Family Life

Sofia The First
Jul 02

When it comes to the nature versus nurture debate, there is one thing that is 100 per cent ‘nature’ with girls…and that’s their obsession with princesses. Where does it come from? The whole princess and fairytale thing really fascinates me, particularly since it reinforces all of those female stereotypes that we probably don’t encourage as parents.

Little I has just turned three and she has been obsessed with princesses and fairies for almost a year now. We’ve had the same fairytale book on loan from the library for months, at any playgroup or play-date she is always the first to put on the princess costume, she chooses her girlfriends based on their resemblance to Rapunzel, the best thing you can ask her is “are you a princess?”, and she tells me that she dreams about Tinkerbell every single night!

I don’t believe I’ve done anything to trigger or encourage this obsession – it’s something that has completely come from within. I’ve just observed from the sidelines with interest and good humour! It never did anyone any harm, did it?

So when I was invited to meet with Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager for Disney Junior Worldwide, I had no choice but to ask her about princesses…

They move through this phase, and there is something wonderful about girls being drawn into these princess stories,” she shared.

But I think she could relate to my view that some of the classic fairytales are a little out-of-touch with today’s society. To counteract this, she told me that Disney has created a new little girl princess, ‘Sofia the First’, which will air early next year in the UK (and sooner in the US).

This is the first time a series has centred on a princess as a little girl. “She has chestnut hair – we didn’t make her blonde,” joked Kanter. “We wanted her to feel very approachable and relatable. We went into pre-schools to gauge reactions. The children would look at her [Sofia] and say, “that’s me!””

‘Sofia the First’ stories are set in the storybook world of young Sofia who starts out life as an ordinary girl. But when her mum marries the king, she is whisked off to a glamorous, but sometimes confusing, castle world of royalty, pomp and new step-siblings.

The stories and characters within Sofia address questions such as: how do I make friends?; how do I fit into a new and blended family?; courage and kindness, figuring out who I want to be…Sofia embodies all of that. It was particularly important for us to think about blended families, and create a sense of how do I fit in and stay true to who I am,” Kanter explained.

Although Sofia will have plenty of pretty dresses and sparkly shoes, our stories will show Sofia, and our viewers, that what makes a real princess is what’s inside, not what’s outside. That the inner character of kindness, generosity, loyalty, honesty and grace make you special, not the dress you wear.”

When I showed Little I the press materials for ‘Sofia the First’, she was instantly drawn into this new little princess’ world. “Thank you for bringing these back from London for me,” she gushed. Sofia may not have cascading golden curls, but let’s face it, she’s not exactly plain is she! And of course she has to have the pretty dresses, as that’s what princesses wear!

I’m actually quite excited about tuning in with Little I early next year, to see if I feel more comfortable with the messages that this new princess story is portraying. Sometimes I notice myself cringing at Tinkerbell’s perfect hourglass figure and so it will be good to have a little bit of balance!

One thing that Kanter encouraged me to do was to make time to watch TV with my daughter. This is something that my husband is very good at, but I can’t help but multi-task when the telly is on. I’ll enjoy the cuddle with Little I on the sofa, but at the same time I’ll either be checking my emails on my phone or reading something on my tablet. TV time has always felt like wasted time to me.

But Kanter has made me rethink this. “Mums want to feel good about what their kids are watching on TV, and we really hope they will see the benefits of watching TV with them. Kids learn through stories. It’s how you make them curious learners. So long as the stories are being made with richness and detail, and a moral message attached…Mums can engage in conversation with them about the characters, think about what’s going to happen next, and discuss more elaborate vocabulary with them.”

We have always done this with storybooks, but not so often with TV…despite me often observing Little I acting out a scenario that she has seen on TV or in a movie. I’ve always been determined to share as many common interests with my daughter as possible, and so from now on, I plan to enjoy her TV time with her as much as I can!

Do you have a princess-obsessed daughter? Or maybe your daughter has completely skipped this phase. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

About the Author

Wendy McAuliffe

Social media & online PR consultant and trainer, and ex-journalist. Founder and Director of Populate Digital and Mum of two. Living by the sea in Bournemouth. @wendymcauliffe.

  • Sarah Porter

    Gwennie is a HUGE Princess fan!  She adores Ariel and Jasmine the most…. the ladies with red and black hair! She digs Rapunzel too… and won’t let me cut her hair very much as she wants to throw it out of the window of her tower also! LOL!
    I am a complete Disney freak! Living here in Orlando… OMG…. it truly is magical and I get swept away with it all!
    We just went to see “Brave”. I want to write a blog post about that movie, because it truly is so tender and is not about the usual romantic BS. It is about a young woman wanting to be independent and also it showcases the relationship she has with her mother. It is strained at times, but is ultimately so strong and endearing… Gwennie and I clung to each other at the end of the movie and sobbed. If/when you watch it, you will understand why. It is a Mummy-Daughter film. Let me know if you see it and what your thoughts are!

    • wendymcauliffe

      One day soon, I would love to take my daughter to Orlando. I know she will adore it! I’d really like to see Brave so thank you for the recommendation. I’ve seen the trailer but I’m not sure if it’s out yet over here. I’ll check! Sounds like a nice Mummy-daughter date! I’ll be sure to let you know when we have seen it.

  • Lizzy

    Ellie has suddenly in the last month or so become totally princess obsessed! But, being Eliie, who has she decided she want to be? Fiona from Shrek! ‘But not when she’s an ogre mummy!!’ but at least she’s a better role model than some of the other princesses out there! Pink princess dress has been worn to parent toddler yesterday, and tescos’ this morning! and at home its completed with tiara and heels!! I’m so not a princessy girl, and never was, so where this has come from I’m mystifyied – at least she still wants a bike for her birthday!!

    • wendymcauliffe

      Fiona from Shrek made me smile. Just you wait…if she’s anything like Little I, soon Ellie will be telling you that you should be wearing pretty dresses more often too! I fear my daughter has issues with the frequency with which I wear jeans!

  • Chris Mallon

    I have a princess obsessed SON and he didn’t like this new princess!

    • wendymcauliffe

       What didn’t your son like about her? Genuinely intrigued to hear a boy’s perspective!

  • Advanced Graphics

    My daughter is princess obsessed and I am looking forward to introducing Princess Sofia to her. I hope she would accept her because I like what she embodies.

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