Guardian Princess Book Series Created To Empower Girls Beyond The Tired Disney Mold


Ah yes, the debate about the Disney Princess range. Are they empowering? If they are a huge departure from the usual stable of damsels in distress who need Prince Charming for validity and happiness (think: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and co.) then perhaps they are worth taking notice of. ‘Brave’s Princess Merida who doesn’t look like the rest of the pack, nor does she want to rely on a man, is probably the best example of a Disney Princess doing something somewhat empowering.

Aside from the unrealistic imagery being portrayed, the Disney Princesses don’t empower young girls to go after their dreams. Instead they reinforce the norms that happiness is about falling in love.

We’ve seen how illustrator Jason Porath has garnered a huge following with his cutting edge Rejected Princesses series of stories and illustrations about real life women from history who not only have an interesting story, but they don’t always have a happy ending. The idea was to promote realistic notions of heroic women, and to show audiences what is possible.

Another range of princesses hoping to ignite the same idea, is the Guardian Princess range aimed at young girls. The range of girls was created by Setsu Shigematsu who is a mom, and a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside. In 2013 she launched the first series called the Guardian Princess Alliance, featuring 7 women who fight for social justice and environmental issues.

She told NPR that she felt the typical princess story line needed a major overhaul.

“For my daughter’s fifth birthday, I decided to write an alternative princess story,” she says. “The kids really enjoyed it. But what was really surprising was the way the parents responded.”

Risti Marco, one of those parents understood how meaningful this series could be for young girls.


“The Guardian Princesses, they are more like, go there and do it for yourself. You can do anything you put your mind into it. You don’t have to wait for anybody. You can work together with Prince Charming and do stuff for the world, but you don’t have to sit there and wait for him to rescue you.”

Along with messages of empowerment, Setsu designed the range of stories to coincide with Common Core, the educational standards adopted by 45 states.

“This shift that’s happening across public education, with the Common Core standards, is to go beyond rote memory,” she says. “So we’re designing our books to be fun and visually appealing, but beyond that we want our books to teach important moral and ethical principles. There are the Common Core language standards, but the environmental theme will also help connect our books with the sciences.”

Some of the women in the range include Princes Terra who protects her people and land from a greedy invader, East-Asian super heroine Princess Ten Ten who helps fight terrible air pollution in her city, and Princess Vinnea, guardian of plant life. Each princess showcases diversity along with their social justice skills.

And to add to the book series, Setsu and at team of women dressed up and made a music video featuring a rap called “My Heart is True” featuring lyrics such as “A Guardian Princess is more than just a dress/She’s not self-obsessed or a damsel in distress/She is brave and kind, she uses her mind/A noble leader who is one of a kind.”

They have released the video as an accompaniment to the book series in order to gain more attention and hopefully spark the imaginations of more young girls, parents, and teachers to know that they have a duty to create inspiring foundational messages to counteract the narrow ideals we see in the media.

“The Guardian Princess Alliance is committed to educating and empowering children to make a difference in the world,” says Setsu.

Watch the video below and share this story with anyone you know who would benefit from this.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.