Elsa

Frozen Ice Princess

Listen or read.

Last January I went to the Halloween show in Houston where there were showing the costumes for toddlers and little girls for Elsa and Anna from the movie Frozen.

I’m not really here to talk about Elsa, but I am very interested in why this blonde haired, blue eyed princess is so popular with girls ages 3-7.   Especially that since American Girls pulled several minority dolls from their line-up, parents, advocates and professionals are frothing at the mouth.

Since I opened my costume business in 2010, princesses in general were passé.  I could not give the gowns away.   Then the Frozen came out and I was asked by Disney to give away some free passes, which I did, and people [meaning mothers and teen girls] were very interested.  They liked the movie.

Then the summer came and people called asking where they could get the damn dresses for their daughter’s birthday parties. I mean not even the Disney store could keep them in stock.  I wondered if the little girls were asking for Elsa character or if the mother’s just liked the Frozen party theme.  Mostly I was wondering whether I should have carried the dresses.

As an Anthropologist, I started thinking about this princess and where the blonde interest was coming from.  A little background. Since 1989, we’d enjoyed a series of hair colours all in the brunette range.  1989, Ariel, red hair.  1991, Belle, auburn hair.  1992, Jasmine, black hair.  1995, Pocahontas, black hair.  1998 Mulan, black hair.  Then almost 10 years with no princess and we had in 2009 Tiana, black hair.  Twenty years and, excepting Rapunzel in 2010, no blonde princesses.

Keep in mind that in the past five years, even the Cinderella and Aurora princesses were not in demand.  Was there something wrong with blonde haired, blue eyed? What were the intersections of consumer, manufacturing and politics that where brunette princesses reigned for twenty years, but yet costume demand after movies was nothing like demand for Elsa.  Also keep in mind that no-one wants to be Anna, her red headed sister.

I remembered working for a major party company and that they sold lots of blonde wigs to little girls.  So when I did the purchasing for my own company, I did the same thing, bought lots of blonde wigs.  But my wigs are sitting there gathering dust and I wondered why.  It occurred to me that one of the reasons may be that the demographic of the residents of the party store were different.  I woke up and went aha they were of Southern Asian descent and that the demographic of the business I now own is far more mixed.  In other little girls with black and brown hair like the idea of blonde hair, but like me being blonde why would I buy a blonde wig.

That doesn’t explain though, Elsa popularity through all demographics.  So I am back to the consumer politics of supply and demand, but I am thinking about my own kids, born in 1990 during this reign of brunette princesses.  I have a picture of my son in nursery school .  He’s wearing a purple shirt, not bad, but also wearing a pink tutu and, on his head, a band with a tinfoil unicorn horn.  He’s holding a mirror and his smile is rapturous, saying I am beautiful.  He’s now 24 and living with his girlfriend and I’m thinking this story and photograph would be great for his wedding.

Would all parents and teachers be so open to letting a little boy explore, not necessarily his feminine side, but his beauty.  My daughter didn’t really play with dolls.  She had a couple of Barbies including Pochahantas and a black baby doll.  Both my kids are adopted and adoption ideas are enmeshed in our daily lives.  One day my daughter said, “When I become a mommy, I’m going to adopt a black baby girl.” Later on that doll showed up and I can’t remember who got for her.  She didn’t play with it either.

So I am thinking now, like the Midge Barbie doll that I had with auburn hair and freckles, I don’t know if the push comes from manufacturing, or the parents, or the children, or the Culture of politics.  Did the little girls during those 20 years free of blonde princesses, long for golden tresses.  Were little girls hushed when they reached for the blonde, but applauded when they asked for the doll of colour.  Seriously, I don’t remember if that’s all that was available or what I reached for because it was more socially appropriate or if it’s what my daughter wanted.

I guess I should, as my sister says, land the plane.  I wish … I wish I could ask Disney why 1989 to 2009 was dominated by brunettes, but in the end I think people are just fickle.  I don’t think this is political, or about a lack of affirmative action or the death of feminism.  We all want what is new ~ that is firmly entrenched in our consumer society and it’s been a blonde dry spell for princesses, so that’s new.  I also want to point out that from 1990 to around 1998, the world was reacting to the changes from the fall of the Berlin wall.  Globally speaking, there was a huge surge in international adoption from China, India, Russia including children of Germanic, Indo-Iranian, Koreans, Chechen and Turkic groups were adopted and from Romania including Roma, an ethnic group of Indian origin.  This subject was in the daily news and what mother, with a baby girl adopted from China, would not take the opportunity to buy a cool doll that looked just like her daughter.

