The Not-A-Princess Disney Ladies

Let’s talk about the ladies of 90s and early 00s Disney movies who aren’t princesses, simply because we don’t do it enough.

Esmeralda

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When I was a kid, I wanted to be Esmeralda. I didn’t want the dancing or the persecution. I just wanted to have her sense of justice and the courage of her convictions.

She’s probably still my favourite Disney lady (honestly the competition is tough, but the fact that she was my childhood hero probably pushes her over the edge).

^^ This. All of it. This is who I wanted to be when I grew up.

Not the part about getting burnt at the stake. But if someone did ever try to do that, I hoped (and I guess I still hope) to be that defiant.

Esmeralda and the Jewel song “Hands” – that’s the definition of who I want to be.

Esmeralda is a bit more complicated than the fact that she’s my hero, though. For one thing, Jason Alexander (the voice of Hugo – everyone’s favourite gargoyle) was very excited about how “voluptuous” she was, compared to, >cringe< “Pokie.”* Which is just great.

But on that note, she’s one of Disney’s women of colour characters, and she is more sexualized than a lot of the white women characters and that’s… disappointing.

In the context of just the movie she’s in, though, her being sexualized is a good thing. She uses her sexuality to earn a living. Frollo tries to slutshame her and ends up falling directly into hell at the end of the movie so, point taken, Hunchback of Notre Dame.

She’s just doing her job, man. You can’t sentence her to death by burning just because it made you confused about… not even your religious convictions, really. Just your convictions about what a great, virtuous guy you are, despite all the genocide you’re doing.

If Esmeralda had been portrayed much more “innocently,” the point the movie makes about male entitlement wouldn’t have been as strong. Esmeralda is unmistakably a sexy, sexual woman, and you still don’t get to just do whatever you want with her. It’s important. A miracle, even, that this is a major part of a movie aimed at kids. When people say they want Disney to go back to making Hunchbacks of Notre Dames instead of the “garbage” they’re doing now I always roll my eyes but in this one respect, I agree. I’d like something edgier and ultimately more valuable from Disney occasionally.

Look at how she’s this woman that men can’t stop just flat out grabbing.

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… why does he think he should just sneak up behind her?

After this, of course, he earns her trust and respect and doesn’t pull this crap again.

The crown jewel is, of course:

Blegh.

Anyway. With Quasimodo, on the other hand – if they’re touching, she’s often the one who initiates it.

And these moments are always really sweet and thematic or whatever.

The moment that stands out where Quasi is the one rather forcefully initiating contact is, well:

I’m sure there are others, like when he’s helping her escape the cathedral or when he thinks she’s dead but the point still stands. There are clear differences in how these men act towards her, what is being coded as wrong and unacceptable, and what is demonstrated to be right.

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I’m not one of the people who wishes Phoebus wasn’t in it and the romance had been between these two because one thing we are sorely lacking in this world is portrayals of male/female friendship. I think it’s perfect the way it is, though I do get the yearning for this romance too. But it’s OK. There are other women in Paris.

Anyway, especially in a movie that goes all in on male entitlement to women’s bodies and love, having a scene where Quasi gets all heartbroken and then moves on, remains her friend, doesn’t, ultimately, anyway, resent her boyfriend, saves her life from the guy killing her because he can’t have her… is cool.

The word “cool” covers it, right?

Meg

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AKA, the best thing in Hercules.

Maybe most out of all other Disney ladies, at least the ones who aren’t villains, Meg is jaded, cynical, worldly.

“Well, you know how men are. They think ‘no’ means ‘yes’ and ‘get lost’ means ‘take me, I’m yours.'”

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Regarding these ^, first, she’s great, second, Hercules is the cutest, and third, her stinger, “Don’t worry, Shorty here can explain it to ya later” is fantastic and deserved.

Meg is soundly mistreated throughout this movie, and a good chunk of that mistreatment is, again, this is another woman various men can’t stop grabbing. But there are also moments where the good characters are overly hostile towards her as well.

Phil is the worst to her, and some of the time his mistrust and anger towards her are justified but mostly his attitude is pretty garbage. Then Hercules himself, when Hades tells him Meg’s his henchwoman, just – like – dude, let her talk. If you’d let her talk, she’d tell you the whole stupid story in which she’s only sort of to blame, and even then, not really.

She’s sad and indentured. Come on, now.

And I know, we need him to get really really sad and feel all betrayed because we require some dramatic tension, but it’s still a little tiring when she’s right next to him and he could have just asked her to explain it to him after the fact. And if he really is the nice, understanding guy that the entire Meg relationship is painting him to be, he probably wouldn’t have blown up right away.

Then there’s Hades himself. Since Hades is the villain, everything he does is wrong so I guess it’s fine how extremely grabby he is with her the whole time.

Hades is the worst.

He’s not worse than Frollo but he is pretty bad still.

While collecting images of him seizing her by the shoulders and being gross about “curves” I remembered that he even grabs her spirit and mimes her talking to Hercules, so here’s that:

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That’s – yeah. That’s not cool. Hercules’s face is the truth there, as is the part where he megasonic-punches him into the pool of the dead for this.

It’s just so extremely disrespectful. Again, he’s the villain, but Meg gets snarked at way too much by the good guys too, which is lousy.

Meg, you deserved better. Which is something Hercules knows (throughout most of the movie, anyway).

I like her as she is, but the fact that she’s all but blameless for her situation (she sold her soul to Hades with the best of intentions, after all) is something I’ll note.

If Meg was working for Hades out of a general lack of consideration for people around her and had to realize the error of her ways, like Kuzco in Emporer’s New Groove, it would just be… better. First because it would make how angry Herc gets make more sense.

More importantly, though, and this is a recurring theme here at OwlMachine, we really want, nay, need, some unlikable, morally complicated women characters in Disney movies. Honestly, Maleficent in Maleficent is a START. We need them to pick up the ball they started rolling there and go way bigger.

Maybe not way bigger. But we wouldn’t say no to a female Kuzco.

Please?

Jane

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I’m not a huge watcher of Tarzan so mostly I know that Jane is a very enthusiastic zoology/art nerd. Which is cool.

I do like this one moment where she’s the one who initiates the kiss at the end and he doesn’t know what that is so she gets all embarrassed.

CuuuuuuuuuuuUUUUUUte.

Like all of the ladies so far on this list, she’s here to fill the love interest role, and although I prefer the almost kind of edgy version they did with Meg – the cynical, downright jaded  version of the love interest – Jane is pretty great too. She’s warm, enthusiastic, and empathetic. Pretty much impossible not to like, is Jane.

Nani

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I would die for Nani.

This girl has it all: tragically dead parents, a traumatized/eccentric/probably needs some therapy little sister that she is now the sole guardian for, a violent alien dog, no job and tourist season is over, a really hyper-vigilant social worker hounding her every step, a love interest she can’t actually deal with right now, and more aliens coming to destroy her house.

Poor Nani.

Her relationship with Lilo is a typical explosive but close sister relationship, strained these days mainly due to the dead-parent thing. And also because The State keeps threatening to take Lilo away, which is very unhelpful.

Thanks, Stitch.

There’s really nothing else to say about her, at least, not that I can think of now. How about a bullet list? That always helps when I just like something and wouldn’t change it one bit.

Nani for president:

  • because she’s good to the core
  • she’s doing a fantastic job considering her circumstances
  • she is holding it together like a champ and I’m not even exaggerating when I say: her presence in Lilo and Stitch is always legitimately inspirational and comforting
  • the part where she tells Stitch she knows he can talk, then he says, “OK, OK,” and she screams and hits him is GOLD
  • David could tell you the rest
  • I wish every Lilo could have a Nani looking out for them.

The End

And that’s it for this era of Disney movies. I’d like to talk about each of them in more detail some other time because these characters are great and should get talked about more.


*I know this because of this Lindsay Ellis essay which is always worth a watch

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Cerebrus was never meant to be screencapped

Picture yourself trying to write about cool things, needing a still image or two from Disney’s quite frankly AMAZING(ly awful but still AMAZING) Hercules, heading over to disney screencaps dot com which is now animation screencaps dot com, and finding this.

This brief snippet of Cerebrus fighting himself over a steak is always a favourite of mine whenever I watch Hercules and it looks so fluid and cool animated but stilled it’s just the gift that keeps on giving.

Animation is cool.

So is Hercules, which does this a lot, really.

Murder Princesses

A long, long, long time ago, I started writing a thing about how Andrew Stanton was annoyed that predator and prey species coexist in The Lion King and so he went on to infuse his movie, Finding Nemo, with such examples of natural realism as a pelican scooping up two fish and some sea water and flying them away from a flock of seagulls to rescue the son of one of the fish, who is acquainted with the pelican because the pelican frequently visits the fish tank where the fish son currently lives to watch a human dentist practice dentistry the way the rest of us watch the olympics or whatever.

And I keep getting distracted and writing paragraphs about humpback whales and fictional telepathic gorillas and human civilizations living in South American rainforests, and now,

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and I think it’s time for just a quick post about something I only fully began to appreciate recently.

Nala and Kiara are murder princesses.

Nala, best friend and love interest of The Lion King‘s protagonist, tries to kill and eat Puumba, one of the protagonist’s surrogate fathers.

It’s mostly played for comedic effect. The scene is tense and quite scary, but probably no one except the very young in the audience actually think SHE’S GONNA EAT [PUUMBA]. Also Timon tells Simba to GO FOR THE JUGULAR.

They can pull it off precisely because the entire audience sees a scary lionness preparing to pounce in the long grass and thinks, “Oh, it’s Nala,” so we know what we’re in for is one of those hijinks-infused sequences in which everyone misunderstands everything until finally each of the love interests realize who the other is.

It’s just that this hijinks-infused sequence is a very dramatic chase scene in which the female love interest and basically Disney princess is trying to kill and eat one of the comedy animals.

This is what happens when your movie is about lions.

In the very not good though still admittedly technically competent sequel, teenage angst ensues because KIARA JUST WANTS SOME FREAKING INDEPENDENCE, DAD.

INDEPENDENCE WHILE HUNTING. KILLING ANTELOPE THINGS.

I’m even willing to admit that Kiara’s murder princess scene is a little bolder than Nala’s, since, in The Lion King, we know Puumba, and we know that it’s Nala, and we’re assuming that everything will be set right as soon as Simba shows up.

In this sequence, Kiara is just hunting a random herd of animals who don’t have any lines or names. I’m not even sure what species they are. They’re probably purposefully not one of the more recognizable prey species of lions. Could anyone root for Kiara after watching her hunt a herd of zebra, for example?

Personally I don’t root for her at all, but that isn’t the point and I’m just jaded. The actual point is that theoretically, Kiara could be successful on her hunt because she isn’t hunting a main character or even a character with a small speaking role. She isn’t hunting anyone off-limits.

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But Nala’s the one with all the teeth and claws, and also she’s in the better movie. But it doesn’t matter. Disney’s lioness princesses/queens are violent predators and the movies are kind of shockingly honest about that.

Neat.

A Coco Complaint

I FINALLY went to see Coco and I have one extremely important complaint:

WHY ARE THERE NO FULL-LENGTH SONGS SUNG BY ANTHONY GONZALEZ ON THE SOUNDTRACK????????????????????

Ahem.

I suppose, technically, both “Proud Corazón” and “Poco Loco” are full-length songs, but “Proud Corazón” is only two minutes and “Poco Loco” is LESS than two minutes and in the movie that performance 100% gets interrupted. And “The World es Mi Famiglia” is less than ONE MINUTE long! What is this nonsense?

Pixar basically made a musical without making a musical, and the short bursts of song throughout the movie definitely work for the pacing BUT I WANT FULL-LENGTH AND MAYBE EVEN LIKE 20-MINUTE VERSIONS OF THESE SONGS ON THE SOUNDTRACK AT LEAST, COME ON!

Pixar what are you doing to me.

This is not OK.

I am not OK.

Anatomy of a Traitorous Disney Opinion: We Liked the Beauty and the Beast Remake

Hi there! Here we all are on this fine day, finding ourselves parked on this web page which belongs to two people who preferred the 2017 Beauty and the Beast to the 1991 Beauty and the Beast. It’s not the first time we’ve liked the newer, live actioner version of a Disney classic better than the original version, but our preferences tend to run against the grain of how, like, everyone else in the universe feels about these live action Disney remake movies.

We wanted to discuss our B&tB feelings in depth but were too lazy to write another long-winded post about it, so we went on a Canadian staycation and had an actual verbal conversation about it and recorded it, probably while black bears lumbered around outside looking for snacks. But we didn’t bring the right equipment for the microphone so the sound is not great; only one of us is properly audible. So, this is an extremely informal transcript/summary of that conversation. It’s really important that we share it, guys. We were totally insightful. *shifty eyes*

First, we complained about our internet names and how weird they are instead of actually introducing ourselves.

To fix this I’ll just stick this here: hi, I’m erm, I had a stupid day today and it involved a lot of dying animals. Three is my sister and she’s currently making a video about Michael Scott for a class for her MBA.

So then we yelled at each other about who should start talking. Then Three tried to hum the iconic Disney opening “When You Wish Upon a Star” notes and it was really bad. She may actually be tone deaf and/or she doesn’t remember 3/4 of the notes and the order they go in of that song. But then we started, right off the bat, with something important.

Erm: I think you’re too harsh about Belle.

Three: I think YOU’RE too harsh about Belle.

Erm: Wow, good counterargument. You said, that she – she’s elitist. I think you’re right, but I think, sometimes –

Three: Did I say she was elitist?

Erm: No, that was between the lines. I think that sometimes, in a movie, your character has to kind of be elitist.

Three: Well, I think that’s why Belle works for so many people. Because everyone wants to believe that they are the one person –

Erm: That’s what you were saying, and I think you’re being harsh.

Three: How is that harsh?

Erm: Because –

Three: I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’m just saying it’s a thing.

Erm: Well, you have to keep pointing out that it’s not a bad thing.

Three: OK, well, next time I write a post about B&tB I’ll point out that it’s not a bad thing. But it is the whole – look, it’s not a bad thing unless it’s the entirety of the character, is to be better than everyone else.

Erm: But that’s not really the entirety, because she’s so isolated from everybody most of the time, and then, OK, so, in the town, that’s what it’s about but when she goes to the castle that’s not what it’s about anymore, now she’s just at the castle.

Three: But she doesn’t do anything in the castle.

Erm: OK, but that’s your other thing, is that she does nothing, so –

Three: Well that’s my – that’s what I’m saying is when the entirety of your –

Erm: She does go off and save her father twice.

Three: Yeah, that’s something, but, why is her only personality saving men?

Erm: That’s not a personality, that’s actions.

Three: Sorry. Why are her only actions saving men?

Erm: … because… that’s just… how it is.

Three: At least in the live action she saves herself, or tries to.

Erm: Yeah, I think she has more to do in the live action, but not that much more.

Three: And she tries to teach a little girl to read.

Erm: Yes, but still, these are small things, like her story doesn’t change all that much. It’s just little details that they added that make it a little more –

Three: I like to see little hints of a personality in there because I know that she’s there to perform a specific role for the audience to make you feel like you could be put in this story, she’s the avatar character, she’s the Bella Swan of this story, and you can be like, “I can be her,” and, yeah, you probably could, but it’s nice to see her occasionally do something other than be kind of a blank slate, save men from themselves.

Erm: *mutters unintelligibly through that whole speech*

LATER…

We argued about whether the Beast was going to save Belle from the wolves or apologize or just to get her back in the animated one, and basically decided that it doesn’t matter. But we note that in the new version everyone knows about the wolves so it’s clearer that he is trying to save her, not just recapture her.

