Wolf boldly asserts that the princess worship that young girls engage is less about a vain, distorted, and sexist reality, and more about "power and recognition." Little girls may be obsessed with princesses, but little boys like action heroes just as much. For Wolf, the "princesses" we imagine are more powerful than the world leaders we see today, such as Hillary Clinton, and less drugged out than the popular icons that command our attention in the media today. Furthermore, what other women can control an army or excite the public in the same manner as a princess?
One caveat I would like to add to Wolf's description of the strong and bold princess is her failure to mention physical attributes of these princesses that she exalts. The Disney characters she discusses (which I will address) are all of unrealistic bodily proportions. Cinderella, Mulan, and even the real life princesses, such as Kate and Diana, fit the image of feminine perfection. Dainty, thin, and conventionally pretty, these women or "heroines" that Wolf describes are NOT the average woman. Even though the image factor is peripheral is the heroic capabilities of some of these women (and cartoons) it cannot be conveniently ignored. If princess empowerment is supposed to be a viable motto, then the category has to include girls of all genders, shapes and sizes.
Wolf includes a litany of princesses in her discussion. Princess Diana, revered and internationally known for her charitable disposition and unique background, was according to Wolf, "a pioneer" for defying the restrictions of the British class system. Though Diana was by no means poor, she challenged the British monarchy's conception of "proper marriage." Her much publicized divorce to Prince Charles after 17 years of marriage made global headlines, and in a sense, normalized divorce in the most effective way possible. For if a princess can divorce her prince, surely it must be acceptable for the average woman to leave an unhappy marriage.
Perhaps the best evidence of Diana's legacy is the treatment that Kate Middleton has received as a new member of the royal family. Diana taught the royal family how to behave. Kate Middleton did not come from an aristocratic family. Kate's great grandfather was a coal miner, and while her family achieved great monetary success as business entrepreneurs, it can hardly be argued that Kate Middleton defies the traditional "criteria" and possesses a different "pedigree" than what is typical of the British monarchy. Furthermore, Kate Middleton was an athlete in college and was Captain of the field hockey time. Though this may not sound out of the ordinary, it is quite revolutionary that the potential future Queen of England could potentially beat her husband in field hockey!
In many other respects, Kate Middleton has conformed to the "conventional" gender role expected of her as a new bride to Prince William. The couple has barely been married for 7 months and Kate Middleton is reportedly already pregnant. Her slim physique and manicured appearance never falls short of fashionable, and she can always be found donning the most exquisite attire. I do not find these to be "faults" per se, but I think that Kate Middleton's acceptance by the media AND the royal family is conditioned upon her acting appropriately. If Prince William had chosen to marry (as an extreme example) a "bisexual" who wore overalls and blue hair instead of Kate's prim and proper wardrobe, I have a hunch that the dialogue would be drastically different.
In terms of the Disney "fantasy" world, Wolf explains that the characters we think of as helpless, desperate, and pathetically "female" are actually heroes. In Mulan, the princess helps her family fight off the Huns and saves the kingdom, while Cinderella is rewarded for her compassion to "small creatures." Although I appreciate Wolf's perspective, I think that there is something fundamentally different about the prince/princess dichotomy that appears in real life and in the movies. If history had favored the princess, I would be more inclined to agree with her that the modern day conception of "princess" is really a heroine who happens to prefer a pink tutu to an armored suit with a sword. Even in real life, Kate Middleton was practically "discovered" by William, and Diana was the lucky girl to marry a prince. But I think that "herstory" from a feminist point of view, finds the less favored, and more pessimistic history, to be more in line with reality. It is never the princess riding in to save the dying prince, or rescue him from infinite turmoil. Even if the princess is capable of defeating the main "villain" such as Mulan or Snow White, the small "heroine" battles are always consumed by the larger picture of the princess waiting for the prince. The brave activity is always just a means to an end- finding the prince of her dreams and happily ever after. Until the princess is waging her own battles for her own well-being, I think I have to disagree with Wolf.