Are Princesses Only for Kids?

It's a little surprising this topic hasn't come up yet, but I suppose it was inevitable. A little while ago, I saw a Facebook ad for a Broadway Princess Party in which three women who played princesses on Broadway will be performing a concert consisting of their favorite princess songs. Of course, I immediately bought tickets. The post continued to show up on my feed for the next few days because it was sponsored, and I eventually saw a comment from someone asking if the event was for little kids even though the ad said nothing implying it as such. To make matters worse, another person replied that they were confused because the concert is at night, which seemed late for a children's event. Considering that most Broadway shows have 8pm performances regardless of their target audience, I would say the time of the concert is irrelevant. The target audience is another story entirely, though. Is this directed at children despite featuring performers who most children would have never heard of? Furthermore, is princess media as a whole only intended for young audiences? Let's explore.


First, let's take a look at how the concert was marketed. The front page does not feature any of the actresses in costume. Instead, it uses their professional headshots so interested ticket buyers would need to recognize them as actresses. The three performers are Laura Osnes, who starred in the 2013 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Courtney Reed, who originated the role of Princess Jasmine in Disney's 2011 Broadway production of Aladdin, and the incomparable Susan Egan, who originated the role of Belle in Disney's 1993 Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast as well as the voice of Megara in Disney's 1997 animated Hercules movie. Though these women have performed in roles that may have been targeted at younger audiences, it is quite clear that the concert is celebrating their accomplishments as performers, which is something that children would be less likely to appreciate, as they would only recognize the characters, not the actresses. Would they enjoy hearing their favorite songs performed by three extraordinarily skilled women? Certainly. However, the show is clearly aimed at older Broadway aficionados who recognize these actresses and grew up with their musicals.

This is a much bigger issue than just one concert, though. Let's go ahead and address the target audience for princesses in general. Princess stories are indeed child-friendly. They do not have sexual innuendo, extreme violence (depending on your definition of "extreme") or explicit language. Though the original fairy tales from the 1800s were much darker than their movie counterparts and did not always end happily, they were still intended as cautionary tales to scare kids into being good. Does that mean that adults have learned every lesson they possibly could and no longer need a moral compass? Personally, I do not believe so. The great thing about being human is that we are always growing and always learning. Every so often, we need to be reminded of what's really important to us and whether or not we are making the right decisions. These stories about characters who remain good and kind despite horrible circumstances and believe in themselves and follow their dreams no matter how the odds seem against them can be inspirational to anyone, regardless of where they are in life. Some people lose their jobs in their '40s and have to start their lives over, and others find new love late in life after getting divorced. In my opinion, these stories never stop being relevant because they remind us to always be our best selves no matter how much our lives may change.

No one felt more strongly about this than Walt Disney himself. When I was a teenager and my parents would tell me I was too old to watch animated movies, my favorite response was to quote Walt. He said it far better than I could at the time.
"You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."
 "I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty."
"Animation offers a medium of storytelling and visual entertainment which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world."
There you have it. If the most famous animator of all time stated that animation is not only for children, why does the medium get so much criticism? Some people, like my family, only take live-action movies seriously, regardless of their content, which might be why Disney is making live-action versions of all of their animated classics. However, that only enforces the naysayers' claims, making people less likely to appreciate animation as a medium.

Finally, there's the nostalgia factor. All of the remakes that the studios have been releasing lately are attempts to appeal to '90s kids by reminding them of a happier time in their lives. Princess fans who grew up in the '90s had childhoods that were filled with some of the best animated princess movies and television shows ever made, so why should we stop enjoying them just because we're older now? Does being older somehow make the quality of these productions decrease over time? I don't believe it does. The sheer fact that these stories have remained popular for so many years tells us that they contain something that people will always need. The older we get, the more cynical we become, and the more we need stories about innocent youths who always make the right decisions to remind us not to lose our sense of magic and belief in our dreams even if they may seem more out of reach than ever. I choose to look through the eyes of a princess because I want to wake up every day appreciating the beauty of the world around me instead of drowning in a life of adult monotony.

Comments

diego78 said…
Oh! Not at all. I am going to turn 18 this year and planning to have a princess theme for my birthday party. I don’t believe that these things are just for kids only. I even watch shows by Andy Yeatman on Netflix because they are entertaining and get to learn so many new things in an interesting way. It was lovely reading this post though.

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