Words By S.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Dina Goldstein’s ‘Fallen Princesses’ Series.

Filed under: Art,Creativity,Feminism,Popular Culture — S @ 6:53 am

Perhaps a little late to the game, I familiarized myself with Dina Goldstein‘s photography series, “Fallen Princesses“, yesterday.  In this series, Dina seeks to show what happens to Disney’s princesses after the “…happily ever after”, by placing them in what she perceives to be real world settings.

I find the series to be quite interesting, and some of the images are quite powerful.

Cinderella

Rapunzel

Snow White

Belle

Aurora (of Sleeping Beauty)

Jasmine

Ariel

Little Red Riding Hood

Princess from Princess & The Pea

Depicted are what Dina considers “…real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction and self-image issues.”

While I enjoy the concept of the series, I have a couple problems with it.

1) Not all of the princesses she chose are Disney.  If she were to just say that she chose “fairy tale princesses” for her series, it would have made much more sense.  But, she didn’t.  She specifically said she was focusing on Disney’s representation of the “happily ever after” – in such, she left out some actual Disney princesses in order to include other, non-Disney princesses.

2) Red Riding Hood is not a princess.  As such, I am baffled as to why she is included in this series.

3) While I can understand, and climb on board with some of these depictions, how on earth is Jasmine’s supposed to be “fallen”?

The issues of Red’s obesity and Jasmine’s racial stereotyping have been brought up and flogged to death, so I will not discuss them at length here.  I will, however, touch on them – as they do fall in line with my initial reactions to seeing the photos.

Cinderella, while thought provoking, is a little hard to wrap my head around.  I understand that it is supposed to depict alcoholism, but it is poorly executed.  Placing her in the center of a bar full of old men, looking glum (yet not intoxicated), to me, does not portray alcoholism.  Perhaps if she wanted to portray the instances of self-medicating your woes with alcohol as her issue, rather than alcoholism, it would have been much stronger.  To me, this photo simply makes Cinderella appear to be “fallen” because she is having one drink and is lonely.

In the case of Red, I can understand the outcry – how much more fat shaming do we really need to see go on?  Fat people are aware of the fact that they are fat, there’s no need for the frequent reminders.  But, the issue is depicting her obesity in such a manner.  I understand both sides of the argument: on the one hand, gross overeating is not the only (and hardly the primary) cause of one’s obesity, and to depict it as such is really careless.  On the other hand, depicting overeating is the most accessible and most fixable cause of obesity.  That said, titling the photo “‘Not So Little’ Red Riding Hood” is really juvenile and takes away from the message that the image is trying to convey – particularly when your other photos just uses the character or story names.

In the case of Jasmine, the depiction is also lazy.  Giving her a rifle and sticking her in the middle of a war zone is too easy.  She may as well have strapped explosives to her chest, or stuck her in a nose-diving airplane.  The others attempted to deconstruct the lives of the princesses, and I think that the problem here is that, she’s not deconstructing anything.  She’s playing up a harmful stereotype of a culture that has a lot more going for it than being a sand-filled war zone.  I would also like to reiterate that Jasmine’s depiction of a woman in combat also is not “fallen”.  If anything, it’s the opposite.

I also had a real problem with Belle’s depiction.  Again, I think it is way too easy.  It also strays very far away from the essence of who Belle is.  The whole point to her character is the internal beauty, and how she doesn’t care about superficial qualities.  She grew up modest, and a sudden change to royalty likely wouldn’t mar the essence of who she is.  There were so many other things Goldstein could have done with that character that it’s a shame that she went for the obvious.

Aurora, I don’t understand.  She wakes up upon being kissed by the prince in the end.  Therefore, why is she asleep while he is in a retirement home?  What is that possibly saying about real women’s issues?  Also, how does this depict life after her “happily ever after”?  If anything, this depicts what would happen if her “happily ever after” never occurred.  In the same vain, the princess of Princess & The Pea depicts life if her “happily ever after” never occurred, but does not portray her in any real scenario.

Another issue that I have, with the series as a whole, is that these are the “real issues” that she perceives women’s issues to be.  Of all of them, I find Rapunzel and Snow White to be most striking and saying the most about real women’s issues.  I feel that, in all, the message that she was attempting to get across was a good one, and the idea was fantastic.  But, as far as execution, it was just poor and lazy.

She states that there are two more to be added to the series, let’s hope that she gets to the heart of real women’s issues with those.

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5 Comments »

  1. Hi S,
    Thank you so much for this post. I am a creativity coach and also a professor in women’s studies. I often teach courses on ‘Women and Creativity’ and there’s usually a section on the role of myth and fairytales in women’s creative lifes (the good, bad and the ugly). I’m teaching this course next semester and will definitely include the work posted here. And, I definitely think your take is on the mark for many of the photos. The photos will definitely spark good questions in my class.
    Come visit me when you get a chance. I write a blog, ‘The Practice of Creativity’: http://micheleberger.wordpress.com/

    Best,
    Michele Tracy Berger

    Comment by micheleberger — Wednesday, 28 October 2009 @ 7:59 am | Reply

    • Thank you so much for your comment!
      One of my favorite parts about this series is the debate that it has sparked – both good and bad. It definitely achieves its goal in raising awareness and producing healthy conversation about what actually are women’s issues.
      Good luck with your course, it sounds like a good one! I will definitely check out your blog.

      Comment by S — Wednesday, 28 October 2009 @ 9:34 am | Reply

  2. I like this post a lot, but I disagree with this: “On the other hand, depicting overeating is the most accessible and most fixable cause of obesity.” Actually, there’s not much that “fixable” about obesity. That’s why there are many fat people who eat extremely healthy diets, and many thin people who eat unhealthily. That’s why the vast majority of fat people who diet don’t lose weight, or lose weight but quickly gain it back. The Riding Hood image relies not on any semblance of creativity, but on tired and offensive stereotypes.

    Comment by mirandanyc — Wednesday, 28 October 2009 @ 6:23 pm | Reply

    • I agree with what you’re saying, wholeheartedly. By “fixable cause” I meant that you can look at someone who eats an unhealthy diet and coach them on how to eat a nutritionally balanced, healthy diet. So while obesity isn’t “fixable” the diets that we eat are.
      I guess I should have been more clear on that one. Thank you for your comment!

      Comment by S — Wednesday, 28 October 2009 @ 7:45 pm | Reply


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