I was a bit of weird kid, maybe even a rebel as a child because I didn’t like to conform to the typical girl roles. Even as an elementary student, I never liked wearing jumpers, skirts, or “girlie” barrettes in my hair. I preferred tennis shoes over sandals, and plastic swords over Barbie dolls. True, I did have a Disney princess phase for a while, and I loved watching Disney movies as a kid, but most of the time I looked up to the strong, powerful, heroic male figure coming to save the day. Honestly, I’d rather be Davy Crockett than his wife Polly. I like the idea of being a lone ranger, doing whatever you want, out in the wild open spaces and independent of society. So yes, it looks like media got the better of me and seduced me into thinking that the male roles were the best-because most of the time they were. Griffin is right on when he said, “[children’s] play may and often does reinforce parental values but it also contains a counter social potential; it may be used to express a child’s feelings of outrage over the expectations imposed upon him or her by the social formation, over the pressure to conform to rules that constrain instinctual life, and frustrate personal desire”. (117). Looking back, my parents never pressured me into being any one particular person or type of person, but I think it was outside of the home, you know, society, that was the bigger pressure. I wasn’t outraged, I think that’s too strong of a word, but I was bothered by the expectation that a lot of my girlfriends preferred the princesses over the princes, the Polly Pockets over the Legos, and if I wasn’t interested in that sort of stuff, I was out of the loop. But these feelings I had obviously weren’t the first for girls. From what Griffin says, it looks likes the coonskin caps were popular with the young girls, in fact preferred over the “Miss Davy Crockett Snow White Bunny Fur” caps. He says, “…certain girls resisted the redirection of the advertisements. Life’s essay on the Crockett phenomenon included a photo of a young girl in a coonskin cap brandishing a rifle. Clearly, at least some girls were ignoring how the adult world would have preferred them to use Davy’s image”. (116). Maybe he’s being a bit sarcastic here, I’m not sure, but I still believe that there were definitely girls that rebelled against societal conforms.
I think, as I sit here and reflect my childhood, the lack of strong female characters in media wasn’t the biggest issue for me. In general, the gender boundaries were not the issue at front as a child. What I surrounded myself with was not so much prince and princesses but adventures about animals, or at least animal companions. I was really into Winnie the Poo, the book series Henry and Mudge, and Warriors (about a clan of cats), and other novels like Shilo, Where the Red Fern Grows, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, and My Side of the Mountain. My favorite Disney movie was Lion King (1994) and the Disney Channel original move Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993). Like most people of color, I had another barrier besides gender roles, and that was race. The only Asian “princess” (she’s not even a princess) is Mulan, and as much as I admire her strong female characteristics, it bothered me that whenever my friends and I played Disney princess games I was always Mulan. (Okay, she’s pretty badass, but it is hard being automatically given a part because of one’s race). Even the strong female characters in today’s media are predominantly white and as a kid I felt awkward telling other people how I’d love to be Meredith in the Indiana Jones series because I was afraid of getting comments like, “you can’t because you’re not white”.
As a grew up, I grew out of that fear and learned that stuff like that isn’t worth fussing and worrying over because a human being is more than just the color of their skin, but if you can imagine as a child and not having that confidence, it was tough. I think that’s why I preferred hearing stories about Clifford, watching The Aristocats (1970) over The Little Mermaid (1989). As Griffin points out, “…one question yet to be answered is how nonewhite children related to the figure of Davy Crocket-neither the contemporary press, nor Margaret J. King’s work on fad seems to acknowledge that children who existed were outside the white, middle-class, suburban paradigm” (114). Truth be told, I didn’t have a lot in common with Davy Crockett except his thirst for adventure and independence, which today, I look at myself and say, “hey, that matters a lot more than looking like him”. (But it mattered twenty years ago).
I think because of the race barrier pertaining to media, I connected with animals who were identified by species, and did not depend on skin color, but rather fur which is hidden under skin. Wanting to be or play an animal wasn’t as limitless as wanting to be or play a human character.