Disney Wants to Have Your Baby
On the heels of what appears to be* a brilliant exposition of the attack of the Disney Princesses and all things pink by Peggy Orenstein, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, The Walt Disney Company has decided it’s not enough to consume our preschool-age daughters. They want our infants too.
That’s right, Brook Barnes of the NY Times writes that Disney is “Looking into the Cradle for Customers.” And not just in the traditional omnipresent haunts—Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us. They have infiltrated 580 maternity hospitals in the United States. Whereas this is not, perhaps, as overtly incongruous as McDonalds attaching itself like a cancer to our hospitals, it has a more subtle, insidious influence.
In cahoots with Our365, a company that pays hospitals for exclusive access to take bedside baby photos in hospitals, Disney has included a “free” bodysuit in Our365’s photo package. As of May, Amazon.com, followed by Nordstrom and Target, will be selling a line of Disney Baby clothing.
Disney knows about brand loyalty. It knows that children recognize icons before they begin to identify letters and read words. It know that the younger a child is introduced to these images, the sooner he or she is hooked, wanting everything to reflect that hallowed Disney character.
Without having ever seen a Disney movie or made a pilgrimage down to Disney World, my three-year old daughter knows the name of each of the Disney Princesses, with the exception of Jasmine, whom she calls Jazz-Man. Like Orenstein’s daughter, she learned them in nursery school, from her peers. And like her peers, she pines for princesses.
Is it inherently bad for kids to want Disney princesses on everything from their underwear to their toy kitchens? Perhaps not, but consider this: marketing to children fosters the pursuit of what’s popular, not what one likes or values. It promotes blind consumerism, an insatiable craving for that which they do not have. And it creates hierarchies, the “in” group that has princesses and the “out” group that does not.
I happen to love Disney movies. I think they are ingenious, tapping into the deepest fantasies of children, helping them learn to master their fears, encouraging them to consider what is right and what is wrong, and fostering, in our children, qualities of heroism and kindness. But Disney products are not Disney’s art, it is a multi-billion dollar industry that is about to make a couple more billion off the back of our babies.
*I qualify this statement, because I’ve only read the exerpt on NPR’s website, but what I read was though-provoking, resonant, and downright funny.