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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 Six: Mono- or Multi-Culturalism: Girls around the World Interpret Non-Western Disney Princesses



Disney Princesses have shaped children’s and adults’ imaginations around the world for generations. As the ubiquity of U.S. media internationally and the paucity of domestic media in many countries narrow what is available to youth and adult audiences alike, and as mass media increasingly replace local storytelling, girls across the globe may learn more about Disney Princesses than about the princesses existing in their own cultures. The Disney industry has even begun narrating stories about non-Western princesses, and in so doing it takes pride in positioning itself as a multicultural brand. However, girls in international settings are rarely asked to provide opinions of these princesses’ representations. The main purpose of our project is to give voice to such girls regarding Disney’s depictions of several princesses with non-Western heritage.

Despite her status as a perennial staple, the Disney Princess has undergone numerous changes since the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first animated film produced by the Disney studios in 1937. Bolstering Disney’s plausibility as a multicultural brand, Disney Princesses are no longer solely of European descent; in the past quarter of a century, there have been Disney Princesses of Asian, Native American, and African American descent. Additionally, Disney target audiences are no longer restricted to Caucasian children; today, youth everywhere can get access to Disney Princess animated films and merchandise. Disney ← 115 | 116 → Princess clothing, home furnishings, dolls, and party items are particularly popular internationally.

These multicultural shifts in...

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