8 Shocking Things Only Jewish Brunettes from New Jersey who were ’90s Teens Understand – THAT WILL CHANGE HOW YOU SEE THE WORLD!

1. I have unique and complex thoughts about this subject.

They can be summed up thusly:

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2. Thing you never noticed in a thing you loved in the ’90s:

Did you know Rickie Vasquez in MSCL was GAY?! OMFG, you guys, I didn’t notice that (even though it was, actually, like, a multi-episode spanning plot point)!

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3. We hated Basic Bitches before everyone else did!

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But I still love my Starbucks PSL! LOL ūüėČ

4. Bagels, pizza, diners, hummus

5. Can you believe they revived My Little Pony?!

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I’m sooooooooo old, you guys.

6. Question that Jewish Brunettes from New Jersey who were ’90s Teens are sick of hearing:

How are you?

Like, how¬†am I?¬†How am I? I can’t even.

 

7.  Disney princesses!

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Am I right?!

 

8. Dawson was the original Nice Guy:

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But Pacey is still a hottie. Pacey crush 4eva!

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So, the Internet – I’m doing it right!

 

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I Have to go to Bat for the Disney Princesses Again?

No, Ricki. No, you don’t. You don’t have to do anything. You’re just going to.

So this is up over at nerve.com, which, last time I checked, basically had personals and dirty pictures and stories, but, you know, hipster-classy dirty pictures and stories. Then again, it’s been a while.

And of course there’s no way I’m not going to respond to it.

So I generally agree with the list as it’s presented. But I’m having a little trouble with the premise. In the beginning of the piece, Sonya Saraiya says, “Disney princesses for the most part, are not [feminist (in comparison with Merida, of Pixar’s new Brave]. Most need to be rescued by their male love interest; almost all Disney Princess movies end in marriage or engagement.” This is a popular way of posing questions about the feminist virtue of a particular text, and I don’t like it. And sure, I have a personal stake here – I write romances; I am a feminist; I think I can write feminist-friendly romance. But stake aside, I still think I’m right.

I mean, first of all, most of the world wants love. Feminists, non-feminists, men, women – it’s right there with food and shelter for most of us. Declaring that wanting love is un-feminist (if the object of your love is a man and you are a woman) is destructive to feminism.

And because most of the people who have ever lived in the world ever want love, we’ve been telling stories about wanting love forever. Lots of stories. I think if you compiled all the stories about love that have been told since the world began, and then all the stories about death, love would win. Especially since love has the powerhouse romance novel publishing sector backing it up.

Sure, it would be nice if Disney told more stories that were marketed for girls that didn’t feature love as a main theme. Woody and Buzz fall in love, but it’s not their main plot. Nemo doesnt fall in love, and neither does his dad. Remy the rat in Ratatouille doesn’t fall in love (although his human does). The Incredibles are already a family; there’s no love plot there. So yeah, it’d be nice to see stories with female main characters that had little to nothing to do with love. But I don’t think it’d be a problem to still have romances, if they were mixed with some other things.

Finally, it’s important to note that, when these stories end in marriage and/or engagement, a man is getting married or engaged, too. And while the princes of¬†Cinderella¬†and¬†Snow White¬†aren’t fully realized characters with fully realized facial features, the later movies have guys who are fully realized and also decided that the most important thing to them is the pursuit of love. So it’s not just the girls doing it.

So here’s her rankings and what I think of them.

10. Sleeping Beauty

She puts¬†Sleeping Beauty¬†last. I don’t have a big problem with this.¬†Sleeping Beauty is one of the old-school ones, and Aurora does not have much agency, and mostly she dances in the forest with some dude and then falls asleep while he rescues her.

But.

Saraiya is only ranking the princesses, sure, but as an overall movie, the people in this one with the most power, the most agency, the ones who do the most stuff to forward the plot, are the three good fairies. Prince Phillip can only come to the rescue and do stuff because they basically do it for him. They figure out that he’s the one whose kiss can wake her. They break him out of the evil fairy’s dungeon and then defend him against the evil fairy’s minions by turning all the evil minions’ weaponry into, like, flowers and stuff (because they can only use their magic to do nice things that bring happiness) so that he can run away safely. And then they create for him an unbeatable sword with which he defeats the dragon/evil fairy.

