The daughters of popular culture
There’s a whole website devoted to making fun of “The People of Wal-Mart” – shoppers, mostly women, usually overweight in tasteless clothing, going about their business. But I can’t sympathize with the impulse to mock others for being funny-looking and this picture, also taken in Wal-Mart, is the reason why. Because this image is what we constantly tell the daughters of our culture they should be.
This is probably some Little Princess from some damn Disney movie or other. It’s sort of Barbie’s close-up: clear skin, big eyes, full hair, pink lipstick, and smiling, always a happy smile. Because we expect everyone to be happy, all the time. Something’s wrong with them if they are not! Especially little girls.
Aren’t you happy? Come on, give us a little smile. That’s better! That’s daddy’s little girl!
Princesses come with a story: she’s ignored, or unappreciated, but actually quite beautiful and a man comes along and makes her life meaningful. There was one Princess story – Mulan – that almost, almost! broke that mold. Early in the movie I thought for just a moment she’d be the first lesbian Disney Princess. But in the predictable end it was just her and some armored lump of a guy.
Expecting our kids, male or female, to fit into a cartoon stereotype, is hoping they’ll grow up without an identity of their own. Of course the narrative encourages our boys to grow up tough and manly, but I think there’s more pressure on little girls. For every strong female character they will encounter in a movie, they’ll see a dozen or so strong male characters.
If you aren’t blessed with all those attributes, and especially with the happy smile all the time, you have not measured up. And heaven help you if you develop an eating disorder (the most common one is called; “being American”) and type 2 diabetes, and you don’t get a great job, your relationships fail and you are aging much faster than you thought you would, and one night you’re in Wal-Mart and some jackass takes your picture and puts you on a website to make fun of you.
Want to make fun of someone, America? Make fun of the arrogant and purposefully stupid. Make fun of that second-coming guy. Make fun of Newt Gingrich. Make fun of Texas Governor Rick Perry. And leave the badly-dressed overweight person in Wal-Mart, alone. I bet his or her feet hurt.