16 April 2009
The Paper Bag Princess
Author: Robert Munsch
Illustrator: Michael Martchenko
The moral of The Paper Bag Princess is a welcome and subversive take on your standard fairy tale fare. A pretty princess loses her clothes and realizes in the end that she doesn't need all those pretty clothes to be a princess. She emerges stronger, more independent, and wielding a new vision of femininity that serves her well as she battles dragons, close-minded boyfriends, and the wedding industry.
Unfortunately, I think the message of this book may have been too subtle because the moral seems to have been lost on some of our modern day princesses. Whereas the original Paper Bag Princess shed her clothes in a bold act of defiance, bravely discarding the trappings and confines of traditional femininity, today's female royalty are shedding their clothes for an entirely different reason.
The phenomenon was thoroughly examined in Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, and will be further explored in Almeta Grayson's new book Paper Bag Princess, which profiles the disturbing trend of sexual exploitation as a route to fame. (exhibit A: Paris Hilton; exhibit B: Kim Kardashian).
From Publishers Weekly: "These sobering portraits force the reader to question a society that not only encourages this brand of sexploitation, but rewards it with prime time TV deals and endless magazine covers. A well-balanced but jarring social critique, Paper Bag Princess will change the way you watch TV... and how you see the world."
Note: This started out as a standard satirical post, but I have to admit that I am legitimately disturbed by this. Maybe it's because I'm getting to the age where the idea of fatherhood is not just a distant and abstract concept, but I consistently find myself flipping through the TV saying to myself (or my wife), "Our children will not watch TV. We are moving to a remote cabin in the woods where E! cannot find us." Call me a prude, but the idea of raising a daughter in a world where sex tapes are a legitimate path to stardom scares the sh!t out of me.
A Lighter Note: For a more thorough discussion of the actual Paper Bag Princess, see Fuse #8's profile of the book, which came in at #70 in her Top 100 Picture Books List.