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Naomi Schaefer Riley

Princesses Galore

The new girlie-girl culture.

If you have spent any time watching the recent spate of bridal reality shows—from Bridezillas to Say Yes to the Dress—you will know the answer when the maid of honor/wedding consultant/caterer asks the bride how she envisions her special day. "Well," she will say excitedly, "I've always wanted to be a princess."

There was a time when it would sound a little absurd—if not narcissistic—for a grown woman to announce such a thing. As Peggy Orenstein writes in her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, "When I was growing up, the last thing you wanted to be called was a 'princess'; it conjured up images of a spoiled, self-centered brat with a freshly bobbed nose who runs to Daddy at the least provocation." Today, though, Orenstein tells us, her daughter, Daisy, is growing up in a society awash in princesses. All of the girls in school want to be princesses. And just about every adult that Daisy encounters calls her "princess." When the dentist asks Daisy, "Would you like to sit in my special princess throne so I can sparkle your teeth?" Orenstein can hardly control herself. "'Oh, for God's sake,'" I snapped. 'Do you have a princess drill too?'"

Orenstein isn't imagining things, as she learns from a visit to a now industry-famous Disney executive, Andy Mooney. In 2000, Mooney went to a Disney on Ice show, where he found himself surrounded by little girls in homemade princess costumes. He saw the tremendous marketing opportunity and proceeded to launch a line of Disney Princess products. These princesses—Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, and a couple of others—had never been marketed apart from movies about them. But now they are everywhere. Princesses from entirely separate stories appear on the same products, as if having a tiara in common is all they need to form friendships. In 2009, Disney sold $4 billion worth of princess products.

But it is not just Disney that has realized the marketing opportunity in selling thousands of girly-girl ...

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