I mean, sure, the evil fairy is a woman, too, and she’s mean and has no seeming motivation (in the originals as well as the Disney version) other than “Didn’t get invited to party. Bitches gonna suffer.” Which sounds dumb except I totally know people like that.

But that means basically all of the people in this movie who act, who have agency, who forward goals and make plans and do stuff, are women. They’re just not the titular character. (They’re also old and/or asexual, which, again, is a whole other post. Or, I don’t know, dissertation. Which someone’s probably already written.)

9. Snow White

I hate this movie. I hate her voice. It grates on my nerves so much. Plus why does she look like a child? And then my daughter’s got this Snow White night(ing) gown/costume thing that looks like Snow White’s outfit, with a picture of Snow White on the chest, and that picture of Snow White is giving this seriously come-hither look, like, why, why, on a children’s item, is a woman making a face like that, and, umm . . . what were we talking about?

Oh, yeah, where ought it rank on the feminist scale?

I don’t care. I hate this movie. Put it right down at the bottom. It’s fine by me.

8. Cinderella

So this is your classic helpless-girl-rescued-by-wealthy-dude story. But for some reason, it doesn’t bother me that much. I mean, yeah, Cinderella’s principle characteristic is that she’s nice. And yeah, she marries a guy she danced with for five seconds because it’s true love.

But here’s the thing about that. I don’t mean to slam anyone’s generation or anything, but sometimes I hear stories or see things from, you know, back in the day (Cinderella¬†came out in 1950;¬†Sleeping Beauty¬†was 1959) and I get the feeling that it would have seemed utterly reasonable to the writers and artists over at Disney, male and female, that you know, you meet someone, you dance with them, you’re attracted, so yeah, let’s get married! I mean, not all the time, obviously. But I think we’ve gotten a lot more obsessive and analytical, as a culture, about what love is and who we ought to be with and stuff. For better or worse.

Also, I’d like to note, that while yes, marriage to the prince means that Cinderella doesn’t have to be a servant to her nasty step-family anymore, the prince doesn’t, like, actively rescue her. He doesn’t even come over himself to find the girl who fits the shoe, which is always the oddest bit of storytelling to me (in all the versions of “Cinderella”), because seriously, wouldn’t it be best to have the prince, who’s stared at her face for at least one full waltz, to come on this mission? What if her feet had been swollen from dancing all night? What if some other chick had had the same shoe size?

But anyway, he’s not trying to rescue her through marriage. He just wants to marry her because they danced and she was pretty and it was romantic. The ones who really rescue Cinderella are the mice, because they’re the ones who get Cinderella the key when her stepmom locks her in the attic to prevent her from trying on the shoe. And, yeah, they’re male mice. But they are obviously not her love interest.

I’m not objecting to Cinderella’s placement on this list. Just making some points.

7. The Little Mermaid

Oy, here we go again.

There are many problems with Ariel. She’s way too young, and she’s immature and impulsive and kind of dumb sometimes. She’s rebelling against her dad. She’s fetishizing human-ness and falling in love with the first dude she meets who has legs.

But I don’t think she’s particularly un-feminist. Or, at least, I think the problems in this movie aren’t coming specifically from a lack of feminism.

Saraiya mentions that thing that always makes me nuts about mentions of this movie from a feminist angle, that she gives up her voice to land a man. I’ve made this point before, but I’ll make it again. I posit that a) she doesn’t give up her voice to land a man; she gives up her voice to get legs. She wants to be human. Before she meets Eric, she shows us how obsessed she is with humanity and how badly she wants to be “Part of Their World”. Then she only goes to the sea witch, not after meeting Eric, but after her daddy destroys all her human stuff. Being human, sticking it to her mean daddy, these are all much clearer and stronger motivations for her actions than wanting to land a man. Also, b) she doesn’t think she’s giving it up permanently. It’s for three days. I’d give up my voice for three days if doing so would allow me to fulfill a lifelong dream. Hell, I’d give up my voice for three days if it’d get me a table at Next. (And, when I was a child, I would definitely, definitely have given up my voice for three days in exchange for fins.) Finally, c) she gets the idea to give up her voice to land a man from the villain, who’s tricking her into it for her own nefarious purposes. The movie is not suggesting it’s a good idea to give up your voice to land a man. The movie is suggesting it’s an idiotic, impulsive idea, and then shows us that Eric is reluctant to acknowledge the feelings he’s developing for Ariel specifically because of her lack of voice.