We compared how the servants cower while Belle is yelling at the Beast for not cooperating with the hurt/comfort she’s trying to provide him with, whereas in the new version, while the servants are still occasionally scared of him, mostly, they don’t let his dickish behaviour go uncommented upon.

Three: So, you say that in the animated version it’s not clear what lesson he’s supposed to be learning, ’cause it’s almost like there’s two stories happening simultaneously, like one about appearances and one about controlling your temper, and he doesn’t seem to learn either.

Erm: Yeah.

Three: So what lesson would you say he’s learning in the live action?

Erm: He does learn that – he’s a snob, and that goes away, and that’s all that happens. Basically, he learns a lesson she should have been learning if they had made her character flawed and needing an arc. It could start with her being a snob, and she has to learn.

Three: That not being able to read doesn’t make you less of a person.

Erm: Yeah, but, I don’t think that’s what she believes, but, sure.

Three: She believes it about Gaston.

Erm: No.

Three: Although, he is a terrible person.

Erm: She knows that he’s a terrible person because he’s a terrible person.

(We agreed to disagree)

We talked about how we haven’t seen Gaston apologists ever. But there are a lot of Scar and Frollo apologists and we’re unimpressed. I informed Three that there are Ratcliffe apologists – more like, there are people who are honestly impressed by Pocahontas for showing how “both sides were wrong.” When, y’know, one side was clearly the wrong one.

Erm: We also complained [in the blog post we did on the animated movie] about the town and how it’s designed to be awful. Um. I don’t know. Is it that big of a deal? Is there anything like that in a Disney movie, ’cause that is a thing, like, if you live in a really intolerant place and all of your neighbours are horrible people…

Three: I think we wrote that in a time before Trump was elected, where we were a lot more likely to look at these people and say “Oh I bet there’s human inside of them and they’re probably very nice and have a lot of real problems and insecurities,” and now we’re just like “Ah you know what, they probably would have voted for Trump.”

Erm: Yeah. But in the live action version they do have – I think it’s in the spur of the moment that they [form a hate mob], but then the magic breaks and then they remember that they’re married to these people. So, it’s weird, the hate mob that just showed up is a bunch of good people.

Three: The hate mob is just like, “Can we kill my wife and child?”

Erm: It’s just really bizarre.

Three: It is really bizarre. I don’t – that’s true, maybe that doesn’t work.

Erm: A lot of the story doesn’t work in the live action and the animated one.

Three: I really enjoyed the fact that some of them were married to the servants, though, because why wouldn’t they be?

Erm: Because it’s hard to be married to someone who lives in castle.

Three: Well maybe they all lived in the castle. I don’t knooooow. I’m just saying they have families and lives, they’re not just servants, like there’s more to them than that.

We debated whether three’s description of Belle in the post was too harsh, because erm thought that you could do that with any of the Disney princesses (at least until the early nineties), and we didn’t really get anywhere except to suggest that maybe Belle seems “worse” (for lack of a better word) than the others in terms of agency is because it isn’t really her story, she just serves a narrative purpose in the Beast’s. Falling in love with the Beast is important, because it shows that she’s compassionate, but the act of falling in love is also really passive. It almost seems to happen against her will, in fact.

Erm: And we already know that she’s capable of [falling in love with the Beast] because she knows Gaston is an idiot despite the fact that he’s pretty.

Three: I think the reason I go out of my way to say that Belle is a bad character as opposed to any of the others is because –

Erm: Is she a bad character or is she just not the focus of the story when she seems like she should be?

Three: I don’t know. She doesn’t work for me as a character. And the reason why I always have to fight that is because the understanding is she’s supposed to be ours. If you’re a brunette, she’s supposed to be yours. If you like to read, she’s yours. If you’re quiet, she’s yours. If you’re an outsider, she’s your princess, she’s for you. She’s supposed to be our favourite.

[Three is apparently very angry about the several people who assumed her favourite princess is Belle]

[Shoutout to all the Middle Eastern, Native American, Chinese, African American, Polynesian, and, we’re assuming, Scottish women who dislike the movies/princesses that people must automatically assume they love, because apparently this is a problem]

[Seriously, though, we imagine that, for example, being Native and having to hear about Pocahontas all the damn time when it’s not a good look – like, at all – at colonialism, would be kind of a nightmare]

Three: There’s just nothing to her.

Erm: It’s because it’s not about her, it’s about the Beast.

Three: Yeah. And I guess what it is is that the story that could have been didn’t happen, and I feel like I was cheated out of a princess.

Erm: I don’t think I was cheated out of a princess but I do think that Beauty and the Beast is a missed opportunity. To have a female character who has to learn something and who starts out as unlikable because this would have been the opportunity to do that.

Three: They’re never going to write an unlikable princess. They get chewed up and spit out every time they try.

Erm: I don’t know that they try.

Three: Merida?

Erm: That was Pixar. But yeah. When Brave came out I saw people arguing that she was wrong, she should have just gotten married and why was she so mad, and it’s like, are you serious? Do you want to actually think about that for a minute? I just think – when you’re used to all the princesses being nice people from the start and then you have one who is slightly selfish – and I think Merida was right.

Three: Yeah I think she was too.

Erm: And I think the movie doesn’t think that she’s right, but she was right.

Three: She was right.

Erm: She’s basically Ariel. She does exactly what Ariel does. She goes and finds magic to solve the problem of her parents not letting her do what she wants to do and then it ruins her parents’ life, and then in Brave it comes down to, she has to apologize. But they were kinda going to ruin your life, and they weren’t listening to you, so what were you supposed to do?

Three: Yeah, I don’t even think she is selfish.

Erm: No, and I think that her parents have a lot more power than she does, so it is more their responsibility to actually listen to their kid.

Three: But, for some reason, people can’t handle seeing a princess who isn’t perfect. And this comes back to the fact that female characters are held to a much higher standard than male characters. We’re fine seeing male redemption arcs all the time but when do you ever see a female redemption arc, especially in children’s lit?

Erm: And this would have been perfect for that, because in the original fairy tale – it’s not like she really learns anything, it’s just that the beast is a good guy except for the fact that he sentences people to death for picking a flower, but other than that, he’s a good guy, and she lives in the castle, and over time she learns that he’s good even though he looks scary, and then she leaves, and decides to come back. So all you had to do was add some personality, so that she would be resistant to liking him, even though he’s nice, because of the way he looks, and there you go.

Three: So she learns that appearances don’t matter.

Erm: Yeah, it’s not about him. He’s like any of the cursed princesses in any story. He just needed to be saved.

This said, we still like that they fleshed out the Beast’s story for the live action, which they did because the Disney version really is his story. And we felt that they should have just committed to that.

Cinderella was Jack Jack and Gus’s story, according to us, which is a thing we’ve said before.

So then erm wanted to talk about masculine self-hate and managed to not talk about it very well.

Erm: I think that, mainly in the animated one, most of the Beast’s conflict is just about masculine self-hate. He’s just wounded and he lashes out, and he recognizes immediately that she could break the spell but thinks it’s also impossible.

Three: And tries anyway, and when it doesn’t work he’s like, “Of course it didn’t work.”

Erm: He’s afraid of rejection so he asks her in a really aggressive way.

Three: What part in particular is the self-hate, is it the end?

Erm: Yeah. Yeah! Because she leaves and then he gives up on life.

Three: So he literally lies down and lets Gaston try to kill him.

Erm: And still doesn’t get up despite being beaten to death and shouted insults at, he’s like, “Ah, it’s fine. This is how I die.” I don’t know – it’s hard to talk about because I don’t think I understand it at all, being female, but I know that it’s a thing, like, that’s why they put women on pedestals, that’s why Belle doesn’t have a character, that’s why most of the princesses don’t have [unintelligible – but, maybe something along the lines of flaws, arcs, idk].

Three: So what is the man and the beast archetype?

Erm: So it’s a dichotomy – I think that Disney does masculinity really well, usually, but here, they’re kind of relying on – it’s a really old model of perfect masculinity against animals. So everything that’s perfect, like, being logical, and – uh –

Three: Gaston?

Erm: No, because he’s not. He is and he isn’t. But like, being at the top of the food chain, and logical, and smart, and thoughtful, are all on the man side, and then everything chaotic and hysterical and emotional and – violent is usually on the animal side. But then what happens is that they put anybody – so like women: women are considered to be emotional, so they get put on the animal side. And then, anyone who isn’t really rich is more like an animal because they’re uneducated, so they can’t be as logical, and then anybody who isn’t white is obviously more like an animal – that’s how they justify everything to do with colonialism, that’s how they justify slavery, obviously anybody who’s gay – anybody who isn’t a really rich white guy from Europe, is more like an animal. So this system hurts everybody, except the extremely rich white guy, basically. And the way that they do it in Beauty and the Beast is that the Beast proves that he’s not a beast by not being violent towards Gaston, and not caring about his life anymore, and being tamed by femininity, and Gaston gets put on the animal side – and the problem with that is that he’s uneducated, and a brute, and he’s a villager. I think that they’re not trying to do that, but in some ways it’s still connected.

[this stuff is more complicated than this]

[and is 100% the basis of the intersectionality of animal rights, btdubs]

Erm: And I don’t think that – Hunchback doesn’t do that.

Three: No. Well, Frollo is clearly a powerful white man.

Erm: He is, and he’s religious, and virtuous, he thinks.

Three: He seems to be nonviolent – until he doesn’t anymore, but still.

[“Seems” is a good word here. Frollo is torturing people and genociding from the very beginning of the movie. It starts with him killing Quasi’s mom and attempting to drown an infant. He just thinks he’s justified, and despite the fact that the audience knows he isn’t, right from the start, his authority and self-righteousness kind of makes us forget what a reprehensible and violent person he is, which is exactly how logical powerful rich European white men got away with all sorts of atrocities – it was for everyone else’s own good, because those dudes knew best. Or at least, that’s what they kept saying.]

Erm: Oh and, um, Tarzan. Because the guy – he’s British, and like, really British, with a pompous accent, he’s got the gun, he’s the logical one, he’s manipulating everybody –

Three: But Tarzan, the uneducated ape-person, is – so, Disney likes to ask the question, who is the monster and who is the man, not just in Hunchback but in a bunch of different movies, and in Beauty and the Beast, the answer was, the blond-haired, blue-eyed prince with the expensive education, who happens to be having a bad hair day, is the man, and Gaston is the monster.

Erm: Well, in this one, he says, “I am not a beast,” [it’s a really good impression of Dan Stevens, for real] and it’s like, where did this conflict coming from? You haven’t discussed this at all. And even, in the Mob Song, LeFou gets a line that we both like, which is, “something, something, something, something,” [it’s a less good impression of Josh Gad, to be honest].

Three: It’s written really cleverly and I can’t remember what it is. Something about, yes there’s a beast, but I’m afraid the true monster has been awoken or something, it’s way better than what I just said.

[It’s: “There’s a beast running wild, there’s no question/but I fear the wrong monster’s released.”]

Three: So, saying, sure, there’s a beast out there somewhere but this guy is the actual problem, which, thank you, LeFou, for being all of us, at all times.

Erm: Well, yeah. I think Beauty and the Beast lends itself to masculine self-hate which is probably why it didn’t do as good a job at showing the healthy version of masculinity – I don’t know that there’s one healthy version of masculinity but they do show you the unhealthy version and they reject it.

Three: Well. Certainly Gaston is unhealthy.

Erm: Yeah, and I think they do that really well, it’s just a little bit uncomfortable how clear it’s made that he’s stupid. But now, I’ve changed my mind a little bit, because of what happens in politics, when you don’t uphold intelligence.

We talked about the wardrobe joke and how it’s a little, tiny bit better than the animated version of the same joke, but it’s still a joke at the expense of men in women’s clothing which isn’t cool and is sort of low key transphobic. Or not low key.

Also we liked Gad’s LeFou; a simple matter of taste. We acknowledged that he isn’t good representation at all but we liked him anyway.

Three claimed she doesn’t like Olaf, erm said, “Three of House OwlMachine, I name you liar.” Because she couldn’t stop laughing at the part where Olaf says, “I don’t have a skull.”

She continues to claim that even though she thinks that is one of the best lines in the movie, she doesn’t want Olaf to be there. And then she forgot that Hei Hei exists. But she likes Hei Hei. She just forgot him.

We talked a lot more about upcoming live action Disney movies, but we had very little else to say on the actual topic so for now, I’m going to stop transcribing.

Maybe I’ll pick it back up for when the next live action remake comes out.

In conclusion: we liked the live action one better, probably mostly because it was longer and fleshed out the side characters a lot and we responded to that. Because the main thing that we learned here is that our fundamental problems, mainly, that Belle doesn’t drive her own story/have an arc/learn anything/have to self-actualize, and that the Beast is a bit of a strange depiction of masculinity, for Disney, at least, didn’t really improve in the live action one.

Three’s Abandoned Princess Appreciation Post

This post is a thing Three wrote months ago and then abandoned. Apparently she abandoned it because she was under the impression that she had already posted it. It doesn’t have a conclusion but I’m posting it anyway because it’s pro-Princess and why not, we could use more of that always.


For most of my life, I have been confused and fascinated by “Baby On Board” bumper stickers. My primary concern is this: If you do not, in fact, have a baby on board, is it then okay to crash into you? No? Then isn’t the sticker a little redundant?

I suppose I can forgive the existence of these stickers since they are well-intentioned – they mean to remind people to drive safely. I’m okay with that. However, every day when I get to work, I park next to a car which has two crown-shaped bumper stickers.

The blue: “King on Route.”

The pink: “Princess on Route.”

I’m sorry, I have to ask. Assuming that these do not refer to legitimate royalty, why does your son get to be King and your daughter is a mere Princess? That was obviously a deliberate marketing decision made by someone, somewhere. Do we not like the word ‘prince’? Or, worse, do we mistrust the word ‘queen’?

Or… are we using the traditional patriarchal monarchy in which your son is the Crown Prince (still not King, but anyway) and therefore your daughter will be Princess for life because she’s not entitled to rule unless your son dies with no heirs?

Gotta say, since this isn’s a real monarchy (again I’m making an assumption, but if these people really are royalty, why do they work in the same building as me?) why can’t you stretch reality just a tad further and make your daughter a Queen?

Thus, every morning, I am reminded about Princesses and all the rules and regulations that come with being one. And this is where I’ll begin.

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“SHE DOES NOT DOODLE”

A Princess Is a Role Model

I’m the princess. I’m the example. I’ve got duties, responsibilities, expectations. My whole life is planned out, until the day I become, well, my mother. She’s in charge of every single day of my life.

The requirement for Princesses to be Role Models goes beyond the lessons Merida gets from her mother in Brave. Indeed, when Brave was released, we were inundated with criticism about Merida and her suitability as a role model for girls. Clearly, these people either didn’t watch the movie or just completely, embarrassingly, missed the point. But I digress: Today is about Disney.

While Disney certainly relies on traditional female narratives more than it should, it is also not afraid to unpack those narratives. As the Disney Renaissance rolled around, we saw princesses begin to participate more actively in their stories, and Disney began to provide some gentle commentary on the patterns we tend to see in our female characters.

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G:”And you know who that little wife will be?”/B: “Let me think.”

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Gaston is the best thing about this movie. He, and the way Belle reacts to him, hit way too close to home.

While Ariel pursues a dream of her own, and Jasmine plays a side-role in someone else’s adventure, Belle’s story has the most poignant animate metaphor ever for all Patriarchy who marches into her house and tells her that she’ll be marrying him. And as we all have at some point or another, Belle rolls her eyes and then tricks him into leaving her house so she can get on with her life.

