhen I was a little girl in the midst of princess culture, all the Disney princesses were women. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty may have behaved like little girls, but anatomically speaking they were adults. And as an entire generation of little girls took their social cues from Snow White cleaning the dwarves’ home and Jasmine’s awkward seduction of Jafar, part of the mimicking and even apprenticeship of Disney Princesses occurred because they were adults.

But Disney’s newest addition to the princess set, Sofia, is explicitly a “girl princess.” The little girl in the blue gown will star in a new television series entitled “Sofia The First” aimed squarely at kids ages two to seven set to debut in the coming months. Although princesses for little girls have a tendency to promote consumerism (after all, who else is buying those dresses and jewelry but Prince Charming or mommy and daddy?), Disney seems to be aware of this concern when crafting this new series.

Nancy Kanter, general manager for Disney Junior Worldwide, told The New York Times that even though Sofia has “plenty of pretty dresses and sparkly shoes,” the show will tell girls that “what makes a real princess is what’s inside, not what’s outside.” [tagbox tag=”Disney”]

Sofia will apparently instruct girls on the importance of getting along with siblings and how to be generous and compassionate. While those are values for girls that tend to get lost in our culture of mean girls and avid materialism, the idea of Disney charm school being taught by a little princess doesn’t exactly sounds like a parents’ ideal either. Does little Sofia also teach girls to remain quiet in the name of politeness? Will they be told that having an opinion makes them “difficult”?

If those crevices are avoided, then this is certainly a princess that I can get on board with.

(photo: nytimes.com)

15 Comments

  1. Jen

    December 13, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I’m definitely feeling a little wary of this, if only because Disney has always had a frustrating way of depicting ALL women. Not only are all the Princesses (those people we are supposed to emulate) fairly poor role models for raising empowered women, but Disney explicitly shows that empowered females (both sexually empowered and actually empowered) are heartless, bitchy villians who will eventually receive their comeuppance at the hands of a man (usually with his phallus stand-in, natch).

    • kathleen

      December 13, 2011 at 8:23 pm

      I simply don’t understand why princesses are considered to be role models for little girls. I realize that it’s merely a marketing ploy, but are we actually supposed to be excited that Disney has created a new princess specifically intended to influence 2-year-olds? I find this kind of horrifying.

      So far, the values that Princess Sofia is going to teach small girls include compassion, generosity, and mediation. Are they also going to add more Angel in the House qualities? The fact that ‘Tangled’ is supposed to be Disney’s idea of what an empowered female looks like means that all sign point to ‘yes.’

    • nevilleross

      June 14, 2013 at 12:36 am

      Actually, I would think that Merida’s wanting not to be married so young is quite the feminist message in itself, and would be embraced by many women and young girls.

    • madison

      February 14, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      oh come on rapunzel was bad ass. she started out nieeve because she was stuck in a tower but she grew in to a smart strong brave and resourcefull girl. she didnt just wait around for a prince. she and ugene grew to love each other after there aventures. ugene grew to with rapunzels help. at the end he learned to be less selfish and macho and he opened up about his own insecureities like having a wierd name. i think he acted like a tuff guy because he was afraid of showing his real self. i no both boys and girls who act like that. the thugs in the snuggly duckling showed that men dont have to conform to gender rolls and can do girly stuff like nitting and bakeing cup cakes. it is also a funny movie and meant to be watched for entertanement.

  2. Cee

    December 13, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    “Boo hoo, Disney princesses ruined my girlhood, womanhood and life.” If shows determined the rest of your life and gave you a life long princess complex or skewed female perceptions..there’s something wrong with you.

    I think the concept is nice. The princess is cute and its cool that she’s little so little girls don’t feel the need to grow up so fast.

    I’m glad there is a little princess that will teach little girls life lessons…kinda reminds me of Fancy Nancy. She’s fancy but she also teaches little girls and boys many things.

    My only complaint about Disney shows is the tweenage shows with actors like Selena Gomez, Miley and all them because the characters are usually rude and treat their parents like they’re dummies.

