Just this year alone, Disney believes it will make nearly 4 billion dollars internationally off of their "Disney Princesses" brand, a marketing scheme that has set off a wave of "princess fever" amongst young girls.
Martha Irvine of the Associated Press explores the sociological impact that the princess push has had on young women over the past few years, finding that several psychologists (and parents) worry that the current state of princess overload is leading girls to embrace gender stereotypes and have unrealistic expectations about their lives, with parents actually buying into the princess hype and placing their daughters on a "princess pedestal." "It just encourages parents who put their kids on a pedestal - and who encourage their kids a lot and rarely criticize," says San Diego State Associate Psychology Professor Jean Twenge, "You could label that kind of parenting 'princess parenting."
But are princess toys (and books, and films, and clothing) really to blame for the entitlement these children are feeling? Or is it a lack of intervention from parents who don't know when to draw the line and separate playing princess from actually being a princess? Chris Gale, a father, says he and his wife have tried to balance his daughter's desire for princess toys by adding princess elements to real life situations in order to get their daughter more interested in nature: "We've taken advantage of this by saying that mundane locations like a tower at the end of a hike is a princess castle," Gale says, "Invoking Ariel has actually gotten her to try and enjoy eating octopus at a local restaurant."
Much like the debates over whether Barbie contributes to body image issues or whether videogames incite violence in children, the trick here seems to be a sense of reality infused into make-believe time, and a need for moderation and the encouragement of other hobbies and interests to off-set the mythology and often overwhelming marketing barrage that comes along with the Disney Princess lifestyle. Girls may want to climb on to that "princess pedestal," but it's up to their parents to be there to gently knock them off.