Four years later, this happened:

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“Is all my dreaming at an end?”

Pocahontas, like Belle, is faced with a traditional narrative: Marry the man who we’ve deemed good enough for you. In fact, Pocahontas’ narrative is a little less on-the-nose than Belle’s, because her father is in on it – and because Kocoum seems to be perfectly nice, if serious. Despite this movie’s (many) flaws, it opened the Disney Door to the idea that even if a man is decent and good looking and  your dad likes him, a woman might not want to bone him and shouldn’t have to. HMMMMMM IMAGINE THAT. And it isn’t even because she’s after John Smith instead, because she hasn’t met him yet. She just doesn’t want the future she envisions when she imagines herself married to stoic warrior dude.

Now, this isn’t groundbreaking stuff. These are tropes in themselves that belong to many female characters outside of the Disney and Fairy Tale realm, where they don’t go for the one guy and instead go for the other guy (see: every Romantic Comedy ever). So let’s get into the real deep-fried tofu of the discussion with my three personal favourites.

Mulan and the Female Narrative

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“Can I just-“

There she is. You knew it was coming.

Mulan depicts an extremely strict cultural narrative for women, referenced again and again in song, dialogue, and imagery like this:

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Literally painting her face to look like “a perfect porcelain doll.” There’s a reason why many complaints about the tendencies of women in Disney end in: “Well, except Mulan.” Also, I could watch this GIF all day. I wish I had those liquid eyeliner skills.

Self-image, or “reflection,” is one symbol the movie uses to not-so-subtly talk about the female narrative and how it doesn’t quite suit all of us. While Belle and Pocahontas lamented being expected to marry men they weren’t really into, Mulan didn’t even mention the that they were attempting to marry her off – she sings about the fact that her personality is at odds with the role she is expected to play as a woman, wife, and daughter.

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“Can it be, I’m not meant to play this part?”

The crux of this issue, of course, is that being who she is would “break [her] family’s heart.” While it’s clear that she feels conflicted about who and what to be at this stage in her life, the choice is taken away from her when her father is summoned back to the army – now that she has to save her father’s life, she grasps the opportunity to escape as an added bonus.

That reflection imagery comes back when Mulan goes to chop her hair off, in this genius sequence which is only more genius with soundtrack:

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Thus, Mulan solidifies her commitment to rejecting her narrative that society is trying to impose on her because she is female, while taking one last look at her own face in the reflection of her father’s sword. Symbolism.

Tiana and the Female Narrative

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“Look out boys, I’m coming through!”

We discussed this one recently (erm’s note: haha, recently), touching on how Tiana rejects the idea of fairy tales and wants to gain everything through hard work. We can try reading this through a feminist lens as well. Shall we?

The traditional female narrative we like to criticize Disney for involves a lady like Cinderella sitting pretty while the plot happens around her. Some ladies, like Belle and Mulan, get dragged into adventure because they have to save their fathers, and in doing so manage to become self-actualized. But they didn’t do it on their own – they were compelled by circumstance.

Tiana is also technically compelled by circumstance once the frog stuff happens, but the difference between her and her fellow princesses is that unlike Cinderella, Belle, and even Mulan, she isn’t waiting around at home passively dreaming about how nice it would be if things were different, which is what Cinderella does before starting her day and in between her chores, and it’s what Belle does after Gaston proposes to her, and it’s what Mulan does before the conscription notice happens. Not that this sort of passivity is inherently bad, because it’s not. It’s relatable, for one thing. A lot of life is being a little patient and dreamy. But it is nice, for a change, to have a female character out there taking charge and actively trying to make her dream happen as soon as we first see her as an adult working two jobs. Ambition. It’s a scary thing for women to have, apparently, but Tiana has it in spades. (erm’s note: we should really talk about how the movie is a little really weird about Tiana and her ambitions at some point but for now just take it for what it is.)

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“Prince? But I didn’t wish for any -“

Fairy tale circumstance only slows her down, if we’re pretending that the main narrative is Tiana getting her restaurant (which… it kind of is). Between froggy princes and racist realtors, it seems like everything is working against Tiana’s Palace.

But even though she has to temporarily stop chasing her restaurateur dreams and fall in love real quick, the role that Tiana plays in her fairy tale is a role often held by a man.

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“Yep, I’m used to it. Guys, I want a castle.”

Like this man, for example.

Tangled is a traditional story of optimism VS cynicism, in which optimism wins out because Disney and also because Children’s Lit. We have our beautiful, virtuous, wide-eyed optimist Princess, and then we have Flynn Rider, who is just too good for all of this fairy tale stuff. Or so he thinks.

The new renaissance princess of The Princess and the Frog is probably this lady:

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Tiana is held in stark contrast to Lotte throughout the film:

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“I’d really like to help you, but I just do not kiss frogs.”

Tiana is no thief, and she’s not a “heartless” “cynic,” but as far as she’s concerned at the beginning, she is definitely too good for this fairy tale nonsense. The movie sets out to prove her wrong about love and magic and fairy tales, and in doing so, it completely turns Disney stereotypes on their heads by letting the princess change her own mind rather than her dude’s.

Elsa, Anna, and the Female Narrative

Here’s another movie that deliberately set out to deconstruct female narratives.

Let’s talk about Anna first.

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“We would like your blessing of our marriage.”

So Anna is supposed to be the traditional princess in this movie. She checks all the boxes – cooped up with no social life to speak of, gets compelled to go on an adventure to save someone else, falls in love immediately and decides to get married right away… Every part of her story mimics the Renaissance princesses.

Until:

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“If only somebody loved you.”

*Glass shatters* This isn’t a Renaissance movie, folks.

Now, I think we all saw the Anna/Kristoff thing coming, so I doubt many of us were completely shocked by this reveal. However, it was the first time in any Disney film that a Princess has it wrong about her Prince. Until now, we’ve been very reverent toward the idea of true love, but Frozen argues that it’s a little more complicated than that.

But this isn’t about romantic, prince/princess love, it’s about women. So what does Anna tell us about women in Disney?

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“Some people are worth melting for.”

From the beginning, this was a movie about sisters in particular, but Olaf’s love for Anna makes an important point: Love isn’t all princes and princesses. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes it’s animals. Sometimes it’s snowmen. And all of it has power. In other words – the romantic story arc for women is not all we’re good for. Women have plenty of other stories to tell:

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Like when we throw ourselves in front of a sword to save our sisters.

Elsa is a whole other thing. First of all, is she the first Disney Queen? She is, right? I mean, the first Disney Queen who isn’t a villain. (erm’s note: she’s forgotten Nala and Nala counts OK I don’t care that she isn’t human.)

So she’s got that going for her. She’s also got a bit of a Mulan thing going on, except where Mulan is bad at being ladylike, Elsa is bad at not killing everyone around her with her ice powers. She knows that if she were honest about who and what she is, she would be letting an entire kingdom down. She puts a tremendous amount of pressure on herself to keep everything as it should be.

And then:

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While Mulan had to take drastic steps to save her father, Elsa reveals her magic in front of the whole kingdom, so she flees. It’s simply time to face the storm inside of her.

She has already broken the mold at this point, but I also want to take a quick second to discuss the following:

Let it Go as a Source of Female Empowerment

As evidence, I present all the little girls who sang this song for like a year straight. It wasn’t annoying at all. Okay, it was annoying.

Only because I hate kids.

But anyway, let’s break this thing down, shall we?


That’s where it ends.

Because she wrote a whole separate post about “Let it Go” which is here.

 

Powerful Women in Disney

In thinking of examples of powerful women being demonized, one need look no further than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Alt-POTUS for life

I don’t need to remind you. 2016 was a difficult year for all of us for a lot of reasons, and just one of those was the constant negative rhetoric surrounding HRC’s run for President, which seemed to be coming from everywhere – even the left-leaning. Trump was among the worst of them.

Of course, using sexism is also the laziest way to demean a woman. If you can’t debate her ideas, just slam her appearance, her personality, her relationships and her likeability. Trump crossed the line all the time. Flustered during the debate because he couldn’t out debate Clinton on policy, he just leaned into the mic and dismissed her entirely: “nasty woman.” – Mel Robbins for CNN (emphasis mine)

As I write this, HRC’s book sits at my feet, currently unopened. What Happened, indeed. I think we all know what happened – but I’ll read it, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

Like any deep-rooted societal assumptions, the idea that powerful women are inherently evil can be found all over our favourite media. Golden Age Disney is no different. We love our Villainesses – The Evil Queen, Maleficent, and Lady Tremaine, the big three of powerful women whose actions make no sense. Later, Disney gave us such Villainesses as Cruella DeVil, Ursula, Madam Mim, the Queen of Hearts, Ysma, and Mother Gothel. As for protagonists, we had an overabundance of sweet-tempered Princesses, and a couple of ambitious ones – but none who could honestly be defined as powerful.

Frozen Breaks the Cycle

Not only was Elsa the first Disney Princess to be crowned Queen; she was also the first one to wield actual, dangerous power.

It wasn’t originally going to be like that:

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Yikes. Elsa originally looked like a young Yzma.

We all know about how Elsa was supposed to be the villain of Frozen. Thankfully that changed, because the movie we end up with was a much-needed change of pace.

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Rather than immediately vilify a woman with power, Frozen unpacked this a little bit – what it meant for Elsa to have to hide her power, knowing that the kingdom would fear her because of it. Given the current political climate, I almost begin to think she was right all along.

Frozen tells a story that rings true for many women – knowing you have power, but being afraid to use it in a world that sees powerful women as threatening.

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It’s a fear that consumes Elsa’s every waking moment; her very identity. This fear is what causes her to actually harm Anna – although the movie does not allow her  to make too many mistakes, it does cause her to live out her worst fear – that she will freeze Anna’s heart, losing the only person who sees more than just her abilities.

Not long after Frozen came another story of a woman struggling with power:

Maleficent Atones for Sleeping Beauty’s Sins

As we’ve discussed at length, Maleficent takes a powerful woman who we have virtually no reason to sympathize with – except perhaps envy at her ability to spontaneously morph into a dragon – and gives us a reason to forgive something as severe as sentencing a newborn to death.

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Couldn’t she have just killed Stefan and saved everyone the trouble?

Sorry. But the truth is that Stefan (and the King before him) targeting Maleficent is just the same as the other examples I’ve noted in which people target, abuse, and attempt to destroy women who they see as a threat.

In doing so, Stefan creates the villain they feared she was – and unlike Elsa, Maleficent actually goes through with being a full-blown Disney Villain.

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And looks fabulous while doing it.

This done, Maleficent takes us along on a redemption arc in which our anti-villain (?) learns that women should protect each other, not sentence each other to an untimely death.

Powerful Women Don’t Necessarily Have To Destroy Each Other: A Disney Story

One thing that Frozen and Maleficent have in common is that each one takes True Love and un-hetero-normalizes it (there may have been a clearer way to say that, but I stand by it). In Frozen, Anna believes she needs to be saved by an “act of true love”, and this act turns out being sacrificing her life to save her sister.

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The moral of the story is that non-sexual relationships, familial relationships, sisterhood, and even relationships that don’t happen to involve men, have incredible power.

On the same vein, we replace Aurora’s “true love’s kiss” with a kiss from her surrogate mother figure, Maleficent.

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These resolutions, with Anna and Aurora (the traditional Disney Princesses) as catalysts, allow the stories to show powerful women in a softer light. And even though these women maintain close relationships with the other women in their lives, they remain powerful, ruling over their respective lands and using their incredible powers.

That Brings us to Moana

Please just assume that when I (three) talk Disney or Women or Movies from now on, I will always use Moana as the ultimate example because I am not over it yet.

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Moana is the daughter of the chief, and her political power can’t be understated. Although she is only learning to rule in the duration of the film, she shows aptitude for critical thinking, a passionate dedication to her people, and most importantly, a unique ability to bring them back to their roots as voyagers. Unlike Elsa and Maleficent, Moana is never targeted for her power – it is framed as a burden, and a challenge, but she is never vilified for it.

That’s where Te Ka comes in.

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In the prior two examples, Elsa and Maleficent have a kind-hearted traditional princess – Anna and Aurora – to lend softness to their character. In Moana, things aren’t so simple. Te Ka does not show Moana any kindness, or give her any reason to give her the benefit of the doubt – it’s Moana who sees past Te Ka’s terrifying exterior and realizes that someone has done this to her.

This creates an interesting comparison to Maleficent, who spends the entire movie redeeming herself for one mistake, which honestly, we kind of already forgave her for. In comparison, no one expects Te Fiti to apologize for ruining everything after she has her heart stolen.

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They have stolen the heart from inside you, but this does not define you

This comparison isn’t completely parallel: Elsa and Maleficent are unfairly feared and targeted for their power, whereas Te Fiti, a literal god, is not vilified in the slightest; at least not until she becomes a giant lava monster. I’ll go ahead and argue that it is fair to see Te Ka as a villain, given that she’s utterly terrifying and is trying to kill everyone.

The main message I want to distill from that comparison, however, is that we are still very careful about how we portray forgivable powerful women. Elsa barely even does anything wrong. Maleficent does one thing wrong one time, and does so as a rash but understandable act of revenge after she was attacked by Stefan-the-terrible. Despite the fact that it should actually be pretty easy to forgive Maleficent, and there is literally nothing to forgive Elsa for, both of their characters were not allowed to get away with it – Elsa suffers years of anxiety after hurting Anna by accident one time, and Maleficent spends sixteen years learning to love the child she rashly sentenced to death. Te Fiti, on the other hand, destroys like half the ocean, and when Moana figures this out it’s as simple as:

They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you

This is not who you are
You know who you are

This embodies what I find so refreshing about women in Moana: It’s a given that they are powerful, and it’s okay. No one has to suffer the guilt that Elsa and Maleficent feel for their effects on others – they can just focus on the plot, the character development, and the journey.

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The Most Obnoxious Scene in The Fox and the Hound

My favourite thing about these posts is that eventually Disney will come along and force Youtube to remove the videos and then there’ll just be a giant gray empty space here where the scene I’m talking about should be.

I really hate this scene.

But I also kind of love it.

I don’t know, OK?

It’s reminiscent of the “Twitterpated” scene in Bambi which is somehow both cute and also extremely uncomfortable to watch. The animators at Disney are getting away with… a lot. Let’s just say a lot. It’s because the characters are animals, so, well, fair game, I guess.

In Grade 9 science there was that infamous day we all referred to as “The Day They Made Us Watch Animal Porn.” But the animal porn we watched that day had nothing on these. I watch both of these scenes from behind my hands or just giggling uncontrollably as though I were 12 (that might be a bit of an exaggeration) (but not really).

You may say, “Um, what are you talking about, they’re cute fluffy animals falling in love and it’s sweet and 100% G-rated.” And I’ll just raise my eyebrows at you. Because no.

We can talk all day about how I’m just a huge prude or something, because honestly I do feel kind of like a prude watching these scenes. They are upsetting and somewhat thrilling to me on a very basic level of mine that I don’t fully understand. But that’s not really why I think the “Tod Meets Vixie/”Appreciate the Lady” scene is the most obnoxious one in The Fox and the Hound.

No. I kind of like the romance aspect of it, as much as I have to hide my face watching it. I like that it shows them sort of communicating nonverbally in a successful fashion – not the exaggerated harrumphing/flower picking part, that’s stupid, but the part where she gets embarrassed and he notices. I think there isn’t enough emphasis in media about paying attention to what your partner is feeling in any given moment and reacting appropriately.

