Changing Princess Culture For The Better

If you’re the parent or caretaker of a little girl, chances are you’ve heard or read about the damaging effects of the “Princess Culture” we see so prevalent in our society today.  In fact, articles about Princess culture were recently trending on Facebook and social media, which is what prompted me to write this blog post. Even caretakers of little boys know what I’m referring to: that being said, a lot of what I’m writing on today does tend to lean heavily towards little girls. I want to make it absolutely clear to you, reader, that I am a politically correct person, and do understand that this can and does apply to many little boys out there – as well as to boys who identify as girls, and vice versa, and to children who don’t identify yet at all. For the sake of clarity in this post, I am going to refer mostly to little girls, but I do include everyone I have previously mentioned within all of these further mentions.

Where do we even begin to dissect this “Princess Culture”? There are prime examples in literature out now, from “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture” by Peggy Orenstein, to “The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion” by Virginia Postrel, as well as “The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years” by Rebecca Hains.

So what is this culture I’m referring to? It’s the enforcement of toys, clothes, movies, and roles that are “just for girls.” It’s the concern that Princess culture will create lasting impressions on generations of women – affecting their self-esteem, body image, societal and feminine roles, as well as encouraging consumerism and narcissism.

For more information and a history of Princess Culture, articles listed here also have further information:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/20/princess-book_n_4310123.html
http://www.livescience.com/11625-destructive-culture-pretty-pink-princesses.html
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolving-minds/201508/princess-culture-what-is-it-all-about

Does this happen? Yes it does. Does this heavily affect every little girl who lives in the Princess Culture? No, it does not. I urge parents and caretakers to conduct their own research into this phenomenon. Create ways that allow your child to have freedom to pursue their interests – whether that be Princesses, cartoons, toys, science, sports, art, anything that allows them to explore what they like and are passionate about. Create mindful discussions that allow children to explore what this all means – discuss a character’s positive traits instead of her beauty or her pink dress. Broaden your child’s interests. Help them be well-rounded individuals.

Can we escape Princess Culture? Not entirely. It’s been ingrained in our western society for decades, from fictional stories to real-life Princesses that lived not so long ago. Is it bad if my daughter or son wants to embrace Princess Culture? I don’t think so. A child can love Princesses and still love other things in life. A child can love the colour pink and still want to be an engineer when they grow up. I found a great article from PBS.org that lists ways you can help your child be well-rounded: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/navigating-princess-culture/

So we can’t run or hide from Princess Culture, especially when referring to the western first world, that is certain. And so I come to the known phrase: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”

I have created a business that centers on Princesses. Some people may believe I am actively encouraging Princess Culture. They may believe that I am buying into the consumerism. That I am making money from this terrible, terrible societal problem. They believe this because they have never seen the work we do here at Enchanted Fables.

Everyone here at our company realizes there is no escaping the Princess Culture. So instead, we take it upon ourselves to actively try and change this culture for the better. We realize time and time again, party after party, that we are role models. And I’m not saying this lightly – we are literally idols to these children. Kids of all ages know us when they see us – they have watched these movies hundreds of times, own countless toys with our faces on them, dress up and pretend to be these characters, and strive to be the spitting image of these Princesses. They find themselves within these fictional people. Dressing up as these characters bears a heavy responsibility, everything that we do can affect a child.

We at Enchanted Fables see the enormous influence we wield. And we want to make absolute sure we are changing lives for the better.

We enter a party or event with a bang – carrying our party supplies and chatting happily away as to how we traveled to your kingdom. We weave tales of humour and adventure as we describe flying in an airplane and traveling aboard a ship on the open sea. Suddenly, one little guest shows us her Princess dress – a beautiful pink gown fashioned to look like a replica of a character. We remark at how wonderful it is that she decided to be a Princess that day, and we ask her if she is just as kind and brave as the character she is imitating. We steer away from clothes, beauty, and looks – we emphasize positive qualities such as honesty, intelligence, and kindness.

All of our activities encourage children to become their own heroes. Our party games include everyone, our dance moves draw everyone in. Children receive name tags and always have a choice of what they want to be that day – whether that is a Princess, Knight, Fairy, Ninja, or Pirate. We’ve had children who have wanted to be a pineapple, to which our characters happily exclaim how amazing they are as a pineapple. You can choose to be anything you want to be.

We host Princess and Pirate makeovers, but with a twist – everything helps your child become their own hero. Glitter hairspray contains pixie dust, and so every child has the chance to make a wish when we spray some in their hair. Every nail polish colour has a different super power – one has kindness and courage, one has curiosity and intelligence, one has the power of friendship and love. Nothing makes us happier when the whole family wants a nail polish super power – father and brothers included.

Our storytelling uses my favourite children’s book of all time, titled “How to Be a Princess,” that includes such wonderful chapters as “How to Be as Smart as a Princess” (Read your favourite books, and make sure to do your homework!), “How to Be a Good Friend Like a Princess” (Be loyal, and try new activities together!), and “How to Be as Brave as a Princess” (Think for yourself, and never be shy about what’s important to you!).

And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg for us. We hire performers who are all shapes and sizes – from weight, to height, as long as our characters look believable. We want children to see these heroes as real people – people who might have freckles, slightly larger hips, or are taller than her peers. Our parties are not just entertainment – they are setting positive examples as role models. We can’t fight the Princess Culture, or run from it, or hide – but we can make it a positive influence in your child’s life.

I grew up amidst the Princess Culture, and I think I turned out alright – and I’m prepared to continue this legacy on as long as its future is filled with empowerment for children.

