Bridal Party: Disney's Got You! Or Does It?
Guess what! I'm about to go to a wedding. That's right! I don't just talk about weddings, I GO to them, too! Two awesome friends are about to get married in an adorable desert town outside of LA. These two friends have been together forever, and have already been through thick and thin, better and worse. They're one of those couples that you truly feel happy for when they decide to permanently pair off; the type of couple that you really DO want to celebrate. Furthermore, their attire theme is my favorite of all wedding attire themes: garden party/Great Gatsby. Why?
Because you can do ANYTHING with that theme. And it's an opportunity for well-done white linen suits, something that's very difficult to pull off in most other scenarios. Their attire theme is also perfectly suited to their individual personalities and their couple personality. Hurray!
That was a bit of a digression, but the point is that I've been thinking about what I'm going to wear to their wedding that fits within their theme, which has me thinking more broadly about theme weddings in general. Now, I love a good theme. For anything. Parties, Christmas morning, weddings, birthdays, vacations (I often pull together an outfit theme that I think complements my vacation locale), and everything in between.
Themes are an excellent way to incorporate some imagination and a little wonder into adult life, which is maybe why theme weddings have become a bit of "thing" in the last couple of decades, with people getting married on the ocean floor, while rock climbing, etc. I've had friends whose weddings followed the theme of their first date, or a particularly meaningful trip taken together. It's fun! But, more importantly, theme weddings are a great way to reflect something special about the couple—to aesthetically, visually, and atmospherically reinforce what makes a relationship unique.
To clarify: Theme weddings are different from package weddings, which are like the psychologically predatory/Capitalism-to-the-max/factory system version of wedding planning.
And nobody does psychologically predatory Capitalism like Disney! (How's THAT for a segue?)
Did you know that Disney does weddings? Of course you did, even if only intuitively. But it goes beyond a simple extravagant wedding at Disneyland, Disney World, or Epcot Center. Disney takes the whole "be a princess on your wedding day" thing all the way, having developed a comprehensive wedding industry around its fleet of princess characters. Pause and think about the far-reaching, complex implications of this.
The Cinderella Gown, designed for women who want to emulate a woman who had a really rough childhood before getting rescued by a rich guy at a party.
AN EXTREMELY SIMPLIFIED FRAMEWORK:
- Girls are fed the princess story nearly from the time of birth: baby princess gowns in pink and purple, toddler princess costumes for Halloween or an eccentric trip to the grocery store, princess toys, castles, books. All of it.
- Disney steps in around the age of 5 with princess movies (only recently have they begun depicting more self-sufficient female characters), and girls are fed "rags-to-riches" princess tales throughout childhood. They develop connections to Disney princesses, buy the products, make up imaginary games around the products, and so on. The emotional childhood connection is sealed.
- Girls get older and the princess theme continues with a bombardment of princess wedding day messages, courtesy of Dominant Culture—that old cad.
- Some girls become women, eventually some of those women then get married, and some of those women getting married want to be a princess on their wedding day. Disney is there once again to step in and let you fulfill the childhood princess dreams you co-developed with Disney and Dominant Culture by giving you a start-to-finish Disney princess wedding!
- Disney walks away with A LOT of money. Even MORE if you count all the money it made on a variety of childhoods.
For example: Alfred Angelo designed a whole series of wedding gowns that take their inspiration from Disney's princesses. Priced in the lower thousands, the Disney Fairytale Bridal options "reflect the style and sensibility of Disney’s iconic princesses fit for today’s sophisticated bride in sizes 0 to 30W, at amazingly affordable prices." Excuse me! Excuse me, Alfred Angelo! A one-time-only dress for $2K is not the definition of "amazingly affordable." Words have actual meanings, Ange.
You know what's so ironic about the whole Disney princess thing? Nearly all of their princess stories are taken from fairy tales that can easily read as cautionary allegories. The Little Mermaid was originally a gruesome story written by Hans Christian Andersen, wherein the Little Mermaid sells her voice in exchange for a life of physical and emotional pain (the sea witch gives her legs—an excruciating process—as well as an ability to dance well, but warns her that she will experience stabbing pain everytime she uses them) so that she can be with the Prince she apparently fell in love with in the brief moment that she saved him from a shipwreck.
The Prince in the story is physically atttracted to the mute Little Mermaid, likes to see her dance, and so she silently dances for him despite the physical agony she feels. In the end, the Prince marries some other woman, the Little Mermaid falls into a deep depression, considers stabbing him to death, and instead throws herself back into the ocean where she dies.
LET'S GET MARRIED! YAY!
Of course, Disney cleaned it up so it could be another story of a girl being romantically rescued from a less appealing life by a rich guy she barely knows. Let's see... hijinks with awesome friends under the ocean, or a life of domesticity and foreign social graces with a man who is essentially a stranger? OBVIOUSLY NUMBER TWO! C'mon, Ariel. You're so personable! You could do ANYTHING!
It seems kind of twisted then, doesn't it? To get married in a package deal that thematically connects your relationship to a tragic tale of sacrifice, or even to a watered down version where the bride only achieves agency by "marrying up"? That's not romantic so much as it is deeply troubling. Deeply troubling AND expensive.
Even the Disney Weddings YouTube empire send the troubling and antiquated message that a woman's only truly fulfilling moments in life are marriage and birthing.
If you watch multiple videos you'll notice how infantilizing the whole shebang is, too.
So it's for these reasons that I'm forced to put Disney Weddings on notice. I'm sorry, Disney. I liked how you made Belle literate, and I've had some great times on your rides at Disneyland—in particular, the Indiana Jones ride crushes it every time—but I just don't think people should keep feeding you money to let them live out oppressive fantasies that perpetuate disturbingly sexist themes that I assume have nothing to do with the actual nature of their coupledom.
Though, hit a girl up if you decide to create an amazingly affordable Disney Nemesis Weddings line. That would be kind of boss. The Disney nemesis witches are the most interesting of all the characters.
ARE YOU MARRYING???
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