Monday, 27 December 2010

"All girls are princesses. Didn't your father ever tell you that?"

Via Tea at Trianon comes quite an entertaining article by Virginia Postrel on the psychological appeal and utility of the "princess fantasies" of little girls.

Why, in a society without princesses, does this archetype remain so intensely glamorous to girls with all sorts of backgrounds and personalities? A princess is pretty, rich, beautifully dressed, loved, happy and, above all, special. She represents escape from the constraints of even the most bountiful childhood... Beyond that, a princess is what you make of her. She may be wise-cracking or demure, a blue-eyed blonde or a tawny brunette, goth or Gothic, a domestic goddess like Snow White or a warrior like Xena. The princess archetype is powerful because it is adaptable. It changes with time and circumstance, while retaining its emotional core. To play princess is to embrace two promises: "You are special" and "Life can be wonderful." 
Neither of these need entail narcissistic entitlement or female passivity. Even that old-fashioned children's classic, Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1904 novel "A Little Princess," portrays an imaginative, individualistic young heroine. Suddenly orphaned and destitute, Sara Crewe imagines herself a princess not only to escape her miserable circumstances but to maintain her good manners and self-control. "If you were a princess," she reminds herself, "you did not fly into rages." When unfairly abused, "you can't sneer back at people like that—if you are a princess."
For all its Victorian stoicism and sense of duty, this princess dream shares the mixture of openness and elitism that gives princesses their contemporary appeal. Like the superhero, the princess has a special identity and destiny. She is more than an ordinary girl. But her value is not determined by playground hierarchies. You don't have to be popular to be a princess. You can be an iconoclast, even an outcast, but you must be worthy. 


  1. "Neither of these need entail narcissistic entitlement or female passivity". I disagree, on both grounds.

    Happy 2011 :)

  2. Thank you for the link, Gareth, and may you and yours have a Happy New Year!

  3. Hels, I'm so intrigued by that. What would say of the wonderful use of the princess image in the Burnett novel?


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