At the end of January, a Virginia teen launched a petition asking Disney to add a plus-sized princess to its cast of characters. As of today, she's gathered more than 25,000 signatures. Good for her! But sadly, I'm pretty sure it'll never, ever happen—and I blame Meme Roth.
"I know the characters are just cartoons but they give girls their first impressions of real-life women," Jewel tells Yahoo Shine. "Now that I'm almost an adult, cartoons don't impact my confidence, but I have small cousins and I want them to see a wide representation of women. If plus-size girls see characters that look like them succeed, it would show them that they can do anything."
Fat children shouldn't be made to feel their happiness and their chances for a good life are contingent on losing weight. And yet, if you look at the current cannon, that's exactly what the princess industrial complex is telling them. Girls are told their whole lives in a thousand ways that it all depends on becoming an "after." Heroines are thin and conventionally attractive. Thin women are loved.
One role model that says get out there, you're worthy of adventures and good things in your life just like you are would send a powerful message.
And if anyone is seriously considering saying anything about "blah blah glorifying obesity blah blah"—do you really fucking think that anyone has ever said, "Screw it, people love Melissa McCarthy!" then shoved a cheeseburger in her mouth? No. Stop it. It doesn't work like that.
But of course, Disney doesn't exist to make kids feel good about themselves. No doubt the company is perfectly happy if that's a side effect! But Disney exists to make pots and pots of money. So they don't introduce characters without a very sharp eye to the potential profits not just from the movies but from dolls, costumes, lunch boxes, stickers, direct-to-DVD sequels and so on. They're not going to risk that with a controversial heroine.
Plus, given Disney's cultural dominance as shaper-of-young-dreams, the world watches the company's every move closely. Everything's magnified so it becomes a statement on The World Today. Shrek had Fiona, but come on—no one waxes poetic about the influence DreamWorks had on their childhood.
And unfortunately, the idea of a plus-sized princess is controversial. Look at the reaction to just the petition! Every other comment on every article is about how unhealthy fat people are. You can't so much as bring up the idea of a plus-sized princess without Fox News trotting out Meme Roth to her disgusting concern-troll song-and-dance routine. "If you're going to do a storyline with obesity, then you're going to need to do Princess Diabetes, Princess Cancer, Princess Fertility Problems," she insists in this video via Media Matters:
(That video, by the way, is worth watching for Emme's serene chillness alone. She just doesn't let Roth's hateful bullshit get to her! It's lifespo, really.)
It's not like Disney characters' proportions are currently the picture of health. They're not even the picture of reality! (See this analysis of Frozen's Anna, from the Daily Mail.) But no one seems able to work up much anger over the fact that most Disney characters' proportions are about as true-to-human-form as a perfume bottle. The response is little more than persistent grumbling.
"Obesity," on the other hand, is one of the great freakout-inspiring scare-topics of our time. And Disney's already gotten into trouble weighing into this particular argument with its dumb "Habit Heroes" exhibit at Epcot. And there's always going to be a bunch of jerks willing to pitch a fit because some seven-year-old might get the idea it's okay to have that extra cookie.
I would love to be proven wrong. But I doubt Disney has the guts.
Photo via AP Images