Imagine this scenario: as a parent of a preschooler, you decided to go clothes shopping with your little one. The moment both of you entered the Children’s Section at the shopping mall, you immediately noticed a good quality cotton T-shirt with a drawing of a cute teddy on it which you thought was a perfect choice for your child during the hot summer. However, instead of being happy, your little one cried out in disappointment: “NO! I don’t like a teddy! I want Spiderman, Batman, or Princess, Rapunzel!” What would you do in this situation? After recovering from your initial shock, you decided to put the T-shirt back on the clothes rack. Just to please your child and respect his or her opinion, you decided to follow them to the Disney Princess /Avengers section and bought whatever they chose and both of you left the mall and lived happily ever after!
But wait, this is not the end of the story. It is just the starting point, which is not a very pleasant start if we are aware of the challenges and impact of these favorite characters on our children. It is okay if we, as parents, sometimes take a magnifier to look deeper into our children’s favors and behaviors. This article demonstrates the serious challenges of both princess and superhero culture that may affect boys’ and girls’ futures.
The Princess culture:
For the last 20 years, the legendary Disney princesses have become the preschoolers’ beloved characters and somehow their role models. Princess products and goods took over the market by appearing in almost every kid’s product category such as bags, shoes, stationery, dolls, costumes and so much more. Consequently, ‘princess-ism’ has shaped the culture of both the public and families. Unfortunately, parents and caregivers often assume that it is normal if girls love princesses and act like princesses. Somehow they might even encourage their daughters by calling them “my princess”, letting them dress up as princesses and celebrating their birthday with a princess theme and princess’s cake. But, recent studies on young preschool age girls around the world, illustrated some critical concerns about the princess culture. In particular:
1. Princess Culture Teaches Girls Gender Stereotypes:
Recent studies on different groups of preschoolers mainly from age 3 to 6 years old demonstrated that girls who engage with princess culture, mainly in Disney products learn that being pretty is really important and somehow beauty and perfect physical appearance are their identity, value and asset and nothing else.
2. Princess –Ism May Change A Girl’s Goal:
Studies prove that princess culture teaches that a girl’s value is to be “beautiful and charming, and her goal is to wait for her prince on a white horse to suddenly appear, falls in love with her at first sight, and marry her.” She stays obedient and charming for him for the rest of their lives. But are these the values that you as parents like to inculcate in your daughters?
3. Behavioral Impact:
The experts didn’t find any evidence that engaging with princess culture will have a positive impact on girls’ behavior. The finding suggests that the more girls get into princess characters, the more they behave in stereotypically feminine way.
4. Princess Culture Leads Girls to Body Esteem Issues:
In the princess movies, the characters are always beautiful, slim, and sweet. They have small waists and fairy skin color, even though real life is completely different. There are millions of girls around the world that may have none or some of the attributes that can be found in Disney princesses. Unfortunately, our image-obsessed society adds fuel to the flame by calling young girls little princesses, beautiful princesses and many more such compliments. Psychologists believe that girls who grow up with this image in their minds will mainly be focusing on self-appearance and they tend to be sexy in adulthood, which may lead them to depression, anorexia (a kind of eating disorder) and low self-esteem.
The Superhero Culture:
“Daddy /Mommy, you be a bad boy and I’ll be Spiderman and I will come and fight you and trap you in my net!” Almost all parents who have 3 – 4 year-old boys in their houses hear this statement from their little “super heroes.” It might seem funny coming from them, but should we consider it normal, as they are boys, or would it be better to stop and think twice? Is it only fun and games? Are they going to grow out of it, or might there be some influences that you as parents, might not be aware of? The answer is yes! There are some hidden aspects that psychologists and social experts suggest after years of exploring. For instance:
1- Superhero Culture Induces Aggressive Acts in Young Boys:
No doubt, superheroes are courageous super humans who try to defend justice. The question is whether young boys pick up their favorite superheroes’ superpowers and aggressiveness, or their positive features, such as defending weak people and helping others? According to new studies, preschool -age children are too young to understand and pull out the main positive messages of being a superhero. In contrast, they mainly learn physical and rational aggression, because it is exciting, like pushing, kicking, and hitting each other, rather than protecting their weaker friends or siblings who are being bullied. And it can get worsen as they grow up, and you can’t blame them! This is a warning sign for parents.
2. Superhero Culture Introduces Weapons To Young Boys:
Another serious point to note: according to psychological research young boys who are more engaged in superhero cartoons, are more likely to play with pretended weapons, and act violently, as well as acting stereotypically in male ways, which can be a reason of concern for parents.
3. Not All Wrong! Superhero Culture Can Be A Source Of Humanity:
The underlying messages of superheroes movies are kindness, morality and generosity to the human race. And it is the job and responsibility of parents and caregivers to explain this to the young boys.