Anyway, yeah, she gets rescued by Eric, who stabs the villain in the stomach with a broken piece of wood on his ship. Wow, I just realized how Freudian these things can get sometimes. Anyway, I guess that’s un-feminist. Ariel is sort of ineffectual in battle.

I just think there are other problems with this character that are not related to how feminist she is.

6. Beauty and the Beast

So the thing leveled at Belle most of the time is that she’s got Stockholm Syndrome, falling for her captor. And that’s legitimate to a point, but it’s worth noting that she doesn’t start falling for him until he shows her that he can be kind. She doesn’t think she can change him; she sees him change and then decides she might give him a chance.

There’s also the way Disney pumped this as a “We’re showing that you can love an ugly person, and that a pretty person can be evil, so it’s feminist!” movie, but the good ugly person and the bad pretty person were still dudes. You still have to be pretty if you’re a girl. So pretty that the most sought-after guy in town is determined to marry you no matter how much you offend him and how weird he thinks you are.

My mom has also complained that Belle declares her desire for “adventure in the great wide somewhere,” but then settles for life as a princess in a castle a few hours’ drive from that “poor, provincial town” she was so longing to get out of.

I posit that maybe falling in love with a beast in an enchanted castle counts as an adventure?

And we don’t really know what happened after the story ended? Maybe the Prince formerly known as Beast decided he, also, wanted to get the f out of the castle he’d been trapped in for ten years and they went on adventures together?

I’m ret-conning, I know. Sorry.

5. Aladdin

Saraiya likes Jasmine. So do I. I do want to point out, this isn’t her movie; she’s the secondary character. It’s Aladdin’s movie. But she’s got sass. She’s resisting her narrow choices, just like Belle was doing. And I personally love how quickly she picks up on Aladdin’s well-honed tricksterisms, either using them in tandem with him (like when she picks up super quick on how to fake her way out of the stealing-an-apple incident) or to catch him out in a lie (like when she pointedly trips him up with a question about Abu). Saraiya complains that her power, in the end, lies in her sexuality, because her big rescuing action is to pretend to seduce the bad guy for a minute there, but concedes that, hey, sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do with her God-given ridiculous waist-to-hip ratio and crazy thick hair. I also don’t like how she’s bad-ass right up to the moment she decides she loves Aladdin, and then she immediately becomes simpering when not silent. But, you know. It’s not her movie, it’s his. And he gets rescued from his life of poverty through marriage to a princess. So, you know.

4. Tangled

She is super naive and childlike, which can be grating. To me, anyway. Other than that, she’s not bad. She’s got a goal that does not have to do with getting married and she pursues it with as much sass and guile and strength and determination as one could wish. Along the way she falls in love, and really, who could blame her? Flynn Rider is adorbs. She wields a cast iron pan and her miles of hair with panache. I do find her to be excessively wide-eyed, but, you know. Not the worst crime a Disney princess could commit.

I also enjoy how, after watching Aurora and Ariel get married at sixteen, and Jasmine I think is supposed to be eighteen, though I have no evidence, they make a really big deal of the fact that Rapunzel, who turns eighteen in the course of the movie, does not actually marry the love interest for years. And years. And years.

3. The Princess and the Frog

See, now, in this movie, they both have to learn that love is worth pursuing, either in addition to (although possibly at the expense of) your dream career, in her case (and she has a dream career! That is exciting for a Disney princess!), or instead of pursuing a life of wasteful leisure, in his. I’m down with that.

She does, in the end, have her dream saved by his family’s wealth and her new alligator friend’s brawn. Actually, my favorite commentary on this movie comes from the folks over at The Editing Room, who have this to say:

Well, that’s a fine message to be sending to the kids: idealism and hard work is [sic] fine and all, but money and muscle win every time. (pause) Wait a minute, that’s actually an EXCELLENT lesson. Holy shit, I think Disney accidentally made their best movie ever!

