There is a very good column in The National Post about feminism's biggest silent killer: The Princess in fictional storytelling, and it its essential reading, given the climate these days. Newstalk 1010 had a discussion of it on Jerry Agar’s show today, but the male panelist and host’s complete ignorance of the problem is not unexpected. A lot of men don’t get it, mostly because it’s not their own backsides in question, but also because people who do not write fiction for a living really don’t understand the nuances of subtext, and it is time those men get their education in it because they are defending very reactionary and archaic thought patterns, and as one of the panelist’s erroneously assumed, shallow window-dressing updates cannot hide the stench of the Princess Archetype.
The princess is the enemy. She is not praise or a map to how any woman should live her life. In a world where women who are sexually assaulted cannot get justice, are victims of domestic violence, and do not get the same pay for the same work, there is no room for princesses.
So let me explain it to those who don’t have a clue, and really would benefit from being teachable.
The Princess is the shackles that has kept women back for a very long time. In essence, this archetype is something of a Mary Sue — someone who comes from privilege, feels self-entitled, gets herself in scrapes because she assumes she is good enough as she is, yet is hopelessly short-sighted, and then doesn’t change, yet life gives her a different outcome for doing the same thing and thinking in the same way — either a male beneath her has to swoop in to save her worthless and arrogant hide — or by some miracle, her passive nature is rewarded and everyone else has to accommodate her.
It is far from the hero’s journey men get to read as boys: you work your way up. You see the weaknesses of others — but true change arrives when the hero sees his own inherent weaknesses, owns up to it, and makes changes within himself before he makes his surroundings better.
The modern princess is not a hero, not even if Disney puts out some pseudo-female empowerment press release pretending that they do. They are not fooling anyone with a functioning brain.
The panel discussion is worth a listen, only to point out how ignorant people who are in the communications industry can be when it comes to the ideas of narrative. One of the panelists used the real life stories of Beyonce and Oprah Winfrey as example of good princess narratives and said that princesses don’t always wear crowns.
Those rags to riches narratives aren’t about princesses — those are hero’s journey stories — and they are real-life stories spun to give a newsmaker a certain image, but if we were to indulge this theory — those women aren’t princesses, but queens. Get your royalty straight before you disagree with someone who thought a problem out longer than you did.
Second, a princess is not about a crown: it is about a vortex or a hamster wheel that someone keeps spinning on because they cannot see themselves as they are — they have no power, and then have to make educated guesses what someone in power is like so they can get what they want in the way that they want it.
Princesses get things because of who they are — they are passive, coast on their youthful looks, and the modern princess in Patriarchal storytelling is still passive. Things just work themselves out in the end — she doesn’t have strategy. She has to have others tell her of her strengths. She always has to build consensus and appease others because she can never stand alone.
Modern storytelling still gives women a single option: not to reflect on herself honestly and realistically so she can see what she needs to do around her — and with herself — to have control of her circumstances in order to build her own worlds and empires on her own terms.
Feminism is at a crisis right now, and it happened because we had too many princess stories distracting us from creating the stories we need so that we are never, ever again at a place where we have to fight battles that should have been resolved decades before. Feminism needs to change its strategy right here and now: and one of the first orders of business is to completely abandon the princess and the patriarchal for Matriarchal Storytelling structures to give women an array of viable options of strategy.
It is the reason I began A Dangerous Woman Story Studio in 2013 — because the world doesn’t need another princess secretly harming women who shouldn’t be marching on the streets yet again — but in the world shaping it to make certain women can go as far as they want and need to for her to reach her full potential.