Last night over dinner, Smu and I were chatting. I don’t remember how we got onto it, but she began talking about what her life would be like if she were a princess. The number one characteristic of princesses, according to Smu, is long hair. Long, beautiful, smooth hair…like Rapunzel. And a crown, of course, but only a small one. As a princess, Smu would eat rice and chicken and squash, with a side of delicious treats for dessert. She would be really good about eating with her knife and fork, not using her hands on occasion like she does now, much to her grandmother’s chagrin. She would wear a yellow and blue gown, “like Snow White,” and her room would be entirely pink, although Smu doesn’t much care for the color pink.
“Why not paint it a different color, since you don’t like pink?” I asked.
Smu made a face. “Nooo!” she squealed, laughing at my ignorance. “It has to be pink.”
“Well, why? Why not yellow or blue, since those are your favorites.”
Smu rolled her eyes. “Because.”
We soon moved on to a different topic of conversation, but this whole princess thing stuck with me. The Disney princess franchise is something I’ve had real issues dealing with back in the States (particularly trying to reconcile my own childhood love of the franchise with my current concerns). But it’s not something I’ve ever felt I had a right to talk about with other people’s kids. After all, I would want to be able to raise my own children as I saw fit without some do-gooder meddling. Yet it is always something that bothers me, particularly when I hear girls aspiring to be Disney princesses. Maybe I’m reading too much into it and it is just a childhood flight of fancy. But I am always reminded of Pecola Breedlove in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, a young Black girl who wishes to one day become a white girl with blue eyes so that she will be beautiful. I hope that Smu will never have such disillusions.