But still. Here’s a list of what I don’t like:

  • why do foxes have last names though (that one is minor, I concede)
  • the peanut gallery is super obnoxious
  • “Appreciate the Lady” has to be the third or fourth worst song EVER. Apologies, Big Mama, but why didn’t they write you a better song for this part?
  • I know early Disney movies like their courtship swift and bland but wow
  • I can’t really call it bland though, not when he calls her an “empty-headed female” and two seconds later all is forgiven
  • Tod’s woes about being dumped in the woods are cured because he sees a girl fox which is stupid because Tod being dumped in the woods is perhaps the WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED IN A DISNEY MOVIE EVER AND THAT’S DISNEY MOVIES WE’RE TALKING ABOUT, IN WHICH PLENTY OF HORRIFIC THINGS HAPPEN, AND YET THAT IS PROBABLY THE WORST.
  • It’s one thing to do “Hakuna Matata” shortly after Mufasa’s death. That works thematically. This is just some nonsense right here.
  • You have been abandoned in the woods but it’s fine, now you can be a wild animal again even though YOU NEVER WERE A WILD ANIMAL BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN RAISED BY A HUMAN IN A HOUSE AND YOU ARE FULLY DOMESTICATED AND YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE WILD.

So it’s kind of cute, kind of annoying, and mostly frustrating because people need to not dump their pets in the woods. Or on the side of the road. Or like literally in a dumpster.

Also OMG don’t raise wild animals at all. It ends badly. Contact the proper organizations that will rehabilitate them responsibly.

Superheroes, Lately

Let’s talk about three superhero movies that came out this year and the important things they did that superhero movies haven’t previously done in my opinion which is a good opinion and is a very informed opinion as always. (Hint – no, it’s not the latter and probably not the former either. But I think I’m on to a couple of things, at least.)

I’d watch Wonder WomanGuardians of the Galaxy 2, and Lego Batman before reading. Also I’d just watch all of those movies in general. So.

In brief:

Wonder Woman

Well, it’s about a female superhero. That alone isn’t new, but it’s also actually critically and financially successful, which is new for a woman-led superhero movie. It gives the love interest really important things to do, which makes it unique among the superhero movies I’ve seen. It’s also clearly actually about something, morality-wise. I’d argue that most of them aren’t, apart from maybe the responsibilities of power – and only if it’s one of the good Spider-Man movies. Most of them present some sort of simplistic good vs evil conflict that we’re supposed to just take at face value, because if we start questioning it it all starts to fall apart (why is Bruce Wayne so rich and can he please just stop, for example). They’re also more interested in being character-driven and all about the spectacle, which would be more than fine usually (superheroes are supposed to be fun, otherwise what’s the point). But with Marvel producing a billion a minute and with DC producing a bunch that are pretty impressively not entertaining or fun in the slightest, it’s getting super boring up in here without even basic introspection or bigger attempts to shake things up. But yeah, this one is about stuff. Pretty basic stuff but stuff nonetheless, and I’m interested to see if future Wonder Woman movies are also actually about stuff in more ways than this first one is.

Guardians of the Galaxy

This one paired up all of the characters (except Groot) and they all discussed their flaws and past mistakes and vulnerability with each other, to varying degrees. For me, the most intriguing pairs were Gamora/Nebula and Rocket/Yondu. Quill/Dickface was more important to the plot than it was important for character development (if I’m remembering correctly) and Drax/Mantis was comic-reliefy. But either way, I found it really engaging, and it meant that I liked this one waaaaay better than the first one, which I think is a minority opinion but I’m thrilled to have it even if I have to be alone.

Lego Batman

Finally, Batman is deservedly, deservedlydeservedly being mocked. Catharsis, at long last.

Also Voldemort was in it a lot. I told everyone who asked me how it was after I saw it that he was prominently featured and the reaction to that was, universally, “… what?”

Now, in length:

Superheroes are weird, and also Pixar movies make me feel all sorts of things

“Superhero movies aren’t about anything,” I just said, cruelly. I do understand why it has to be that way. There are lots of reasons but I think the main and obvious and boring one is that if you make a story be entirely about morality, it’s not going to be a good story. It doesn’t need to be said because it is pretty obvious, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: you need to strike a balance. Characters and the small, specific plot that they have to work their way through need to be at the forefront – but some sort of morality should be behind it and will be there whether you try to put it there or not – especially if it’s a story about powerful people trying to protect vulnerable people from other powerful people, which is supposedly what all superhero stories are.

My problem then is not that there isn’t morality in these movies, it’s more that I think these movies specifically would lend themselves to important morality discussions, but they tend to waste that opportunity. So now let’s talk about Pixar movies for a while.

I have what I suspect are silly problems with Wall-E that resemble my probably silly problems with superhero movies in general. But at the risk of sounding like a humorless moralist, I’ll go into it anyway. I think Wall-E has a moral that doesn’t go along with its plot. The moral is that you shouldn’t just do boring, repetitive things or you’ll miss out on life. And that’s fine, but there’s also the pesky thing where they have a plant, which, as far as anyone knows throughout the entire movie, is the only plant on earth. But the plant is treated as incidental. It’s why Eve shows up on earth and it’s what the captain, who is the best character, is invested in, but is otherwise unimportant. Wall-E and Eve’s love story is what’s centered, and the return to earth is just the subplot, as it should be. But the moment that Auto crushes Wall-E is the moment the moral plot gets swallowed by the love story, because now they aren’t going home to start taking responsibility for destroying it, but rather because the stupid robot needs to be repaired. Because the plant has previously been Eve’s sole directive but now Wall-E is and blaaaaaaah I don’t care, I’m too worried about the plant starting to wilt to care about the robot.

At this point I become a reluctant viewer. Because the entire moral of Wall-E is to forget about your job. Just, toss it aside in complete abandon so that you can do what’s important to you personally instead. For Mo, it’s cleaning Wall-E. For all of the broken robots, it’s being completely useless and somewhat dangerous, let’s be real. For Wall-E and Eve it’s holding hands.

BUT OMG EVE THE PLANT!!!!! THE WHOLE WORLD IS DEAD AND NOW YOU ALL HAVE A CHANCE TO CLEAN IT UP I DON’T CARE THAT YOU WANT TO HOLD HANDS YOU’RE JUST ROBOTS AND SOMETIMES YOUR JOBS ARE ACTUALLY VITAL AND YOU NEED TO DO THEM PROPERLY I MEAN GET THAT MASSAGE THERAPY ROBOT REPAIRED BEFORE THEY KILL SOMEBODY WHY DO I HAVE TO EXPLAIN THIS

Maybe I have a heart of stone but Wall-E could have actually died and I wouldn’t have cared at all. I was way more invested in the return to earth for sake of, just, earth. That’s probably because seeing endless piles of garbage everywhere made me actually upset and I stopped being a passive audience-member and started being an environmentalist. But the sort of sentimentality they were going for with Wall-E and Eve works like a charm on me if the story meshes character and moral flawlessly, which Pixar does with Inside Out. The moral is that sadness is a good thing and that being relentlessly happy in every context can be thoroughly damaging, which is pretty revolutionary. I think Bing Bong’s death is… let’s just say it’s sad. Very sad. I care about that one. And that’s coming from me, the person who thought, as soon as Bing Bong showed up on screen, “OMG that character has to die before the end or this movie will have no integrity.” And I stand by that opinion.

Sorry. As well as being more likely to get attached to a plant in a shoe than a personified romance robot, I have a major problem with Pixar relentlessly valuing the infantilizing of female characters. I hate – HATE – the Jessie/Emily scene in TS2. I hate it so much. I shouldn’t hate it as much as I do but by golly I hate that scene. To be fair, they do this with male characters too and I hate it then also, but I find it particularly insidious when it’s girls. I liked my childhood; I look back on it fondly. But I’m also super glad that I got to grow up and I get really mad when people treat me like a child despite the fact that I achieved adulthood and it’s a thing that happens to women all the time. So Pixar needs to stop. And they did when Bing Bong died and Riley gets to experience new, complicated, reaching-age-of-maturity emotions without clinging to things that were only relevant to her as a toddler, and it’s amazing that he recognizes this and that he can still be helpful to her by sacrificing himself to get Joy back to where she belongs, but his death is still really, really sad.

To summarize: meshing character/plot/morality is crucial and easy to get wrong and it’s going to make different people respond differently to different movies because your mileage may vary, of course. But I think that this sort of thing should, in theory, be easy in superhero stories, maybe even easier in superhero movies than Pixar films. Superheroes are effortlessly cool, and they also kind of have to be about the good/evil binary, so, really they should just write themselves.

And yet, it doesn’t seem to work out that way. I’m only going by recent movies, though. I’m sure the old Superman movies did a reasonably good job with this. I’ve heard of the one that tries to take on the nuke issue and does a kind of naive job of it, but at least, as far as I’m concerned, it took on that issue. Because lately I haven’t seen actual morality discussed in superhero movies and I think they could use those discussions. And what I mean by that starts at Superhero Ethics 101: Should You Even Be Doing This At All I Mean Really You Can So Easily Kill So Many People Just By Doing This Stuff Please Think About it Carefully at Least Once in the Run Time. And then there’s Superhero Ethics 102: What to do When “Some Lunatic Comes Along with a Sadistic Choice.” We’ll get to that one in a minute.

Uncle Ben’s “With great power comes great responsibility,” is the closest thing recent superhero movies come to examining what responsibilities superheroes have. Peter learns the lesson on a very personal level, since his spite is indirectly responsible for Uncle Ben’s death, and then I guess he vows to fight crime, because he can, being a wall-climber. I’d like to see a little more focus on the commitment to do-goodery. It’s often taken as a given, and goes unquestioned. It stops at that one quote. “With great power comes great responsibility.” But I have no idea what that means to any of these dudes personally, beyond, “Let’s fight petty crime in this city and wait around for a supervillain to show up and then fight that guy too.” What are their values, these superdudes? Why petty crime, specifically? And why is it so passive, the hanging out fighting petty crime until some other costumed dude shows up? Why are superheroes not more proactive about any of this stuff? How exactly are they committed to making the world a better place, other than stopping crimes that are conveniently in progress right when they show up?

Focusing on Spider-Man, I could ask: are spider powers really the best way to protect New Yorkers from crime? I get that spider powers are the coolest visual way to fight crime in New York, but is it really just car chases and muggings and bank robberies and fires and back alley rapists that Peter should be focusing on, to live up to Uncle Ben’s expectations about taking responsibility? There’s other stuff going on, too, like police brutality. Or homelessness. Has – has a superhero ever done something for a homeless person, in a movie? Maybe some self-reflection would be nice, occasionally. Part of the reason that doesn’t happen is the supervillains, who apart from being super villainous, are also super convenient. The heroes are just out and about, doing small-time hero work, stopping cliché crime people, and I assume they go home and contemplate their strategies and maybe look into ways to get rid of the causes of petty crime rather than just whipping around putting bank robbers in huge spiderwebs, because Peter needs to pay the rent and also eventually he’s going to get older and he won’t be able to do this anymore so maybe trying to make the crime rate go down in ways that don’t require his physical presence and prowess would be prudent, and then maybe poverty-stricken Peter Parker starts thinking about different ways he could try to use his powers to shelter homeless people or to combat crimes that don’t generally get treated like crimes because society is annoying – like what are the superhero ethics of going against the police to stop them hurting people they’re arresting, whether they’re arresting them rightly or wrongly, and not just going against the police because it looks cool (TBF it probably shouldn’t be a white character who does that but Miles Morales – I’m just saying)? I really want to see all of that stuff explored, but inevitably right at that point in all of these movies is when the supervillain shows up and all of the interesting stuff that could have happened just doesn’t happen.

Also I know Watchmen exists but it doesn’t count. It’s too cynical to be included in this discussion. I strongly believe that superhero stories don’t have to be cynical in order to take on interesting, thought-provoking, real-world relevant morality issues. Not to disparage Watchmen because it is very good, but it isn’t useful here.

Speaking of cynicism, the first Guardians movie briefly does a thing in which the characters debate whether they should risk their lives to literally save the galaxy – the big scene about this is probably the best scene in there. This happens on and off throughout the movie but when it comes right down to it, they barely even contemplate the possibility of trying to run, because despite how cynical most of them are, they believe in friendship and stuff – shockingly, it has to be said. And it is the power of friendship that both saves their lives, and then the galaxy, in the span of maybe five or ten minutes.

But there isn’t really any commentary there about making a tough choice because it’s the right one. There probably shouldn’t be, because the movie is supposed to be mostly comedic but then sincere at the end, so it has to remain comedic enough throughout to allow for the sincerity of the climax to actually work without coming across as being as stupid and insincere as everything else these characters do. But that still means they aren’t really saying much about this stuff.

wonder woman

Wonder Woman doesn’t say all of the sophisticated and complex things it could have said about WWI or war in general. When Steve says, “I’m one of the good guys… those are the bad guys,” he’s not wrong, because those guys are specifically trying to return stolen plans for a devastating gas attack, an attack that would kill people on both sides, but the futility of the Allies/Central Powers conflict, and how a lot of posturing and egomania led to millions of deaths and plenty of devastation (not to mention that twenty years later an even worse one broke out that was directly a consequence of how badly the first one’s end was managed) is one heck of a discussion that could have happened and does not happen. It’s hard to have that discussion and still root for… anyone, to be fair. But because Wonder Woman does a broader thing at the end where she declares that she’s going to try, and keep trying, whether humanity deserves her labour or not, it still is sort of making a point about war. Despite how banal and commonplace and empowered real evil is during wars and leading up to them, she’s committed to trying to influence the world towards eventual peace. That makes her one of a kind, recently, and previously I do suspect it’s only Superman and the Naive Cold War Stuff that has tried to take on a cause worthy of a freaking superhero. I mean really.

Importantly – I don’t want to see superheroes taking on the Holocaust, or anything like that, because that would be in pretty bad taste and would be way more naive than Superman vs the Nukes. I just think that the movies set in modern times could stand to say something bold and useful about what people in various places of privilege should maybe sort of try to do with their privilege, since we have it.

But. Diana is proactive. She believes, fiercely, in her responsibility to the entire freaking world. She believes in protecting mankind even though she isn’t one of them. And the final decision she makes is to continue to pursue her goal of peace for everyone despite the fact that people are flawed. Her determination and belief are presented as naive and occasionally reckless, but ultimately she succeeds. Because, sure, Ares wasn’t disguised as that German guy, but he does exist and he does show up and she does have to kill him. And then there’s that no-man’s land scene where her idealism turns out to be perfectly fine, because she can back it up with superpowers. I’ve also seen a bit of griping about how Diana is constantly set up to learn things from Steve, but I actually think that they learn from each other fairly evenly. Sure, her boldness messes things up a couple of times, but he follows her into situations he declares are too risky like a billion times (OK fine, it’s maybe once or twice, but shut up) and it turns out to be fine, and she was right after all. Also this has nothing to do with superhero ethics but early on there’s this perfect moment where he tries to set himself up as a potential educator for her, since she’s a woman from an island filled only with women, and therefore obviously she wouldn’t know anything about this, on the subject of sexual pleasure. I think that’s what he’s trying to do, anyway. He says he’s virile because he’s a spy (lol?). And she’s like, “Dude, please.”

Later when they do have sex, it’s preceded by her explicitly asking him to tell her what typical long-term committed heteronormative romantic relationships are like and he says he has no idea, which I think is a good summary of who’s teaching who what. They’re both in extraordinary circumstances and are constantly having their ideas about what they and the people around them should or shouldn’t or can or can’t do challenged which is EXACTLY what superhero movies need more of. I think the reason this movie seems to achieve this so effortlessly is that it necessarily has to confront gender roles throughout the run time, so all of the not-specifically-gender-role-related things just naturally get the same treatment because they’re already conscious of and trying to challenge norms.

