Princesses scare me. It isn't their volatile behavior, creepy step-mothers, or the ferocious fire-breathing beasts that often accompany them that worry me. Rather, it's the mind control they have over my daughter. When she sees a princess, her pupils dilate and her head cocks. It's like invisible fairies are whispering spells in her ear. Then she turns to me and says, "Daddy, can we buy that?"
Disney's "Princess" brand campaign was launched in 2000, when the company's new chairman of consumer goods brought together Disney's favorite heroines under one banner. Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Jasmine, and Ariel became a marketing dream team generating billions of dollars. They appeared on everything from DVDs to Band-Aids. The Disney spell was cast upon my daughter literally minutes after she entered the world. The hospital diapers were imprinted with Disney's princesses, and they have been a part of her life (and mine) happily ever after.
But the company is no longer content having only girls fawning over their animated royals. They are unrolling a new lineup of products aimed at grown ups, including a princess Visa card, princess sheets and towels, princess pajamas, and even princess wedding gowns that cost thousands of dollars. The head of Disney's apparel line says, "We want women to have a little bit of princess every day."
You may be asking why any adult would want to get married in a yellow wedding dress resembling Belle's from Beauty and the Beast. The answer is found in a consumer culture designed to keep adults thinking, and buying, like children. Maturity and rationality are the enemies of our desire-based economy. As Benjamin Barber says, "For consumer capitalism to prevail, you must make kids consumers ...