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I am not, nor have I ever been, wild about Disney. As a young animation fan, I much preferred the wiseass Brechtian theater of Looney Tunes to the prissy sentimentality of Disney movies and shorts. As an adult, I get very cranky about what Disney does to folklore (ask me about it some time!), and I find the princessification of girlhood to be profoundly upsetting.

So, when I decided to take my daughter to Disney World—pardon me, the Magic Kingdom® Theme Park—it was with some ambivalence. I was sure she’d have a good time, but I was reluctant to reinforce the idea that childhood fun should be licensed. Ultimately, I determined that one day of Disney was not going to irreparably damage my child.

Frances was about as excited as I thought she would be—which is to say, very. I was more appalled than I thought I’d be—which is to say, very very. I did not care for the “cast members’” habit of referring to every female as “princess”, and the little girls emerging from the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique all looked a little too JonBenét Ramsey for my comfort.

Frances, of course, wanted to dress up. I explained that the full princess regalia was too expensive for us, but that I would buy her one dress-up item, my treat. Frances tried on a lot of glittery shoes and a number of sparkly crowns before she decided on a pair of white gloves and a Tinker Bell purse.

As soon as we left the store, Frances asked if I would take the tags off her gloves and purse. I obliged, and she pulled on the gloves. Then she asked for the Tinker Bell mouse ears she had purchased earlier. She put the hat back on and arranged her hair.

Then Frances commenced to promenade down Main Street, waving. She had transformed herself into a costumed character. Frances made a special point of waving to all the small children, leaning down and smiling into strollers. Parents were delighted. Children were mystified. I was totally glad I took Frances to Disney World.

This might be my favorite photo from the trip. The mom is encouraging her kid to wave back at Frances. The kid herself is clearly thinking, “Why the hell should I?”, while Frances, true to her nature, remains entirely unperturbed.

March 22, 2011 | Permalink