It has come to my attention that the marketers of the world have decided that little kids in the US should be marketed stuff about Prince William’s wedding. There’s a picture book coming out with the story of how the couple met and married, which is going to be aired by Disney as a sort of animated bridezilla cartoon on their kids’ channels, along with a full force marketing of Disney Princess stuff. Here’s the relevant press release section:
“In recognition of the increased interest in all things Royal, Disney Channel will present “A Modern Fairytale: The Royal Wedding Week,” a short-form series for kids, tweens and families, Monday-Friday, April 25-29. Hosted by ABC News’ Juju Chang, the series will tell the story of the Royal couple. Disney Channel will present a week-long primetime programming event that includes telecasts of prince and princess-themed movies, including “Enchanted” and “Cinderella,” every night (check local listings)…
“DisneyFamily.com has launched a month-long online celebration titled “Happily Ever After.” The website features tips from Disney’s expert princess-makers on how to have a fairytale wedding or vow renewal celebration; a showcase of Disney Princess-inspired wedding gowns; ideas for mom and daughter Royal Wedding viewing parties; and fun tips for moms to feel like a princess every day!”
So basically, the premiere modern company associated with fairy tales is swearing to your kids that two real people are protagonists of a fairy tale, and that it’s the kind of fairy tale where nothing goes wrong (as opposed to the kind full of killing and sorrow). This is not something Disney has any right or ability to promise.
The problem is this. You should never lie to kids or tell them something which they will soon find out is close to untrue; and you should never make promises that you can’t fulfill. Disney is doing it. Don’t go along with them, or your kids won’t trust you, either.
I’m very glad that the prince and Miss Kate Middleton are getting married. But there’s no denying that some of the history of their relationship isn’t anything you can easily reduce to “kid friendly” or worthy of emulation by young people. Nobody knows for sure if any of the tabloid reports are true. So how could you say anything with confidence about them in a kid’s book? Why would you even bring it up?
But then, normally, if somebody in your family were getting married, I assume that it would never occur to you that the preschool and elementary school set had any expectation of being told anything about the history of the happy couple’s relationship. It wouldn’t be their business, and only a little bit yours; it just wouldn’t come up. All the kids would need to know would be how to behave at the church and the reception.
Here’s the other thing. I remember that, at a very young age, I already had a fairly good knowledge of many historical and contemporary scandals. I didn’t know exactly what bad things Catherine the Great had done with men, but I knew she’d been bad with multiple men to whom she was not married, and whom she had used to gain power in Russia, and that a lot of the stories were worse than what she’d really done but that what she had done was bad enough. I could have told you something about Cleopatra and Caesar and Antony, also, and the six wives of Henry VIII. I also remember clearly how adults sometimes forgot kids were in the room before talking about things going on in the family which they criticized. Kids hear and remember a lot.
So yeah, if the newspeople say anything at all about the various royal scandals, or about tabloid allegations about the happy couple, your kids probably have picked up on this, or they will. (Especially if they’re on the Internet or pay attention to news.) So there’s no sense trying to market them a pretty-pretty picture book if it’s full of pretty-pretty lies.
But it gets worse. There’s an adult “enhanced video ebook” with ABC News video that has just come out from ABC and Disney, which is also called A Modern Fairy Tale, and which apparently tries to pretend that Charles and Diana were an example of “Three Generations of Royal Love”, despite the fact that they had a messy divorce and slept around a lot, very publicly. Apparently nobody at Disney/ABC has a problem with this, but I can see a few. And yes, they’ve got reviews up, telling people to let their kids watch this. Bleh.
Anyway… Disney is trying to sell your kids things, and they don’t love your kids like you do. Enjoy the hoopla with your kids, sure, but I don’t think you want to allow them to be sold a bill of goods by Disney, particularly in the matter of the picture book/cartoon. If you do let them watch it (or if it comes on in the middle of the princess movies that will be shown in the next few weeks), you might want to point out the sad media cycle of saying exaggeratedly nice things one minute and tearing down people the next.
Meanwhile, over on DisneyFamily.com, Disney actually is trying to sell a line of wedding gowns. Real ones. Which would just be funny, except they’re associating Disney children’s movies with brides lying around on beds looking not at all bridelike. There’s also a bunch of similarly stomach-churning Royal Wedding junk on the website.
OTOH, at least the various Royal Wedding “crafts”, including the “Princess Kate paper doll with Disney princess dresses” are free; they’re just propagandizing you instead of ripping you off directly.
I’m not any happier about presenting the story as a love comic. I mean, sure, the love comics actually held on in the UK longer than in the US, and maybe it seems like a hilarious idea. But it’s not at all fair, especially when it comes to making up private thoughts and dialogue and plotline about real people who are currently living. Ewwww. You don’t get around that by having a sense of humor in the writing; it just makes it more stalkerish.