Julie Burchill

The Princess generation needs to grow up

The Princess generation needs to grow up
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I never dreamed I’d see the day when I agreed with Miriam González Durántez - such a snob that she believes people can be socially snubbed by being given Hellman’s mayonnaise, such a Euro-bore that she found Brexit ‘devastating’ and so short-sighted that she sees sex with Nick Clegg as a reasonable proposition. But with this recent Twitter rant, I quite warmed to her:

‘When you have a 2.30 hours delay in a British Airways flight (what is happening to this airline!?) open the inflight shop magazine and want to scream: STOP-CALLING-GIRLS-LITTLE-PRINCESSES!! It cannot be so difficult for an airline to get this right…’

Mind you, it’s pretty likely that Ms González Durántez’ refined sense of Euro-chic was a little of the inspiration for this slice of splenetic splendour; the item which inspired her ire was a frankly repulsively cheap-looking pink plastic watch bearing the images of the two princesses from Frozen. And she misses the point somewhat. It’s not so much little girls modelling themselves on fictional princesses that we have to fear – little girls by their natures grow out of things – but rather grown women.

‘I want a man who treats me like a princess!’ How many times have I heard some reality TV totty utter these words? And how many times have I smirked smugly when the wisher on a pastel pink star ends up getting treated like a ‘mug’, usually by a ‘bad boy’ lover? It doesn’t behove a broad to gloat over the shattering of a sister’s dreams, but there’s something amusing about a putative princess waking up to a workaday world where she must earn a crust like the rest of us rather than sit on a cushion, sew a fine seam and oversee her shoe collection.

There have always been gold-diggers - considering the intellectual castration of women historically, it would have been lunacy for bright broads not to attempt to gain wealth by any means necessary. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, they were often the wittiest and warmest onscreen female role models around; ironically, the women who played them were grafters, rarely asking for anything during any of their multiple divorces. There’s a story about Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner going home early from a Hollywood party to be ready in time for the studio dawn call as a trio of expensive call girls sweep in just getting ready to get started on some serious fun. One of the sex goddesses remarks to the others: ‘We picked the wrong job!’ Of course she was kidding - an ageing hooker has about as much prestige as an ageing racehorse. But there’s something admirably realistic about a gold-digger who knows she’s one.

A Princess would never admit any such thing - they think of themselves as Strong, Independent Women, even while saying ‘I like a man to open doors and pay for everything - and treat me like a princess!’ No, dear, if a man opens doors for you he’s treating you like a simpleton and if he pays for everything, he’s treating you like a hooker. (The crossover between the princess look and the hooker look, as the late Barbara Cartland grotesquely illustrated, is considerable.) And it’s a man knowing that you can be bought with a dinner and a pair of shoes which leads to him so frequently mugging you off - royally - in favour of a better bargain. Back on the pink plastic shelf you go!

How do you spot a Princess? She’ll be keen on pampering to an extent which indicates to the casual onlooker that her natural self must be extraordinarily rank if it takes such effort and expense to keep in check. (Princesses shouldn’t be confused with Professional Beauties, most of whom retain a healthy contempt for the business of exchanging physical gifts for fiscal rewards, from Hedy Lamarr saying ‘Any girl can be glamorous - all you have to do is stand still and look stupid’ to the catwalk models who invariably live in jeans and sneakers after shrugging off the stupid clothes which Princesses pine for.)

The Princess believes that retail therapy is the answer to everything, even though the rest of us avert our eyes from this most obvious manifestation of the essential hollowness of a life that an over-enthusiasm for clothes-shopping invariably indicates in anyone out of their teens. They’ll have long nails, ostensibly to show that they’re ladies of leisure, but signalling to the rest of us that they’re very likely parasites with low sex-drives. They like big weddings - and as a liking for big weddings often goes hand in hand with humourlessness, they often have very short marriages. They are in short practitioners of the Violet Elizabeth Bott school of feminism - less about equal rights and fulfilling one’s potential than about stamping your foot till you get what you want.

They dislike men, seeing them not as flesh-and-blood people so much as platinum-and-titanium meal-tickets, and they mistrust women, seeing them as competition. An ageing Princess is more than likely to end up lonely - and with no life of the mind to comfort her, this loneliness may make her mentally addled at a comparatively young age. Once the sheen is off her skin, the Princess has nothing that would make one seek her out; like a lot of people over-keen on spangles and glitter, they are at heart rather drab people - drains not radiators, personality-wise - who never make things happen or drive things forward but rather wait to be rescued. They tend to find themselves eternally in the passenger seat of their life’s journey, stranded on the hard shoulder with their souvenirs, waiting in vain for hunky help to arrive.

Unlike Mrs Clegg, though, I don’t blame Disney for the monstrous pink regiment of adult Princesses — generations of girl children grew up on all sorts of Disney girls from the Sleeping Beauty to Jasmine from Aladdin, and were perfectly able to become tomboys, boxers and Conservative Prime Ministers. Let’s not forget that the highest-grossing Disney film of all time - Frozen - has as its heroine a fearless princess who sets off on a journey to find her estranged sister, her rescue constituting ‘an act of true love’ without a glass slipper or smug prince in sight.

No, I blame that vile word empowerment. It has replaced scoldy old feminism - a fact which was brilliantly summed up by the Onion headline WOMAN NOW EMPOWERED BY EVERYTHING A WOMAN DOES. Everyone wants their own way - I’m the last person to argue against such obvious logic, because that would be self-loathing. But if all your ambitions can be summed up as a desire to be seen as special, you’d better make sure that your tiara’s not paste, because you’re going to need something to hock in the long morning after you’ve been mugged by Mother Nature. Even BA have got the message - Mrs Clegg posted on Instagram this weekend ‘Another long delay in my flight but this time no references to little princesses in the in-flight magazine! Top marks and a huge thank-you for changing this. If we all make teeny-tiny changes we can, together, make a huge difference to how girls see themselves.’ As the song says, ‘Let it go!’