  3. K

    December 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    girls like princesses. get over it people. i grew up with barbie and princess stuff and was super girly girl and i am an accountant and breadwinner for my family. really screwed me up…

  4. Jen

    December 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    So, I think Cee and K are missing the point. It’s not that girls who like Disney and Barbie are destined to be Stepford Wives, it’s simply that the role models we provide to girls are still not strong, empowered women and that is a problem. In a world where girls and women try and avoid calling themselves feminists because that’s become a coded word for “insufferable, man hating bitch” Disney and Barbie send the message that any female who is or who wishes to be in control of her own life and/or sexuality is “evil” and if you don’t think that is damaging to the young female psyche (and to male perceptions of women too) you are inexcusable naive.

  5. Just Laura

    December 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I’m not going to argue that Disney princesses are role models for empowered women, but why should they be? Shouldn’t a girl have fun, but have real life strong women to emulate?

    Each Disney move teaches a moral of some sort. I loved Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and later as a teen, every time a friend of mine would say, “I can’t date that guy. He’s not cute enough” I remembered that what is on the inside matters most. So what if Belle wasn’t the perfectly empowered female we want our daughters to be? She still conveyed a good lesson.

    One of my girlfriends and I loved Disney while growing up, and even flew to Disney World together as teens. She went on to get her degree in Mechanical Engineering, and I earned a M.A. in Museum Studies. I hardly think Disney nor his princesses are what is keeping young women down. Placing the blame on Disney for failing to design perfect, strong women is laughable. I hardly think my psyche was damaged because of a cartoon movie. At some point, we need to focus on real, living role models for a solid foundation, rather than animated ones.

    • Jen

      December 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      I’m not going to argue with you that girls should have real life role models to look up to. I will argue with you about how much of an impact the Disney culture has on girls. For one, Disney creates most of the role models (living or animated) that young girls have and no matter how strongly we may feel about the need for live role models, the fact is that many girls (and especially girls in the age group this new princess is attempting to target) idolize animated princesses; largely because Disney has made this a major marketing strategy.

      So what if you and your friend both loved Disney as kids AND have an education? No one is arguing that girls who are exposed to Disney can’t be empowered women–heck, I LOVE Disney movies and my three best friends and I used to have Disney sing alongs every day in college. I still find it incredibly disturbing that every single empowered female in their films gets painted as a shrill, power hungry, man hating harpy (much in the way that many young women view feminists actually) and I’m not naive enough to think that Disney didn’t or doesn’t have an impact on the way that females in this country tend to view things like love, femininity and body image.

      I have a four year old and I work part time in a pre-school. Every single one of those girls knows that in order to be a perfect princess you need to be pretty (and pretty in Disney of course means white and thin) and you need to find and impress your prince–you also need someone to give you/make you a really impressive ball gown. At 3 and 4 that’s a pretty intense message these girls are absorbing and there is enough research to tell us that it’s a message that sticks with girls all the way to womanhood.

      PS: Using the woman who was held captive by the dude who was such a jerk that he was going to let an old woman freeze to death on his doorstep (and who was actively allowing an old man to die in his dungeons) as a model for the message “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” is pretty funny. Oddly enough it’s only men who can have a beautiful inside and an ugly outside in Disney films…after all just in case we weren’t sure the writers included an entire village singing about how hot Belle is as the opening number.

    • Jen

      December 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      Forgot to mention: If you DON’T think Disney has had an impact on the way women (adult women) view life I would challenge you to find me a “romantic comedy” that doesn’t follow the same tired trope as the Disney movies.

  6. nitha

    August 19, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    only like that

  7. nitha

    August 19, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    if i were in disney i would choose to be sleeping beauty because i like to sleep.

  8. Allie James

    January 1, 2014 at 8:35 am

    She is NOT a Disney Princess. The Disney Princesses are Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pochohantas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida , Anna and Elsa, Labyrinth(the next Disney Princess project) will introduce another Disney Princess

  9. madison

    February 14, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    this is my first comment and im not a mom so dont be to hard on me. i just thougt that since i watch sofia the first my self i should anser koas questions. sofia the first is not about being afraid of haveing opinions or not speaking your mind when its importent. sofia is a nice and polite girl but she speaks up when she thinks something is rong. the episode just one of the princes had a feminist moral. she stands up for what she beleaves in when she hears that only princes are aloud on the derby team and she becomes the first princess on the derby team. i hope you will at least give it a chance before hateing it.

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