Plus-Size Princess

FionaI’ve been thinking a lot about princesses lately.

Princess marketing, princess products, princess mindsets. And I’ve been reading. Princess culture is a serious business. As you can see, it even warrants its own blogs!

Going by Disney alone, we’ve got blonde princesses, brunette princesses, red-headed princesses, French princesses, Arabian princesses, Chinese princesses, Native American princesses, bourgeois princesses, former proletarian princesses, pescine princesses, and there’s even African-American princesses coming soon to a store theatre near you.

So where’s the fat princess?

Well, in fact, she’s right here.

fiona-4.jpg

Just look at that ample bosom, those bulging hips, that round little face. No mistaking her, she’s one of us.

That’s right – Princess Fiona from the Shrek franchise. She may not be Disney, but she’s still royalty.

But wait – let’s do the math here. Our beloved fat princess is also…an ogress? Wow, it’s really comforting to realize that the only animated character I can find that fits closest to my body size and shape that isn’t Ursula the Sea Witch…

ursula.gif

(Now isn’t she divine?)

…is also an OGRESS. A particular breed of magical being known for ugliness, filthiness, bad temperedness, people-eatingness, and in this particular franchise, for being green and smelly. Let’s leave alone the loveableness for now.

A few years ago, someone I was once friends with called another (heavy) girl “Princess Fiona” as an insult. Think about it – Fiona isn’t just “ugly” and green. She’s fat, too. She’s “one of them” in the Shrekverse, an outcast. According to canon, she was sent away to the castle because her parensts couldn’t handle the fact that their daughter was born an ogress. It’s like a fairy tale version of fat camp.

I would like to look at this through the lens of Ogre-ness being a metaphor for fatness. Which means I’m going to have to do the obligatory “What this teaches our children” spiel. Bare with me.

What this teaches our children is that:

a) You just plain old won’t be accepted if you’re fat or don’t look the norm (even though they tried to make it okay to “be yourself” at the end of both movies. Still, the stigma will always be there for them.)

b) A fat woman will only be able to find a(n) ______ (fat, ugly, classless, mannerless, etc.) man to marry because he’s the only type of guy who will accept her. It’s as much an accepted stereotype as the old idea that only a black/latino guy would go for a heavier woman.

c) That the only animated princess that a chubby little girl can relate to isn’t even human. Great.

And don’t even get me started on the her representations of within culture and marketing. How about YOU spend over an hour trying to find a perfect body shot of Fiona using Google Image Search. Mostly you’ll find head shots of Fiona the Ogre, body shots of Skinny Fiona, and picture upon picture of (skinny women) modeling Fiona costumes. And do you think they could make the Fiona the Ogre products (the ones you can actually find) a little less, I dunno, crappy looking?

fiona-doll.jpg

fiona-doll-2.jpg
(Think they qualify as being fat dolls?)

Hey, I love Disney as much as the next next disillusioned girl who thinks her Prince Charming is going to come and rescue her some day, but maybe they (or Dreamworks or 20th Century Fox or some other big studio) should buck up and finally dish out the plus-size human princess heroine us fat girls have been waiting for since childhood.

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~ by Rob Anne on April 30, 2007.

18 Responses to “Plus-Size Princess”

  1. Two thumbs up. Great blog!!

  2. Thanks so much! That means a lot to me!

  3. Damn straight. And I’ve always found it unfair that the overweight guys will get the skinny women (sitcoms…) but do the overweight girls ever get the skinny guys? And, oh, did you see that Lifetime movie “To Be Fat Like Me”? (I think it’s the one you told me about was based on one of the girls from school.) I don’t know where to begin on it. Just like Shrek, even though the ending has a moral to it, I’m not so sure if all the damage it does to get to that moral is worth it.

  4. [...] For an interesting look at another CGI princess, though not of the Disney franchise, check out Princess Fiona. [...]

  5. I, a size 26, was once wearing a rather princessy-goth dress, and my ex’s daughter, who was 5 at the time, said excitedly “Ohhhhhh! You look like Princess Fiona!” and she meant it as a compliment. It made my day. :) (Of all the problems with my ex, how he was raising her wasn’t one – she was well-supported in developing positive body image and size acceptance.)

