The text that I chose to review for reflection is a children’s book titled “Polite as a Princess” by Melissa Arps. This book was produced for the Disney Princess collection of merchandise. Disney has a wide range of products (movies, books, toys, a website) centered around the various princesses that have appeared in Disney movies throughout the years. These are mainly of great interest to little girls. “Polite as a Princess” is an attempt to get young readers to adopt good manners. This is done by playing up the fact that princesses have impeccable manners, and implying that it is desirable to be like a princess in every way.
There are characteristics that are typical to the Disney Princesses including things like kindness, intelligence, a sense of adventure, having a strong will, and of course being physically beautiful. This book is trying to convey that if you have good manners, you will be just like a princess, and therefore embody all of those characteristics that the Disney Princesses posses. This book also seems to aim to give examples of what are considered good manners to a young audience (who may in fact need some incentive to act in a polite fashion). It discusses saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, as well as treating others with respect and kindness, sharing, and cleaning up after yourself.
I have read this book to my daughter occasionally and find it to be a relatively straightforward discussion about good manners. When I bought the book in the first place I knew that the Princess factor would be enticing to her since she loves princesses.I feel that as a parent I need to be especially aware of at least some of the ideologies that underly popular culture. It is not beyond me that there is a large amount of merchandise that is produced to earn a profit (Disney is a big culprit of this), and that a main goal of those who produce and market this merchandise is to convince the consumer that they need said merchandise to feel happy. I feel like it is my responsibility to recognize these factors, and do my best to make informed decisions about how much I purchase, and how much my daughter is exposed to. I also feel that it is my responsibility to inform her about the underlying messages and motives of “mass culture”.
The concept of hegemony makes a lot of sense to me, in terms of understanding popular culture. The idea that it is a negotiation between the dominant class or culture and the “lesser” class is consistent with my own views on popular culture. It seems like there is a culture that is produced by those whose main goal is to earn a profit. It also seems that some of those who are involved in this mass produced culture may also have other politically motivated goals as well. By this I mean, there is a class of people who have a large amount of money at their disposal, which they can use to promote or produce products. They can (and do) also use their money to buy favor with politicians by hiring lobbyists to push issues they are invested in through the legislature, or by making campaign donations to those who will support their political aims.
I think that there are a lot of things that are produced for consumption by the dominant class, in order to in some way control the working class, but I also think it is up to that “subordinate” class to decide what they want to do with those products. Hegemony seems to say this, and also seems like the most logical and realistic definition of popular culture that I have seen so far. In terms of the book that I chose to review, it is easy for me to use it as a tool to help teach my child about manners by using popular figures from movies that she likes. However, it is also my responsibility as a parent to teach her about the underlying structure of production and consumption at some point in her life. I can let my daughter watch princess movies, but I also have to be an active teacher in my child’s life so that those movies aren’t the only way she is getting a perception of the world. I grew up watching Disney movies and am still very aware of that not everything is what it seems, especially in terms of mass culture. I feel that its my job to instruct, ask questions, and engage with my daughter about the world around her the best I can so that my she has a multi-faceted perspective on the world around her. Even so, learning about definitions and considerations of popular culture actively is definitely causing me to look more closely at the world and culture that I live in.