Disney Princess diversity: Characters changed via Tumblr, D-Tech
Disney Princess diversity, mostly non-existent in films and dolls, is evolving with people using Tumblr and 'D-Tech' to change characters' features to make images and dolls look like little girls of all ethnicities.
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That’s one of the brilliant things about the “My American Girl” dolls. Although they are prohibitively expensive for most families (sigh), girls can customize the dolls to have whatever skin tones and hair colors they’d like – just like Lauren did with the Disney Princess images on her Tumblr blog. Of course, there’s little diversity in actual facial features, which is an ongoing problem in the doll business. Even when racially and ethnically diverse dolls are available, their facial characteristics typically reflect white beauty norms. In the essay “Dyes and Dolls: Multicultural Barbie and the Merchandizing of Difference,” scholar Ann duCille famously criticized such dolls for being merely “dye-dipped” – brown versions of their white counterparts.Skip to next paragraph
Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a children's media culture expert. A professor of advertising and media studies at Salem State University, in Salem, Mass., her research focuses on girls and media. The author of "Growing Up With Girl Power: Girlhood on Screen and in Everyday Life," she blogs about children's media and popular cultur and lives with her husband and son in Peabody, Mass.
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In this context, a new experiment from Disney is fascinating. As of this week, children ages 3 to 12 who are visiting Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney Marketplace may order custom-modeled 7-inch Disney Princess figurines made to look like them. Just like them. As in modeled after images taken via 3D scans of the children’s own faces. (Some reports have stated this service is available at Disneyland, but a Disney rep on the Disney Parks web site has clarified that the D-Tech Princesses are only going to be available in Walt Disney World in the Downtown Disney Marketplace.)
The price is about the same as an American Girl doll, but thanks to the 3D technology, these new “D-Tech Me” princess figurines won’t just have the children’s eye and hair color, they’ll also have their noses, cheekbones, lips.
The service is being offered for a limited time, and the characters available are Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Tiana. (Sorry, Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Merida!)
I have to agree with the Business Insider that the samples images Disney has shared so far look pretty creepy – a little too “uncanny valley” for my taste. And I’m not sure why three of the four characters of color from the Disney Princess franchise are being excluded as choices in the first place; it seems a little insensitive. (Anyone have thoughts on that?) But I don’t agree with Marketplace that the figurines are a sign of the apocalypse.
Although the Disney Princess franchise teems with stereotypes about girlhood, femininity, physical appearance, and race (and although I strongly dislike that the girls’ heads will be as large or larger than their waists on these figurines) the reality is this: Little girls are growing up in a princess-obsessed girls’ culture, and feeling excluded hurts.
By letting any girl see herself as a princess – well, at least any 3- to 12-year-old girl whose parents can bring her to Disney World and afford to pay $99.95 plus shipping and handling for a figurine – Disney has taken another small step in the right direction. I’ll be curious to see whether the experiment catches on.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Rebecca Hains blogs at rebeccahains.wordpress.com.