  6. I’m a first time reader at this blog, (but definitely putting it into my regular cycle of links!) and I love everything I’ve read thus far… long, somewhat gushy comment ahead. :o)

    I definitely relate… my husband and I watched Shrek 2 last week (gearing up for this weekend), and I found myself wondering why, at the end of the film, Fiona would choose to go back to her ogre form. I mean… if I’d drunk some magic potion that made me svelte and “pretty”, would I really go back?

    That thought scared the crap out of me; it was a reminder of how much I struggle with my own size 18 self. I agree with everything you’ve said here — on one hand, part of me loves both Fiona and Ursula; they’re both awesome. On the other, it would be nice to have a fat female character who was, you know, human and not reviled by other characters around her.

    Great post, great blog. See ya around.

  7. I just wanted you to see that the second Fiona doll is actually pretty cute when she’s in good condition:
    [IMG]http://i5.tinypic.com/61owiz4.jpg[/IMG]

  8. I love Princess Fiona! I actually think she’s a beautiful, kickass woman, ogre or not. I’m a size 16/18 and my costume for this Halloween? Princess Fiona! And I will wear it loud and proud!

  9. Hey great post. I agree with all of that, and have had similar thoughts on the Fiona deal. The one thing that did impress me was that they had a choice to remain ogrely and fat, or beautiful and human. It impressed me because as a fat-again female, I know damn well which side of the magic fence my ass would’ve chosen — the thin beautiful human side. In a heartbeat. Says something, eh? So, I liked the message that they chose that, and were FINE with being themselves. Prefered it! That’s great. However — dig more deeply into that choice, and Ifind myself wondering: ok, yes they showed them making the choice to remain heavy and green, flying in the face of what society said they should do. But was the ogreness the only way being heavy could be acceptable? Goes back to what you’re saying; it wouldn’t be “OK” as a human, only as an ogre. Great post.

    (I just wrote a post about S3 regarding how no one seems to be bothered by the fact that FIONA should’ve been heir to the friggin’ throne, but had to do the barefoot and pregnant deal while her husband — the male — cut into the line of royal succession.)

  10. We wanted our princess, Princess Bubble, to represent real women; so we ask our artist to make her flatter with hips. Don’t get me wrong she is still beautiful, but aren’t real women?

  11. Cute blog. Fiona is actually one of my favorite princesses. I think she’s beautiful as an ogre and human, and has a much different personality than most princesses.
    I agree. It bothers me that in Shrek 2, they decide to remain as ogres. I understand the “accept yourself” message, but if they have the opportunity to be better accepted, and much better looking, why don’t they take it?

  12. This is a great discussion! I know when Shrek first came out, I was really angry that I couldn’t find a Fiona action figure in her ogre state–only the thin (and not nearly as cute, in my opinion) Fiona. As the mom of a four year-old girl, I’m trying to help her understand that real beauty comes from inside (not easy, when every prince in a fairy tale falls in love with the princess because she’s so pretty). She doesn’t quite get the implications of Shrek, but she knows that some people are “puffy” (as she calls it), including her mom, and that it doesn’t matter–bodies come in all shapes and sizes. The good news is that there’s lot of conversation happening around this whole topic. I’m also the moderator on a new site http://www.webelieveingirls.com that’s a place for concerned adults to talk about body image and other issues that face young girls, like media impact, clothing and make-up, values, etc. It’s sponsored by Mattel under the Barbie brand (yes, that Barbie), and they’re truly interested in hearing all the different points of view. I would absolutely love to see this conversation continued in the context of young girls and hope you’ll come check it out and say what you think.

  13. Hey, this is my second time posting on this blog and I’ve gotta say it has been voicing many of my suspicions and theories and concerns about Disney and princess media since I was 12. My parents never really raised me to look out for it, I just started to and I really think that it’s about time fat girls got a representative in the media who’s fat and human, not evil, actually goes on an adventure (rather than doing what Fiona did in the rather disappointing 3rd movies, staying at home and talking to the girls, not even trying to get her rightful spot as Queen and leaving the decision to Shrek, although she did get a good fight scene at the end. I think a great way of teaching your kids that body type doesn’t matter is if you don’t refer to it as “some people are chubby but they’re pretty too” I think you should say “Some people are skinny but they’re pretty too” lol just a theory because it makes it seem like fat people are the “us” and skinny people are the “them” it could help quite a bit.

