Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pretty Pretty Princess Consumers

"Pretty Pretty Princess"

When it comes to easy, cheesy board games for children, ‘Pretty Pretty Princess’ takes the crown (literally). My pretend child is six years old, and Pretty Pretty Princess is marketed to girls like her who enjoy products such as Polly Pockets and baby dolls. If your child has ever told you that she (or he) wants to be a princess, this board game will absolutely not help her in future endeavors to become one. But, what it will do is teach the child playing that being most pretty (or pretty pretty) equals a triumphant win over the others, rewarded by long, vain glimpses in the mirror provided. By introducing such stereotypically feminine games as Pretty Pretty Princess which lack any substantial educational value, but instead teach, reinforce and promote beauty ideals forced upon women in today’s society, at a very early age, young girls are being set up on the fast track to heteronormative, hyper sexualized lives with diluted values.

By collecting the most crappy plastic jewelry and seizing the crown that tops it all off from one of the other players, it is inferred that the little girl named the winner is now ready for her ‘Prince Charming’ to come along. Only once she has obtained all the gaudy jewelry and crown is she dazzling enough to capture the attention of her prince. “Who will shine like a true princess?” asks Hasbro, sounding like an announcer from a dating reality show. Clearly, Hasbro doesn’t take into account that the most likely players of this game are not remotely interested in boys yet, let alone the very heterosexual prize of Prince Charming. Still, the game has endured year after year, successfully being marketed to millions of little girls. The comparisons that women make between themselves and virtually every woman they come in contact with starts out in situations like those presented by this seemingly harmless game.

When Newman states that while, “on their developmental path, children acquire information from a variety of sources—books, television, video games, the Internet, toys, teachers, other children, other children’s parents, strangers they see on the street,” (Newman 107,108) he is only giving a few examples of how information slips into the sponge-like minds of children. Playing such mindless games as Pretty Pretty Princess still leaves its mark on every little girl who was upset she didn’t win the crown and take home the prize of her potential date with Prince Charming.

Only recently has Disney, the prime producer of recognizable princesses, made a film which features a princess of color (The Frog Princess). Even Jasmine just seems a little on the tan side with no ethnicity-based distinguishing characteristics. Pretty Pretty Princess’s box illustrates a white woman with flowing, long reddish-brown hair and soft, beautiful facial features. Her mouth is slightly open in a subtly sexual manor. The way her hands are positioned, one at her neck and one gracefully grasping her dress hem line, demonstrates femininity and dainty mannerisms. In the background is a lush forest and a castle where it is presumed this pretty (pretty) princess resides. Flowers and butterflies adorn the girly font, furthering the fact that this game is for little girls (ages 5+ with a choking hazard warning for children under 3). No where on the box does it say any warning prohibiting use by little boys, but normal social cues like pink colors and jewelry entail that boys aren’t the targeted audience. I can imagine a very heterosexual father or even mother would be quite disturbed to see their son eager to win the crown and jewelry. However, I remember this game to be extremely boring after fifteen minutes at any age, so to do any extensive worrying about a little boy being curious once or twice about this game would most likely be unnecessary. The explicitly and overstated girly nature of this game is puke-worthy, so most little boys are going to be turned off to anything having to do with it. However, the few little boys who are genuinely interested might be exhibiting non-normative behavior for the first time. Everything about our society tells us that little boys shouldn’t want to play with dolls or play dress up, but it does happen, usually causing parents to be distraught.

Newman also states that, “we create, re-create, confirm, or change our social identities every time our actions, appearances, thoughts, perceptions, and values are taken as reflective of or in contrast to what others expect of us,” (Newman 108) pointing out yet again that gender is a social construct. Every little girl that plays with such clearly feminine toys and acts according to the female gender norm is solidifying her place within heteronormative society. Every little boy who picks up a girl’s toy and shows interest is contrasting what others expect of him and perhaps hinting that he will be part of a social identity that will differ from the norm. Either way, such universally gendered games perhaps give the child and parent a glimpse into the future.

Pretty Pretty Princess is sold for around $14, making it very affordable. If a family has money to spend on toys, this price seems to be fairly reasonable. Socioeconomic class doesn’t prove to be an issue with the marketing of this product because, after all, “every little girl wants to be a princess” regardless of how much money her family makes. Because it is such a popular product, it can be found at virtually every store that sells game boards and toys for children. Families in all areas have access to this product and the message it brings into homes. In lower socioeconomic areas, however, this game might even be given to little girls who can not receive fine jewelry, furthering the value of the game to these girls in particular.

