The word “role model” is tossed around a lot today. For some reason, society thinks they know who should and shouldn’t be worthy of this title for little girls. It’s a pretty annoying assumption, even though we can all agree to keep Nicki Minaj away from our kids, it can be hard for parents to find a proper woman they feel safe exposing their kids too. That’s why this week I’m going to write about a whole series, not just one character. This series is that good, so hold on to your space boots, little human nuggets!
It’s called Princeless, and I have a great story about it. When I was working at a comic shop this past year, a grandmother had come in and was asking me about good books for her 10 year-old granddaughter. I immediately told her about Princeless, and basically about how it was about a girl saving a princess, instead of a prince. Major female empowerment, and a great example of how little girls need not think of men as their saviors. So safe to say, I went on a bit of a tangent. After all that, the grandmother says, “Oh no, I don’t want any of that progressive stuff. That’s too much for me.” I think I have a scar on my tongue from how hard I had to bite it after that. Female empowerment too progressive? Gender equality “too much”? How? How, tell me?! I am still stumped to this day.
So let’s dissect it and see if we can figure this out together. I’m going to go with book three, because it’s my personal favorite, even though it was an extremely hard choice to make. Princeless the Pirate Princess is centered around Raven Xingtao, a, well…pirate princess, though she much prefers to just be called a pirate. Two former characters of the series, Adrienne and Bedelia, find her ironically locked in a tower and rescue her. Adrienne Ashe is a strong-minded black princess who goes around and rescues her sisters with her fabulous pink dragon, Sparky and her half-dwarf sidekick, Bedelia. Raven is more feisty than the previous princesses, because she is a pirate after all. However, she and Adrienne bump heads a bit at first because Raven challenges the laws Adrienne’s king father has put in place, and believes all people throughout the land deserve to be equal and seeks out to help them. When Raven tells Adrienne that it was her two brothers, also pirates, who turned on her and locked her in a tower, things get interesting. She is the heir to her father’s legacy, but to be locked away in a tower is a bit much, don’t you think?
So Jeremy Whitley’s written an amazing series, that much is certain. Two Eisner Award nominations and three Glyph Comic Award wins ain’t too shabby, tabby cat. But the vast amount of gender-swapping ideologies in this book propels the story forward while putting things into perspective. Through the book, the women are often seen as weak, meek, and unable to defeat the men in battle. Just like real life! Though, spoiler alert, they kick the living sprinkles outta those boys, and do it with pizazz. Raven has been training to be a warrior since she was small by her father, and Adrienne is an immensely strong fighter as well. Though there is fighting, the gorgeous and lighthearted artwork keeps it silly while still illustrating the bravery of the women.
This is a series I wish I had as a little girl growing up, and something I think a lot of little girls and boys should read. Looking for a role model? Who says they have to be real people? These are the kinds of messages we need to be teaching our young women. In so many types of media, women are often pitted against each other, and the fact that the word “catfight” doesn’t literally mean two kitty cats fighting is just sad. Women may fight, but it doesn’t mean they are any less of sisters. We don’t need any of this weave-tugging, stiletto throwing garbage. We need the acceptance that two women may have a disagreement without respecting each other any less, because differences in opinions and belief is a way of life. The world isn’t perfect, men may not believe you are as strong as them, and sometimes things are scary. But just because you’re scared doesn’t mean you are any less brave, and you are so much more than your looks. I am a strong believer in the message that all women are warriors in some fashion or another. You don’t need a sword or a bow, all you need is a fierce soul and a unique resilience that is all you. Be yourself and be respectful even in the face of opposition. Be your own kind of pirate, because we need more women pirates to save not only our sisters, but the rest of the world as well.