Don't Kiss the Frog!: Princess Stories With Attitude (Anglais) Broché – 7 février 2013
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If you love princesses, and are just looking for something a little different, then it's cute enough. But if you are like me, and you don't love princesses, yet have a princessy daughter whose spirit you don't want to crush by forbidding all things pink and glittery so are trying to find her some alternative princesses.... you will gack.
I had high hopes that this book would undermine the female stereotypes that go along with princesses---the pink, the love of shoes and shopping, the dream of big castle, big ring and Mr. Right, the passivity, the emphasis on wealth and consumerism. But it emphasizes those things at least as much as our ordinary princess programming, if not a little more. Programming like Disney's "Brave" and even "Sofia the First" are more levelheaded and less ickily gendered than this book.
The first story, "The Clumsy Princess" by Lou Kuenzler is the most maddening, as it falls into the Hollywood cliche of making a girl likeable because she's a klutz. This is the first time this annoying stereotype has entered our home, and my daughter thinks it's just hilarious that the girl is bumping and tripping and falling all over herself. The basic plot is that the klutzy princess is supposed to present a handkerchief to the knight who wins a tournament, but she doesn't want to, and instead falls into a suit of armor and ends up winning herself. This is insidious. The message is that princesses don't compete; they wins without trying, by accident, despite themselves. It's a terrible thing to teach little girls, who already are steered away from confident achievement and sports. Of course the book is marketed as being pro-sports.
Story number two is about a princess who wants a bigger castle and fancier clothes, but when she switches places with a cousin who has those things, discovers that it's boring to be dressed up all the time and that she prefers home. It's ok, but it still feels like a story essentially about wanting a big castle and fancy clothes.
Number three, "The Princess and the P.E.," like the first, is about a princess who sucks at sports. My daughter has already osmosed that "sports aren't for girls," not, I fear, to her long-term benefit. At the princess school, girls play boys, and this princess is so inept, she singlehandedly sinks her side, and the boy teams always win. ('Cause boys are just naturally good at sports, right?) Until, that is, a magic frog (prince in disguise) teaches her to try harder by imagining something she really wants---SHOES! (Eeek! Shoegasm!!) She does, and becomes a star. (All it takes is the right shoes, ladies! Buy some more.) The frog turns into a prince but she doesn't want to "walk away into the sunset" with him because he's sweaty, slimy and wearing gym clothes. Some messaging in here is ok--trying harder, not choosing the prince if you don't like him--but again there's the taint that princesses don't do sports, and don't like things like sweat and gym clothes.
And story three and several others play with the culmination of marriage, which, though a lovely thing in some cases, isn't something I want to program my girl to believe is the end-of-story. Number four and six are both also marriage plots, one with a passive princess and no redeeming qualities (it even slags on poets, with vaguely anti-intellectual aplomb), and another where the princess supposedly subverts the tradition by setting out to find her own prince, ending with an illustration of a woman in a room jammed to the rafters with suitors.
I'm omitting to mention one very cute story, "Double Dragons" by Enid Richemont, that's in fact just what I'd want, about a princess who goes out and defeats a dragon. Unfortunately it's way too little considering the rest of the book.
And I also should mention--ultimate poison chalice--that my daughter adores the book, and wants to read it multiple times a day.
.... WHAT? It might seem like a 'harmless fairy tale trope' to some, but I absolutely don't think so. How do you think kids end up growing up with ideas like "I felt like I owed them" or "I was nice to them/was their friend/bought them dinner, they owe me"? If I want to raise a daughter with the belief that you don't owe anyone for things they give willingly and you CERTAINLY don't owe them your body just because they want it, why would I ever read this to her? I changed the scene on the fly with a new ending and thought I'd give one more story a try.
In the next story, it didn't get any better. A princess throws her arms around the person she has an affection for and kisses him out of the blue to break her curse. The book illustrates him sitting up straight and stiff with wide eyes. Thankfully, because I actually talk to my daughter about consent and respect, when she saw the picture, she shouted "Hey! She didn't ask for permission to kiss! Look at his body language! He doesn't want a kiss!" I told her how proud of her I was that she saw that and that she spoke up about it so firmly. I closed the book and we will not be reading this one again.
Consent is not that complicated. I would never recommend material like this that implicitly states 'she didn't want to, but felt like she owed him' on one page, and then shows people grabbing someone who is startled and doing things to them without their permission. This book never once challenged those events or suggested they were problematic. WAY better material available out there that doesn't include troubling messages like these. As I flipped through other pages on my own, I saw other issues like strange edits and jumps in stories that were so big that made it seem like pages were missing. Low quality technical word, low quality stories, mean plot points, typical binary gendering crap, stereotypical gender tropes, and shocking anti-consent messages? This book is a total mess in all the worst ways.