2. Pocahantas

See, I think she’s giving this movie a pass because the girl doesn’t end up marrying the guy. I think¬†Tangled and¬†The Princess and the Frog should have been ranked higher than it. But possibly that’s because I think it’s a bad movie. By that I mean, it’s not very well-written or well-plotted; the history is god-awful; the whole noble-savage fetishization is uncomfortable; the music has its moments but is kind of dull; the characters are flat and boring, and one of them is voiced by Mel Gibson. So I don’t think the principle problems with this movie are feminist problems. But I also don’t think there’s anything especially feminist about it, beyond the nineties-standard doesn’t-want-the-life-her-father-planned, a trait shared by the much lower-ranked Belle and Ariel and Jasmine, unless you’re willing to count that she doesn’t marry the dude in the end, which, as I said above, in a rather long-winded way, you really shouldn’t be.

1. Mulan

Well, duh. I mean, Disney intended this to be their super-duper-feminist-pleaser. And one could argue about how she’s really doing this all for the honor of her father but, come on! She saves China! Twice!

It should be pointed out that neither Pocahantas nor Mulan are usually included in the Disney Princess stuff. There are two different sets of Disney Princess figurines; one of them has Mulan and one has Pocahantas. Both of them have all the others, except Rapunzel, because Tangled¬†was still being marketed separately when those figurines came out. But they aren’t in the coloring books and I don’t think they have all the paraphernalia that the other princesses have. I mean, there are dolls and costumes but not, I think, cups and lunch boxes and whatnot.

Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I think as far as the actual Disney-brand merchandise, sold in the Disney stores, is concerned, Mulan and Pocahantas are Princesses, albeit less hyped ones. But when third-party licensed manufacturers are producing stuff for Target and Toys ‘R Us and the like, Mulan and Pocahantas are usually left out of the pantheon.

Also, while Pocahantas is legitimately a princess, being the daughter of a chief, Mulan is not. She neither marries a prince nor is the daughter of a king.

Great. Now I’m going to have “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” stuck in my head. At least it’s a good workout motivation song.

BTW, if you like it when I talk about this stuff, you should check her out.

Princess

And, in other news, something published in The New York Times has irritated me.

The feminist megastar Naomi Wolf has written a column in defense of little girls liking princesses, which is surprising to me given what I know of Naomi Wolf, which is maybe not much. And look, those of you who know me know that I have¬†a little girl who f-ing loves¬†princess, particularly the Disney variety, and while her extreme adoration of them and of all the glittery, girly, goofy products that come with them leave me feeling chagrinned, I don’t actively object. I liked the Disney movies growing up, too, and I don’t think there’s any real harm in her liking them.

But the column is a little goofy, a little discombobulated, and a little beside the point. (I know I can be all three of those things. But, you know, this is my personal blog. I do it for free and I am read by, I think, my aunt and my sister’s friends and maybe one or two of my friends. She’s Naomi Wolf and she’s being paid by the New York Freakin’ Times.)

She starts off with some fluffy nonsense about images of Kate Middleton and do we even need princesses as, like, a job description any more when the world is so grim? And I’m kind of going, well, until all countries that still have a royal family decide to dissolve that system, we’re going to have literal¬†princess, i.e., daughters of kings and/or queens, or women who marry sons of kings and/or queens, so we’re probably also going to have images of those people. I mean, we don’t need¬†the Kardashians, but they exist, and their claim to fame is even more tenuous than Kate Middleton’s. And the world has been grim and still had princesses before. Like during the Crusades. Or the Black Plague. So . . . what’s your point, exactly?

And yeah, I think for now, no matter how feminist a mommy you are, you’ve got a strong chance that your little girl will go gaga for princesses at some point or another. But then she says, “Little girls are obsessed with princesses for the same reason little boys are obsessed with action heroes. What other female role model can issue a sentence and have the world at her feet? What other female figure can command an army, break open a treasury . . .” And that’s something that needs a lot of unpacking. Like, first of all, why aren’t there more girls obsessed with action heroes instead? Why aren’t there more female role models that can issue sentences and have the world at their feet? Or command armies or break open treasuries? (I mean, there are, but for some reason she dismisses Hilary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice as being less powerful than princesses, and with less nice outfits. And hey, she’s got a point about the outfits. The minute I can order a grown-up sized, grown-up-looking green Tiana ball gown, the one that looks sort of like a water lily in dress form, I will do so.)¬†And hey, if Zoe aspires to be powerful and commanding, great, but she could also aspire to be kind and loving, scholarly, inventive, creative – a host of other things. Why is power supposed to be the most alluring value to feminist-mommy me? And . . . what Disney movies are you watching, Naomi Wolf? I haven’t seen a princess do any of that shit.

