A Hot Debate About Disney Princess Costumes Online
You may have seen some of the criticism of Disney Princess costumes online lately. After being the most cherished of Disney’s classic characters, Disney princesses are the subject of a hot debate between franchise fans and critics who claim Disney princesses are bad role models to girls. Apparently, Disney princess costumes are inspiring little girls in the wrong way. Though there are opinions in support of the Disney princesses, social media and the internet are trending against girls wearing Disney princess costumes. According to these critics, Disney’s movie formula for princess stories always positions the female lead character as a helpless “damsel in distress” that needs to be rescued by a male figure. That may explain why Disney has released titles such as Brave, where the protagonist princess (Merida) is an independent, bold, self-sufficient female who chooses her own destiny. Not long after, Disney’s epic hit, Frozen, featured Elsa as the strong-willed princess (counterpart to her sister Anna) who proved that a prince charming is not needed in a successful Disney princess story. Still, Merida and Elsa are not enough to sway the mind of the Disney critics who are voicing their strong opinion about Disney princess costumes online. After all, Disney built an empire on the damsel in distress formula and only now are people able to engage in open debate thanks to the miracle of the internet and social media.
While the online criticism of Disney and princess costumes has some truth in it, Disney loyalists defend princesses with a powerful statement on online platforms as well. If dressing up as a princess won’t actually make you a princess, then why would it mean that these same costumes will turn you into a damsel in distress? The argument in favor of Disney is that these stories—which were mostly adapted from classic fairy tales—are not responsible for instilling values in little girls. The job of a parent is to build a strong foundation for their children; one that won’t be easily shaken by a simple work of fiction or simply wearing a costume. A parent that would be so concerned about the influence of princess costumes on a child should be a parent who instills strong values, so why worry in the first place?
Photo via BoingBoing
What they are saying...
A Little Background on Disney’s Princess Empire
The magic of Disney has been enchanting young minds since the late 1920s but it wasn’t until 1937, when Snow White became the first official Disney princess to have a full length feature, that Disney established itself as the home of classic fairy tale princesses. Since then, Disney has hugely capitalized on selling princess stories in the form of books, films, plays and even online games. They even adapted their theme parks to revolve around the magical castle that is home to costumed Disney princesses who roam about taking pictures with fanatical visitors. Surely, it was never Disney’s intention to create stories portraying the princesses as inferior characters—despite being lead roles. Disney merely adapted existing classic fairy tales and folk stories to their own imaginary world of ever after. Over time Disney evolved along with the world and the subjects have clearly shifted to present new Disney princesses with more empowering stories.
As early a the ‘90s, you could already see Disney presenting more independent “princesses;” ones whose costumes should strike no nerves. Pocahontas, Mulan and—to some extent—princess Jasmine presented stronger female character roles with less dependence on a prince charming. Even non-princesses (but still popular female characters) like Esmeralda from the The Hunchback of Notre Dame perpetuated a message of strength and independence. So, why is Disney getting a backlash from princess characters they created in their early days?
Photo via Wikia
The criticism that Disney receives has more to do with the popularity of Disney princesses among little girls. Disney has a knack for making timeless princess films and even the oldest of Disney princess stories remains influential to little girls today. Snow White costumes are among the most popular choices along with Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel and Belle dresses. This is what really causes concern to critics who cannot agree with the “it’s only fiction” argument. But the fact is that it is just fiction.
There are endless works of fiction for children that tell false stories and present skewed versions of reality, but that does not mean children gobble it up as anything more than entertainment. Most children are smart enough to understand concepts presented by these characters with proper guidance. They should be able to enjoy the fantasy of Disney’s stories without feeling inhibited by this stigma that is being created around something as innocent as wearing a Disney princess costume. Lookup Disney princess costumes online and you will get a mixed bag of approval and disapproval. In the end, there are those who think princesses should not be negatively portrayed.
What this Means to Online Costume Shops
It’s tough pleasing everyone and by default, our take is a biased one in favor of Disney. Princess costumes are the bread and butter of the Halloween and birthday costume industry so it is almost impossible for an costume store to support such criticism. It's all a matter of perspective depending on who you ask. Many people speak in favor of Disney princesses and they have their have their own valid reasons to do so. Being an online costume store that sells Disney princess dresses, we compete with critics on the same platform for exposure, so we have to convey the message clearly. Disney princess costumes bring more joy to children than any other category. We get to see the other side. The side where parents and grandparents thank us for having the exact princess dress that made their little darling so happy. The side where a party entertainer dresses up in a Disney princess costume to bring joy to children at a birthday celebration. No part of this causes harm and no princess outfit is influential enough to mislead a little girl who has a sound foundation at home. If it were otherwise, everyone needs to tread with extreme caution—constantly hovering over their children to ensure their "over-impressionable" minds don’t become corrupted by any type of fiction. The world is not that black and white, and if it is, it may be a good idea to teach young girls that a cartoon is just a cartoon and not a role model in the first place.