Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Defense of the Princess

If you've ever had reason to worry about the effects of media on young children or hung out with a bunch of feminist criticism types on the internet, you've likely seen this picture before:

Personally, I hate it.Why? Because I hate that it boils these stories down to their most offensive, out-of-context, anti-feminist interpretations and then gets passed around the internet like it's undeniable truth. I don't believe that any literature can be given one undeniable interpretation, and that goes for fiction, non-fiction, children's books, and religious texts alike.

Now here's the same picture, with the Disney-hates-women angle replaced with the messages that I got out of these movies when I was a kid:

All of these interpretations are as equally viable as their opposite numbers, because - as any writer and most readers should know - stories are much, much more than the sum of their parts. You can't boil a story down to one line and expect it to be a fair criticism of the work as a whole. You have to consider all of its different factors.

You know, on some level, I think kids can understand that. But if you're really worried that your little princess will absorb one side of the story and not the other, there's a simple answer, and it's not "don't let them watch Disney." It's talk to them. Ask them what they think the story means. Bring up new options, make them think about it, and let their imaginations do the rest.

And can we please stop passing that first picture around? It's insulting and condescending, neither of which adds positively to the dialogue on either literary criticism or feminism. It just makes people angry, and there's enough anger on the internet already.