 

-Amy
Owner/Performer

The Power to Empower Children

Laura-Jane here, newly renamed Laura-Jane Wallace after my wedding! The farm that I got married on was a home to two young girls between the ages of seven and ten. They love and admire brides, (usually from a distance), but never the less I was happy to have them there on the day. The event planner (who is their aunt) told me that the girls thought I was a princess, and at one point during the day I waved at them and they were thrilled to feel so special.

It hit me again, like it always does when I go to parties, that young girls are craving role models. This is the main reason I emailed Amy last January asking to be a part of Enchanted Fables. Acting is passion of mine, dressing up as a Princess fulfills every childhood dream, but children’s education is where my passion lies in this business. So I hope to write a few blogs on aspects of childhood education and drama education to help you see how we can raise a generation of empowered young girls and boys.

Seeing women rise to fame by their talent or beauty, and in turn using their new platforms to spread positive or socially pressing messages has always been inspiring to me. A great example of this is the new Miss Universe, Ashley Callingbull, a Cree woman from Alberta who has wasted no time in calling out racism that politicians have displayed.

Callingbull states on social media:

“People think I’m too political for my first day as Mrs. Universe. Did you really think I was going to just sit there and look pretty? Definitely not. I have a title, a platform and a voice to make change and bring awareness to First Nations issues here in Canada. I’m getting all this media attention and I’m going to use it to the best of my ability. I’m not your typical beauty queen. Look out… I have a voice for change and I’m going to use it!” – Ashley Callingbull (August 31, 2015)

Ashley Callingbull

When I walk into a birthday party, a hospital or community event, I am a child’s hero; possibly just because I’m a pretty Princess, but because of that, they will listen. This is why I have to consciously choose what I am saying to children. For instance, I will try to comment on how kind or courageous a young girl is, opposed to focusing on how pretty her birthday dress is. I will encourage boys to choose whether they want to be a fairy or a pirate, a princess or a superhero, instead of assuming they want to be the traditional masculine role. We let girls play with swords and boys wear crowns. We try to be gender inclusive by saying, “OK everyone!” instead of, “OK guys!” There are so many things we do and say by habit because of the society we have been brought up in, and I want to challenge all of you to think critically about what you choose talk about with children.

When a young girl says, “Snow Princess I have pretty braids like you!” I respond, “Do you love your siblings like me too? Are you kind and brave like I was when helping my sister?” These kinds of comments make the child think about wanting to possess the qualities of the Snow Princess, rather than the looks. These things that we do and say are small, but I hope they have a impact on each child, and that these young girls can grow up in a society with more value on the qualities one possess over their looks.

I want to leave you with this beautiful poem I came across that captures how sorry I am for my past ignorance, but how there is so much hope for the future:

“I want to apologize to all the women
I have called pretty
before I’ve called them intelligent or brave.
I am sorry I made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is the most you have to be proud of
when your spirit has crushed mountains.
From now on I will say things like, you are resilient
Or, you are extraordinary.
Not because I don’t think you’re are pretty
but because you are so much more than that.”

– Rupi Kaur

– Laura-Jane Wallace
Creative Director/Performer

It All Started With A Mouse

Eight months ago I never would have thought Enchanted Fables would be the collaborative success it is today.

I started this company in October of 2014 with just one character: the Snow Queen. My work as a character performer for the Resort theme park in Orlando, Florida, inspired me to bring fairytale magic to the community of Victoria. After graduating from the University of Victoria with a degree in Theatre/Acting, I decided to pursue a career that would combine my passion for theatre, my love of fairytales, and my dream of giving back to this community.

In December, the Creative Director of the company Laura-Jane Tresidder joined, and we had the amazing dynamic duo of the Snow Sisters. From there, our popularity quickly grew. We hired more professional performers as the months went by – with now a total of ten core cast members, each bringing with them years of experience in Voice and Childcare, and Bachelor Degree’s in Theatre.

Not only has Victoria supported our business with Birthday parties and events, but we have also been welcomed with open arms to many volunteer events and fundraisers.

In the eight short months we have been running, Enchanted Fables has managed to work with over 20 amazing local businesses, charities, and community groups. We have been honoured to volunteer at such events like the Help Fill A Dream fundraisers and dream reveals, the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation Family Fun Day, Kid’s Run Victoria, Empty Arms, Healing Hearts Birthday Celebration, McHappy Day, Quadra Village Day, and many more.

It is amazing to see this journey: going from a solo performer with my newly started business, to acquiring ten amazing performers with (soon to be) nine characters, to gaining support from family, friends, local businesses, fans, and the community at large.

So what’s next for Enchanted Fables? Well, for starters, we are looking to team up with some amazing local businesses here in Victoria. Our Princesses are looking to offer horse-drawn carriage rides courtesy of Tally-Ho Carriage Tours. We are teaming up with Fired Up Ceramics Studio to offer Princess and Ceramics Birthday parties. Plus a few more surprises in store!

This blog is meant to start engaging our fans and our community. We want to use this blog to reflect on our work, our company, and our achievements. From time to time we’ll post things like cast member bios, DIY Princess crafts, memorable moments, photos, and more!

But for now, I’d like to kick off our blog with this in mind:

walt-disney-quotes-dreams-come-true

Eight months ago my dream was just an idea: to bring magic to children in Victoria. Now through courage, hard work, an amazing cast, and an incredible network of family, friends, and community, my performers and I are able to bring joy and magic to children every chance we get.

Thank you. To my cast, my friends, my community – let’s make some magic!

-Amy Culliford
Owner/Performer