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Princess Cultures

Mediating Girls’ Imaginations and Identities


Miriam Forman-Brunell and Rebecca C. Hains

Princesses today are significant figures in girls’ culture in the United States and around the world. Although the reign of girls’ princess culture has generated intense debate, this anthology is the first to bring together international and interdisciplinary perspectives on the multitude of princess cultures, continuously redrawn and recast by grownups and girls from the Ancien Régime to the New Millennium. Essays critically examine the gendered, racialized, classed, and ethnic meanings of royal figures and fairytale and pop culture princesses inscribed in folk tales, movies, cartoons, video games, dolls, and imitated in play and performance. Focusing on the representation and reception of the princess, this collection sheds new light on the position of princess cultures mediating the lives, imaginations, and identities of girls from toddlers to teenagers – and beyond.
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Chapter One: The Princess and the Teen Witch: Fantasies of the Essential Self



The Princess and the Teen Witch: Fantasies of the Essential Self


At the turn of the millennium, popular culture for and about girls showed a rapid growth in the fantasy genres, featuring a new emphasis on princesses and witches as the protagonists of mass-media narratives. Neither princesses nor witches were new to this period; both figures have been each other’s opposites and nemeses in children’s literature for centuries. But the media of the 1990s and early 2000s magnified the importance of princesses and witches in multiple media forms, to the point where tales of youth and magic became a widespread cultural phenomenon. Which conditions enable long-existing fantasy figures to suddenly find new ubiquity and profitability? Analyzing a selection of popular texts about princesses and witches from the 1990s and early 2000s, this chapter argues that these sub-genres of fantasy grew simultaneously because they participated similarly in cultural dialogues of the late twentieth century: dialogues about identity, empowerment, and the nature of good and evil.

In its discussion of princesses, this chapter focuses on the products of the Walt Disney studio. Although other princess narratives emerged in the 1990s and beyond, Disney’s were the most profitable and the most influential. Children’s literature scholar Jack Zipes has shown that the juggernaut of the Disney Corporation has done a disservice to the fairy tales on which it based its films, first by flattening out and distorting the meanings of classic tales...

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