Wolf talks for a long time in the column about Princess Di and Princess Kate (Can we talk for a moment about why does she spell Kate with a K when she’s Catherine with a C? Why isn’t she Cate? Am I the only one bothered by this? Yes. I guess I am.) and the British class system and how princesses are just like working moms these days, juggling their lives and whatnot. (. . . Sure.) But if this is an article about preschoolers who are obsessed with princesses, who cares about Princess Di and Princess Kate? My daughter has no idea who those people are. She saw pictures of Princess Kate around the wedding, while we were at the grocery store (When I explained who she was and that those were pictures of her wedding, Zoe demanded to see pictures of the kiss.) but Princess Kate definitely does not occupy the head space that Aurora, Belle, and all their cohorts occupy. The Disney girls; that’s who my daughter means when she says “princess.”

So what does Wolf have to say about those chicks? Not much. “They are busy being the heroines of their own lives. In a scary face-off, Anastasia kills off the evil Rasputin – and saves Russia. Mulan, in drag, helps defeat the conquering Huns – also saving her family and her country. Belle releases her enslaved beloved from the curse of his enchantment. . . . Even that slightly annoying Cinderella . . . is not so bad if we see that the glass slipper fits because she is nice to little creatures – and that it cannot fit her stepsisters not so much because they are ‘ugly’ as because they are unkind.”

Now, I do have an encyclopedic knowledge of these films, not so much because I love them but because in addition to currently having a three-year-old daughter, I had significantly younger siblings and thus spent a good portion of my teens as well as my own childhood watching them. So let’s start with the nerdy things. Anastasia¬†is not a Disney movie. And yes, she defeats Rasputin, and yes, the face-off is scary, but at that point, in the narrative of the film, she’s not saving Russia, just herself. (And I guess 1920s Paris, which is important to save, but Rasputin didn’t have it in for Paris; he just didn’t care what else he destroyed in order to kill Anastasia.) And Mulan, while being the ass-kickiest, most feminist-friendly Disney heroine, is not, literally, a princess. She is often included in the Disney-Princess-marketed things, but she is neither is the daughter of a king nor does she marry a prince. She also saves her country both in drag and out of it; the first time, when she’s in drag, the villain doesn’t really die because it’s a movie and you can never trust the villain to be really dead the first time. The second time she’s in girl clothes.

And seriously? Cinderella’s glass slipper fits because she is kind? The stepsisters’ don’t fit because they’re unkind? No. I’ve seen the movie. Cinderella has tiny feet. The stepsisters have comically large feet. Much is made of their comically large feet and Cinderella’s dainty, beautiful ones. Yes, Cinderella is kind, although if one were to do some sort of psychological reading of the film, one might conclude that Cinderella reaches out to the mice and birds because she doesn’t have anyone else in the house to love. Okay, I’m being a grouch. She’s kind. But the Prince doesn’t really know that she’s kind, and neither does the slipper. She’s rewarded for being tiny and pretty.

Belle is a complicated one. I have read that Beauty and the Beast¬†was sort of Disney’s apology for not making The Little Mermaid¬†feminist enough. But for my money, The Little Mermaid¬†is more feminist, if also more obnoxious. The Little Mermaid¬†gets dinged for two things on the feminist front – that Ariel has to change in order to be with her man, and that she gives up her voice to get her man. On the first issue, Ariel starts the movie already wanting to be a human. We open on her searching for human stuff in a human shipwreck, and then singing an ode to all her human stuff in which she expresses her longing to be “part of that world.” It’s not even so much seeing Prince Eric that is her impetus for actively seeking ways to become human – it’s when her dad destroys all her human stuff. I think I’ve written this before, but in a way, Ariel is like those hipster boys who love anime and dating Asian girls – Ariel is sort of fetishizing Eric for the culture he belongs to, in which she already immerses herself. So she’s kind of obnoxious. But she’s not changing herself for a man; she’s changing herself because she wants to.

