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December 24, 2006
What’s Wrong With Cinderella?
By PEGGY ORENSTEIN
I finally came unhinged in the dentist’s office — one of those ritzy pediatric practices tricked out
with comic books, DVDs and arcade games — where I’d taken my 3-year-old daughter for her
first exam. Until then, I’d held my tongue. I’d smiled politely every time the supermarket-
checkout clerk greeted her with “Hi, Princess”; ignored the waitress at our local breakfast joint
who called the funny-face pancakes she ordered her “princess meal”; made no comment when
the lady at Longs Drugs said, “I bet I know your favorite color” and handed her a pink balloon
rather than letting her choose for herself. Maybe it was the dentist’s Betty Boop inflection that
got to me, but when she pointed to the exam chair and said, “Would you like to sit in my special
princess throne so I can sparkle your teeth?” I lost it.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” I snapped. “Do you have a princess drill, too?”
She stared at me as if I were an evil stepmother.
“Come on!” I continued, my voice rising. “It’s 2006, not 1950. This is Berkeley, Calif. Does
every little girl really have to be a princess?”
My daughter, who was reaching for a Cinderella sticker, looked back and forth between us.
“Why are you so mad, Mama?” she asked. “What’s wrong with princesses?”
Diana may be dead and Masako disgraced, but here in America, we are in the midst of a royal
moment. To call princesses a “trend” among girls is like calling Harry Potter a book. Sales at
Disney Consumer Products, which started the craze six years ago by packaging nine of its
female characters under one royal rubric, have shot up to $3 billion, globally, this year, from
$300 million in 2001. There are now more than 25,000 Disney Princess items. “Princess,” as
some Disney execs call it, is not only the fastest-growing brand the company has ever created;
they say it is on its way to becoming the largest girls’ franchise on the planet.
Meanwhile in 2001, Mattel brought out its own “world of girl” line of princess Barbie dolls,
DVDs, toys, clothing, home décor and myriad other products. At a time when Barbie sales were
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