Sprung upon the (non-Japanese) world last week was a series of lingerie based on the Disney Princess brand. Yet here in the west, a bit of a burhaha unfolded as people discussed the merits and demerits of such merchandise. In the midst of it all, people forgot that they might not be so weird, or so bad after all.
While most of the discussion seemed to revolve around either the use of ‘children’s’ characters on such intimate items they also jumped to more than a few conclusions about the collection too. Cartoon Brew called it “racy”, Jezebel called it “jarring” and Rebecca Hains noted (albeit correctly) that the range represents yet another aspect of personal lives that have become carte blanche for corporate branding.
In the midst of all this, most people forgot that these products are for sale in Japan, a country noted for having some truly bizarre tastes. None of the articles I read seemed to take the cultural differences into account. In other words, while the Disney Princess Lingerie was deemed to be in poor taste, it was done so from the perspective of a westerner.
It shouldn’t take a globetrotter to realise that different countries have different cultures and while you can learn a lot about a country from afar, until you actually live there for a period of time, you’ll never truly understand it. That’s why there really might not be anything inherently wrong with these sets at all. If Japanese women want them, then why not sell them?
Disney isn’t alone in all this either, announced not long before Christmas is the series of Sailor Moon lingerie you see below:
Again, very similar in style (although certainly a bit more, er, spicy) and using, as a source of creative inspiration, animated characters that are aimed at kids. There was no similar fuss made about these for the simple reason that Sailor Moon is Japanese to begin with; Disney princess are inherently western. While many people are ambivalent to lingerie based on the former, they perceive problems when it comes to the latter thanks to inbuilt notions of character.
What makes all this so amusing is that Disney has been licensing their characters for male underwear for years and you didn’t hear a peep about that now did you!
Double-standards at work? Perhaps. Is it merely that the men’s underwear makes no pretensions in regards to character? Sure a guy might like to have Agent P on his jocks but he’s doing it merely for show, right? He isn’t attempting to compare himself to Agent P, he just wants to wear some humerous underwear, or is wife wants him to. Conversely, if a girl or women wears these Princess knickers and bra, is she identifying with the character and using it as a way of portraying of her own? It’s tough to say, given that underwear isn’t usually meant to be seen by others.
Overall, these events just further highlight how easy it is to forget that cultural differences continue to exist in a world that has become highly interconnected. If Disney Princess-branded lingerie is accepted in Japan, there’s little point in getting upset over it save for some easy pageviews.
Personally, I tend to agree with Rebecca Hains insofar that while branded merchandise is nothing new, Disney seem to be going to extremes to market the Princess line as the lifestyle brand of choice for women. Even though the notion of princesses and particularly the Disney marketing machine’s version, while fine in small doses, really can be detrimental to a girl’s personal development.