What does the pink-and-purple cabal of the Disney princesses offer young, consumerist girls? The promise that wussiness, passivity, and being pretty warrant all the rewards of happily ever after. Barbara Ehrenreich makes a case against the princesses at The Nation:
… what a sorry bunch of wusses they are. Typically, they spend much of their time in captivity or a coma, waking up only when a Prince comes along and kisses them. The most striking exception is Mulan, who dresses as a boy to fight in the army, but–like the other Princess of color, Pocahontas–she lacks full Princess status and does not warrant a line of tiaras and gowns. Otherwise the Princesses have no ambitions and no marketable skills, although both Snow White and Cinderella are good at housecleaning. … In Princessland, the only career ladder leads from baby-faced adolescence to a position as an evil enchantress, stepmother or witch. Snow White’s wicked stepmother is consumed with envy for her stepdaughter’s beauty; the sea witch Ursula covets Ariel’s lovely voice; Cinderella’s stepmother exploits the girl’s cheap, uncomplaining, labor. No need for complicated witch-hunting techniques–pin-prickings and dunkings–in Princessland. All you have to look for is wrinkles.
Ehrenriech’s essay is a stirring indictment. Her analysis helpfully zeroes in on just those reasons we should discard the tulle ‘n’ tiara squad, whose gentility and superficial benevolence serve to somewhat deflect our contempt.