At the end as Diana battles her supervillain, the literal god of war, it’s not really him that’s the danger to her, or, crucially, to the people around her who she is supposed to be protecting, and influencing. She’s just battling herself. She has believed for most of the movie that guiding humanity toward peace is her job, so now that she has discovered that it’s going to be a lot harder for her to accomplish than she thought, and it might be impossible, does she want to do difficult work for people who may not be inherently good without an external evil influence after all? And then she decides that, yes, she does, and then that’s that.

She’s not only committed to physically ending war but to being an influential figure for the good, always. The influential figure part of her identity is also an aspect of superheroes that doesn’t get highlighted enough. There are some kids in Raimi’s Spider-Man movies and those parts are always really good, and I know Gotham-Joffrey is in Batman Begins and wannabe-Batmans are in The Dark Knight and there are orphans (or at least, a discussion about orphans) in The Dark Knight Rises, so it does happen, but it’s a thing that should happen more. Superheroes should more often actually reflect on the fact that their actions will inspire lots of people. If they make a mistake, they may unintentionally endorse a lot of terrible stuff and that’s a story line I already know I’d like better than “oh no Doc Oc has robot arms and stuff.” It’s also much, much better than another type of story that tends to emerge: “oh no, all of the ordinary people hate and fear these massively overpowered metahumans among them and they’re trying to stop them waaaah.” Sometimes that can be OK, like in any given X-men story, but personally I don’t think “superpowers as stand-ins for marginalization” works very well for good discussions about what marginalization is and how it works and why it needs to stop. It’s better for making marginalized people feel empowered, which is no small thing. But if your identity is marginalized because you can move all the metal around you at will, well, maybe you’re actually the privileged one, now. And they attempt to explore that with Magneto but it’s never a clear exploration of these ideas because they never fully own that the X-men literally are extremely dangerous to everyone else, if they choose to be, and that even the hatemongering rises out of an actually legitimate concern. They can’t. It would ruin the whole thing. So.

Also sometimes it isn’t OK. That part of the story in The Incredibles is important for setting up the plot and raising the stakes, but it’s also kind of uncomfortable, if you think about it long enough. And everyone who ever expressed a concern over Batman’s vigilantism was right and I hope they’re eventually vindicated. What Bruce needs is a good therapist.

I haven’t seen the most recent Captain America movie but I heard that it was about Iron Man deciding that maybe the Avengers need to be more careful about the things they do and the unintentional damage they cause, but the movie seems to think that’s silly and takes Cap’s side, which is, weirdly, “Nah.” So if I’d watched it I could go into more detail but that seems like it’s close to what I’m looking for – introspection-wise, at least. But it also sounds like it’s a clear rejection of the premise that maybe superheroes need to take several steps back in every situation, because they are way too powerful for comfort.

Someone on twitter talked briefly about how weird it is that superheroes are actually pretty fascist, if you think about it, and that no one talks about this. Well, hey, I think the movies themselves should talk about it. I think that might make an interesting superhero movie. Take just one conflict that often arises in these movies: the, “oh no, the supervillain is going to make the hero choose between x and the screaming female love interest because he can only save one in time!” And the hero always is actually able to save both. Here’s a thought: have the hero choose the love interest. Have the hero really own that selfish choice, and have to live with how they made a selfish choice that benefits only them and the person they love at the expense of others and they made the choice because they can. And if the hero chooses whatever x is? Well that isn’t much better. Why did the hero knowingly place a vulnerable person in a dangerous situation? Why didn’t they just make like Don Quixote and choose “to love, pure and chaste, from afar?” (I know that isn’t fair for Peter in the first movie because MJ being in danger is all Harry’s fault but still, even having lived through this experience, in the later movies he decides that it’s worth the risk to be with her, so…) Why do these movies always make it really easy on these characters – why do they get to have it both ways? Why are they never responsible for the actual damage they cause? Why are they not responsible for the conflicts they choose not to try to get involved with?

Beeeeecause superhero movies are, to a one, uniformly morally dull. It’s enough to make a marxist critic out of me, honestly. Why are we celebrating all of these silly-costumed ubermensches anyway, if they can’t even be bothered to do something about homelessness?

The stuff in Wonder Woman is definitely not as complex as I would have liked – and it doesn’t address the fascism thing, I mean, she’s literally a god – but I did write this paragraph once when I was talking about how Starkid keeps scooping mainstream popular culture:

My thing is a Harley Quinn movie where she dumps the Joker for good and that’s all. Throw some Batman cameos in there, maybe have Poison Ivy be the love interest, Catwoman cameos too because Catwoman is my queen. My thing is live-action Kim PossibleTeen Titans and literally no one is white. Superheroes fight grassroots battles too, like Beast Boy fights against the meat industry or Cyborg joins BLM. Superheroes literally stop wars. Those are the things I want.”

It seems to me that Wonder Woman is the closest thing to that last thing that I’ll be getting. And right now, I’m OK with that. It ever-so-slightly began a conversation about superhero responsibility and it took on a real, actual, gigantic issue that isn’t the stupid Joker again. And while sure, there’s never a discussion about “Hey Diana, use your powers judiciously maybe, people are delicate,” the entire final conflict is her clearly stating her intention to fight for people rather than ignore them because they aren’t perfect. I think this clear statement is kinder than the sorts of things that happen in movies like The Incredibles or The Dark Knight or whatever went on in Batman V Superman. It does highlight Diana’s decision to not drop a tank on Dr. Poison, even though she is awful. That’s promising, as far as I’m concerned.

And of course it centers a woman doing superhero things, and just like when I saw The Force Awakens, I hadn’t realized until I actually saw it happening how big of a deal it is, letting female characters be centered in the sorts of stories where previously only male characters have been centered.

So also, we need to start doing that with people of colour. It’s happening a little bit, but it needs to happen more. Stat. In Wonder Woman there are black Amazons which is great, but unfortunately because there’s only so much time we can spend on Amazon island it’s only Diana’s mother and aunt who get to say and do plot and thematically important things, and that’s too bad. Sameer is also a bit of a stereotype, which seems extremely unnecessary. This movie could have done a better job with this stuff, too, but what’s really important is those movies that will center superheroes who are POC. Black Panther looks good, eh? But that doesn’t excuse Marvel for not just having Miles Morales be their Spider-Man because we have enough Peter Parker movies, and some of them are really good. Come on.

One little side note before I move on: Big Hero 6 and Megamind both have better, more clearly stated, and more thematically relevant examinations of what it means to be a superhero and the responsibilities inherent in it than most (… all?) live action superhero movies do (I hesitate to say that maybe Wonder Woman does this pretty flawlessly too, because I think it does, but I’ve only seen it once and it’s still too fresh). And sure, a lot of that is that the better family films always more clearly state their moral while still embedding it nicely in the surrounding plot, and the morals are usually a lot simpler, but still.

Lego Zatana, is what I’m thinking. I don’t know much about Zatana but I’m willing to learn, people who make the Lego movies. And Disney animated women of colour Marvel superheroines that I don’t know the names of because I’m unfamiliar with comics generally and we don’t have any of those in the movie Marvelverse despite having an Ant Man, a Doctor Strange, and three Thor movies. I’m not nearly the first to point that out and yet it’s still 100% true.

One other little side note: a story where an ubermensch uses their mystical, magical powers ALWAYS with the greater good and responsibilities of power in mind and front and center is Avatar, both The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. Which is part of why this blog is going to be clogged with posts about it for most of the summer. But yeah, Avatars are the true heroes that Gotham needs, and deserves. To be perfectly honest I have no fucking clue what that “hero that Gotham needs right now vs hero that Gotham deserves” thing even means, and I don’t even know how the sentence actually goes, and I don’t think I ever will.

All right I won’t write as much about Guardians 2

When I saw the first Guardians movie I was really annoyed about how it used Nebula. I thought she had an interesting backstory because it was exactly the same as Gamora’s, except with a bit of an inferiority complex thrown in, and I wanted to see some sympathy thrown her way but she just propped up the boring villain, got shot at by Drax, and then she took off. So then I saw the second Guardians movie.

Boy howdy.

I don’t even think that the Nebula/Gamora thing was that prominent, but it was actually satisfyingly addressed. I honestly didn’t think it would be until it actually started happening, but it was! Look at me, getting what I want out of a Marvel movie for once.

What the Gamora/Nebula pairing up also accomplishes is that it takes Gamora away from Quill for a bit. Their relationship is all right, but it’s also kind of really not. She’s humorless, he’s not, she doesn’t dance, he does, but also she’s much more of an idealist than he is, or at least, it seems that way because of his performative carefree carelessness, whoo, haven’t seen that one before. She’s both a melting ice queen and the inspiration he needs to give a damn. It’s fine, it’s just also really predictable and hard to care about. Gamora in the first movie does interact with the other Guardians besides Quill, but not in any meaningful way. Her character development happens solely around him, whereas he gets to have deeper discussions with Yondu and he’s the one who sees Rocket’s back all mutilated and nonverbally reacts with at least some sympathy. Not to mention his whole backstory with his mom, which we see happen onscreen at the beginning of the movie, whereas Gamora’s childhood/adolescence is just stated in a heated conversation. Rocket and Drax also don’t have their backstories depicted onscreen, but they do get into a huge, violent fight about it and later sort of make up. Gamora is just there, supposedly feeling a lot of things but not sharing them with anyone, except, reluctantly, with Quill sometimes.

But now that her sister shows up, Gamora has someone else to open up to and feel sympathy for. They provide each other with the opportunity for character development that isn’t tied up in a heteronormative romance subplot. Bechdel for the win, guys.

Can we have superhero movies about a team-up of sisters? Or mother-daughter team-ups? Or girlfriends, or girl friend-friends?

Then there’s the Yondu and Rocket pairing. Both of these dudes are in some serious pain in this movie. Rocket cries again. It’s important to me that Rocket cries in both movies. Yondu actually says things that are supposed to be supportive to Quill. I might argue that Yondu and Rocket are the most hypermasculine characters here (let’s set Drax aside, he’s just here for the ride in this movie). Yondu gets all stoicly quiet-defeated-sad (… I would too, what happens to him is pretty horrific), and Rocket just relentlessly lashes out at everyone around him, but then they help each other deal and then they express their feelings in ways that are still a little muted, but at least they’re expressing their feelings.

Yeah I liked this movie.

And finally, making fun of Batman because he is the worst

I think Batman is officially the world’s most popular superhero. I get it. He used to be my favourite, too. Mostly that was because he was closely associated with Catwoman but I did like him on his own as well.

My love for Batman started to ebb away because I thought the politics of The Dark Knight Rises were stupid, and not even the magnificent fact that Catwoman appears in that movie could fix that. There are also a lot of internet personalities who I followed who were beginning to lament how cold and macho and unfun Batman had become in the Nolan movies, and I sort of agreed.

Then Holy Musical B@man! happened. Here are some lyrics:

I was seeing a girl for a while.
A couple days, anyway, and I told her I loved her.
She said, “You’re such a good friend, that rash is bad.
You should probably go see a doctor.”

Then she just disappeared, sent me some text
About bad timing and my love being selfish. [Pout]
Then my doctor called up, and the blood came back,
and as it turned out, I’m allergic to peanuts and shellfish.
(I loved peanuts and shellfish, once.)

I’m falling apart, I’m lacking punch.
I can barely eat. This morning I BARELY TOUCHED MY BRUNCH.
Two spoons of oatmeal, a couple of nuts, and half a banana.
And like my soul, the banana was bruised and black.

Those are from a song where Batman is talking about how he wants a friend, for a lot of reasons but chief among them is that he needs a co-captain for the Friendship Ship (or maybe just the Friend Ship). Later Robin shows up. Honestly, this story is almost exactly like Lego Batman in everything including random, not-officially Batman-related characters showing up.

I can’t exactly remember but I think Lego Batman makes at least sort of a point about Batman’s violence being a little over the top and in need of some introspection. I do know that the musical does this explicitly. There’s a cutesy song about Batman and Robin’s budding friendship that keeps taking pauses so that they can scream a lot and beat criminals into submission. So.

But where Lego Batman goes beyond even Holy Musical B@man! is that part near the beginning where Barbara Gordon declares that they should try a new approach to dealing with crime, because the typical “let Batman handle it by beating people up” approach has become kind of unnecessary. That is so cool. I’m pretty sure that even the comics haven’t done a “what would happen if Bruce just tried *not* doing it the ultraviolence-in-the-backalleys-of-Gotham way” story, and I’m pretty sure the comics have done a lot of different, incredibly wacky things, to the point where maybe they’ve exhausted all of the wacky premises for Batman stories and maybe they should try to re-imagine how a superhero story might work and be revolutionary, for a change.

I don’t know how to conclude so here are some pictures of Nigel dressed as Wonder Woman

nige and gender

The only push back I got on that was, “But does he like wearing any clothes?” Which is fair enough. He doesn’t. But he likes to go outside and clothes mean he gets to go outside so he’s fine.

100 Books: May

Jan Feb March April

Well it’s June somehow. May kind of sucked for many, many reasons, but a comparatively tiny reason for May sucking for me personally is that I only read five books. That puts me behind again, if I’m reading ten books per month. Oh well.

DISNEY PRINCESS #1 by Amy Mebberson

disneyprincess1

I finally got around to this, and somehow I didn’t read the second one too in order to try and catch up on my 100. Anyway, it’s as delightful as you’d expect, but I still prefer Mebberson’s Pocket Princess series because I like when all the girls hang out. Still, it was worth it. Likely #2 will be in June.

Flush by Virginia Woolf

flush

I bought this book by mistake during my student days and I’ve always meant to get around to reading it. And. Well. It was OK. It’s basically Virginia Woolf being somewhat sincere and mostly hilarious by writing a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog. It’s also got a bit of racism in it, so, exactly what I was expecting, really. Woolf is still my favourite modernist writer but that’s not saying much. Times were tough back then. And they had stupid opinions about dogs, as if they didn’t have enough stupid opinions back then about humans to fill the stupid opinion quota that human society apparently has, for reasons unknown. I do recommend Mrs. Dalloway, though. Highly.

Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

beyond magenta

Here’s a work of nonfiction in which young trans people tell their stories about being trans and how it has impacted their lives so far. It’s fascinating and often kind of infuriating. The number of different types of adults in different types of positions of authority over these kids that get in the way by being stubbornly ignorant is unsurprising and awful. But that’s just one small element that I highlight – their stories shine through and it’s really, really good.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

the handmaid's tale

I finally got around to this one, too. It’s good. So far I like it better than the show version. Someone called it The Hunger Games for grownups and I think that’s a good description. It’s quite a bit more political than The Hunger Games as well, although like pretty much every dystopia it doesn’t touch racial politics at all. Not one bit. But maybe that’s sort of OK, since Atwood is white. It’s important to note, though, because if Gilead was real you’d better believe racism would factor in.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

the blue castle

I like L.M. Montgomery’s descriptions of the Canadian wilderness – good in Anne of Green Gables but I really liked it in Emily of New Moon. I thought I’d try out one of her books for adults, and the nature stuff in here is typically my cup of tea. The actual story is that a 29-year-old unmarried woman who gets harassed by her entire family all the time finds out that she’s dying, so she makes some significant life changes, as she has nothing to lose, and scandalizes her entire stupid family. Sometimes it was pretty funny, and other times it got a little tiring, but overall it was nice escapist stuff. The romance was all right. Better than The Handmaid’s Tale, anyway (har har). Also it ends exactly like you think it will but that’s kind of necessary, for the type of book it is, so no big deal.

