How Princesses Use Technology

The first teaser trailer for Pixar's Onward dropped a few days ago, and it got me thinking. Onward has a typical fantasy setting of mermaids, faeries, and unicorns, but instead of taking place once upon a time, it takes place during our time. Therefore, these mythological beings whose ancestors lived in the days of magic and adventure now live in your average suburban neighborhood watching TV and surfing the internet. The combination of magic and technology is not entirely new. Series like Mysticons and Winx Club also take place in modern settings, and the characters are shown to take advantage of computers and technology just as much as we do. However, most princess stories are set in the medieval or Renaissance era, long before such things were heard of. Sometimes it's fun to imagine how they might behave if they were brought up with access to all of the modern conveniences we have today.


The first time I saw a traditional princess use modern technology in a fairy tale setting was the 2012 Barbie movie, The Princess and the Popstar, which was really a watered-down remake of The Princess and the Pauper, right down to recycling one of the same songs. Even though The Princess and the Pauper is by far the superior Barbie movie, The Princess and the Popstar was unique in that it featured Barbie as both a fairy tale princess named Tori and a modern popstar named Keira. The dichotomy between these two is interesting because the only trait they don't already have in common is the way they use technology. After all, what is a popstar if not a modern princess? This is portrayed visually in the song "To Be a Princess/Popstar," in which Tori demonstrates instructions of being a princess via a hard-cover textbook, while Keira uses a purple striped tablet to teach Tori the ways of the popstar. Later in the film, we see Keira and Tori communicate from afar using an app that resembles Facetime or Skype via a tablet and smartphone. It was a bit jarring for me to see a princess in a castle wearing a ballgown communicating via a smartphone, but they made it work thanks to the feminine pink and purple skins both girls used to decorate their devices.

Another fairy tale world that uses modern technology is the setting of JM Stengl's Faraway Castle books. These books take place in a modern setting that just happens to have monarchies. The princes and princesses in the books wear modern clothes and use social media but also have access to magic. The Faraway Castle resort has no internet or cell phone service, so the first three books made very little reference to the online world. Her most recent book, The Lady and the Wish, takes place outside the resort, so there are many references to Gillian checking her social media accounts. However, the story mainly focuses on the more controversial aspects of social media. Princes and princesses get the most followers, which seems pretty accurate to reality, but Gillian notices that her friends in the upper circles tend to "like" or comment on posts that show off their high rankings more than personal relationships. The Lady and the Wish also has a wicked prince that humiliates Gillian by sharing old photos of them together and posting publicly that they are in a relationship even though she wants nothing to do with him. It serves as a cautionary tale to be careful what you share with the public.

My personal view of technology is generally more optimistic. While I did learn the hard way that it's dangerous to put too much of yourself out there on the internet, I've also made some wonderful friend via technology that I never would have met in the real world due to living in different locations. I think that princesses like Jasmine and Rapunzel who feel trapped would find their freedom through the use of modern technology. Jasmine would be able to form relationships with people who respect her for her mind without needing to reveal her status as a princess, and Rapunzel would be able to share her artwork on Instagram and Tumblr without ever needing to leave the tower. Princesses would use technology to spread love and kindness into the world by sharing encouraging posts to people who are feeling down and responding to tweets from their many admirers.

Princesses have come a long way over the years, though their fundamental role in stories remains the same. They once only existed in settings that took place hundreds of years ago, but technology has become so rooted in our society that it's hard to imagine anyone without it, even fairy tale princesses. How would you picture princesses using technology in modern times? Would they spread goodwill by sharing their favorite charities and encouraging people to contribute, or would they simply use it as a means of communication with their princes and royal companions? If there are any princesses in the world of Pixar's Onward, I'm sure many of them will spend a great deal of time on their computers or smart devices. Onward is set to release in March of 2020, so we have a long wait before we can find out for sure. Check out the trailer below.

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