We all also enjoy what is beautiful, what is rare in our world.  It doesn’t mean that a drab coloured wren has any less worth than a yellow house finch, yet I get excited I see those little yellow birds at the perch because they stand out and they are rare.  Elsa’s frosty blonde hair contrasts perfectly with her piercing blue eyes and sparkly gown.  Who wouldn’t want to be that, even for just one day?  Isn’t that what free play, dress-up and even Halloween is for, a space where for one moment where we can explore another self and not be judged by society.  Like my son who for one day in nursery school traded Batman for a tutu wearing unicorn and learned to appreciate beauty in a whole new way.

Rolling the Credits – Proper Referencing

It really frosts my berries when giving credit is missed.  In this case, I mean credit to me and not that you forgot and later shamefacedly amended your work to pay homage to the original idea, but that you were and are oblivious to anything but your own awesomeness.

Andy Warhol's original Campbell's Soup cans artwork, on display at the MoMA, New York

Andy Warhol’s original Campbell’s Soup cans artwork on display at the MoMA, New York – for original source of image please click image.

YorkU stepped up my ability to reference works, but it was a course with NIGS about on-line referencing where I realized that giving credit has become a chimera.

Referencing pre-technology was about where you place quotation marks, underline or what style to use, today it’s about giving credit at all.

We have too much technology and no self-discipline leading to generations guided by entitlement and instant gratification.  Anybody can now take a piece of art, music or other works and with a few tweaks of a photography or an audio application, can call it an original.  We can burn a disc, make a button, screen a t-shirt and make money on it.

The possibilities of our specialness are unlimited.  Enter contests online for free stuff or your five minutes of fame in photography, poetry or music to annually replace the Hockey Night in Canada theme.  Nominate [WTH] and Vote for yourself daily [WTH] in your community business association, Blog or Small Business Group as Fill-in-the-Blank of the Year.  Are we so starved for attention?

This is not someone of an older generation taking exception to the Culture of whipper-snappers-of-the-up-and-coming-young-and-beautiful-things.  Actually, I am talking about my own family [except you Alex 🙂 and contemporaries with comments like, Well if the technology is there it must be okay, or Everyone’s doing it or They make enough money anyway.  I mean if you are going to do it for fame or to make money on it, at least unabashedly know that that is the nature of your beast.

Maybe all this proliferation of specialness is a secret government ploy to keep us like rats.  Distracts us in the maze, if we know there will be cheese.  Maybe it’s our Revolution and we actually believe we are sticking it to the man.  Maybe it’s our societal reaction to too much government and feelings of helplessness that we take what we want, when we want it and screw everyone.  Maybe we’re just brats and this is our Darwinian march to extinction.

My dad said there is nothing new in the world and I agree, so if you are going to take something and make it artistically your own, good for you, but please share the credit.   Don’t give me some crap about the artistic integrity being diluted blah blah blah.  If you can’t find a way to do it without distracting from your own work, then you are just lazy.

Now I’m going to find a mirror to gaze at myself in.

Photographing Children with Melissa Avey

I like the choice of black and white processing. It keeps the focus on the subjects and not the living room.

I’ve asked five Canadian photographers to offer their best tips for photographing children.  First is what I learned from Melissa Avey who lives in Cambridge, Ontario with her husband and three children.

With Candid Photography if you take the time to de-clutter the shot, you might just miss it.  Using a Nikon D800, Melissa snapped her son and her Father-in-Law, aka Papa, in his living room.   The smaller jacket was for a child of one of his colleagues from years ago, so there were a lot of memories for him with it.  “Now,” Avey says, “we have the memory of our son and Papa being cool together in their jackets!”

Many times the shot is better when the subjects are involved in the pose.  Melissa said that Grandpa is a forensic accountant and it was his idea for them to show their backs.

The space around the subjects is interesting as it emphasizes at once the strength and fragility of fathers and sons.

As for Professional Portraits, this outdoor one of father and sons was taken on a Nikon D7100.  Melissa’s tip is to invite grandparents to the session to watch or get in on the action.   Avey says, “Even if it’s just that one image, if Grandma is around, include her.  It will be a special moment for her and living memory for you and your children.”

Melissa is right when she says that the memories created are truly the most important part of the photograph, but for more reasons than you think.  As an anthropologist, I’ve learned pictures passed down through family members or archived as part of a societal history, like literature and music connect us to spaces, time and Culture of our collective human past.  Like the 1951 image by UPI photographer Arthur Sasse of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue or the 1985 photograph taken by Steve McCurry of Afghan refugee, Sharbat Gula, our curiosity drives us to learn more.

I found Melissa’s gallery of poses very quiet and contemplative.  Her photographs are of all ages and in variety of places, but my favourites are those with young children outdoors.  She too admitted the same, ” Especially in the pretty winter light.  It’s usually so soft coming through windows.”

Melissa is an accredited member of the National Association of Professional Child Photographers.  She serves Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and even Toronto, if you bring chocolate.  Website: http://www.aveyphoto.com Phone:  (519) 240 6494

Next week, we’ll feature the advice of Hope Hanson-Baker of Plum Tree Photography in Mississauga, Ontario.