All right, now to read 15 books at least for June. Doable.

The Best Scene in Pocahontas

Last time I talked about what I think is the best scene in what I think is the best movie, and this time I’m talking about what I think is the best scene in an incredibly blah and more than a little problematic movie.

I like this scene because:

a) Pocahontas’s dive, while illogical for many reasons (such as death) is cool.

b) It shows that Nakoma and Flit are right about everything and also that the movie, for whatever reason, doesn’t think so.

c) I have tipped a canoe and it sucked. But afterwards I thought, “Ah, whatever, now I’m like Nakoma.” Which is not true but I can dream.

The movie is blah because its main characters have no character and John Smith is the worst. It’s more than a little problematic because it seems to suggest that the inherent wrongs of colonialism are all down to one dude, who is coded as remarkably gay as well, so, you know. Colonialism is all good, otherwise. Also Pocahontas was a real person, and was kidnapped and held for ransom which makes the movie’s choice to turn her initial experience with colonialism into a boring love story a whole other level of uncomfortable.

Of all the subjects to make a Disney movie about, the impending genocide of America’s First Nations people was probably not the best one to choose.

But it’s a good scene.

The Best Scene in The Lion King

Real quick today, I thought I’d talk about this one.

OK the truth is, the entire sequence in which Rafiki meets Simba, talks to him, shows him sky Mufasa, and then hits him with a stick is probably the best part of the movie – it’s likely that said sequence is what made The Lion King so iconic. Now, that’s just my opinion, of course, but as always, I’m entirely, objectively, unquestionably correct.

But this scene is still my favourite. I like Rafiki’s home, with the fruit hanging up and making cool wooden wind chime sounds when he passes. I like how he cracks open this fruit and twists his one arm up like that while eating it.

I love that he learns things just by looking at, sniffing, and swirling seeds that blew in. I like the monkey quality to his laughing and also the background theme because it’s just really good music.

I don’t think I’ve ever been able to watch this scene without smiling. I like it; it’s a good one.

Step One: Rock Some Rags

Step one of what, erm? Step one of becoming a Disney Princess, obviously.

A long time ago while we were featuring guest posts a lot we said we would start writing posts specifically about princess appreciation, and so far we’ve not really kept that promise. But here’s a start!

So today I could talk about how recent princesses are supporting other women and changing them from monsters (literal monsters, sometimes!) into who they truly were way back from before some (horrible) (or just egotistic) guy and/or ice powers of mysterious origins showed up, or I could talk about how princesses fare against being exploited for their labour or magical healing powers, or how despite the fact that I really want a Disney princess version of Kuzco (Merida doesn’t quite count), I still do love that they’re such decent people and that they stay decent people in the face of some pretty awful circumstances – but instead I’m going to talk about their non-princess outfits – some of which are straight work rags, while others are just everyday wear.

Here’s Snow White, running for her life. One day, perhaps I’ll get over the hilariously botched meet-cute that is Snow White meeting her Prince, but it is not this day.

snow running for her life

The narration even says that her evil stepmother Queen lady forces her to wear rags but they don’t hide her beauty. But come on, if she’s doing menial labour she needs sensible clothing. Anyway, that dress looks nice, I think. I want one.

I want whatever Cinderella is wearing below, too. This time the movie doesn’t bother to directly tell us that she’s too good-looking to be ruined by casual clothing, but it does sort of imply it – especially in this scene where Tremaine’s “two awkward daughters” might be dressed nice (they’re not, let’s be real) but they can’t even hope to aspire to Cinderella’s grace while doing something as mundane as scrubbing a floor.

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On a different day I could get mad on the stepsisters’ behalf – because any feminist reading worth its salt of this story will tell you that each and every one of these women are caught in a patriarchal society in which marrying well is the only way to secure a future that isn’t ruin and therefore a little bit of sympathy thrown the Tremaine girls’ way would certainly not be misplaced, but it’s princess appreciation so whatever. She knows she looks good and she can take a minute to herself.

These of Aurora’s are not rags.

Aurora

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This is the outfit I want most of all. Look at that high neckline – it’s definitely Scar-being-extremely-sinister to die for. And that headband! I want that headband.

More merch of Aurora should feature her Briar Rose look because I think we can all firmly agree that it’s better than that magic dress she gets later.

Belle’s peasant dress isn’t quite as nice as Aurora’s but the farm animals all seem to vaguely approve. OK, the chickens look alarmed, but chickens always look alarmed. So whatever.

(but Belle, don’t put that on your head, that’s unhygienic)

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By the way, all of these ladies’ flats are great. Flats are the best. Snow White’s clogs are pretty cool too but flats really are where it’s at, comfort-wise, until we get a princess who’s allowed to wear running shoes.

Would you believe while I was writing this post that I almost forgot to include this, actually the best example of the princess-in-rags phenomenon that has ever existed?

ariel in a rag

Bless Scuttle, who doesn’t get enough credit I think. He says, “You look sensational!” and he’s right! Sebastian is too judgmental.

No joke if I could pull off red hair I would go as Ariel in this outfit for Halloween, it’s amazing.

ariel's rags

Also bless Carlotta and her steadfast attempts at tact.

Now moving out of the realm of the established Princess line: Elizabeth isn’t a Disney Princess. In fact, I think she was written specifically as a bit of an answer to them, which is both fair and also, kind of, not. Especially these days, what with Moana, and even if you want to talk strictly defined princesses, Tiana, Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna are all perfectly fine without the lesson Elizabeth teaches.

(OK Anna could have used it a bit I guess)

I include her because I can’t not. She’s THE PAPER BAG princess! A post about princesses in rags would be incomplete without her.

elizabeth paper bag princess

The story is very simple, for the uninitiated. Elizabeth is a princess with a lot of nice clothes and plans on marrying Ronald, the prince-next-door, until a dragon shows up, burns all her things, and kidnaps Ronald for a midnight snack. So she puts on a paper bag and goes to rescue him.

The best part is when she’s done it, she’s outsmarted the dragon, and then Ronald’s like, “Ew, you’re wearing garbage, go home and change and then you can rescue me!”

She calls him a bum.

Good times.

Here is the slightly horrifying animated version:

I make no apologies for this.

Anyway, Elizabeth really ties this together because she teaches us that if your prince is a jerk, yell at him and dump him, and also it doesn’t matter what you wear. This is a thing our older Disney ladies already know, but the fact that they enjoy dressing up for the formalest of occasions doesn’t take away from their awesomeness.

More on that much more substantial point later, I promise.

Moana (Make way, make way!)

Hands up if the title of this post made you break out into song!

Hi there, it’s three again. As erm suggested, I haven’t been around much thanks to a ridiculously busy life which I 100% brought upon myself. *sigh*

Anyway, a couple of months ago something highly disturbing happened to me: Someone close to me, someone I considered to be a friend, said something unforgivable.

“I didn’t really like Moana,” she said, probably sneering (it was in a groupchat). “I didn’t like any of the songs and I just found it boring.”

My response was something along the lines of “well, then I guess we can’t be friends anymore.” She adorably thought I was joking. NOPE.

I was surprised, in that moment, chatting on facebook during a Stats lecture, how much it upset me that someone in my life dared to not like Moana. I haven’t cared that much about people liking the stuff I like since I was a teenager. And even now, months later, I still get angry when I think about it. “I didn’t like any of the songs” and “It was boring” is not a legitimate opinion and she should be ashamed.

So in an effort to vent my frustration about that complete lack of a review, I am here today to argue a point which I believe wholeheartedly: Moana is the greatest Disney princess of all time. Okay, that may be an overstatement. Instead I’ll say that she embodies all of the best characteristics of my favourite Disney princesses, combined into one superpower princess. Let’s go!

An Innocent Warrior

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LOOK HOW EFFING CUTE SHE IS.

Anyway, from this scene onwards this movie is pure magic. A part of that comes from the fact that this scene occurs when she’s a small child. It warms my heart to think that the Ocean saw the goodness in someone who can’t even speak yet. The Ocean chose her. And that’s something that she struggles to reconcile throughout the rest of the movie.

When else have we been given a quick glimpse of a princess’s true inner power from when they were a child?

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Hey, look, it’s my second favourite Princess, Tiana!

When I say inner power, by the way, I’m not talking about an ability to make gumbo. Tiana’s power (in my opinion) is that she uses food as a way to bring people together. Anyone can cook (according to Gusteau), but not anyone can bring people from far and wide to get a taste of their food. It’s about people, not recipes, for Tiana and her dad.

Moana’s inner power, the one identified by the Ocean so early on, is that she’s a warrior. She is willing to fight for what she knows to be right, even if fighting involves saving a turtle and missing the pretty pink shell. Later, she fights to restore the heart, and her warrior’s resolve is what gets her through.

Both Moana and Tiana are marked by these traits, identifiable from early childhood, and stop at nothing to live out the path that they are destined for, even at the expense of their enjoyment of life and their relationships. That’s kind of a badass thing for a woman to get to do, IMHO.

We Know the Way

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Moana knows her whole life that she is destined to be chief. This, of course, is different from the path given to her by the Ocean, and the one she feels in her gut that she needs to follow. What really impresses me about Moana’s journey is that she manages to take two seemingly incompatible destinies and make them one. Moana is the Chief who brought the village back to the ocean.

Now, there’s a comparison to be made here with Moana and Simba. That could be an article of its own, so I’m just going to ignore that for now.

Instead, I want to talk about a more recent example: Elsa. Elsa also had two incompatible destinies: she was born with terrifying power, and also destined to be queen. With much, much more inner struggle, Elsa manages to combine the two and become Queen without sacrificing her powers.

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The reason I love this is because it shows true leadership ability. These women didn’t just come of age – they proved leadership ability by bringing something of themselves to the role of Chief/Queen.

Sails to Te Fiti

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Moana is a badass. She ties up her hair and barrels forward into challenges. I don’t think we’ve seen a Disney Princess come so naturally into her own as an action hero. Bravery, adventurousness, and physical prowess are all things Moana has from the start, which is new and wonderful.

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Mulan holds a place in my heart as the first Disney Princess to run into battle. Both Moana and Mulan do something that is uncommon for female characters anywhere – they make bold, self-sacrificing, even violent decisions to save Motonui/China.

Know Who You Are

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Moana sees Te Ka, not as a massive fiery monster, but as someone who has had her heart stolen. It’s that same compassion that the Ocean saw in her at the beginning – the “innocent” in “innocent warrior” – which allowed Moana to see this. Maui certainly never would have. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Maui. I’m just saying, there’s a reason why the Ocean chose her.)

Just as Moana was entrusted with the Heart of Te Fiti, Rapunzel was entrusted with the Sun’s Gift.

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I’m just choosing to interpret it this way, by the way. We’ve talked about it before. I like to think that this All-Knowing Flower (or the Sun to Moana’s Ocean) knew that Rapunzel was a good egg, and that’s why it let her house its gifts, because she got to decide how to dish them out.

Both Rapunzel and Moana create a lot of good by being innocent and seeing the best in others. Now, this is nothing groundbreaking – female characters always get stuck being virginal and pure – but it still shouldn’t be underestimated. Goodness is a real superpower, especially when it comes with healing abilities/an artifact which will save the world. These movies are acknowledging the power of goodness, which I am all for.

Moana Paints with All the Colours of the Wind

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Heh.

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All images are from DisneyScreenCaps.com, as always.

Power Rangers, The Lion King, Scar, and Reverence for Nostalgia

All right so I watched this review:

I plan to see Power Rangers because the trailer promised a gritty, YA-novel version of the silly show I used to watch as a six-year-old so obviously I’m there. I have very low expectations. I’m willing to put up with some boringness and way too much angst. I read the entirety of the Twilight series, so I’m immune at this point to popular YA-type angst and awful storytelling. I am looking forward to the action, though, because although I can’t really remember, I’m pretty sure that Xena-loving kid me severely dug that there were two action girls in this show, so, I’m excited.

But my expectations have been low since I heard there would be a Power Rangers movie. Because it’s Power Rangers. I was six and I knew it was stupid. It was the good kind of stupid, obviously, but stupid nonetheless.

It’s a fine line to walk, because I don’t think children’s entertainment has an excuse to be lazy and incompetent just because it’s for kids, and I also acknowledge that there are big fans of Power Rangers who maybe see something profound in the various TV versions of it that have existed for decades. But I don’t know – I feel like at the end of the review when he says something about how he’d punch someone if they adapted something he’d loved as a kid like this, he’s engaging a little too seriously with treating Power Rangers like a nostalgia property that should be worshiped like some sort of deity.

I might change my mind when I actually see it later this week, but I don’t know. I wish they’d made a fun Power Rangers movie (this and other reviews I’ve seen suggest it unfortunately wasn’t made with “fun” being the major point of the whole thing), but probably they went with angsty and overlong because they wanted it to resemble the teen dystopia stuff that sells, so. Fine.

But here’s a thought exercise for myself on this lukewarm Monday evening: what’s a nostalgia property that might be adapted so badly that I would want to find the filmmakers and punch them?

Well obviously The Lion King.

All I know about the live action CGI Lion King remake is that Donald Glover and James Earl Jones have been cast, which is good. But today my coworker turned up the Broadway Lion King soundtrack way too loudly (also he sang along wrong, singing lines too fast or too slow or outright missing key words, and then when he noticed that I was unimpressed he had the gall to ask, “Don’t you like The Lion King?” and I thought “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’RE SPEAKING TO RN” but I settled for saying, “Yes, but-” and then he started singing along incorrectly again) and I remembered that song, “The Madness of Scar,” and how it’s actually kind of terrible.

It’s fine as a song goes, I guess. It’s funny. It was entertaining to watch on stage, mainly because Scar is the worst and it’s fun to laugh at him. But it gets laughs out of enhancing Scar’s Shakespearean villain “being haunted by the terrible thing he did” thing into HILARIOUS mental illness. And how he was never loved as a child. And then he decides what’s missing is a wife, so, he gets weird about Nala. And none of this was necessary. So I look at this and think, “The last time they adapted The Lion King, the biggest difference is that they went for sympathy – mocking, maybe, but sympathy still – for Scar, who as far as I’m concerned deserves very little sympathy. So who’s to say that in the remake, rather than perhaps outright acknowledging Timon and Pumbaa’s queerness, they’ll just add trauma or mental illness to try to make Scar sympathetic and everything will be awful?????”

So let’s talk about what the upcoming Lion King remake might do to Scar that would encourage me to write a song in which I shriek at myself about how angry I am because SOMEONE MISSED THE ENTIRE POINT OF THE ORIGINAL SO I MEAN WHY WOULD THEY EVEN BOTHER REMAKING IT IF THEY NEVER GOT WHAT WAS SO GOOD ABOUT IT IN THE FIRST PLACE GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

Scar, for reasons that will remain eternally unknowable, has a fanclub. A pretty big one. So does Frollo, so, it doesn’t really mean anything apart from confirming that people watch movies and only pay attention to certain parts, I guess, but Scar’s fanclub does exist. If the filmmakers decide to throw them a bone and give Scar some sympathy, a couple of things begin to fall apart.

If Scar is sympathetic because he was abused or neglected as a child, our suspicions turn to Mufasa. Why didn’t Mufasa look out for his little brother? Now, look, Mufasa doesn’t have to be flawless – but what would be the point in giving him a pretty unforgivable flaw? Not looking out for your smaller brother is not cool.