Even though the woman on the cover of the game is white, it has only been recently that princesses of color have been made mainstream. The ages of the little girls who would be interested in this product tell us that they might not be as concerned with the fact that the woman doesn’t look like they look. Cinderella, Snow White, and Belle are all as white as they can get, yet girls of all color watch the movies and buy their princess products. Girls just see the status of “princess” and know that this is what they want to embody some day. The little girl princess fantasies start as soon as Disney movies are shown in the house and fairy tales are read before bed. Any little girl that plays dress up will want to complete her wardrobe with the jewels that this game provides. In fact, that was one of the complaints of parents who have reviewed this game. They are often frustrated that pieces go missing because their daughter wants to wear the jewelry every day.

Giroux states plainly that, “as market culture permeates the social order, it threatens to diminish the tension between market values and democratic values, such as … respect for children.” (Giroux 174) Because games like this one are available regardless of socioeconomic status, and the stereotypical message of beauty is so universal (at least in our country), this is a catastrophic pairing. Parents who don’t know any better than to go along with damaging social norms are only perpetuating them by buying such inexpensive and pleasing games and toys. They know that every little girl wishes to become a pretty princess, so they understand this product as a simple and silly way to satisfy their child. Yet, from an analytical standpoint, it is clear that it is so much more than that.

The stereotypical princess persona is clearly what the company had in mind when it was creating this product. If, say, Princess Dianna was the role model, none of the extravagant pieces of jewelry would have ever made it into the box, and the most giving ‘princess’ would win the game. This, however, is hardly the case. To make progress in the game, the child spins a spinner and lands on a piece of jewelry that he or she can now claim from the pile. Once the child gets every type of jewelry (ring, bracelet, etc.) and then lands on the crown, the game is won. Yes, sheer luck is all that it takes to win this game. There seems to be zero educational value. If anything, the message is that the prettiest, most vain child who steals the crown from a friend is the winner of the day. The only reinforcing princess-like characteristic to this game happens to be the stereotypical spoiled, bratty princess type. This is probably not what most parents sign up for when they purchase this game for their ‘little princesses.’

The values that this game instills are extremely gendered. The most stereotypical statement that can be made about women is that the prettier one is, the more value she holds. The message of this game is to become not only a pretty princess, but a pretty PRETTY princess. I don’t know how much more blatant the emphasis on attractiveness can be in the case of this game. Literally all the child has to do is spin a spinner and collect material assets that will enhance her beauty to gain leaps and bounds over her girlfriends. From the beautiful white woman on the box cover, to the adding of accessories, little girls are expected to want to heighten their appeal for their Prince Charming who is guaranteed to come someday (if all the proper primping steps are taken). Pretty Pretty Princess sums up the struggles that every little girl will have to suffer through all of her life due to social pressures to be attractive. The scenario of looking over at her friend sitting next to her wondering if she is prettier or if she will catch the attention of Prince Charming before her, is something that will most likely resonate with her for her whole life.

When you look at the toys marketed to young girls and boys, the gender separation is clear. Because it is so clear and such a basic concept (to the average person), it is taken as normal and is usually not contested. But as you take a step back and see what each gender derived product (such as Pretty Pretty Princess) is promoting, you will notice exactly what messages are being instilled in the youth in an unchallenged manor. Every parent could do well to recognize the deeper impression some products leave on their precious little princes and princesses.

Works Cited:

Giroux, Henry A.. "Kids for Sale." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text-reader. By Gail Dines and Jean McMahon. Humez. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage, 2003. Print.

Newman, David. “Learning Difference: Families, Schools and Socialization.” Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, & Sexuality. Higher Education, n.d. 91.

"Pretty Pretty Princess." Funagain Games. Web. 27 Jul 2011. <>.


  1. I don't know why but I can't get the citations to have hanging indents :( but I know they're supposed to have them. Also my indentation at the beginning of my paragraphs got funky! Sorry!

  2. Tarah:

    I absolutely love this post! I had this game as a child, and I remember, just as you said, being bored within the first five minutes of playing with the game. The example you gave about focusing on Princesses like Princess Diana just goes to show that Hasbro has done little research into forming their product. I never realized as well that the point of the game was to win over a date with Prince Charming. That just shows, as you said the heteronormative values being placed on young girls, and many if not all of them, simply don’t care. The young girls just want the jewelry, which is another heteronormative value set in itself. Your post was very organized and flowed well together, as well as your thesis, which was clear and fluent throughout the post. You could have also analyzed: What would it mean for a young female to reject the Pretty Pretty Princess game? Or what would it mean if young boys were interested in playing the game? Awesome job! :)