The Princest Diaries campaign that erupted on the internet over the weekend has upset child protective services organisations with it being labelled “highly inappropriate”.
Scott Jacobs, head of media and advocacy at not-for-profit child sexual abuse prevention organisation ChildWise, told B&T: “We think it’s highly inappropriate, it’s depicting things that shouldn’t be displayed to children in that manner. It’s also not doing it in an appropriate way.
“That kind of depiction is more likely to cause additional trauma for children that have been through it.”
The work, which shows beloved Disney characters being forcibly kissed by their fathers, wasn’t produced for a client or organisation, with the artist behind the images saying the work is not affiliated with Disney.
According to the artist Saint Hoax the main purpose of the campaign “is to encourage incest victims to report their rapists”.
“I recently learned that one of my closest friends was molested by her father when she was seven,” he told B&T.
“It took her 14 years to be able to share that traumatising experience. That story shocked me to my core. As an artist/activist I decided to shed light on that topic again in a new form.”
Saint Hoax said his posters are targeting victims of rape and sexual assault under the age of 18 and that he wanted to use a universal visual that would resonate with his target audience.
“I also used Disney princesses because they represent innocence, and painting them as victims becomes a visual representation of how innocence is taken away from kids when they experience sexual assault.”
The images have divided many. M&C Saatchi’s creative director Andy Flemming said he “fucking hated it”.
“I think it’s click baiting,” he said. “I hate it for a lot of reasons. The main reason is that my mother used to work with abused children. And I think, maybe it’s me being cynical, this person is simply doing it to get a huge amount of attention for themselves. And they’ve been successful.”
It’s not the way to do it.
“As a piece of communication, I don’t think it’s very good. It’s not hard to get a confronting image to trend worldwide, but it doesn’t mean it’s effective.”
Saint Hoax said he’d been hoping the images would go viral.
“That project especially needed the attention that it got,” he said. “I was hoping that it would go viral because that would actually help spread the message faster. Thankfully, it did. At this point, it no longer matters if the feedback is positive or negative as long as the message goes across.”
Flemming also raised the point that there was no helpline number attached to the image and no call to action.
“If he really wanted to do something about it, maybe adding a few abuse helpline numbers on his website would have at least shown intent,” he said. “But they’re not there.”
The Hallway’s executive creative director, Simon Lee, put it simply:
It confronts me with a problem, but doesn’t provide me with a way of a solution. It only does half of the job.
Saint Hoax said he had tried to contact a number of organisations about getting involved with the campaign.
“I actually tried contacting a few NGOs that deal with child abuse and sexual assault,” he said.
“I sent them emails asking them if they are interested in partnering up for the campaign because I needed to put a helpline number on the posters or a web address. Sadly, none of the organisations replied. I decided that I wasn’t going to let that stop me, so I went on with sharing the campaign on my own.
“After the posters got some attention online, the organisations replied. It was a bit too late because I had already shared the posters. But I did grant the organisations full rights to publish the images and link them to their helplines.”
Brian Merrifield, creative director at Common Ventures, however believes a lot of what’s been said about the campaign since its conception is “stupid”.
“Some of the public responses comes off rather stupid considering Princest Diaries isn’t advertising, it’s not sanctioned by Disney and it tackles the touchiest of topics,” he said.
“I’ve seen commentary like ‘it’s ruining my childhood memories of Disney’ or ‘the use of animated characters targets kids’ with little consideration as to why they’re looking at the work in the first place. These few, self-absorbed adults who aren’t ‘getting it’ are just adding to the works effectiveness.
“I think for an artist/activist Saint Hoax has achieved phenomenal cut-through online. Which isn’t that surprising given that the visuals pull on childhood heartstrings and the stat, although badly written, is pretty chilling.”
M&C Saatchi’s Flemming added: “I might be horribly completely wrong about the whole thing, but I don’t think I am.
If one person calls because of this, in spite of this, if someone does it, then fantastic.
B&T has contacted Disney and is awaiting a response. Kids Helpline declined to comment.