Lupita Nyong’o as Princess: An Anthropological Study

I have watched Lupita Nyong’o on the red carpet for the past 6 months or so and I have been struck at how strong her red carpet choices have been. She really is bold and takes chances, and 99% of them work. She has great coloring, a wonderful inner glow and great sense of self.

So I was really disappointed in her red carpet choice. I wasn’t sure until someone took umbrage with something I said on a fashion blog about how she looked just like Cinderella, a princess, and that I think she is a Queen, if you don’t mind the metaphors,  and shouldn’t have gone in that direction. The woman ranted that princesses can be strong, and I responded with this:

“I think Lupita bought into the idea of the American/Anglo Saxon princess with this almost exact replica of a Cinderella dress. That is what struck me. And in this country and other western coutries, the princess (Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty) has always been saved by a man. They are not Pocohantos. They are weak and need saving. Look at Princess Diana. Her downfall was blamed on Prince Charles, because he didn’t “protect” her. William is lauded for “shielding” Kate Middleton from the press. I never understood that. I was born the same year as Diana, and I am no shrinking violet. I can handle myself. My husband doesn’t have to shield me. And even more so with Kate – she is a well educated woman, from what seems to be a balanced family, and it seems as though she knew what she was getting into, in fact, welcomed it. So why does her husband need to protect her? 

In that context, seeing Lupita, a strong woman who doesn’t have an American background, dress herself like Cinderella made me sad.”

Why do we encourage our girls to become princesses? In the year 2014, why do we paint their rooms pink, and get they pink play dresses with crowns and feathers and frills? I loved clothes, I loved dress up as a kid, but I don’t remember being so hung on up on being “like a princess” when I got married, like 9 out of 1o women say on “Say Yes to the Dress.” One of the best dancers in the documentary “First Position” is obsessed with being a princess. She is 17 in the film. Is this culturally promoted?

Because traditionally, princesses are weak. They depend on a man to get them out of trouble, make them happy. Sound familiar? How many girls/women think they need a man to be happy?? I would say most, until women reach the age of about 50. Then, most of them swear that if anything happened to their husbands/marriages, they would never marry again. Why? I think because most of us realize that in any relationship, no matter how good, you have to give up things and parts of yourself. And once we are done raising our kids, many of us wouldn’t choose to do that again if our marriages ended.

Perhaps I am unusual with unusual friends. I do grant you that I like interesting, strong women. My favorite females on television are Brenda Lee Johnson, Captain Raydor and Bones. All strong,  “difficult” women, most would say. I love them. So I would have loved to see Lupita in a strong, feminine gown, one that said, “I am a woman, not a little girl with fairy tale dreams.” She talked about dreams, and that they are valid, but looked like a fairy tale.

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