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Minnie Mouse: Spokesmodel for Anorexia (or, How to State the Ridiculous)

Published October 12, 2012 by April Fox

Oh Minnie, how could you?

So apparently, there’s some fancy store somewhere called Barneys. And apparently they’ve just recruited beloved childhood icon Minnie Mouse into their army of evil, promoting poor body-image among little girls while enticing people into the store for half-off sales and cheesy Christmas music played over a tinny loudspeaker.

The story is that Barneys has created a stylized rendition of Minnie, painted tall and slender, wearing a designer dress. She’ll be gracing the windows of the store this holiday season. Now someone on change.org–a site with good intentions, allowing people to create petitions in an attempt to create social change–has started a petition to try and get Barneys and their cohort, Disney World, to do… something. The petition simply asks them to “Leave Minnie Mouse alone,” and then goes into a long, well-meaning tirade about young girls and body image. The statistics quoted in the petition are troubling, for sure. I have a little girl who is perfectly made, and the thought of her ever feeling like she’s too fat/short/tall/thin than she should be sickens me. She is beautiful, and all little girls should know that they are too.

But. There’s always a but. Minnie Mouse is not the culprit here. Remember when I went off on a rant about all the people calling Barbie a bad influence? Same idea here, people. Minnie Mouse is a CARTOON. She is not real. She is not even a person playing a character; she is a DRAWING. Minnie Mouse is an artistic creation. She can be stretched, squished, widened, even erased. Before Barneys decided they hated children and plotted to use the poor mouse as an implement of slow, psychic torture on them, Minnie Mouse wasn’t exactly proportionate. Her head was as big as the entire rest of her body. Her feet were huge and misshapen. And has anyone noticed that she had four-fingered, human-like hands, and that she walked upright, and that she could TALK? This chick was not a normal rodent from the get-go.

So what this well-intentioned lady on change.org seems to be alleging is that young girls see themselves in a talking, deformed, human/mouse hybrid, and that if this human/mouse hybrid grows tall and thin, they will be so disillusioned that they will stop eating in order to look like her. There had to be some malevolent intent there, right?

Sometimes the only appropriate response is, “Ummmmm… okay…”

How about this: how about recognizing that your kid is way too smart to think she’s a talking mouse? How about talking to her about how beautiful she is, just the way she is, rather than hoping that she’ll identify with the cultural symbols you find appropriate and that they won’t be changed in some way that leaves you feeling helpless in the face of a store advertising campaign? How about doing some research on graphic design and art, and instead of moaning about poor Minnie Mouse’s unfortunate transformation, teach your kid about different ways to manipulate images?

There are a lot of dangers facing our kids today. A new rendition of Minnie Mouse in a storefront is hardly one of them.

Banished from the Plastic Princess Kingdom

Published May 22, 2012 by April Fox

Off with her head. (This is not one of baby girl’s new dolls.)

Baby girl got a set of Disney Princess dolls from her father’s girlfriend. I don’t have anything in particular against the Princesses, although I vastly prefer Grimm’s Cinderella tale to the sappy sweet animated cartoon versions, simply because I prefer the dark and slightly macabre to the fluff and fabricated happy endings. The argument that the Disney Princesses teach little girls to be dependent on men and only care about beauty and riches is just dumb-if your daughter is learning her values exclusively from a movie and a hunk of plastic with Velcro clothes and tiny shoes (see also: the Barbie Is Ruining Our Daughters’ Self-Esteem movement) you have serious parenting issues and should probably get you, your kid and the innocent scapegoat dolls into therapy, quick. So yeah, my kid likes to dress up in sparkly clothes and imagine life in a palace. Whoop-te-doo, she’s a kid. Imagination is a good thing. Still, I knew as soon as she started pulling them out of the box by their synthetic hair, I was in trouble. I don’t hold any ill will toward the Princesses, but that doesn’t mean I’m into the whole Demure and Helpless role-playing thing, either. I’ve already been banned from playing Barbies (apparently Ken is not, as my Barbie expressed, a simpering wanker) and My Little Pony (well, they should all talk like Cartman. Shouldn’t they?). I could guess what was coming. I tried, though. I really did.

She started by asking me which one was my favorite. Good, this was easy: “Belle, because she likes books and is a good friend, and fell in love with someone because he had a good heart, not just because he was handsome and had a big castle.”

“Mine too,” says baby girl. I knew that. Belle has been her favorite since she was five and declared Snow White “kind of stupid, but pretty.” Even in kindergarten, baby girl knew better than to take an apple from an ugly old hag and eat it, and why didn’t those little guys do their own laundry?

She let me pick whichever doll I wanted to be, except Belle. She snatched Belle up before she finished telling me to choose, the sneaky little vermin. I chose Princess Tiana, since Snow White is stupid, Rapunzel’s hair is too hard to keep up with, Cinderella’s shoes are dumb and Jasmine’s boobs kept falling out of her top, and the last thing I need is a sexual harassment suit filed against me by Disney. Back in the box, hussy. I’m not even trying to keep your top up.

It started out okay; I asked, in the prerequisite princess falsetto, what we should do today, since we had the day off and didn’t have to do all the usual princess stuff.

“I don’t know,” replied Belle. (Perhaps, like Snow White, Belle is also stupid.)

“We could go to the animal shelter and play with the poor homeless dogs,” suggested Princess Tiana.

Baby girl hit me with her trademark skeptical look.

“Because they need friends. Because, you know, they’re homeless and sad.” Dammit, Princess Tiana is as bad at this cheerfully optimistic stuff as I am. One last try, and then I’m giving up. “We can keep them company till they get adopted and live happily ever after,” I add. That perks up baby girl, and Belle bounces on her wee yellow shoes while she talks.

“We could do that,” says Belle, “Or we could go find the princes.”

Oh boy. Tiana’s about to get exiled.

“Why would we do that?” Tiana asks, “When we have the day off and can do whatever we want?”

“Because,” says Belle. “They’re princes and we’re in love with them.”

“Well,” says Tiana, “That’s fantastic, but we should hang out together today. We don’t need those princes.”

“Yes we DO!” insists Belle, who is starting to sound less and less like a princess and more and more like a pissed off ten-year-old.

“Nuh-uh,” says Tiana, and everyone knows that “Nuh-uh” is about as close to a royal decree as you can get.

Belle bounces on her toes again and makes a noise that sounds oddly like a little girl about to chuck a princess doll out the window. “Yes. WE DO need the princes.”

“Why?” asks Tiana, “Is the toilet clogged or something? Do we need them to fix it? Cause princesses don’t have to do that.” (Hey, I’m allowed to fantasize here too, right?)

“MOM!” demands Belle, sounding eerily like my own angry child.

“Yes?”

“This is why you’re not allowed to play. Princesses don’t have TOILETS.”

There’s a long pause while we both ponder that, and then we break out in a bad case of the giggles. She does have a point. I’m assuming that the princesses, like all the related plastic dolls that my friends and I examined as kids, have no need for toilets. (Related: or a need for princes, for that matter, but that’s neither here nor there and certainly not something you discuss with your ten-year-old.)

After that the Princesses just sat around on the couch for a while, their static knees held stiffly out in front of them and their molded hands placed at their sides, painted eyes staring blankly into space. It was kind of creepy, and I was glad when baby girl stuck them back in their box and toted them off to her room, where they will no doubt engage in appropriate princess conversation about Justin Beiber’s cuteness and what the royal drudge crew should make for dinner.

I, of course, will not be invited.

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