Look at how the Thor/Loki dynamic turned out with the Marvelverse’s audience. And Thor tries, even, but it’s not enough. The fact that Loki is incurably selfish does very little to correct how freaking likable he is. Scar, I would suggest, can be likable without being sympathetic. We can like that he as a set goal in mind and that he achieves it. But then when he snivels and schemes and tries to blame everything on the hyenas, and when he throws Simba’s mercy quite literally right back in his face, and also before all of this when he’s scheming to murder his own brother and nephew, and also all of the nasty emotional abuse? Yeah. I don’t need to sympathize with any of that.

Making Scar a victim of childhood neglect, or perhaps even trauma, depending on where he got that scar that he’s apparently now named after, is, as far as I’m concerned, a mistake. Because The Lion King doesn’t need its villain to have a fleshed-out childhood trauma narrative. Simba is all we need.

Simba is a little baby just living his life when his uncle tries to feed him to hyenas, twice. And in between the first and second hyena-feeding attempts, he watches his father die, and then is made to believe that it was his own fault.

Simba and Scar have a conversation near the beginning of the movie where Scar calls himself “A monkey’s uncle,” and calls Simba his favourite nephew. This conversation would be sweet. If. You know. Scar weren’t trying to gode his baby nephew into running right into hyena jaws to try to prove his bravery. Scar is emotionally manipulative from the beginning. After all, he was next in line for the throne, until the little hairball was born. Simba is an obstacle in the way of Scar’s power, and must be removed.

Do we really need an extensive childhood-trauma backstory of Scar‘s to explain why he does the things he does?

Look at two things. One: American politics. Right now. Paul Ryan is very upset because his first big attempt to take down Obamacare failed. Really think about that. Paul Ryan’s ambition is to take health care away from poor people. He wants poor people to die. Sure, he probably doesn’t kneel at his bedroom window, gazing up at Evangeline, praying, “Please let me make it harder for poor people to get access to necessary health care, Evangeline, please.” Probably he really does believe that people who deserve health care will just magically be able to afford it, and that poverty only exists because liberals make capitalism malfunction by making people pay taxes or something. And for sure he has a whole, complicated personality and backlog of memories and experiences that have led him to this point, which, I remind you, is that he wants poor people to die. But. I don’t need to sympathize with him.

Let me. OK. Look. I work at an animal shelter. People in my industry, whether they’re shelter workers or even if they just work in animal medicine, have a kind of troubling suicide tendency. This line of work is hard. It puts you face to face with suffering animals and the people who outright refuse to care about them, so we work doubly hard, trying to make up for the apparently endless callousness of humanity. Emotional labour is exhausting and, unfortunately, it’s finite. I’ve met some people who maybe started out working with animals out of a love they thought was endless, but then it turned out that love did end, and they became kind of awful. An example of something I saw that was somewhat disturbing but not actually unethical was a coworker of mine was ripping feathers out of a dead hawk for a craft someone was doing. It was really violent. The hawk was dead, so, it was fine, but I said to her, “I don’t think I could do that, even though he’s obviously not suffering.” And she laughed and said, “Working here does things to you.” We need a bit of callousness for ourselves; we have to wear it as armour, but we have to be careful or we turn into monsters. So I’ll say: we need to empathize as much as possible with as many people (and animals) as possible, but there are limits. There have to be. Right now, I’m empathizing with the people Paul Ryan is fine (happy, even!) letting die, and not him.

So like. If there’s a Trumpcare movie, I don’t need a whole sob story about Paul Ryan to explain why he has the terrible ambitions that he has. The emotional focus should be on those vulnerable people he’s giddily trying to harm.

And, less depressingly, two: Remember when Star Wars tried to explain what turned Darth Vader to the dark side?

Yeah.

I think the best decision here is to just do what the original movie did. Scar is like those privileged frat guys who do horrible things even though they’ve lived more or less unchallenging lives. Sure, maybe they’ve had a bit of sadness here and there, but they’re not mentally ill (and we need to stop stigmatizing mentally ill people as the only – or even the usual type of people who do terrible things because usually not. Usually they’re the victims of violent crimes, in fact), and they’re not victims of childhood trauma and neglect (also we need to stop stigmatizing these). I think you can be pretty dark without enduring significant pain in your past. I think you can have dark ambitions and a gigantic propensity to hurt others even if your parents were basically all right to you. See Donald Trump. See George W. Bush. See Dick Cheney omg it’s always a better day when I don’t remember that man exists. *Shudder*

Why? Who knows. Probably it’s culture. Toxic masculinity, rampant individualism, anti-intellectualism, every type of bigotry and how institutionalized bigotry rewards privileged people for not noticing it. And in the utopia of the Pride Lands? Well, it’s probably because he’s a lion. Lions stand in for humans in this story (because, ahem, we’ve casually forgotten that there are humans in Africa. Also Tarzan does this). They’re the top of the food chain, kings because if they treat the ecosystem poorly everyone starves, but they’re benevolent and instead work to keep the circle of life working properly. But they don’t have to. If Scar does unethical things to gain and keep power and it works? Why should he do the hard work of ruling properly when doing the opposite has worked for him so far?

“The Madness of Scar” suggests that Scar is surprised and a little sad that he isn’t loved the way Mufasa was. I’ll firmly suggest that the Scar I know, voiced by Jeremy Irons with a perpetually smug look on his face unless he thinks he’s seeing his brother’s ghost or if the nephew he kept trying to murder when he was a baby is now an adult and is getting the better of him, DOES NOT CARE ABOUT BEING LOVED.

Banzai: Hey, boss!

Scar: Oh, what is it this time?

Banzai: We’ve got a bone to pick with you.

Shenzi: I’ll handle this. Scar, there’s no food, no water –

Banzai: Yeah! It’s dinner time, and we ain’t got no stinking entrees!

Scar: It’s the lionness’s job to do the hunting.

Banzai: Yeah but they won’t go hunt!

Scar: Oh, eat Zazu.

*Zazu and Scar argue about whether Zazu would taste good*

Banzai: And I thought things were bad under Mufasa.

Scar: WHAT DID YOU SAY?

Banzai: I said Muf- I said, uh, que pasa?

Scar: Good. Now get out.

Banzai: Yeah but, we’re still hungry.

Scar: OUT!

And then later, in public…

Scar: Where is your hunting party? They’re not doing their job.

Sarabi: Scar, there is no food. The herds have moved on.

Scar: No, you’re just not looking hard enough.

Sarabi: It’s over. There is nothing left. We have only one choice: we must leave Pride Rock.

Scar: We’re not going anywhere.

Sarabi: Then you have sentenced us to death.

Scar: So be it.

Sarabi: You can’t do that!

Scar: I am the king, I can do whatever I want.

Sarabi: If you were half the king Mufasa was you wouldn’t –

Scar: I’m TEN TIMES the king Mufasa was!

All Scar wants, the entirety of his desire, is to do whatever he wants. Which is, apparently, listening to happy tunes (but NOT “It’s a Small World”) in a cave. He doesn’t want the responsibility of keeping things in balance, which keeps everyone fed, especially considering that letting the hyenas have free reign is a major factor in his gaining and keeping power, and the hyenas having free reign ruins the balance. So.

He’s a Republican, is what I’m saying. The Lion King is about the responsibilities of power, after all, and Disney’s chosen metaphor for this is a family group of big cats where the big, scary male is in charge but actually all of the hard work is done by the females (heh heh heh). Scar’s politics are nonsense and ecologically devastating. And he hates women. What he wants and what he needs don’t actually work together. His staunch refusal to do what is necessary is so staunch that he’s willing to starve to death himself, just as long as he gets to be king (like all of those Trump voters who will likely lose their health care).

Even his guilt about Mufasa is more about his fear of losing power than it is about his fear of facing his own conscience. Probably the only law he ever enacts is the law that states that you can’t say the name “Mufasa” in his presence, because, as he screams at Zazu, “AM THE KING!” He has to keep screaming this, and banning Mufasa’s name, not because he’s secretly sad that he murdered his brother, but because he knows that once the lionesses learn that he stole power they’ll turn on him.

Scar is not sympathetic. Do you want to know how he got that scar? OK I know there’s a cool Lion Guard or The Lion King: Expanded Universe official explanation of it but here’s mine and I think it’s better: he got on the bad side of a lioness. He doesn’t even need to have been Frollo-esque rapey, to be honest (pretty sure his “unwanted affections,” if he were to have any, would be directed at the males of the species anyway). Maybe, since he’s a bully, he bullied her cub, or her sister, or something. Maybe she gave him what he deserved. I don’t know why he would be called “Scar” because of this, though. Frankly, even if he got scarred as a very small cub, that part makes no sense. But the rest of it does, right? I’m sure he has depth and motivations, but like the politicians and terrible frat guys I’m comparing him to here, they don’t mean much to decent people like you, me, and even the hyenas, in the end. Scar is the worst. He should garner no sympathy.

But erm, you say. What does this have to do with you thinking that Power Rangers doesn’t really need to be any good?

Not much, I have to admit. I think my point is that I can understand being angry at bad adaptations, ultimately because if the original works and then the remake changes one thing without radically changing everything else connected to it, everything falls apart. But Power Rangers, no matter what anyone says, isn’t The Lion King. It’s five teenagers doing martial arts and joining into a huge mechasuit or whatever and while that is awesome and while it deserves an earnest, fun, “rah-rah let’s be heroes” blockbuster movie, if its filmmakers dropped the ball and made it too YA-angsty for it to truly be as good as it could have been, well, it isn’t really a tragedy.

But that’s only my opinion. And I kind of liked the Rangers as a kid, but I memorized the other thing. I memorized it. So, of course my opinion would be that Power Rangers being good is far less important than Donald Glover+CGI everything The Lion King being good.

Shrug.

PS: I’m happy about the CGI, in case I made it seem like I’d prefer Disney to use real animals. Big cats aren’t actors and shouldn’t ever be. People hit them in the face as cubs to teach them to defer to human trainers. Also eventually some of them snap and maul and/or kill people so there’s that too.

I looked for the video I saw of leopards being hit but couldn’t find it. But who needs that, am I right?

Disney Work Part 2

Here are some more mundane tasks that Disney movies jazz up.

*Disclaimer: I went through YouTube to find all of these clips I wanted to talk about, but at some point, some of these videos may be removed abruptly from YouTube because, well, Disney. Posting straight clips like this doesn’t count as fair use because they aren’t transformative… but they’re so short I personally doubt that they cause any financial harm to the behemoth that is Disney. But. Copyright law is important. 

Anyway, if one of these is missing but my hilarious descriptions of what goes on make you want to watch that clip RIGHT NOW just search YouTube. Someone will probably have reuploaded it by then. Or, if you’re like me, you already have access to all of these on DVD or Bluray or something, so hakuna matata.*

Cleaning outdoors/drawing water/being rudely interrupted

It’s always nice to take a break from cleaning to talk to woodland critters and daydream a bit. Even better, I think, if it’s outside and there’s a well involved. On the other hand, when some jerk comes up suddenly behind you that’s a bit less stellar.

In real life this would suck. Large. But hey, good for Snow I guess. It’s what she said she wanted, after all.

Cleaning the floor

Snow and Cinderella could stand to invest in a mop.

But also, this scene is fabulous. And it’s cool how Lucifer ties it all together as he does. There is nothing more magical than a cat ruining your clean floor – because at least it’s not a dog. Dogs are worse.

“Doing your chores” while finding time to “study”

Dogs are worse.

Little Brother may be one of the top three Disney dogs. Also, Mulan’s a genius for saving time by cheating and by tying chicken feed to her dog. Although she still ended up late. But hey, she’d be much later if she had actually studied thoroughly enough to not need her notes, and if she’d carefully fed the chickens herself.

Dig dig dig dig dig dig digging in a mine the whole day through/commuting

Mining is awful. Don’t ask how I’d know, because I don’t. But I’m assuming it’s awful. It’s probably not as glittery as this. Also walking to and from work is less than ideal.

Street performance

It’s rough being a street performer. Don’t ask how I’d know, because I don’t. But I’m assuming it’s rough. Here, it’s not as though Esmeralda has it easy, but on the other hand, until the stupid guards show up and apart from the occasional glimpse of hereditary bigotry, it seems like it’s going OK. Except maybe don’t have Djali be the one in charge of carrying the money.

Washing someone else’s stupid dishes

This is a better method. Why we don’t all just do it this way is beyond me.

Also the way Merlin says, “Rubbity scrubbity sweepity, flow,” makes me laugh. I think he’s a little too into it.

“Gathering corn”

The magic here is in having a friend that doesn’t drop you when you a) only pick one thing of corn, and b) didn’t tell her about the invader you met and befriended the other day so that she’s stunned when he shows up and you run off with him like it’s nothing and ask her not to do anything about it. Please.

Cleaning someone else’s ridiculous mess

This is a little too much fun to truly be a parody of Snow White at the dwarves’ house. It’s more of an updated version that acknowledges its relentless cheeriness but doesn’t apologize for it.

I know I’m a little out there with my lack of hatred for cockroaches but still, I’d be thrilled if a cockroach/pigeon/rat team showed up to help with the housework.

Cooking

Remy loves cooking but I’d prefer if the food would just magically appear on dishes that would magically clean themselves afterwards. But this, and all of the other Remy-cooks-something scenes, make me appreciate the actual act of cooking.

Still. If Remy wants to invade my kitchen and become my personal chef, that’s more than fine with me.

Making gumbo

Princess and the Frog focuses less on food preparation than does Ratatouille, but it still makes cooking seem magical and not tedious by highlighting the “good food brings people together” thing that Tiana is obsessed with as an adult without quite understanding what it means to her now that she’s grown.

Making gumbo as a frog in a swamp

Cooking is annoying enough as a human with opposable thumbs and… appliances, and stuff. But again, the movie shows it as being something that connects people, even if Tiana’s the one doing all of the hard work, like figuring out how to heat a pumpkin. In the middle of a swamp. As a frog.

Being forced to appreciate art

This is a bit much. They’re kittens.

Indulging in every hobby

Even though Rapunzel is just feverishly trying to give her life meaning, I admire her daily productivity and aspire to it. An achievable goal, if ever there was one.

Indulging in your hobby with just a dash of self-loathing on the side

“No face as hideous as my face was ever meant for heaven’s light.” Aw, come on, Quasi.

The whittling of the Esmeralda figure is the best thing. And it’s much better than the smoke version of her that Frollo conjures up, because Frollo is and will always be the worst.

Indulging in your totally normal, not concerning at all hobby

Lady.

Why can’t you make skiving snackboxes or something.

Disney Work

Here’s a handy but incomplete list of mundane tasks that a Disney movie makes look like magic.

*Disclaimer: I went through YouTube to find all of these clips I wanted to talk about, but at some point, some of these videos may be removed abruptly from YouTube because, well, Disney. Posting straight clips like this doesn’t count as fair use because they aren’t transformative… but they’re so short I personally doubt that they cause any financial harm to the behemoth that is Disney. But. Copyright law is important. 

Anyway, if one of these is missing but my hilarious descriptions of what goes on make you want to watch that clip RIGHT NOW just search YouTube. Someone will probably have reuploaded it by then. Or, if you’re like me, you already have access to all of these on DVD or Bluray or something, so hakuna matata.*

Getting up in the morning

The upside of dying in your sleep is that you never have to get up in the morning ever again. Getting up is terrible. Everything you have to do during this new day has yet to be done. Some days, the worst part about getting up is that you have to do all of the things and can’t sleep again until they’re all done, but some days are much worse. Sometimes you wake up to a cat violently vomiting – but at least she’s vomiting off the side of the bed, so whatever. Just don’t step in it, I guess. Sometimes you wake up to a giant centipede crawling up your wall. Sometimes you wake up and you were supposed to be at work ten minutes ago. It’s great.

