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Princess Bean's Messy World

1 rating: 2.0
A musical theater production for children

http://www.princessbean.net/      Awards      Film Advisory Board – Award of Excellence      Parents’ Choice Award      Dr. Toys Best 100 Products of the Year   … see full wiki

1 review about Princess Bean's Messy World

Attempting Fresh Take on Princess Culture, But Still Some Themes I Didn't Love

  • Jun 3, 2010
This was a fun Saturday outing, and a great chance to share a story with my daughter that demonstrated a different kind of princess.  The intended message is that you don’t have to look or act a certain way to be a princess.  In fact, a recurring lyric is that Princess Bean is a princess beacuse "I say so, and I know so" - rather than beause she fits a stereotype.  

The lead character is an alternative princess of the punk rock variety, which was a fun idea.  She slays dragons, saves princess, and builds her own castle – while getting into good messy fun all along the way.  Sounded great to me!  Turns out, it was only sort of great… if that. 

Concerning Themes
There was a lot of swooning over the prince.. too much for my taste, at least when it’s aimed at the preschool set.  Also, while the goal was to contrast the typical Disney princesses, they wound up coming off REALLY bitchy and mean - which was sort of sad and actually somewhat confusing to the young kids.  Now, while I’m the last person to defend Disney princesses – they are nonetheless beloved by the girls in this audience, and I thought that could’ve been handled more sensitively.  Also, preschool girls this age don’t really need lessons in how to be a snarky wench, do they?!  Poor role modeling, imo.  I’d rather we didn’t TEACH girls to be mean to each other and fight over men right out of the gate.   

Production Value
The singing and acting were good – not great, but good.  It took the Shrek / Toy Story approach of including adult humor that would go over kids’ heads, while keeping the parents entertained.  I actually thought they put more focus on that than on the part that was aimed at the kids though.  Also, intermission was a bit too long for that age of audience.


Venue was perfect – a solar-powered small theater in Venice, off of Abbot Kinney.  Great environmentally friendly, trendy spot with very cool vibe. Liked getting to share that setting with my daughter, for sure.

Kid-Friendly Factor
The girls were able to go up onto the set before the show, during intermission, and after the show, which was really fun for them.  The music from the show was playing, and the kids had a great dance party.

There were also small kid-sized seats in the front row, which was nice.  However there were not nearly enough for all the kids who wanted to take those seats, so that caused some minor upsets.

To be fair, I should do a little disclosure.  It may sound like this is a bit over-critical.  But, as mother to a preschool aged girl, I’m not a fan at ALL of the force-fed princess culture that has somehow permeated our society on an alarming level.  Don’t’ get me wrong.  I’m a fan of femininity, to be sure.  However, I really don’t see any redeeming value in the over-promoted, over-hyped princess madness – particularly the Disney princesses.

To that end, I activly steer my daughter clear of the Disney princesses.  Which takes a TON of work, unfortunately.  They're on every stich of clothing, shoes, backpacks, and lunch bags of her peers at the park and school.  They're marketed to her everywhere from the grocery store (though we tend not to shop at those types of markets anwyay), to the flipping dentist - who pimps her out with princess stickers and toothpaste, to the band aid aisle at Target.  It actually sickens me that ANY one perspective is that heavily targeted towards children.

Anyway, I view everything I expose my daughter to through the lens of what life lesson it can teach her.  That may mean just simple fun, or maybe it’s a deep moral value – either way, everything presented to her, at this age especially, is an opportunity to shape her as a thoughtful, engaged, and empathetic person.

In my view, the values expressed in the highly commercialized princess culture boil down to vanity, superiority, exclusivity, materialism, and not being fulfilled without a man (more specifically, a PERFECT man).  Sorry, but I don’t see any benefit to instilling that in my daughter.  If the attributes of princesses were focused on kindness, benevolence, generosity… perhaps.  But sadly, that’s not the case whatsoever.

It's worth catching, but only if you have no objections to princess culture overall.  If you're trying to steer your kids away from these themes, perhaps this isn't the show to see.

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August 11, 2010
whoa. Thanks for this review, Melissa. Did you guys see JR's first major movie review in our Movie Hype COL?
August 11, 2010
I did! But I dodged it since I haven't seen Inception yet ; ) I'll be reading it for sure once I do though!
June 04, 2010
Melissa, thanks for sharing this great review! I couldn't agree more on the highly commercialized princess culture and the negative values it teaches! I think it applies to the entire media culture as a whole as well, not just princesses (that we avoid with my daughter at all costs). For boys there are the action heroes, and then there are hundreds of cartoon characters. What happened to making up your own? Kids are not capable of that anymore? :) I think media in general is targeting children just to sell them 'stuff'. That's why I am so attracted to classic wooden toys without cartoon characters, lol! I think your review reiterates many points made in Parenting Well in a Media Age!
June 04, 2010
Thanks Anastasia! I really enjoyed that book review you shared, and was most struck by the fact that kids are now actually loosing the ability to imagine & can only regurgitate storyline from cartoons! Once she was 2, we started allowing some TV -- but not as a daily ritual, and she never got that into it. Her dad likes to share special movies, which is fun and novel for her. All things in moderation makes for the most balanced scenario, I find. Plus it keeps from the forbidden appeal. I noticed princess paraphernalia becoming a fixation for my daughter at one point, just b/c she'd picked up that we didn't approve (tho we never outright showed that disapproval to her). I actually let a couple things slide occasionally, so that it doesn't just become an attraction b/c it's taboo. Then I "disappear" said princess contraband shortly after the fact, so it doesn't get into any regular play rotation (stickers & band aids) ; ) As for wooden toys... I'm a huge fan of Melissa & Doug products. Though I'll say that plastic holds up WAY longer and I learned that the quaint charm of wooden toys is harder to prioritize as they get older and harder on the toys -- good luck!! = )
June 05, 2010
Yes, I agree that forbidding something only makes things worse! I unfortunately let my beliefs slide a little when she turned one, but when I noticed how addicted she was to her daily Curious George and another Russian cartoon, I knew it wasn't good for her. I knew it would lead to other behavior issues down the road. So I just started distracting her. When she woke up in the morning and said the name of the cartoon character first thing, I would just change the subject - make her a meal, turn on some classical music, draw with her, etc... Thankfully she has almost forgotten the cartoons. When we do watch we do so together and only once a week or so. :) Ironic I have a different experience with toys! I think plastic ones always break and the wooden ones don't :) Maybe because she's only 16 months and pretty gentle with her toys. I do find that some (not all) Melissa & Doug wooden toys are on the flimsy side, that specific brand for some reason. Thanks for great conversation... =)
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