Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where are all of the gay princesses?

I have had this article for a while about the fact that Disney movies elevate love to great heights, it can change laws, wake people from sleeping, and stop wars, but it has to be heterosexual love. All of the Disney stories and many other movies show the princess or others falling in love, but it is always in a opposite-sex relationship. The article discusses two different studies that show the power and influence that these repeated images have on children, how they are subtly and sometimes not so subtly taught that only heterosexuals can love. I had forgotten that I had bookmarked this article and when I found it again, yesterday, I started to think about a post about this exact topic. Then I started to think about all of the other issues with the Disney Princesses, they are all white or white looking, they are helpless, they need men to save them, in Snow White's case she did the dishes and cleaned up after seven men while they went to work, the Little Mermaid gave up her life and identity for a man, there are so many issues with the Princesses and then of course how does this affect the children especially the little girls who watch these movies over and over again. It cannot have a positive influence on their self-esteem and their views of love and what is expected of women in our society. But then I started to think, but what are the alternatives? Many of these stories are based upon fairy tales that are 200-300 years old and so as our society has advanced, it may not have gone far, but still there are some changes, our fairy tales have not changed. In fact the only princess I can think of that would be a positive role model for little girls is Princess Fiona from Shrek and really only in the first movie. It seems to be that after the first Shrek movie, Fiona becomes more of a domestic housewife and we lose the asskicking strong female that is presented in the first movie.

This also leaves us with no positive role models of non-heterosexual life and parenting. I really was going to write about how we need more stories about gay families, which may lead to more movies about gay families and this will lead to young children growing up understanding that gay families are like any other family and love their children. This also teaches children that if they grow up to be gay, it is Ok and they can still hope, dream and have a family when they are adults. But I thought I better look for books with gay families before I started to spout off. I knew there were books for gay teenagers, but were there any books that would appeal to the preschool crowd that I work with? Well, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that are many really good books out there that highlight gay families. I even learned that Barnes & Noble online has a whole section that is titled:Children of gay parents->Children's fiction, so you can find books for or about children of gay parents. I also found two other resources about books that highlight gay families or gay individuals here and here. So instead of being annoyed and depressed that there are no really good books out there to teach children about gay families, I found several resources. I know there is so much more that needs to be done so that children can begin to realize that heterosexual love is not the only type of love.

But thinking about these books and the fact that I want to get some of them to add to my children's book collection that I am constantly working on, I began to wonder if I could actually read any of these books in my classroom. If I brought them in, would the parent's freak out? Hell, would the administration freak out? Would I be asked to not read those types of books in school? There are a few teachers who may not agree with me on reading these books, but since they are not my supervisor, I do not worry about them. As much as I like to push my boundaries and even be a bit of a rebel at times, I need my job and if reading books that feature gay families threatens my job, I have to decide whether it is worth it. I am not saying I wouldn't read books with gay families, but I need to find ways of incorporating all types of families in my classroom including gay families.


FranIAm said...

I love you so much for this.


My blog reading has been for shit lately, just no time. I wonder if I can or if I should keep at it... Then I start some hit or miss reading tonight and make it here.

It is like winning the blog lottery.

This is brilliant, touching and so important.

It is so good that you are a teacher.

FranIAm said...

I will link to this by the morning.

Comrade Kevin said...

Therein lies the problem. In the school system in which I attended as a kid, there would have been serious complaints if someone had tried to provide a same-sex role model in the form of a book.

However, in ten years time, I have noticed that it is much more socially acceptable for teachers to be open out, so maybe one could get away with it.

FranIAm said...

Human error! I thought this would self publish this morning... and it did not.

Just went up now.


Presbyterian Gal said...

Hi, Fran sent me over here.
I used to work at Disney Feature Animation around the time of Ariel and Belle etc. You'll be somewhat relieved to know that their next release "The Frog Princess" has a black princess as the main character.

I was always dismayed by the unrealistic relationships portrayed by their characters, and found some of them to be rather bloodless (Ariel can't talk and the guy falls for her? Puh-leeeze). Not to mention the ridiculous Barbie like figures of the women. And it's curious because many of the story development artists and executives back then were gay. Including the head of development.

There was a storyline way back that had gay characters. It was quashed by a gay top exec who claimed the mid-west housewives would bring Disney down for it.

Someday. Meanwhile I'm so glad there are good children's resources available. That's a start.

Newsboy said...

The culture is changing and I wonder how much impact Disney has these days. Our daughters watched a lot of these movies and love them to this day. But they are open minded, support gay marriage and my older daughter calls out her boyfriends friends on their homophobia all the time. So in the end, maybe it's the change of the culture and what the parents do at home that has more impact.

Newsboy said...

Great post by the way. Glad I found this blog.

Karen Zipdrive said...

Fran sent me!
Disney seems to like Ellen DeGeneres, but she's a rare exception to their all hetero all the time policies.
You're a teacher, why don't you write a boy meets boy or girl meets girl book for kids?

Earthbound Spirit said...

Fran sent me...
I've read two gay-friendly books as part of worship: "King and King," and "One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads." But, then, I'm Unitarian Universalist & we're gay-friendly for the most part.

There are lots of good books - the above, plus "Boy meets Boy" and "The Misfits" for older kids, as well as "Baby BeBop" for middle-school/early high school ages.

As for Disney - I want a movie where the prince & princess rescue each other, or the prince finds his prince, or the princess adopts a baby and lives as a single mom. Something a little more realistic, please! Oh! And I also highly recommend "The Sissy Duckling" by Harvey Fierstein. The main character may, or may not, be gay - but he's "different" and that is shown to be a good thing in the end!

The only movie I can think of with a happy gay family (besides "Four Weddings and a Funeral," which just has a couple) is "The Family Stone." It's not a great movie, but it's something.

Anonymous said...

How about just a female who can manage life independently and does not need to lean on another person or a man who does not need a female to take care of him?

In my opinon it's more about having a confident self identity than who we choice to marry.

Boxer's Mom