Every year, millions flock to the hallowed grounds of Disneylands’ around the world, dubbed “The Happiest Place on Earth”. For close to a century, decades of Disney’s glittering gallery of restless heroines and lovesick maidens have enchanted the imaginations of generations around the world. None more so than minds of young girls, who in 2016 alone, accounted for the demand of Disney Princesses and Frozen dolls that ushered a windfall of US$879.9 million in revenue for American toy maker Hasbro. For many young girls in the West, the mystical magic of Disney lies in its shimmering narratives and compelling characteristics that instruct on the transformative power of innocence and ‘goodness’. In many Disney films, beautiful young princesses, characterised by their purity and extreme femininity, are rescued by a selfless hero’s valour and the promise of undying love.
Despite its impressive legacy, the powerhouse of fantasy-entertainment, has elicited countless criticism from those that believe its sparkling portrayal of ‘happily ever after’ belies a more disenchanting message. Many argue that in the fields of the imagination, Disney has sown an insidious narrative polluted by stereotypes and inaccuracies that distort adolescent perceptions of gender roles, race and even sexuality. None is the greatest casualty than the impressionable psyche of the adolescent girl, the vulnerability of her malleable self- image and even, social expectations. Doris Bazzini, a psychology professor remarks, ‘Disney instills an important social stereotype that what is beautiful is good, and that children passionately adopt this perspective.’
REIMAGINING THE FANTASY
with Dina Goldstein, Photographer
Inspired by the profound collision of her young daughters love for Disney and her mother’s difficult battle with breast cancer, Goldstein experienced an uncomfortable juxtaposition of reality and fantasy. Fallen Princesses does away with the dreamy endings, sexualised princesses and stereotypes of brawny perfect princes and shines a harsh light on what reality can be. Goldstein places the childhood heroines in real – life scenarios that “articulate her conflict” and the tragic reality of what really happens after ‘happily ever after’.
The pieces remain relevant because they reflect the human condition, which we all experience.
The Bod Edit: What prompted you to create this series?
Dina Goldstein: I was still working as a photojournalist and noticed that my daughter, age 3, was well acquainted with Disney Princesses. At the same time my mother was diagnosed with breast Cancer and the two events collided spurring some critical thought about real life and the messages that kids, especially little girls, are fed through popular culture.
Do you believe that there exist pressures on women to live their lives as objects of fantasy?
Women have been sexualised since the beginning of time. Some women are comfortable with this label and work hard to live up to unattainable beauty. Those that don’t have these pressures, have other challenges such as competing alongside men and having to prove their worth in order to climb up corporate ladders or achieve successes in their fields.
What was your experience with Disney and fairy tales growing up? How did they shape your perspectives on feminine identity?
I grew up in Israel in the 70’s where Disney was not as popular as it is today. I was exposed to Judaic storytelling and enjoyed Jewish Folk tales. When my family moved to Canada in 1976 I spent my elementary years learning English and navigating a new culture. Thus, my exposure to Disney was limited. So when my daughter began to express her interest in Disney Princesses, I did too, and decided to watch and read these stories with her. It was at that time that I turned a critical eye to the fragile portrayal of female characters, the brawny representation of male characters and Happily Ever After endings served up by Disney. My daughter was too young to understand my frustration.
People lose perspective and rely on fantasy to guide their lives.
What draws you to the theme of fantasy and disillusionment?
The influence that storytelling has on modern humanity is evident and the fine line of fantasy and reality is often blurred. People often lose perspective and rely on fantasy to guide their lives. This had been perpetuated by Western Culture and Capitalism which promises that wealth, beauty, money , fame can achieve happiness. Eventually people realize that ‘happiness’ and satisfaction are temporary. All humans make mistakes and that not much is what it seems on the surface. We are now experiencing this within the political realm, this disillusionment .
As a child, what shaped your belief system about feminine identity and the role of women?
Having grown up in Israel I had a very progressive view of female identity. Israel was founded by men and women that worked alongside each other, including military service. When you grow up seeing young women in uniform carrying machine guns. Aside from that I was born a feminist and have always believed in gender equality.
If there is no happily ever after what advice would you give women who are seeking fulfilment and happiness?
To be fulfilled we must empower ourselves, learn as much as possible, keep an open mind, do things that make us uncomfortable…stay challenged. Finding happiness is a much more difficult goal. First you must understand what makes you happy and move towards that. For some people it’s unattainable because of chemical imbalances etc,.. some find it in bigger forms and others see beauty in the little things. However it comes its temporary, unstable… That means that you have to also expect times of unhappiness….that is the fine balance.
Dina Goldstein was born in Israel before moving to Canada in the mid – 70’s, Dina began her career over 25 years ago as a photojournalist, evolving from a documentary and editorial photographer into an independent artist. Her award winning work blurs the lines between and reality exposing the underbelly of modern life, and challenging the notions of beauty, gender, sex and religion..
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