Update: After the publication of this article, Mary-Jean Harris said she's 'taking a break from Freedom Princess’ and deleted the Facebook and Instagram pages for the project.
The latest Instagram story from Freedom Princess Canada shows a woman dressed like Frozen’s Elsa being crowned.
“Wear a crown, not a mask, and be the ruler of your own life,” the caption read. [Spoiler alert: Elsa renounces the crown at the end of Frozen 2.]
“What can you do to spread some pixie dust in your life?” reads another post under an image of the same woman, now dressed as Tinkerbell. “Kindly say NO when people ask you to cover your beautiful face with a mask.”
Yet another post shows the woman dressed as Cinderella and a caption telling children what to do when asked to wear masks and socially distance.
“We need to have the courage to tell others that this is NOT OKAY,” the caption says. “We need to keep our friends and family close, not far away from us, even if that means speaking up against restrictions that our teachers and leaders are imposing on us.”
Freedom Princess is a new anti-mask project featuring professional princess cosplayer Mary-Jean Harris creating videos of herself dressed up as characters, made famous by Disney, who espouse anti-mask rhetoric. (Harris stresses her characters are fairytale characters, not Disney characters.) The anti-mask community, as well as other conspiracy movements, have long been crying “save the children!” in their outreach efforts, but typically it’s an emotionally manipulative way of recruiting adults. Direct attempts to convert children to these conspiracies have been far rarer.
According to LinkedIn and previous news stories, Harris owns Fairytale Princess Parties, a business that sends out women dressed as princesses and other characters to children’s parties. When reached for comment, Fairytale Princess Parties said it’s “not associated with Freedom Princess” and told VICE World News to contact the anti-mask princess page directly.
In a Facebook conversation, a person running the Freedom Princess Canada page, who wouldn’t identify themselves, told VICE World News this was “a side project Mary-Jean is doing that is separate and not related to the company.” They were adamant that Fairytale Princess Parties not be mentioned in the story.
A person responding by email from the Freedom Princess account, who also did not identify themselves, said COVID-19 exists but wants to encourage kids to “think for themselves and stand up for what they believe in.” In particular, they want kids to “not take what the media says at face value, since the promotion of mandatory masks and excessive social distancing has been significantly harming them and their families.” The person told VICE they’re “not trying to reach children directly” but instead hope that parents will share Freedom Princess videos with their children.
Harris recently attended an anti-mask rally in Toronto where she gave an interview.
“Kids are being told to wear a mask, kids are being told they have to stay away from their friends, and I think that’s a really harmful thing for them as well as their families,” said Harris.
While the Freedom Princess page is still in its infancy—at the time of writing it had only 18 likes—it has posted several videos and even an anti-lockdown colouring page. In the caption for the colouring page, Harris prompts parents to talk to their children about what the “chain and cage represent” (presumably COVID-19 regulations). In one of the videos, Harris, dressed as Ariel from The Little Mermaid, urges children to disobey their school’s rules about masks.
Freedom Princess hasn’t been around for very long, debuting on Facebook and Instagram in early February. The first Facebook post, on February 2, says the group wants to create “a place for children to interact with their favourite characters and learn about the government’s restrictions of our freedoms that threaten the prosperity of our lives in a fun way.” Recently it held a Valentine’s video call for children in which Harris, dressed up as Elsa, gave out certificates to children who are “true Freedom Princess or Princes.”
In the videos, Harris is wearing the same costumes she uses in her day job. Fairytale Princess Parties offers a wide collection of princesses—many of which, according to images on its website, are played by Harris. For followers who believe in the medical recommendations surrounding COVID-19, it offers driveway visits where a princess will come to the driveway of a child and sing one of her signature songs.
In a news story from March 2020, Harris indicated Fairytale Princess Parties was dramatically hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
This isn’t the first attempt that anti-maskers in Canada have made at influencing children. In the summer, Chris Saccoccia, the childless man who started Mothers Against Distancing, attempted to start a network of anti-mask private school systems in Ontario.
Despite having relatively few followers online, Freedom Princess Canada is a hit for some; one woman on Instagram decreed it was “by far the most profound & important IG account I’ve seen.” Others don’t see it that way. Kimberly, who didn’t want her last name used out of fear of reprisal, found out about the company and flagged it to various news outlets on Twitter. She told VICE World News that, as a parent, she found it “disturbing.”
“I have kids myself so I know how hard it is for them and though I’m sure the parents that would be interested in the Freedom Princess are already teaching kids this stuff, to see Disney characters tell them to do this was manipulative and harmful to those kids.”
VICE World News has reached out to Disney about the use of its characters but did not receive a response.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.
Clarification: This story has been updated with comment from Harris, who says that her characters are fairytale characters, not Disney characters.