Many young girls are horse-crazy, and advertisers have tapped into this attraction to sell everything from toys to cartoons to bedroom sets. But how do they manage to appeal to rough and tumble tomboys and girlie-girls alike? And where to these ads fit among the feminine stereotypes being sold to young girls?
Before I became a mom at the age of 41, I was many things, including a hip-hop artist. Mostly, I did hip-hop theater, a solo show about fighting sexism in music. But I also rocked many a mic in the club. Little did I know that these skills would come in handy in my new battle against sexism: children's literature.
Based on a true story, the 1991 film Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken tells the story of an orphan girl named Sonora (played by Gabrielle Anwar) whose beloved horse is sold off by her aunt as punishment for Sonora's bad behavior. Sneaking off into the night, Sonora takes to the road in search of a traveling diving horse show. That's right, a TRAVELING DIVING HORSE SHOW!
Three Men and a Baby isn't the first pop cultural example of a male primary caregiver, but it is arguably the most iconic and definitely one of the most successful. Released in 1987, it was the first Walt Disney Studios production to gross over $100 million domestically, taking $168 million worldwide and making men with kids a hot proposition. I loved the movie as a kid, but I dreaded re-watching it.
I imagined it to be rife with gender stereotyping, goofy gags demonstrating that men can't cope with babies, and jokes about the how emasculating being a father can be. Turns out, I was way off. Three Men and a Baby is a lot of fun, and more progressive than you might expect.
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.
Though Merida is indeed a teenage princess whose parents want her to live a traditional life and get married, through knowledge, determination, and honest communication with her mother (and some magic—this is a Disney princess movie, after all), she subverts the princess paradigm. Well, sort of.
It's hard to overlook all of the negative aspects that pop up along the princess path, and I knew that I would be very particular regarding exposure and access to princesses if I had a girl. Never in a million years did it cross my mind that I would be trying to navigate the same murky waters, only with my son.
As Disney continues to sell their princesses (and make no mistake, they're selling a brand, not just characters), they continue to show us that people will eat up these negative messages as long as they're packaged in an appealing way—in this case, in pinks and purples and lots of sparkle. It's amazing how far they will actually push it.
Abusive parents are a real problem in the real world. I know more than a few people who upon seeing this movie connected Goethel's behavior with that of their own parents, and took it as a cue to reassess their relationships. And because of that I think that this film, despite its flaws, has accomplished something good. It represented a real issue in a way that doesn't soft-pedal it, which is more than a lot of children's media dare to do. So hats off to Tangled, a fitting coda to an impressive media legacy.