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Disney Princesses Hit the Real World

Disney princess Jasmine reimagined as an Islamic militant by photographer Dina Goldstein. Image by Dina Goldstein

Dina Goldstein’s “Fallen Princesses” is having another moment. You may have seen the collection of photographs when they debuted in 2009. But if not, don’t worry. In the last couple of days, Facebook and Twitter feeds have been stuffed with links to numerous articles and blog posts about the project. According to the Tel Aviv-born and Vancouver-based conceptual artist and photographer, this is the third time that “Fallen Princesses,” which takes an ironic look at children’s parables, has gone viral.

“I don’t really know what happened, but there seem to be new eyes looking at it,” Goldstein told the Sisterhood. “The work clearly has a visceral effect,” she continued about the images that imagine what might have really happened after the happy endings of various fairytales and Disney movies.

Snow White ends up a harried suburban housewife, Cinderella a lush slumped over a drink in a bar, and Jasmine an Islamic militant. Pocahontas trades the colors of the wind for a house full of cats, Sleeping Beauty’s handsome prince ages in a senior home as he waits for her to wake up, and Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” gets addicted to plastic surgery. Little Red Riding Hood ends up fighting a serious weight problem, and Rapunzel appears completely bald, having lost her long, beautiful tresses to chemotherapy.

In fact, it was breast cancer that spurred Goldstein to create this series. She began working on it in 2007, when her mother was diagnosed with the disease and her older daughter concurrently became obsessed with princesses (she’s now kicked the habit at age 8). Thankfully, Goldstein’s mother is fine now, as is her 99-year-old Israeli grandmother, who was also recently diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy.

Do Jewish neurotic tendencies have anything to do with Goldstein’s not leaving happy endings alone? “Yes, it’s true that we all have our bad luck and we shouldn’t hope for too much. And, of course, members of my family do a lot of complaining,” the artist said. “It may have something to do with being Jewish, but I think it’s really about being a realist.”

“Fallen Princesses” and Goldstein’s other conceptual series, including one called, “In The Dollhouse,” have been shown and celebrated internationally. “In The Dollhouse” peeks in to the home and marriage of the iconic Ken and Barbie dolls, commenting on the transient nature of beauty and the challenges of marriage.

The photographer, who uses the visual as her voice, obviously likes to focus on women and feminist issues. But it goes beyond that. “I like to look at the human condition and how we have ingested popular culture, especially in the West. I’m curious about how culture affects people,” she said. “I’m not judging or criticizing it. I’m just interpreting it.”

Renee Ghert-Zand is a freelance writer covering Israel and the Jewish world for the Forward and other publications.

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