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19 March 2007 / April

Princess Smartypants

So I was hunting for last year’s Global notes in preparation for a Regents-style thematic essay, when I came upon a little book: Princess Smartypants, by Babette Cole. As easily distracted as always, I started flipping through it and was somewhat surprised to find I had a piece of radical feminist propaganda in my hands.

Okay, so I could have guessed as much based on the title and cover illustration. But I still had not idea the extent to which it would go. (It’s enough to make even Sana pleased.)

The story is of this princess who would much rather not marry, but is sought by so many suitors that they start “making a nuisance of themselves.” Perhaps this would be an appropriate time to point out that the illustrations of this book are a riot. Case in point, with my annotations added (click to see a larger version):

  1. Nice landscaping.
  2. This fellow looks a little old to be courting the youthful Princess Smartypants.
  3. Native American, complete with stereotypical feathered headdress (and, bizarrely, a crown as well).
  4. … Whoa. Frighteningly massive chin.
  5. Notable reversal in traditional gender roles, as befitting a feminist book like this.
  6. This guy looks like he’s reaching into his coat to pull out a gun or IED and start a massacre.
  7. “Aw shucks, I wish I had a shiny new car… or a horse… or even a camel like Mansa Musa over there. My feet are sore.”
  8. “Well, at least you have a crown. All I’ve got is some dorky sailor hat type thing.”

Anyway, Princess Smartypants decides to be creative and everything and forces her suitors to undertake a series of unpleasant tasks, such as a “roller-disco marathon” (I’m not even sure what that is)– which, of course, none of them can complete.

This is only moderately feminist so far. But then along comes Prince Swashbuckle in his swanky red convertible, who despite looking like a jerk (not to judge by appearances or anything) manages to complete the tasks by doing things like hypnotising her pony and getting her slugs drunk.

Which is a little morally suspect, even if they are just slugs. But nonetheless, he is successful in completing the tasks, and if this were a more typical atypical fairy tale– and if Princess Smartypants were not a liar— she would marry him. Instead, she gives him a “magic kiss” and he turns into a frog.

First of all, that’s just weird.

Second of all, come on Miss Smartypants! You promised the poor guy you’d marry him if he did all this stuff like roller-discoing and rescuing you from glass towers, and when he actually goes through the trouble of doing it, you thank him by turning him into a frog.

This isn’t just saying that women don’t have to marry, it’s saying that women can humiliate men, force them to work, then don’t marry them. In fact, Princess Smartypants can only live happily ever after when she has rid herself of essentially all men (who are, needless to say, intimidated by her transfiguring osculations). Just like all women! We females can only be free once men have become the toads they are at heart!

Of course, I suppose this may be a natural reaction when you have very conservative parents that say things like, “Stop messing about… and find yourself a husband!”

It’s like when Metternich tried to impose old oppressive regimes following the French Revolution, and basically all of Europe went like “Yeah, well, make me!” in 1848.

That reminds me: I need to study for Global.


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