This time last year, so many of my Facebook friends’ profile pictures were cartoon images they’d created thanks to Dyna Moe, the genius behind the Mad Men Yourself application. Then, a few months ago, many people had changed their profile pics to reflect their favorite 80’s cartoons, as a way to raise awareness about violence against children. This week I’ve noticed more than one of my adult female Facebook friends posting images of themselves princessified. I clicked in to get a better look at my friend Jess as a princess and was shocked at how closely her cartoon image resembled her in real life.
Jess’ animated princess came courtesy of Doll Divine, a site that boasts “the most beautiful dress up dolls online.” It’s no wonder why their new Princess Maker is so popular; like the Mad Men Yourself app, Doll Divine’s Princess Maker allows grown women to create and display the ideal versions of ourselves most of us can’t live up to in real life using an iconic persona we came to love in childhood.
The Princess Maker is easy enough to use; simply click a few times and you’ve finished a totally customizable animated doll in your likeness. I created the one you see top left in less than 10 minutes. It looks well enough like me, or like a really thin, perfectly coiffed, beautifully made-up version of me catching butterflies in a field full of cherry blossoms. When I was younger (and before I had a child), I suppose I would have been drawn to this type of Internet Time Suck. After all, I think I still have an account on Zwinky.com and an avatar on Yahoo!. And it’s not difficult to understand the urge to cartoonize oneself in the age of social media. What better way to look perfect all the time? No need for retouched party shots or expensive headshots – just show the world how you think you should or could look if only you were drawn by Disney (or Dyna Moe).
The difference between Dyna Moe’s Mad Men Yourself creations and Claudia Patron Perez’s Princess Maker art is that in Dyna Moe’s world, people come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Perez offers plenty of realistic skin colors to choose from, but when it comes to being a princess, only one body type is acceptable: thin, but curvy in all the right places (think Jasmine). That’s a message our girls have pounded into their heads every single day. This afternoon while talking about body image issues on the phone with my friend Desiree, I stared at my daughter’s little Disney Princess chair and thought, no one can ever truly be pretty as a cartoon princess. I hope my 5-year-old doesn’t wind up making herself crazy trying.