Two reasons why the princess rap meme isn’t really that funny
Are they blowing up your newsfeeds these days, too? Those two-minute vignettes that string together hilarious rhymes while perpetuating horrible stereotypes of girls and women? Yeah, those. So far, there’s Snow White vs. Elsa (with 28 million+ views) and, more recently, Cinderella vs. Belle.
Despite their sassy tone (and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s funny facial expressions — do not displease her or she will ice you), I’m just not that into them, and here’s why:
1. They’re really just tired, played-out cat fights.
I get it: The videos are satirical. They’re send-ups of the wholly unrealistic, mythological definitions of femininity and beauty Disney has foisted on us for just about eighty years. And even I can agree that the turns of phrase within are masterfully impressive (“Your points have no merit/ You’re jealous/Declare it”). So much so that it’s easy to want to sing along and get all caught up in deciding whether you’re Team Belle or Team Snow White.
But let’s look at the metamessage here. Even though some of the lyrics specifically talk about how totally lame some of the princesses were for waiting around for their princes and how times have changed (“and who needs a man to save and kiss ya/I’m savvy, strong, single and so independent/You’re the weakest role model while I am transcendent”), these videos essentially pit women against each other to battle about who’s prettiest, who’s best in bed, who’s most deserving of their prince, and who’s with the best prince.
There’s also a lot of fallback onto clichéd innuendos about which gal in a ball gown has a more voracious sexual appetite and is therefore better at satisfying her man (“I like a man on the street and a beast in the bed!”). Way to be progressive, ladies!
2. They’ve got us doing their dirty work for them.
Every time one of these videos has shown up in one of my feeds, it’s been posted by a woman. And my female friends are kick-ass, successful, smart, savvy ladies…which is why I’m surprised so many passed these videos around. It’s not that they (or I) don’t have a sense of humor (okay, actually there are some things I don’t have a sense of humor about — the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue is one, but I digress) about various tropes in pop culture.
But in not one of the instances where I came across the videos were they preceded by a comment like, “We’ve come a long way baby…and I’m hoping we still go farther. Still, these are funny!” or “Join me in suspending our desire for cultural change for a sec, and I promise you will laugh!” And that floored me. Because I can’t be the only one among us who objects to the takeaway of these diversions, or who refuses to believe in the old adage, “Lighten up. It’s just a video” (or an ad, or a magazine, or a movie).
These are the ideas and beliefs that surround us. That we let into our lives and psyches via our phones and tablets and conversations. And even though these videos clearly weren’t meant to be shining beacons of avant-garde thinking, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t spend a few minutes figuring out where they fit into today’s conversation about media representations of women.
Because IMHO, these videos are nothing more than a royal setback.
Audrey D. Brashich is the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty. She writes regularly about trending pop culture issues for The Washington Post, Yahoo Parenting, and other national news outlets.