[The Inner Princess]7:30 AM
Pick up anything older than the 1900’s written for young ladies. Who is our heroine? A modest, genteel, golden-curled, delicate (slightly boring) girl who everyone admires for her sweetness and beauty. Fastfoward to around the 1960’s: our heroine is now riddled with acne, glasses and mousy hair, not known for her beauty but for her temper and intelligence.
Post-Second Wave, the measure of a woman became not her looks or her sweetness but how independent, smart and witty she could be. It’s unfashionable to put much emphasis on beauty in this culture—at heart we still revere the pretty woman, but in word we focus on inner strength of character and smarts.
Of course, I’m all for breaking away from the stock character of Yon Princess—blue-eyed, golden-haired and impossibly sweet. I’m not saying girls with blue eyes, golden hair or sweet dispositions ought to get the boot entirely: but I do think a shift away from outer to inner beauty is constructive. Not all of us are blessed with good looks, and if a literary heroine is formidable, it ought to be because of her character—not her infallible skin.
My concern is that another stock character has been created to do battle with Yon Princess, which is both literary and Christian suicide: the Inner Princess.
The Inner Princess may or may not be beautiful—normally she straddles the line between handsome and plain. The emphasis on her looks is only to say, “Girls—forget being pretty. The inside counts more.” So far, so good. But what’s oftentimes on the inside is a royal version of Ms. Feminist: this girl is independent, tomboyish and couldn’t care less about decorum and principle. She beats her own path through the woods. She slides down banisters, tears her dresses and rejects all typical princess pursuits. She’s active, academic and possesses characteristics of a king: strong, stubborn, insensitive and rather disdainful of any girl who prefers to pursue queenly habits.
Her tutors and parents (unless they’re more progressive-minded) have their hands full with her, and they shake their heads and try to marry her off. She is so much a leader that she never submits herself, accommodates others or budges an inch from her likes and dislikes. Not to say that she’s totally unpleasant—she still has glimmers of compassion and care. It’d just be more convenient for her if you agreed with her point of view on womanhood.
Not surprisingly, her husband-to-be is a similar stock character attracted to a fiercely independent, barely-accomplished young woman: he’s disdainful of decorum too, easy-going, ignores or loathes his duties and is independent of courtiers’ and/or parents’ advice—again depending on the progressive nature of his authority figures.
I like smart girls. I like girls who think for themselves. I understand that some girls are more inclined to ripping their dresses and being active and doing things typically reserved for men. But is this the only replacement to Yon Princess? You’re either beautiful, sweet and empty-headed or plain, independent and disdainful? No, thank you. I’m not buying it—but our girls are. For in these modern day fairy tales, their heroines are this new Inner Princess and their heroes are the men who are attracted to them. All others are fuddyduddies not yet caught up with the times.
It’s not enough to shift focus on the outer to the inner and then call anything inside beautiful. True womanhood needs encouragement and shaping, and we are not obliged to recognize and admire everything naturally found in the heart of a girl. No, you don’t have to love embroidery over archery; you don’t have to be stupid in order to be feminine. But the Inner Princess—focused so much on her individuality—is overkill.
The inside counts. So evaluate the Inner Princess—her looks may not be of any weight, but you can double bet her heart does.
The Inner Princess:
• Ella Enchanted
• The Ordinary Princess
• The Prydain Chronicles
• Catherine, Called Birdy