Disney princesses got the boot from my seven-year-old last fall. It wasn’t long after she found she could read her giant pink Disney princess book all by herself that she declared it was stupid. “None of them wear pants,” she exclaimed. “Except Jasmine and Mulan. They’re OK.” Note to self: the princess phase only lasted a few years with no major repercussions, at least as far as I can tell. I’m glad I ignored every instinct to fight it and let her be. It was fun and no harm done (at least I hope not).
In the meantime, my daughter became obsessed with Harry Potter books and movies. When her best friend came over, they recreated and reinvented just about every scene from the books. Potions class involved making colorful concoctions in my bathroom sink with dyes made from felt markers. The granite countertop still bears the indelible scars. I’d be downstairs and hear shouting coming from her bedroom. It was nothing to worry about—she and her friend were just yelling at Peeves the Poltergeist to behave himself. Either that or the two teddy bears playing Fred and George had just played a practical joke on someone.
Just about the time we finished a second round reading the Harry Potter series as a family, my daughter developed a new interest: British costume drama, such as film adaptations of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen novels. She suddenly announced, “I’ve found something just as good as Harry Potter and better than Disney. Costume dramas!” This came about because she remembered my parents and me watching a Bleak House adaptation last summer. Although the dialogue and plot were too complicated for her to understand, she was fascinated with the costumes and the acting. A few months ago she reminded me of the series and asked if we could look for other things like Bleak House. Fortunately our city library has a great DVD collection. We’ve now been through almost every Jane Austen adaptation we can find. When the library phoned to let us know we were next on the wait-list for Bleak House, my daughter jumped up and down squealing with delight.
Has it really been a farewell to princesses? Isn’t the costume drama obsession just another outlet for princesses and fancy dresses in another form? So what! We’ve had great mother-daughter time bonding over a shared love, and although I’d prefer that she be introduced to these great works by reading the books, there’s no reason why that won’t happen further down the road. Plus, these period dramas bring up all kinds of talking points, especially with regard to women’s rights and sexual double standards. I frequently pause the DVD player to discuss the relationships we see unfolding on screen. There’s much more food for thought and conversation than the pink princess book offered. Pass the popcorn, please!