If this were a true essay, I'd quote to you from this linked one at The Atlantic: Does Prince Charming Really Need to be Reinvented? and cite sources and things, but I mean, it isn't. My head is too crowded this week to say all I could truly say on the subject, anyway, so here's kind of a quick response.
I appreciated the thoughts in this essay; it's just the sort of thing I wonder over from time to time. It's too complex and there's too much to unravel to just soundbite agree or disagree in a comment field, which is why I'm typing this here and not at the magazine or Google Plus: Bark-Examining Society.
I was a child in the 70s, a time when girls could do anything, but as girls. Jane West, the girl cowboy, Nancy Drew, the girl detective. Only the three divorced moms wore jeans, but a girl could say she wanted to be a doctor instead of a nurse. A woman doctor, I mean. Women lawyers were straight-up Angry Feminists, you know. Airline attendants were still stewardesses, of course, but no longer glamorous. And women ran things, but if it was a big thing, she still wasn't listed on the board of directors. She might become a woman politician, though, in the following decade.
In the 80s, when I was growing up, many women emulated men kind of by the book for awhile if they wanted to be on top of the game. For women like me, it was weird and actually disappointing. And it created a huge divide between two distinct types, with a huge middle section working too hard to be both. Their lives didn't all turn out like the Enjoli ad. But we're slowly moving past it now. Apparently, men are less frightened of sharing control, and hopefully, most of the younger ones don't even see gender in that way. At least their sons won't. (There are still "woman engineers," though, and that is a whole ball of wax that's got to be discussed and melted.)
I think twisting the hero prince story in Frozen is cool, if maybe a little mind-bending for some seven year-old hearts. A reaction that says it's cool specifically because no girl should dream of an old-time fairy tale prince is kind of narrow and clenchy, though. And already a cliché. Plus we have the teen movies later on telling us the boy we might really want is the hero's sidekick, right? We evolve, yet we're not all the same, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I've been in love with nearly every character Jim Garner played, because I always liked my heroes to have an edge and sometimes an air of reluctance. But would I actually marry the cowboy instead of the pharmacist? Well, I always knew I wanted the real man himself, who was all of his characters but in fact, none of them. What a person.
I know I'm the product, the result, of an anachronistic pocket in a chaotic time. At least, that is what I am often told, (because of the lack of dollars it generates) and therefore I am required to believe it. My truest self, though, has never had a problem with "lady truck drivers" or preschool teachers who are male or physicists who happen to be female. I just always thought they should go, do, be themselves, however they wished to. And not ever did I wish to be a princess. That wasn't what I grew up with; I read the fairy tales but saw cowboys and detectives on TV, and wanted to be one of those, or the sidekick of one, as I didn't actually want to rescue or be rescued. I wanted to go along for the ride and tell stories about it later.
I think the huge princess phenomenon that developed in the past couple of decades was a sort of backlash to all the fantasy having disappeared under the weight of life management. (this needs another paragraph of development for people who weren't there.) But what those girls see in every day life is what counts in the end. Hopefully, they're shown something more of life than just the series of financial traps most of us find ourselves in. Then they can choose to be their best selves, and fantasize about whatever they like at the same time. You know, I do believe in fairies. Why not?