Why I’m no fan of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty etc

Once upon a time there was a grumpy old lady who hated fairy tales. In fact, she hated them so much that she would launch into a lively tirade on the subject given the slightest provocation and an audience. This was sometimes boring for those around her and they would roll their eyes behind her back but it made the grumpy lady feel better to vent. The End.

Yes, this is the bah-humbug column where I tell you how much I’m struggling with Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and all the other pathetic, insipid, malnourished Princess types who have taken up residence all over my house.

They’re in doll-form, storybooks, DVDs, the dress-up box and most worryingly, they’re in my four year old daughter’s head. All of them. All the time.

The Princess Thing crept into our life insidiously and without warning. One day it was all the harmless innocence of Winnie The Pooh and Dora The Explorer and the next, we were drowning in a pink sea of Really Bad Messages. Stop rolling your eyes and muttering “but they’re just STORIES”. I’m serious.

And this is why. Pretty much every mainstream fairy tale goes like this: skinny girl gets herself into perilous situation and is desperately unhappy or almost dead before being rescued and redeemed by a handsome prince. There is a wedding and then there is happily ever after.

I know you’ll be surprised to hear I have a problem with this blueprint for life. Why don’t any of the female characters in fairy tales have jobs? Or skills? Or even hobbies? Where are their friends? Why are the ‘good’ characters always described as beautiful and handsome while the ‘bad’ characters are always ugly? Why are all stepparents and stepsiblings evil? Why does every woman have to be rescued by a Prince? Why can’t they rescue themselves? And why does a happy ending depend on a wedding? WHY?

In other words, why doesn’t Cinderella go do a TAFE course to learn a trade other than cleaning, move out of home and have some therapy to deal with her dysfunctional childhood instead of being such a victim and waiting around for a fairy godmother and a prince to rock up and save her with a wand and a wedding?

Not only does this nonsense place unreasonable expectations on men but also on godmothers. And weddings. Think about it.

It’s not just the fairy tale messages that horrify me but also the package they’re wrapped in. Have you taken a close look at animated female characters like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or Tinkerbell? They are the perfect shape for little girls to aspire to so long as you don’t require any room for pesky things like internal organs or ribs. Oh yes. The Princesses make the models in fashion magazines look morbidly obese.


Despite having been a four-year-old girl myself once upon a time, I don’t recall ever being quite so enthralled by all things princessy. Sure, I watched The Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday night and there were books but that was all that was available.

However, now that pay TV and DVDs serve up a 24/7 diet of kiddie entertainment, it’s far easier for your kid to become obsessed with an aspect of pop culture and for you to feed that obsession every time you walk into a shop.

In short, you could be forgiven for thinking there is a powerful Princess industry designed to infect little girls with fantasies of being saved by Prince Charming and living happily ever after. Because there is.

And yet. As I write this, I may as well be wearing a t-shirt with a giant HYPOCRITE written on it (naturally, the t-shirt would be pink and ‘hypocrite’ would be written with a bedazzler). I have not consistently walked the talk when it comes to my Princess misgivings. Instead, I adopt a harm minimisation approach. This is also called Being Inconsistent And Also A Wussbag.

Currently, there is princess branded yoghurt in my fridge, princess dolls in the toy box, princess DVDs in the cupboard and princess undies in the wardrobe.

Many of these items were gifts. That’s the problem with trying to swim against the tide of pop culture as a parent. There are always gifts. And play-dates at other kids houses. Unless you live among the Amish, it is impossible to control everything your child is exposed to.

Still, items like the yoghurt were bought by me in the desperate hope that a spoon full of Princess might make the calcium go down.

Overt attempts at bribery aside, my daughter’s love affair with these fairy tales is so intense that I’m reluctant to deprive her of something that gives her so much joy.

I just wish the narrative wasn’t so repetitive and brain washing. It’s scary how many grown women have distorted ideas about relationships that – if you dig a little – come down to a subconscious belief that Prince Charming will someday rock up and save her and WHERE IS HE?

I have no idea. Go ask Cinderella.