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The Princess Story

Modeling the Feminine in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and Film


Sarah Rothschild

What is a princess story? In this subgenre, newly defined in The Princess Story, the protagonist either is a princess or is attempting to become one: the girl transforms into or identifies herself as a princess through marriage or through discovered identity, or both. Princess lessons often accompany this transformation, lessons that not only educate the fictional girl but also the reader.
Cultural expectations and anxieties about the roles of girls and women are transmitted through princess stories, and the dialogic nature of feminism and patriarchy, forces for progress and forces for tradition, can be explored through their study. In this book, feminism and progress are embodied by the first, second, and third wave of feminist princess stories; patriarchy and tradition are represented by Disney Studios’ princess stories. All of these stories influenced their readers, some of whom grew up to write their own princess stories, stories that reflected and – they hoped – furthered their ideological goals. Princess stories of the early 2000s are compelling in that they tensely balance romance and feminist assumptions.
Anyone interested in folklore studies, feminist studies, children’s literature, Disney studies, film adaptations, psychology, sociology, or theories of child development will find The Princess Story: Modeling the Feminine in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and Film essential reading. When contemplating the changes made by feminists to American culture, no one figure is as worth examining as the fictional princess, and no book has yet approached the topic as thoroughly as this one.


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Notes 241


™NOTES™ Introduction 1. See Barbara Ehrenreich (“Bonfire of the Princesses”), Peggy Orenstein (“What’s Wrong with Cinderella?”), Martin Goodman (“Dr. Toon: Growing Up Princess”), Gretchen McKay (“Makeovers Turn Little Girls into Disney Princesses”), and Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje (“Little Girls Carried Away on a Pink Wave of Princess Products”), to start. 2. Analysis of the Disney princesses is often along the lines of calling them “a sorry bunch of wusses” (Ehrenrich) or lauding Mulan and Pocahontas as “more can-do” girls (Stoeltje). While there is some truth to these assessments, these are not very useful, in-depth readings. Chapter One 1. Because she was called so many names in her lifetime, modern biographers (Thwaite, Carpenter and Shirley, and most recently Gerzina, all of whose work has been consulted for this section) consistently call her “Frances” in their writing; I will do the same for this biographical section. 2. Frances described her marriage in a letter to Katharine Thomas as “so grotesquely hideous – it is like some wild nightmare which I surely must waken from presently” (qtd. in Gerzina 217). 3. See: Bixler; Cadogan and Craig; Connell; and Murray. 4. Critics often do not recognize how long it takes Sara to begin her project of identify- ing with a princess, characterizing it as the role she takes “first and always” (Gruner 166). Bixler (1984) sees Sara as a Cinderella, a princess in the beginning and then enchanted away from the role. She writes, “Burnett’s stories do not emphasize a change within the main character but...

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