There was an article in the Chicago Tribune this weekend, "Tooth Fairy doesn't need a website or magic letters" by Heidi Stevens, which apparantly you need a subscription to see, but if you're willing to pay/already have a subscription, you can click through the link. But after discussing a new website that tries to use the Tooth Fairy to sell products to little girls, the author references the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein, which I have not read but have seen referenced on other fairy tale blogs.
Stevens quotes an instance from an event with Orenstein, in which a woman tells of a kindergaten-aged girl goes to school dressed up like a Princess for career day. The woman tells the room she is addressing that she told that little girl to change, and that "Princess isn't a career," and the room burst into applause. The author of the article wonders if the reaction would have been the same if a little boy had been dressed up as Buzz Lightyear, and guesses we wouldn't have cared. (My response is-for Heaven's sake, this is kindergarten, let the little girl dress up).
Stevens wonders if, in the cultural backlash against Princess Culture, we don't give our boys too much credit, assuming they're immune to the product placement and messages aimed towards them, and if we give too little credit to daughters, assuming they fall prey to every marketing scheme and negative female stereotype. To quote from the article: "When my daughter plays with Barbie, I worry she's going to grow up hating her thighs. When my son plays with Ken, I figure he'll toss his aside with nary a glance toward his pecs. When my daughter watches London Tipton play stupid for laughs on "Suite Life on Deck," I worry she'll equate ditsy with loveable. When my son watches Special Agent Oso bumble a job, I figure he'll learn from Oso's errors. Am I giving my daughter enough credit? Am I giving my son enough though?"
I would be interested to read the book, but as someone who was raised on all the classic Princess movies and was Belle for almost every Halloween, I think I turned out fine. In fifth grade I first read Robin McKinley's Beauty, which along with my love of Disney's Beauty and the Beast spawned my interest in the history of fairy tales. I'm not even sure if I would have been drawn to the book initially if it weren't for my interest in the Disney version. I think I would have-but you never know. Certainly the Disney movie played a huge part in my reason for research, and it's possible that this blog would not exist without the Disney Princess culture.
Obviously it's not the same for everyone, but personally, my initial love of Princesses turned me on to an aspect of literature, history, and anthropology that has become an important hobby to me. To say I've learned a lot would be an understatement. I know there are negative aspects to the commercialization, but I don't think I could ever get too upset with Princess culture. I'm more concerned about things like beauty pageant culture...which I'm sure is connected but still distinct. That's a whole other conversation I won't go into at the moment.