Fallen Princesses, Lame Jokes


Dina Goldstein (website here) has done an interesting series of photographs recasting the Disney princesses in modern situations facing American women. Talking about it in JPG Magazine:

“These works place Fairy Tale characters in modern day scenarios. In all of the images the Princess is placed in an environment that articulates her conflict. The ‘…happily ever after’ is replaced with a realistic outcome and addresses current issues.

The project was inspired by my observation of three-year-old girls, who were developing an interest in Disney’s Fairy tales. As a new mother I have been able to get a close up look at the phenomenon of young girls fascinated with Princesses and their desire to dress up like them. The Disney versions almost always have sad beginning, with an overbearing female villain, and the end is predictably a happy one. The Prince usually saves the day and makes the victimized young beauty into a Princess.”

Some of the images are very compelling. Two…are not.

First up is “Jasmine at war”, or as I have renamed it, “Gun Porn Jasmine”:

Compositional issues aside, it’s pretty heavy on the stereotyping of both Arab culture and the current Middle East, and unlike much of the rest of the series, I question whether a Rambo-esq desert rampage in…pink camouflage harem attire, is really something facing modern women.

The second, and the one more interesting to me, is “Not so Little Riding Hood”:

I am, if nothing else, disappointed that a portion of an otherwise at least interesting series, devolves rapidly into the low hanging fruit of a fat girl joke. A couple points:

  • First of all, the idea of the “Fallen Princess” series is to cast the Disney Princess in a modern setting, showing the issues facing modern women in a decidedly non-romantic setting. The two images that violate this are the gun-porn Jasmine, and Red. Who, when it comes down to it, is not actually a Disney princess.
  • Subject itself. Having chosen to do Red, there are a number of things that could have been done that are considerably less directly offensive. Red Riding Hood confronting elder-care with her grandmother. Red Riding Hood as a young girl surrounded by “wolves” – looking at the sexualization of the adolescent female form. Instead, we go for a fat joke.
  • The joke itself…we come to the question of the “obesity epidemic”. The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. is high, but its not increasing in the ways the media, and to some extent the health profession, has been suggesting. Indeed, from a 2007 CDC report: “Among men, the prevalence was 31.1% in 2003–2004 and 33.3% in 2005–2006. There was no statistically significant change. Among women, the prevalence in 2003–2004 was 33.2% and in 2005–2006 it was 35.3%. Again, these estimates were not statistically different from each other. ” – For the past decade, we haven’t seen significant rises in obesity rates in the United States. Now, alot of figures that span the 1998-1999 period will show a jump – because we reclassified what is “obese” and overnight added 25 million people. But that’s not actually a rise in incident obesity.
  • The notion that for one to be fat, you must be shoveling your face full of fast food – as depicted in the picture – is a really, really stupid stereotype. There’s a huge number of factors that contribute to obesity – chief among them is stress, regardless of diet. The average American woman, based on the last NHANES study, is actually getting less food than she should, not too much – there’s an entire gender essentially in a perpetual state of dieting, and there’s some evidence that some essential nutrients, like folate, are not making it into those diets. Coupled this with her vacant expression – the composition of the Jasmine photo, as well as the Snow White one suggests that the photographer is capturing a decent expression, is just an extension of the prevailing societal inclination to assume the overweight are less intelligent.

There are ways she could have shown the obesity epidemic. The same character, or perhaps a more appropriate one for the series, planted behind a desk at her crappy shiftwork service industry job, where high stress, low pay and an erratic schedule all have more to do with it than whether or not she’s devouring M&Ms. It’s frustrating, because there’s a good photo series in there, marred by these two images.

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