For the longest time Annie was obsessed exclusively with “Yo Gabba Gabba,” “The Backyardigans,” and “Sesame Street” (also known as “Elmo!” in our home). Basically, if you were a dude in a costume, a cartoon, or a puppet, Annie found you endlessly fascinating. This changed, however, when Annie discovered princesses in the way teenage girls discovered The Beatles in 1964. It has been so cute to see her wear princess dresses and watch Disney movies on repeat every day, but her interest in everything princess has gotten so strong that I worry… can a little girl be too obsessed with princesses?
I have to say I am a bit surprised Annie gravitated toward princess stuff so strongly because Heather and I did little to introduce it to her. Yes, Heather took Annie to see “Beauty and the Beast,” but that was about it. Annie’s two favorite princess items – her princess doll and “I’m So Pretty” princess dress – were gifts from extended family and friends, and those possessions, combined with the occasional image of a princess on Nickelodeon, were all it took to get her hooked. This despite having spent lots and lots of time with her old man rolling around on the floor, watching sports, and practicing her best bear growl.
It’s clear to me there must be a genetic component at work here. We parents can try to mold our kids into whatever we want them to be, but in the end they will gravitate toward whatever it is they are programmed to be. Annie, like a lot of girls, feels some sort of gender identification with princesses, and her liking this stuff was probably unavoidable.
Here’s the thing though… while Annie may be hard-wired to dig princesses, that doesn’t mean it’s good for her. Even a Neanderthal like me has heard troubling feminist commentary on princesses. Will idolizing these princesses with tiny waists set her up to have body image problems later in life? Will watching these princesses stand around being pretty while the prince saves the day teach her to be subservient?
Of course, banning princess stuff might mess with Annie’s head as much as letting her watch it. Perhaps idolizing princesses is a normal part of a girl’s development, something for her to identify with and then abandon as she gains a better sense of who she wants to be as a woman.
Or not. I don’t know. I just hope that my letting her watch “Tangled” (or “Princess Movie!” as she calls it) over and over isn’t going to lead to her spending years in therapy until she has a breakthrough and screams:
“It’s all my dad’s fault I’m so screwed up! He let me watch that movie over and over and over! Didn’t he see how damaging it was?! Didn’t he? Whaaah!!!!”
I tell myself that my being cognizant of the fact there might be larger issues here means I’m less likely to totally screw her up (because “knowing is half the battle” as G.I. Joe used to say), but this is very confusing nonetheless. All I know is that I’m going to do my best to figure it out because I’m committed to raising Annie to be the happiest, most well adjusted woman possible.
I just wish there was a more clear cut, obvious path toward making that happen.