Editorial: Dreams for Everyone to Share

By Becky O'Malley
Friday June 30, 2006

Over the weekend I got an e-mail petition asking me to add my name to this letter and pass it on: 


“Dear Disney Company,  

In December 2005, I made my first visit to Disney World with my family. The experience was breathtaking. Throughout our journey, the adults were astonished by how the themes were brought to life. … Above all, the girls were intrigued by the Princesses’ mini-shows. However, my daughter had a question. She said, “How come there’s no Princess here like me?” I asked, “What do you mean?” She replied, “You know, a Princess like That’s So Raven or Penny Proud.” I responded by saying, “Unfortunately, Disney has not created fairytales for children like you. In other words, there are no Princesses of African American descent.”  

As the evening came to an end, I began to ponder on her question. I thought to myself...well, why aren’t there any African American Princesses in such a place where the motto is “We Make All Dreams Come True"? I decided to e-mail your company to ask why.  

A few weeks later, I received a surprising call. The woman I spoke to reassured me that my question and concern was taken seriously and would be looked into further. During this conversation, I asked why there aren’t any African American Princesses. [She said] because there aren’t any African American fairy tales. …[but] “ we have Pocahontas who represents Native America, Mulan who represents the Chinese, Jasmine who represents the descendants of the Middle East and the African Americans have Lion King out of Africa.” That reply left me with the thought that she just compared African Americans to wild animals. After that statement, I just laughed and respectfully ended the conversation.  

One thing I realized was that I can’t blame her for her response. Disney has not created an African American fairytale…[We] all know that through life experiences what we can touch, see, feel, taste, and hear leaves a lasting impression. Disney, you hold the power to make life experiences become a reality to a melting pot world, which includes African Americans. Disney’s motto is “We Make All Dreams Come True.” Well Disney, my child and other children like her have a dream and through their Disney experience, they are depending on you to make it come true. 

Thank you, 

Katrina Y. Helm” 


As the grandmother of a 4-year-old, I know she’s making a very good point. Little girls in the 2-to-6-year old age bracket these days are obsessed with Disney Princesses and all their branded paraphernalia. Every mall has its Disney store with lavish Princess displays. Even the kids who are seldom allowed to watch television have Disney videos which they play again and again and again. And this includes my own 4-year-old granddaughter, who is of African-American descent and indeed doesn’t look exactly like any of the Disney royalty. 

My correspondent said in her cover letter that she was even sending the petition to her white friends, “because racism is just as much their problem as ours and we will all benefit from its eradication.” She’s right about that, and it doesn’t just apply to those of us whose grandkids are personally affected.  

Another facet of the Disney Princess phenomenon is perhaps more confusing to deal with. In my granddaughter’s circle of friends there are also a couple of little boys who are obsessed with Disney Princesses and who have asked for tiaras and high-heeled shoes to act out their princess fantasies. I can’t honestly say how I would react if I were the parent or grandparent of one of these boys. I suppose if he came with a manufacturer’s label saying that he was gay, I’d accept gladly accept him, because there’s a secure niche in my world for gay men.  

But is it normal for “real men” or even real boys to have dreams of being princesses at three, and can they go on to being straight? Most of us are happy to have our daughters dreaming of being firefighters or cowboys, but can we accept our sons dreaming of being princesses? Should we supply them with tiaras to test the principle? Uncharted waters…. 

The report in last Friday’s paper about the minister who condemned gays at the African-American graduation ceremony in Berkeley has stirred up a lot of controversy, some of which is in today’s Planet. We ACLU types will defend his right to express his opinions, of course, but we also reserve our own right to tell him that he’s wrong, dead wrong, even perniciously wrong. Seeing the picture of the ceremony at St. Paul AME church, I thought of a family friend, a young gay African-American man who graduated from Berkeley High and whose parents are faithful church members. How awful it would have been for him to be one of those graduates sitting in those pews and hearing himself condemned from the pulpit, which could easily have happened when he graduated a few years ago.  

Like racism, homophobia is everyone’s problem, and we’ll all benefit from its eradication. Scientific evidence is mounting that sexual orientation, like much else that makes up human beings, is outside the scope of what theologians call “free will.” All of us, believers and non-believers alike, should be building a world where all kinds of people with all kinds of skin, hair and sexual orientation—all God’s children, using the language of faith—are cherished. There’s plenty of work for all of us to do to get to this promised land.  

One small way to start is by adding our names to the petition asking the Disney corporation to get to work on that African-American Princess. Another might be to speak up when misguided believers suggest that their God frowns on some of His creation. Perhaps some who attended the graduation event should write a letter to the speaker, telling him politely but clearly that a lot of people in Berkeley believe he’s making a mistake by condemning homosexuality. It might get him thinking.