Saturday, April 19, 2014

Who needs a man? Not these new fairy tale princesses

12/16/2013

Princesses come in a variety of forms in the world of Disney. From brunettes and blondes to redheads and those with ebony tresses, these typically long-haired young women have had backgrounds from a mermaid and country girls to being of Middle Eastern, Russian, Native American and Asian descent. Their personalities and behaviors varied too, but, in the end, they each had a plight in need of a protector and rescuer.

Despite their differences, these Disney princesses follow a common stereotype of being a damsel in distress — waiting to be saved from some kind of peril by a proverbial Prince Charming riding in on his white horse. A new author — a parent hoping to change the prototype of female role model princesses for her own 5-year-old daughter — has developed a new independent princess who can save the world all by herself ... or at least without having to wait for a man to help her. The children’s book series by Setsu Shigematsu, a University of California at Riverside professor, provides girls with a new type of princess heroine, according to a report by National Public Radio.

Princesses come in a variety of forms in the world of Disney. From brunettes and blondes to redheads and those with ebony tresses, these typically long-haired young women have had backgrounds from a mermaid and country girls to being of Middle Eastern, Russian, Native American and Asian descent. Their personalities and behaviors varied too, but, in the end, they each had a plight in need of a protector and rescuer.

Despite their differences, these Disney princesses follow a common stereotype of being a damsel in distress — waiting to be saved from some kind of peril by a proverbial Prince Charming riding in on his white horse. A new author — a parent hoping to change the prototype of female role model princesses for her own 5-year-old daughter — has developed a new independent princess who can save the world all by herself ... or at least without having to wait for a man to help her. The children’s book series by Setsu Shigematsu, a University of California at Riverside professor, provides girls with a new type of princess heroine, according to a report by National Public Radio.

While no one wants to see men marginalized, it certainly makes sense to encourage little girls to be more self-sufficient and less dependent on someone else to solve their problems. The heroine herself can save the day. In the book series, she also can collaborate with her friends in the Princess Alliance — as well as with boys — to solve problems of importance to the world.

Disney’s Pocahontas was a Native American princess who cared deeply about the environment, but it still was a man who brought the end to conflict between her tribe and John Smith’s shipmates.

The heroines in “The Guardian Princesses” book series are just as beautiful as the Disney princesses, but with the subtle difference of protecting a different aspect of nature with courageous and compassionate leadership. The multi-ethnic Alliance includes Vinnea, guardian of plant life; TenTen, guardian of the skies; Say, guardian of lakes and rivers; Leilani, guardian of healing forests; Tera, guardian of the earth; Mariana, guardian of the sea; and Aniya, guardian of the animals. Whether the princesses are protecting the environment from chemicals or some other travesty, they have the smarts and wherewithal to  come up with solutions and to take action.

The storybooks are suitable for Common Core teaching standards, which is an added bonus, so kids are learning while reading a fun princess story. The books are expected to be available in mid-January.

Disney Studios has built a multi-billion-dollar empire around beautiful princesses, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. Nurturing a new group of princesses with a deeper interest in the environment and who do good works while also having good looks, however, can be its own inspirational fairy tale ending.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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