Real-Life Disney Princess Exposed the Danger Line

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Peggy Orenstein broods on Disney's "safe" coming-of-age fairy tales for girls in this excerpt from her new book, "Cinderella Ate My Daughter." The line between "wholesome and whoresome," she finds, is too easily crossed.

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Growing Up in Public

In the Vanity Fair profile, the writer Bruce Handy asked, "How do you grow up in public, both as a person and as a commodity?"

I reread that sentence several times as I scrutinized the notorious photo.

Handy might more specifically have wondered how you grow up in public as a woman and a commodity, what Miley's attempts and missteps would mean not only for her but for her millions of worshipful fans.

By the time girls are 5, after all, the human Disney Princess du jour is meant to supplant the animated ones in their hearts. Miley. Lindsay. Hilary.

Even, once upon a time, Britney (who launched her career in 1993 as a Mouseketeer on "The All New Mickey Mouse Club"). All were products of the Disney machine. Each girl's rise became fodder for another media fairy tale, another magical rags-to-riches transformation to which ordinary girls could aspire.

But some 200 years after the Brothers Grimm first published their stories, had that trajectory become any more liberating?

The 19th century Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White served as metaphors, symbols of girls' coming of age, awakening to womanhood.

The contemporary princesses do as well, and though the end point may be different--marrying the handsome prince has been replaced by cutting a hit single--the narrative arc is equally predictable. In their own way their dilemmas, too, illuminate the ones all girls of their era face, whether publicly or privately, as they grow up to be women--and commodities.

Excerpted from "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" by Peggy Orenstein, published by HarperCollins Publishers.


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Peggy Orenstein is the author of the best-selling memoir, "Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother." A contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, her work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Vogue, Elle, Parenting, O: The Oprah Magazine, More, Discover, Salon and The New Yorker, and she contributes commentaries to NPR's "All Things Considered." She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

For more information:

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture:

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