  14. [...] suggestions? Image Credit: Skeletor, Sauron, Ursula, the Cylons, & Dr. Heller Oh you know where to find [...]

  15. i think this blog is a little overreacted, you know i dont really think its bad to make a fairy tale that has a king size princes in it saved by a gorgeous prince on a white horse yet i dont think that you should be desilusioned by the fact that there isnt one….

    really im a guy, and i dont think im the prettiest on earth, but i have agreed with who i am and what i look like. im not handsome and yet there is this girl who is in love with me who is, in my opinion, a very pretty girl…. and that happened to me even though there aren’t any fairy tales disney made with an ugly dude getting to marry a pretty girl or anything like that.

    maybe its because im a guy or something that i cant quite seem to grasp what the problem is here but i just dont think there is one…. if you can accept who you are then others wil do too, fat women who can only talk about their problems of being fat aren’t atractive, but an image of someone can really change when the person turns out to be jolly or just really fun to hang out with, as i have personally experienced. then someone can see through the outside and see how you really are.

    all i have to say is, just dont make such a big deal out of it. the less you worry about it, the less others wil too.

    greetz from a friendly web surfer

  16. This is so true. I think you’re amazing for pointing this out.

  17. I find this post somewhat hypocritical. By somewhat, I mean completely. On one end, you are claiming Disney is polluting the minds of our children with a perception that “plus size” princesses are unable to marry charming princes while on the other, you are condoning acceptance of a fatal health condition. In 2004, 1 in 700 deaths were due to poor diet and lack of exercise (www.foodnavigator.com/Financial-Industry/Death-toll-from-obesity-catches-up-with-tobacco+&cd=2&). 64 percent of Americans are overweight or obese placing them at a much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.

    Heart disease, one of the known symptoms of obesity, stands as the leading cause of death in the United States in 2011 (since Nov 20) (http://www.romans322.com/daily-death-rate-statistics.php). Obesity itself is the 4th leading cause of death in the US (immediately under tobacco).

    You mentioned how the films (shrek in particular) are somewhat at fault because they preach the “be yourself” message while treating the film’s plus sized protagonist as an ogre. What if what the protagonist was a chronic smoker? Statistically speaking, obesity greatly surpasses alcohol usage in cause of death. Should Disney also feature an alcoholic princess? The obvious answer is no. Alcohol abuse is dangerous. In the same way, obesity is dangerous. We should not expect Disney to feature (and certainly not promote) a heroine that would portray something so deadly as socially acceptable.

  18. “Former borgeouis princesses”

    If your referring to Anastasia, that wasn’t a Disney movie. But that’s tangental.

    Really, the central message of the Shrek series (at least at first, it arguably devolved as the series went on) was that despite what anyone says it’s okay to be yourself. This of course isn’t tied directly to being fat but any kind of prejudice or intolerance, using in this case being an ogre as an analogy for that. Through the first movie Fiona learns that her thin, idealized princess-like appearance isn’t really her and accepts her ogre self. If that isn’t a near perfect analogy for size acceptance it’s hard to know what is.

    As for her being an ogre, you really have to remember the context of Shrek’s world. Throughout the first film a major message was that, fundamentally, ogres are pretty much like humans and not the monsters people say they are. In a world where ogres actually are little more than humanoid monsters, the fat princess being one would be an unfortunate implication at best. But here it’s simply underscoring the analogy and message of self-acceptance – that just because society frowns on being something, does not mean you have to or even should conform. Thus demanding her be human kind of misses the point of her. Fiona as a character’s entire arc is devoted to the slow realization of what she really is.

    Similarly, Shrek himself is not really mean or nasty and is a legitimately likable guy. But because society says that ogres act a certain way, he shuts them off and acts the part to keep up appearances. But through the series, Fiona and he find plenty of friends that accept them for who they are, eventually get their parents to accept them and slowly turn a segment of society to the point that by Shrek 4 they have a fan club. They become more gregarious as a result.

    As for “A fat woman will only be able to find a __ man…”
    Yeah, I got nothing. That is an implication you can legitimately read into the film, as they kind of ignored that implication to have a ‘beauty is not skin deep’ message.

    I agree with you on the toys too. I don’t get why merchandisers can’t seem to make any female toy that isn’t a variation on ‘supermodel.’ Even shows with thin female characters don’t tend to get good toys if they don’t look a certain way.

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