Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pretty Pretty Princess Camp

Ah, a new twist on the classic rags-to-princess-riches tale: An American woman dreams of royalty, moves to London, continues to obsess about royalty, meets the man of her dreams, and... starts a luxury princess camp. Yes, royal enthusiast Jerramy Fine has launched Princess Prep Camp. Now, for just £3,995 (that's $6,194.69) per child—girls only, natch—the eight-year olds in your life can live at the height of excessive opulence, complete with a butler named Jeeves, for one week (airfare not included). According to a profile in yesterday's Daily Mail, Princess Camp has been in the mind grapes of Jerramy Fine since she was a girl in the decidedly un-princess-y state of Colorado. That didn't stop her, though:

She said: 'When I was growing up, I was completely convinced that I had been swapped. For as long as I can remember I have known that I should have been a princess and something went terribly wrong. So I have spent the majority of my life intent on becoming royal and marrying Prince Peter. I decided to do my masters at the London School of Economics just so I could be in England. As soon as I got here it just felt like home. I loved the palaces, the parks, and the cute men with gorgeous accents. A lot of people my friends and family included thought I was completely mad but I could see no reason why my dream might not become a reality.'

Well, at least she was able to get into a prestigious graduate program with the sole intent of becoming a princess! (I hope she called it something else in her cover letter.)

Fine and a cutout of Prince Charles

Judging by this photo of her as a teen, Fine knew early on that her life's work would lie in providing an artificial version of the Princess Experience.

Not to get all wicked queen-y on Princess Camp, but I'm sure I don't have to tell you about the problems that go hand-in-formal-glove with the Princess Industrial Complex. They include: gender stereotypes, heteronormativity, materialism, classism, and sexist ideals (like moving to another country and getting a master's degree so that you can meet a prince and get him to marry you) along with a whole host of other shenanigans. Sure, girls (and boys) like to play dress up, but is an exorbitantly expensive camp that promotes unrealistic and potentially harmful gender and class expectations really the way to go here? (No, it isn't.)

Of course, Fine goes on to extoll the virtues of princess living, among them being charity work, good manners, and "wearing great dresses." She started Princess Prep Camp because she knew there were other girls out there who were making princess-ing their life's goal (she wrote a book on the subject after all), and it turns out she was right: Once the royal engagement was announced a few weeks ago, her roster completely filled up for this summer. Apparently there are a lot of parents out there who are encouraging of something like this, since it's not like the girls can sell enough lemonade to cover their own expenses.

Speaking of dollars, doesn't Princess Camp seem kind of like a rip-off? All that cash and your girl gets a tour of the palace and the chance to watch some princess movies with a nanny. For $6,194.69 (not even factoring in airfare costs) you could send your eight-year old daughter and 24 of her friends to Girls Rock Camp instead, a much better investment of your dollars and in her future. And speaking of Rock Camp, Fine is also thinking of opening up a Princess Prep Camp for adult women. Because every adult woman wants to put on a tiara and dream of marrying a 17-year old boy, right? (No, we don't.)

Princesses have long been a part of children's fantasy lives, and that's where they belong (along with a million other fun, imaginary characters). We do not need to make the societal pressures girls face all the worse by adding princess-level expectations to the lot. And we certainly don't need to further monetize the Princess Experience with a totally unnecessary "luxury camp." Girls can live just as happily ever without it.


  1. How does one write the word _no_ convinvingly enough in this case?

  2. I love your blog - The Bell Jar is one of my favourite books (the fig tree analogy has never left me) and our taste in old Hollywood royalty is identical! However, the Daily Mail misquoted the cost of my princess camp (among other things)- it is actually $3995 (NOT $6k+!!). Can I send you a copy of my book? - something tells me it will suprise you. Let me know.