First things first: I’m not a Disney hater. I’m not a Disney fanatic, either, but I’m far from the type to ban Disney products from my home. My 5-year-old daughter has seen almost every Disney cartoon that exists and enjoys playing with all of the Princess paraphernalia she’s been given over the years. I look forward to going to Walt Disney World with her; in fact, when I was in high school, I dreamed of growing up to play Snow White… until I found out that costume characters at the park only make minimum wage.
That being said, I don’t understand the phenomenon of the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Over 22,000 runners, mostly women, competed in the run today – beginning at 5:45 am! According to Run Disney, the course started just outside Epcot, heading toward Cinderella Castle inside the Magic Kingdom. “Energizing music and characters” were on hand to entertain and encourage runners along their “storybook journey.” There were even a few handsome princes in the race.
Runners are encouraged to wear tiaras and tutus while they race, which is where Disney loses me. How can anyone can run 13.1 miles in what is essentially a Halloween costume? (I have a hard enough time doing two miles on the elliptical in sweats.) But what really gets me is the way Disney uses the notion of “girl/woman/princess power” (that’s a quote from their promotional video) to pimp products at their “Princess Expo,” sponsored by Lady Foot Locker.
I just started reading Peggy Orenstein’s book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter,” a critique of princess culture. One of the first points she makes that really stuck with me is how on any Disney Princess product, none of the characters interact with each other. Each “princess” stares off into space, existing in her own little beautiful bubble. In other words, there is no implicit sisterhood in princess culture. Also, isn’t running generally perceived to be unladylike behavior? I mean, the only time Cinderella runs is right before she’s about to turn into a pumpkin. (Okay, maybe she wasn’t about to turn into a pumpkin, but I was, which is the only reason I started running. I mean, pear-shaped is one thing, but…) Snow White runs terrified through a creepy forest that’s attacking her. But other than that, princesses mostly clean and sing about the man they hope to meet someday, right? (Unfortunately, the more athletic girls, Pocahontas and Mulan, are not classified as Princesses.) I can’t remember much about Jasmine, except her gorgeous midriff. Sleeping Beauty, she mostly sleeps, if I recall correctly. Belle is too bookish to be an athlete, Ariel has a fin and Tiana is too busy running her restaurant to run a marathon. So what is Disney doing hosting a “princess” run, other than promoting its ESPN franchise and Princess products?
How do you feel about the Disney Princess Half Marathon? Harmless fun, or corporate creep?