If you had told me five years ago that I was going to publish a work of non-fiction I would have laughed in your face. It’s true that, five years ago, I had just quit my teaching job in order to focus on my writing while (hopefully) getting pregnant and becoming a full-time mom. But, by writing, I’d meant fiction.
I had wanted to be a published novelist for a long time — ever since that giant paperclip with eyes (remember him?) and I had completed our first novel back when I was twelve or so. But somehow, much to my surprise, here I am, five years later, the very proud author of a book called Saving Cinderella: What Feminists Get Wrong About Disney Princesses and How to Set it Right. The book is many things, but a novel isn’t one of them.
The idea for the book was born a little less than two years ago. After having my son, I’d started writing about parenting for PJ Media and one of the first pieces I wrote there was about my love of Disney princesses. As I branched out from Parenting and into “Lifestyle” I began to notice both the popularity of Disney princesses and the ways in which they were maligned by feminist critics. It was a trend that bothered me, given my sense that the earlier princesses were characters of substance and worth, and the newer “feminist” princesses were shallow and vapid. Whenever the topic came up in the news, I tried to find a way to write about it.
Eventually, I developed a theory: Disney’s trend toward more “feminist” princesses is a reaction to a small but very vocal group of radical feminist critics who don’t actually represent the majority of viewers. But, because major news publications share these critics’ views, their opinions are getting heard, while everyone else’s aren’t. And that has all kinds of ramifications: from Disney scrambling to create “feminist” princesses, to moms banning the movies from their homes, to the Disney Princess Franchise scrambling to rebrand the earlier princesses as athletes and warriors in order to stay “relevant.”
And then, of course, I couldn’t shut up about it. At the dinner table, on the couch with my husband after our son was in bed, on the phone to my mother in California, I waxed poetic about the themes and tropes of Disney movies, and the way these feminists critics had misunderstood them. And, finally, after one such conversation, my mother gently suggested: “You should write a book about Disney princesses.” I laughed. “If only!” But she was serious. And, after a while, so was I.
Thus began the labor of love that became Saving Cinderella. Notebook in hand I rewatched all eleven “official” Disney princess movies, plus Frozen, furiously scribbling in a marble notebook with a cover collaged by my son. I read books on fairy tales and reread the original stories that went with the movies I’d watched. And I read the critiques feminist critics had made of them. There I was, the girl who’d never once finished a reading assignment in college, delving deeply into literary criticism, the history of fairy tales, and the annals of Disney lore.
And then I began to write. I wrote about fairy tales and what they represent. I wrote about how Disney adapted them and what they added, changed, and left the same. I wrote about the mistakes feminist critics make when watching these stories — the way they take them literally, and misunderstand their symbolism. And I wrote about what these movies have meant to me — what they mean to me still — and what they’ve meant to generations of children, and can mean again.
So I present to you the fruits of my labor: Saving Cinderella, a book which I hope will set the record straight on who Disney princesses really are and, more broadly, the importance of fairy tales. The book takes the Disney princess movies in chronological order — one chapter per movie — and outlines both the ways in which they’ve been unfairly maligned, and the themes, symbols, and messages the movies convey. It’s a book for Disney princess lovers, for pop culture enthusiasts, parents worried that they shouldn’t show these movies to their daughters, millennials who grew up loving the movies but now fear they’ll lose their feminist street cred if they admit they still love them, and anyone who wants to learn more about the stories that have been with us — in one form or another — for thousands of years.
Saving Cinderella: What Feminists Get Wrong About Disney Princesses and How to Set it Right is available now! Click here to order the paperback, or to pre-order the ebook, which comes out December 15th. I hope you like it! And, if you do, don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon. Together we can save Cinderella.
I believe. Do you?