intellectual vanities… about close to everything

whom you kiss: frog or princess?

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Princess image for girls debated

NEW YORK, April 23 — The Cinderella phenomenon has been around for decades and UCLA child psychologist Dr. Mark DeAntonio said he thinks it’s healthy.

“I think it’s normal for kids to kind of fanaticize roles, to try them on for size,” said DeAntonio. “And both boys and girls do this, and it’s a very normal thing.”

But some mothers are worried their daughters’ self-esteem may be hurt by the plethora of princess products in stores, ABC News reported Monday.

“When you have 25,000 items beaming at your daughter every day, it stops being really a choice,” said author Peggy Orenstein, who writes about women’s issues.

She questions the affect of the perfect-looking princesses as role models for girls.

“It really is ultimately about looking pretty, and having a lot of stuff,” she said. “And as somebody who studied body image, I really worry about what it’s setting girls up for. Will the girl who is wearing ‘Princess’ across her chest when she’s three be wearing ‘Spoiled’ across her chest when she’s six, and ‘Porn Star’ when she is 12?”

Disney, which helped to popularize the trend, made $3 billion on the princess image last year.

Alas this whole debate is a bit one-eyed. All, quoting author Peggy Orenstein as much as the quoted, concerned mothers, demonstrate what is the ignored back side of the medal. There is indeed nothing wrong about trying on idealized roles in fantasy, ‘trying them on for size’ as DeAntonio says. And it is not only normal, but there are important teachings contained in those daydreams too.

otto_cinderella_contest2606_01.jpgRegardless of origin and morphology, tales have often a whimsical, satirical, or moralistic character, and often a sophisticated narrative containing supernatural or obviously improbable events, scenes, and personages. One such frequently repeated element is the donor who gives the hero magical assistance, often after testing him, e.g., in Cinderella, the fairy godmother gives Cinderella the dresses she needs to attend the ball.

The fairy tale was part of an oral tradition; tales were told, rather than written down, and handed down from generation to generation. Preliterate cultures, in particular, have long told tales without there being any records of them. Originally, adults were the audience of a fairy tale just as often as children. Literary fairy tales appeared in works intended for adults, and only in the nineteenth and twentieth century, the fairy tale came to be associated with children’s literature.

Piaget viewed children as little philosophers, which he called tiny thought-sacks and scientists building their own individual theories of knowledge. Piaget postulated that imitative activity is the forerunner of mental symbolism, building bodily/behavioral signifiers that stand for phenomena in a comparable way to that by which mental symbols will later stand for these phenomena. Such imitative formations provide the basis upon which mental symbolic activity can later build. The symbol is, according to Piaget, an internalized imitation.

The Preoperational stage is the second of four stages of cognitive development. By observing sequences of play, Piaget was able to demonstrate that towards the end of the second year a qualitatively new kind of psychological functioning occurs. (Pre)Operatory Thought in Piagetian theory is any procedure for mentally acting on objects. The hallmark of the preoperational stage is sparse and logically inadequate mental operations.

According to Piaget, the Pre-Operational stage of development follows the Sensorimotor stage and occurs between 2-7 years of age. That is the age, when cinderella, robin hood, bat-, super- and other men gain their full semantic power in fantasy, as representation of something that is not there (s. below).

Mental development during this period, after Piaget, includes the following processes:

Symbolic functioning – is characterised by the use of mental symbols, words, or pictures, which the child uses to represent something which is not physically present.

Centration – is characterized by a child focusing or attending to only one aspect of a stimulus or situation. For example, in pouring a quantity of liquid from a narrow beaker into a shallow dish, a preschool child might judge the quantity of liquid to have decreased, because it is “lower”–that is, the child attends to the height of the water, but not to the compensating increase in the diameter of the container.

Intuitive thought – occurs when the child is able to believe in something without knowing why she or he believes it.

Egocentrism – a version of centration, this denotes a tendency of a child to only think from her or his own point of view. Also, the inability of a child to take the point of view of others.

Serialisation – the ability to arrange objects in an order according to size, shape, or any other characteristic. For example, if given different-shaded objects they may make a colour gradient.

Classification – the ability to name and identify sets of objects according to appearance, size or other characteristic, including the idea that one set of objects can include another. A child is no longer subject to the illogical limitations of animism (the belief that all objects are animals and therefore have feelings).

Inability to Conserve – Through Piaget’s conservation experiments (conservation of mass, volume and number) Piaget concluded that children in the preoperational stage lack perception of conservation of mass, volume, and number after the original form has changed. For example, a child in this phase will believe that a string of beads set up in a “O-O-O-O” pattern will have a larger number of beads as a string which has a “OOOO” pattern, because the latter pattern has less space in between Os; or that a tall, thin 8-ounce cup has more liquid in it than a wide, short 8-ounce cup (see also centration, above).

What the mentioned toys, books, movies and games out of Disneyland, Hollywood and the like industries are forcing upon the perception of children during that important and vulnerable stage of mental development are no symbolical representations of values, but their sensual surface, icons of looks and appearances. The barbification/kennification of the princess’ beauty and the persecuted hero’s courage is void of meaning in itself. They are held out, pretty much as marketing images are, meant to be filled with symbolical meanings out of the potential client’s mind and manipulated in such a way that they might stimulate the client to buy the manufacturer’s goods.

As in opposition to fairy tales with conflicting contents as indicative of psychological conflicts, the fairy-tale-like tokens are totally smoothed out, to the degree of meaninglessness, which weakens their usefulness, to both children and adults, as ways of symbolical resolving issues. For Piaget, even perception of an object is an imitative activity; the eye tracing the shape of an object is forming a pre-symbolic concept of the object. Piaget suggests that the motions experienced here may be repeated by the child in an abbreviated fashion when recalling the object; this bodily image symbolizes the object that was perceived earlier. Toying with pincesses/heroes of the Disney-type through internalisation creates no moral value — however fantastic in the beginning — but void personality categories into which culturally determined pseudovalues like wealth, anorectically slim looks or others are being integrated. The firmer that replacement of true personality values will be in place the more ferocious will be the clash of that personality with a reality, where simply no barby-/ken-surfaces suffice as standards of value decision, neither in moral, nor love nor any other issues.

[…] see also Being Pretty Isn’t Easy… Oh, Screw It! or […] supersize me

[…] see also Minima Sententia. Instrumentalisation of the Image and Simulation of Public Communication. (Tatiana Goryucheva)


Written by huehueteotl

April 24, 2007 at 6:54 pm

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