And the giving up her voice thing drives me the craziest, because it’s like those Christian groups who hate on Harry Potter and quote that line about, “There is no good or bad, only power” as an example of why Harry Potter has bad values even though the villain says that line.¬†The villain in The Little Mermaid¬†is the one who convinces Ariel to give up her voice, even though we can see that Prince Eric is totally in love specifically with her voice and forgoing it makes landing the man much, much harder. The movie is doing the exact opposite¬†of advocating that girls give up their ability to speak to land a man.

Belle, on the other hand, does the Stockholm Syndrome thing. I mean, sure, she likes to read, which nerdy bookish girls like me love. And sure, she rejects the obnoxious, handsome, popular man who thinks girls shouldn’t read or think. And she can certainly stand up for herself when need be. And the movie is really good; the visuals are great and the songs are top-notch. I love watching this movie. But in terms of feminism? A pretty girl falls for a beastly guy who treats her bad but totally lurves her and is made better by the power of her kindness and beauty? Not so much. She sings about wanting “adventure in the great wide somewhere,” but apparently settles for one adventure, the adventure of being held prisoner in an enchanted castle a few hours away from her home village. She “releases” the Beast by doing nothing more pro-active than kissing him when she thinks he’s dying. It’s not an objectionable action, but it’s hardly the work of a feminist hero.

Other princesses are really not so bad. Jasmine may not be the main actor in the story, but I love the way she picks up on Aladdin’s trickster ways and masters them quickly. Rapunzel is a little excessively child-like and naive, but she’s also strong and sure of herself and resourceful. The Princess and the Frog¬†is not a great movie – the pacing is weird and they spend too much time as frogs which I’m not so into, plus I can see why maybe the African-American community did not embrace the movie whole-heartedly – but Tiana pretty much kicks butt. (And the songs are good, too.)

And in terms of opening treasuries, leading armies, etc. – we never see that stuff from Disney princesses. Ever. They don’t function as political figures in any way, shape, or form. (Remember, Mulan is not a princess. And she doesn’t command an army; she just gets four guys to follow her lead. And yeah, she saves China, which kicks ass. But doesn’t come with any extra power as far as I can see, except the power to avoid a serious grounding from her father when she gets home.) The only instance I can remember of a Disney princess attempting to use her “I’m a princess” power is when Jasmine orders the palace guards not to take Aladdin into custody – and it doesn’t even work! Because Jafar, the palace advisor, outranks her! And yeah, at the end of Tangled, they talk about how happy the kingdom is to have Rapunzel back and how she’s a good and wise ruler and whatnot, which echoes the power that the British princesses apparently have to “simply bestow, with the power of [their] presence, a sense of magic, excitement, and healing” that Wolf talks about. But the movies aren’t really about politics. They’re really romantic comedies, usually with music, and animals who talk or at least have strong personalities. And that’s fine. Zoe can watch romantic comedies. I just don’t think I can buy into a statement like, “Don‚Äôt worry if your 5-year-old girl insists on a pink frilly princess dress. It doesn‚Äôt mean she wants to subside into froth; it just means, sensibly enough for her, that she wants to take over the world.”

The truth is, little girls do like princesses for the same reasons boys like action heroes – because they represent the extremes of gender identification at an age where identifying one’s gender is super-important. In other words, girls love princesses because they are figuring out how to be girls, and boys love action heroes because they are figuring out how to be boys. And I think the heart of the dilemma for feminist moms is that, first, many of us are not into gender essentialism and are sort of squicked out by the idea that our daughters are tying to figure out how to “be girls,” but also because the femininity that these princesses embody is imperfect. There is a lot of emphasis placed on being pretty, landing a man, etc. And it’s not that I object to romance as a reasonable life goal for women, obviously, but when all the Disney movies featuring girls as main characters are romances, whereas the ones featuring boys as main characters are frequently about something else, the cumulative effect is annoying.

I’m not really sure what Naomi Wolf is trying to do in this article. If she’s trying to justify the love some people have for seeing stuff about Kate Middleton, fine, but that’s got nothing to do with little girls. If she’s trying to justify the love little girls have for Disney princesses, she doesn’t write very much about that, give very good examples, or make any sense at all, really.