Tuesday, June 12, 2007
There was an interesting article in the Guardian magazine this weekend about the 'Bridezilla' phenomenon, making the point that all the stories about Brides Behaving Badly may express a deeper cultural sense that the wedding industry, with all its expensive paraphenalia and presentation of fripperies as essentials, is out of control. It reminded me of another article I read a while ago, which argues that the main aspiration expressed by an elaborate wedding is social status rather than romance.
What's really striking is that both articles talk about Disney. 'Ethnographers tell us that wedding ceremonies integrate the new couple into their social community ... providing a coherent definition of "who we are".', says the Boston Review article, going on to quote a magazine suggesting that brides learn how to dance by watching old movies. Both articles make the point that weddings tend to create a feeling of needing a tradition, while the Disney/old-time movie/princess-for-a-day modern idea isn't actually that traditional, in that it's not been around very long.
But I wonder. Does the fact that you got your idea from a movie mean that it's not traditional?
Movies are, after all, a central cultural experience in an unwieldy age. Communications technology means that we're part of a far bigger community than we can really get our heads around, and shared entertainment becomes a uniting force because it's one of the few things everybody has encountered. Meet a total stranger and try to start a conversation, and you'll probably find that TV and movies are a good beginning point. Besides that, movies are by their nature an overwhelming experience, designed to ravish your senses. Naturally they're memorable to the point of being formative: they're designed to be.
A lot of people knock Disney, either for being cutesy or for being a hugely powerful corporation. Politically I'd want to know more about them before I assumed they were an evil company, but that wouldn't necessarily prove that they produced bad art, and while they are sometimes cutesy, they've produced some good films over the years, and that deserves respect. The Disney princess works, because she's a complete assimilation of a little girl's ideas of what she wants to be when she grows up: beautiful, nicely dressed in those huge, elastically-swirling skirts that animation does so well, kind, beloved, admired. And, exposed to the idea when you are a little girl, it seems natural that it should make a deep impression on people.
Which is to say, dressing up like a Disney princess when you come to get married is not as deracinated as it seems. We don't have traditional dances or traditional foods, at least not if you're WASPy, but we have traditional movies that are as much a part of our everyday culture as a dance or a song. They are all, after all, works of art.
I can see that there's something embarrassing about wanting to be Disney's Cinderella for a day, or possibly so: it's not as couched in organic, ethnic tradition as a Fiddler On The Roof style party (but then again, I'm getting that idea from a movie). I know I've particularly enjoyed weddings between people from different religions or cultures where the ceremony combined the two - a Catholic-Jewish ceremony, a British-Sri Lankan one - partly because they seem to express the idea of combining two people's differences to create a harmonious whole, which is one definition of a happy marriage, and also because it's interesting to see how other cultures do it. But if a wedding is about tradition, about what we remember knowing all our lives, then Disney films are part of that.
None of which is a reason to bankrupt yourself, of course, or shout at your bridesmaids, or in any way act stupidly or unpleasantly - but let's be fair to the big-white-dress fantasy. It's not a sign of our removal from our culture: it is our culture.
It's not so much that the Disney princess encapsulates what little girls are striving for; it's that little girls accommodate that as what they should be striving for. Viewed that way, it becomes less innocent :D.
True enough. But the desire to look pretty doesn't necesarily mean the desire to be nothing but decorative, no? I've known brides with quite forceful personalities who still go the who bit on the white dress...
Indeed not. But there's something reprehensible about our society presenting girls with these ideals and then sneering at them for adopting them, no?Post a Comment
July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 March 2014