As you all may know, I kind of have a love/hate relationship with the Disney princesses. It’s not their fault, per se, but it’s just THE EVERYTHING surrounding them, in particular the girly-girl princess culture our society seems so intent on cultivating these days.
The one post that probably best sums up my feelings is, perhaps not coincidently, my only post that’s ever gone viral. It was called Sexism by the Slice and it involved an outrageously sexist coloring placement given to a then 3-year-old E and my discovery of author Peggy Orenstein’s life-changing book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.”
Allow myself to quote … myself:
“This placemat represents everything that is wrong with the way our girls are treated today. I don’t mean to sound dramatic but how can this constant barrage of marketing focused on beauty not have an impact on our daughters?”
Thankfully, there have been a few beacons of hope and the slightest whisperings of change over the past couple years, namely the Paper Bag Princess and of course, my beloved Merida from “Brave.” (yes, I realize the Paper Bag Princess is a 30-year-old book but the production was new).
But I sometimes feel that the world just doesn’t get it. Every time I see a new Lego Friends beauty salon or my annual disgust over sexualized Halloween costumes, I get depressed about the world my now 5-year-old daughter seems to be growing up in. I’m always having conversations with her about the media we’re consuming and how girls in particular are being portrayed (I promise it’s not as preachy or obnoxious as it sounds). And I usually feel it’s sinking in. Take her assessment of the recent Disney on Ice show “Heroes and Princesses:” “Mommy, I really wish Merida and Mulan would have been in it. Know why? They’re princesses AND heroes. They SHOULD have been in it. And Princess Leia, too.”
And the flip side is that we’re obviously huge Disney nuts around here. I love the parks. I love the way the company treats its guests. And yes, we even own every princess movie and I can’t help but feel nostalgia and some warm and fuzzies when I watch the movies. So yeah, it’s complicated.
I never wish for my daughter to be older but this is the one exception. If she was about six years older, I know where I’d be taking her — to see the brilliantly wicked and hilarious musical “Disenchanted.”
Last spring, my friend Jeannie asked me if I wanted to go see it when it made its return to Orlando this fall. I said “sure” and never thought of it again. Fast-forward to a couple weeks ago, the day before the show when she reminded me of it. And to think I momentarily thought of bailing since I was tired from my Texas trip. That would have been a huge mistake.
Stop what you’re doing and find this show in your area! It originated at the Orlando Fringe Festival in 2011 and it, rightly so, is taking off like wildfire, currently playing in Orlando and Minneapolis and coming soon to Tampa and Off-Broadway!
It features Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan (all four pictured above), Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas, Rapunzel and Tiana and tells the stories AFTER the Happily Ever After.
OMFG (that’s Oh My Fairy Godmother, according to the “Disenchanted” gals), I did not stop smiling, nodding my head YES! and frequently laughing hysterically out loud for 90 minutes. Playwright Dennis Giacino took all my jumbled thoughts about the Princess Industrial Complex and brilliantly put them into one hilarious musical.
It’s smart. It’s sassy. It’s unapologetic. And it rocked my world.
The six women in this show are some of the most talented performers I’ve even seen and their voices will thrill you (no, you didn’t miscount the princesses I named above; Lulu Picart plays Mulan/Pocahontas; Andrea Canney plays Belle/Ariel; and Shonda L’nette plays Rapunzel/Tiana). Remember the first time you heard the songs in “Wicked” and you couldn’t stop humming and singing them for days? That’s been me ever since I saw the show.
And I don’t want to single any of the ladies out because each one of them wowed me, but I’m pretty sure I’m partially in love with Michelle Knight (Snow White) and Lulu Picart (Mulan/Pocahontas). When either of them are on the stage, you can’t take your eyes off them. They’re mesmerizing.
Knight’s deadpan “Do I look like I need to wait for my prince to come?” brought the house down. She frequently spoke right to my snarky, black heart.
After the show, I ran up to Dennis (oh yeah, we’re totally on a first-name basis now) and GUSHED about the show. I told him my one regret was not taking copious notes during the show because I knew I’d never remember everything I wanted to share with you all. So he kindly sent me a dropbox link to some of the songs from the show, which are now on autoplay in my iTunes. Here are just a few of my favorite lyrics to give you all a taste of the show:
From the show opening “One More Happily Ever After,” performed by Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty:
“Just one more moment doing nothing in this kingdom seems extreme, one more whistle while I work and I’m going to scream … just one more once upon a time and I swear I’ll go insane … one more prince who thinks he’s cute and charming, who slips me the tongue while I’m asleep — it’s alarming.”
From Mulan’s show-stopping ballad “Without the Guy:”
“There’s only one way for a princess to get by. Be super cute, eat poison fruit, fall comatose until someone on a white horse happens to happen by. Then you’re flying high because you think you need a guy or you might just die.”
And this line because it made me snort:
“I am no one’s geisha, because that’s Japanese anyway.”
It’s funny because it’s true.
From Ariel’s “Two Legs:”
“I can’t believe I swapped the Seven Seas for a prince and a pair of these”
For the record, I thinking she’s referring to those two legs … mostly.
You all know my standard beef with Ariel — she LITERALLY (and I don’t use that oft misused word lightly) gives up her voice for a man. Dennis puts it this way in a later song: “She gave up everything for a guy she thought was cute.” For real.
With each passing moment of the show, I not only had more fun, I felt a little vindicated, I guess. I know I’m hardly the first nor most eloquent person to express my frustrations with the PC (Princess Complex in “Disenchanted”) but it sure is nice to know that I’m not just some person out there alone, upset about some silly cartoons.
It’s hard being a parent. It’s hard being the parent of a daughter. It’s hard being the parent of a daughter who is bombarded with messages that her happiness hinges on being rescued by a boy (I’m not calling them men since every princess is a teenager). As the show so brilliantly sums up in its sing-out-loud great final number “Once Upon a Time:”
“No matter the story, we were convinced that happily ever after meant being saved by a prince. But that was once upon a time.”
Preach on sisters! Here’s to happier ever afters for our daughters. It’s not in any way an anti-man statement. It’s a pro-woman statement, something we’re sorely lacking in all forms of entertainment.
Thank you Dennis and company for taking what could easily be an issue brushed aside as insignificant or overreacting and sharply putting it into focus. The swearing and catchy tunes are a nice touch, too.
And for not calling for security as I gushed to you.
I can’t wait to watch this show storm across the country, rewriting future fairy tales one show at a time.
If you’re in Orlando, the show’s run has been extended until November 3! It’s playing at the Abbey Theatre in downtown Orlando. GO! I’m going to try and go back one more time, this time taking DadJovi with me. I’m pretty sure my feminist husband will love it.
Click here to visit Disenchanted’s website to find out details on shows in other cities. The show does feature some swearing and sexual themes. The play bills itself as PG-13, so if you’re thinking of taking your tween/teen daughters, use your own best judgment.
And just to be clear, I paid for my own tickets to the show and I’m not being compensated in any way for this post (well, other than the fact that I now listen to the .mp3s from the show on repeat, which is a
$35 priceless value. There’s a link to purchase the score on the Facebook page). And all pictures in this post come from the Disenchanted Facebook page, with their permission. So don’t be a jerk and steal them.
OK, you all know my least favorite princess. Which one drives you crazy? Which children’s character would you like to see parodied, princess or not?