Cinderella just deals with it. The various clothed animals help, I guess. None of them are vomiting. My goal in life is to be as chill about having to get up as she is. She’s just a tad disgruntled and sort of tells off a clock. I’ll get there someday.

Baking

I like pie but making pie is terrible. The crust is finicky. The filling is sometimes a soup. If you want lemon meringue but you’re a vegan you need to open a can of chickpeas and whip up the slop they come in for upwards of ten minutes and it’s weird. If you want tourtierre but you haven’t eaten pork in ten years you also need chickpeas, and some mushrooms. There are too many steps and too many dishes to wash and all of the counter space gets covered in flour.

But this little scene is awesome. To be as serene as this while making pie? Snow White must be a saint.

Packing

Why can’t it be this simple?

Also, Higitus Figitus and Madam Mim are the only reasons for this movie to exist.

Cleaning up someone else’s ridiculous mess

This may be the highlight for a scene that makes cleaning look like fun.

Hunting/Gathering

Well. Maybe everyone’s in a good mood just because the warriors have returned. But still.

Being trained on a new job

Being a new hire sucks. Colette’s training style would not help. However, as time goes on and as both Linguini and Remy listen and learn from her, she gets friendlier. She just needed to be sure that she would be treated with the respect she deserves.

Working two jobs

Plain and simple: when she falls into bed only to have the alarm go off seconds later? That is my nightmare.

Tiana’s life looks busy. Stimulating, enjoyable much of the time, but also miserable in a few significant ways. This scene manages to show the mix.

Working out

Working out is stupid. But there’s something quite satisfying about watching Herc pick up that giant arm statue by the fingertip.

Working out

… working out is very manly, and… tough.

Seriously though, this is my favourite progression scene. The Hercules one is also a lot of fun, and the Ratatouille one is great in a subtler way. Maybe it’s easy to make hard work look great when you can also show the results.

Poisoning your elderly employer’s cats

This… is my favourite part? He’s awful and all, but that dish looks so good. Even if all it is is cream, various spices, and way too many sleeping pills.

Triple Feature: Exploitation in Trolls, Pinocchio, and The Lego Movie

I went out to buy Trolls on DVD and came home with The Lego Movie and Pinocchio as well, so I figured, why not get a blog post out of what was probably a stupid financial decision on my part?

My second favourite thing about Trolls was the exploitation stuff, and I’m pretty sure that’s a common thread in Lego for sure, and I seem to recall donkeys in Pinocchio so sure, let’s go with exploitation as a topic and examine how each of these three otherwise unrelated movies handle it.

(spoilers)

Trolls

Everyone knows that Bergens are unable to feel happiness unless they eat a Troll. This statement of absolute fact is repeated often by Chef, who obviously has a lot riding on all of the Bergens believing it, but the Trolls believe this too. Poppy’s history lesson includes the claim that Bergens don’t sing, don’t dance, and don’t hug. We see them not hugging, sure, but we also see them trudging along to the beat of a song they’re most definitely singing. A deleted scene shows Chef singing a villain song. And Bridget, without prompting from the Trolls, sings Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” about King Gristle. And with just a bit of encouragement at the end, the Bergens start dancing.

It doesn’t take long, once Poppy and Branch reach Bergen Town, for Poppy to realize that Bergens can be happy without eating Trolls, despite the fact that she’s grown up believing that to be impossible. Although Branch insists that “Bergens don’t have feelings,” Poppy, having witnessed Bridget be sad about King Gristle not noticing her existence, begins to realize that they don’t know everything about their enemies. Poppy decides to form a partnership with Bridget rather than running around screaming trying to get away from her.

When it’s time for the trolls to move on and save Creek, Bridget despairs because she’s certain that she needs the trolls to be “Lady Glitter Sparkles” and keep King Gristle’s attention. But later, as the Trolls are regaining their own happiness and hope, Bridget decides to set them free and suffer the consequences which at this point are a lot worse than Gristle realizing that she’s a scullery maid. She and her Troll friends have progressed from having very, very conflicting interests, to a mutually beneficial hairdo-based deception scheme, and finally to a point where Bridget will risk her life for them, and where Poppy will return the favour.

This scenario probably couldn’t work in this movie, but indulge me: if the Trolls hadn’t been able to regain happiness before the feast, maybe the happiness Bergens gain from eating them wouldn’t be possible. If this movie had decided that Branch’s approach to life was better than Poppy’s, for example, this very thing may have been his strategy. “Let’s all be sad so that we don’t actually make them happy when they eat us. Wooot,” he would say, I guess. But again, I don’t know what kind of movie that would be. What we have instead is that they feel better, and Bridget, because of empathy, releases them.

It’s Poppy and her friends’ empathy at the end that allow Bergens to find their happiness. Poppy says, “She deserves to be happy. They all do.” So the dream team go back and put themselves in danger to explain how to be happy to the Bergens. Empathy is held up at the end as the true way to give someone else happiness rather than someone exploiting someone more vulnerable to attain it at their expense.

Pinocchio

All right, Pinocchio. I haven’t seen this in at least a decade and a half, and I’m nervous. Mostly I’m nervous because I remember not being a fan, but I’m also worried that it’ll have nothing to do with exploitation. So I’m going to watch it and record all of what will surely be my astute and useful reactions as I’m watching.

It’s 12:00 am. Why am I doing this at this time this was a stupid idea.

12:01 am and I guess I’ll admit one of my shortcomings as a human being: being easily bored by long opening credits. I’m glad they don’t do this anymore.

12:04: Jiminy Cricket doesn’t look much like a cricket. Missing a couple of legs and some wings, he is. Also he’s breaking and entering.

12:06: Figaro just showed up. And I guess that isn’t the worst Italian accent I’ve ever heard on Geppetto.

12:09: I’d completely forgotten about that fish.

12:10: Geppetto is using his puppet to harass Figaro. What.

12:15: Figaro is the true hero of this movie and I feel bad for him.

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12:18: Jiminy, you’re a cricket. She’s a… fairy.

12:22: I don’t want to be cynical but I kind of think he’s been set up for failure. He just has to be of impeccable character, that’s all, no big deal.

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12:26: WHAT THE HELL AM I WATCHING RIGHT NOW

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12:30: cue the furries. Why do they care about a wooden boy, don’t they have Zootopia fanart to draw or something?

12:32: OK so temptation number one: fame, offered by greedy exploitish anthropomorphic animals.

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12:36: oh good, racism. Bring back the furries.

12:48: Pinocchio and Jiminy are pretty sure this situation is their own faults. Nope, guys. And if the Blue Fairy gives him crap I’m concluding that she’s the enchantress from Beauty and the Beast.

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12:51: she’s that enchantress. The Beast was 11 when she overreacted at him too, so, lady. Surely you could be testing someone more deserving of your moralistic scrutiny than little kids.

12:53: oh no, the donkey thing is happening isn’t it. And the furries are horrified. Rightly so. But apparently they’re still going to help this horrific stuff happen, so, cool.

12:56: the second temptation is vacation. I would lose on this one.

12:57: I DON’T LIKE THIS.

1:02: I didn’t realize that playing pool was such a bad thing.

1:03: this cricket is useless. And there’s a lot of foreshadowing happening and I reeeeeally don’t like it.

1:04: NOPE.

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1:06: I can’t express how much I hate this right now.

1:09: … what? A… what? But. What?

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1:14: I’m still confused. How did Geppetto mess up searching for Pinocchio so badly that he ended up in a whale.

1:15: is he feeding fish to his fish. This guy is a mess.

1:17: that’s a nice reunion amongst dying fish. Very sweet.

1:23: I guess the third temptation is surviving. Cool. And where are Cleo and Figaro during all of this?

1:24: oh there they are.

1:25: suck it, Blue Fairy.

1:26: nooo not the clocks again.

1:28: and it’s over. Wow.

Good, there was exploitation. Mainly of vulnerable children. I could go back and forth for a while about whether the movie is really suggesting that Pinocchio and the other boys that ended up as donkeys sold into slavery deserve to be exploited as they are, but I think instead I’ll invoke the Rule of Red Riding Hood. Which is, and I quote:

“From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, And it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner. I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!”

Perrault can go jump in a lake.

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Pinocchio manages to escape the donkey fate by jumping off a cliff. Jumping off a cliff may have metaphorical significance, I guess, but to me it doesn’t signify Pinocchio learning his lesson about trusting anthropomorphic foxes or wanting to live a carefree life filled with smoking, drinking, playing pool (the… horror… or maybe that was the joke, I’m honestly not sure), property destruction, and no school. He just realizes he’s been had and his conscience, rather than making him feel bad about the decisions he’s made that have led him to this moment, just points him to the exit. This is an interesting way to write a moral, I suppose, in that there isn’t one at all. But then Pinocchio needs to be willing to and actually die to save Geppetto before the Blue Fairy grants him “real boy” status, proving that he’s better than all of those other boys and is truly deserving of life.

Compare this to Trolls: first of all, in Pinocchio’s shoes Poppy would certainly have gone back to save all the other kids, since she is willing to do so for all of the Bergens, even the ones she doesn’t know personally. Not that I’m suggesting that Pinocchio was capable of that, but man, tell the polizia. Or the fairy. Or something.

Now if we were to apply the Rule of Riding Hood to Trolls, then Branch would have to be the main character. The fact that he warned Poppy about the loud party would be even more highlighted than it was. She’d have to learn some sort of painful lesson and become a completely different character. He probably would come up with that plan I mentioned earlier in which the Trolls all give up happiness so that they can’t be exploited. Don’t talk to strangers if you don’t want them to “eat” you, after all. If you have something someone wants to exploit, best get rid of it.

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Happily we don’t live in the world in which the movie takes Branch’s extreme side. Instead, there’s a couple of instances where “I guess we were both right” is the lesson they learn. And when Poppy does revert to Branch’s early-on-in-the-movie way of looking at the world, Branch is the one to convince her not to give hope. The Trolls don’t escape exploitation by jumping off the exit cliff, but rather by learning things, and by their extreme, all-encompassing empathy.

And the Blue Fairy really can suck it. So Pinocchio decided to skip school twice. BFD. Can’t she pick on Stromboli or that creep luring kids to “Pleasure Island” and then turning them into donkeys and selling them into slavery for her moralistic lectures about lying I MEAN GET SOME PERSPECTIVE LADY.

The Lego Movie

Lord Business is rounding up master builders and trapping them in his think tank so that they’ll come up with the brilliant instructions for all of the settings in his various realms. He’s doing this because the bizarre creations of master builders and world-mixing were confusing him. He wants his stuff to be exactly. The way. He wants it.

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Now really he’s just The Man Upstairs, Finn’s dad. And he wants to build all of his Lego sets as they are in the instructions and then glue them down so that his kids can’t move them around. Lord Business’s think tank full of such geniuses as Gandalf, Wonder Woman, Shaquille O’Neal, and Cleopatra is just Finn’s active imagination’s version of events.

The exploitation of the think tank happens because Lord Business is stubborn about how the world has to be. There aren’t infinite possibilities in his mind. Everyone needs to stand still in their own realms and stay frozen forever. Finn’s dad has decided that his Lego isn’t a toy because he’s building and gluing and now it’s become a grown-up thing. But when he sees some of Finn’s creations, he changes his mind about the crazy glue and plays with his son, building strange creations and letting Lego guys and girls who wouldn’t normally interact interact. Eventually, even his daughter is allowed to join.

Dun dun duuuuuuun.

The Lego Movie reminds me of Trolls in that all of the bad stuff happens because everyone (in Trolls) or just the one guy in charge of everything (in The Lego Movie) is working under the assumption that there is only one way to do something. For the Bergens, it’s eating Trolls to achieve happiness. For dad/Lord Business, it’s gluing everyone down so that nothing moves and gets weird. But the innocence and resilience of Poppy and Finn/Emmett convince everyone to try a less exploitative, less gluey approach, and it works out better for everyone.

Welp. That was certainly a way to spend two days.

spaceshiiiip

SPACESHIIIIIIIIP!!!!!!!

Animated Animals: The Reptile Muscle

Guess it’s Disney Day again.

I’m trying to write a thing about portrayals of animals and nature in animated films – specifically Finding Nemo and The Lion King – since Andrew Stanton gave that interview saying his reaction to the “circle of life” philosophy in Le Roi Lion was a major influence to how nature is portrayed in Trouver Nemo. I keep getting stuck, mostly because how I feel about those portrayals is tied up in how I feel about how society perceives nature in general and then I go off on huge barely-related tangents about humpback whales and I think it’s going to turn into a massive manifesto.

So for now I wrote this thing about Louis and Pascal and how they do somewhat unethical things so that their princesses can achieve their dreams without moral ensulliment. Mmhm.


Recent Disney princesses have occasionally relied on reptilian enforcement for maximum dream achievement. Let’s discuss.

Louis is the definition of non-threatening. He shows up right after truly threatening gators attack our frog heroes, but all he wants is to play his trumpet in accompaniment to Naveen’s spider webbed-branch. Actually, all he wants is to play among the great (and human) jazz musicians on the riverboats. So Louis is both non-threatening and Ariel.

“Oh I tried once.” That part is probably the funniest thing in the movie. Tiana’s “And we talk, too,” is also good, but that’s not the point.

Louis asks Mama Odie to give him a human body so that he can safely jam with the big boys, but she apparently isn’t one for simple, straight-up magical transformation and tells him he just needs to find what he needs. Which ends up simply being that he needs to be friends with some powerful and influential people who own a restaurant by the end of the film, because as we see during the finale, Tiana lets him play for her patrons.

But to get to this point, first we need non-threatening Louis to be a true American Murder Log.

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You’re better off where you’re at.

The Fenner brothers probably weren’t supposed to accept another offer after agreeing to sell to Tiana, but since she hadn’t signed the papers yet it wasn’t technically illegal. I like this because it’s a lot more realistic than having them just be outright evil schemers denying Tiana her dream property. They’re just not good people, even though what they’re doing is within the law.

I mean, the above is clearly a death threat though. I’m fine with it (sometimes you have to force people to not do terrible things), but, it’s a death threat. Damn, Disney.

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Worth it.

I’ve been to Florida many times and I’ve never seen an alligator in the wild. I’m mostly OK with that, because if I happen to meet one and it decides to eat me then I think I’m eaten. But it would be interesting to see one from a safe distance. They are the living dinosaurs, after all (I mean so are birds but we’re not ready as a culture to accept feathered dinosaurs yet so whatever).

I’m grateful for Princess and the Frog’s portrayal of alligators. Louis is genuinely lovable, and gators don’t get enough appreciation, which is a shame. I personally find it hard to appreciate them because they’re dangerous and they eat animals I like better than them, but despite all of that, when I found a lovely shop display of decapitated baby alligator heads in multiple souvenir shops in Florida, I was unimpressed. To say the least. When we allow ourselves to project evil onto an animal just because it’s deadly and doesn’t make cute facial expressions, we end up allowing the worst kinds of exploitation. From the footage I’ve seen, snakes and alligators in the skins industry and sharks in the fin industry are treated with excessive cruelty, and it’s almost as though the people doing it think they’re obligated to harm them with such spite because of how hated they are by random facets of human society.

Anyway that’s depressing, but the point is, I’m always up for a beautiful Disney movie creating a lovable character out of an animal that is hated and misunderstood in real life. Threatening sleazy real estate agents with death and all.

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Now play Dippermouth Blues.

… Pascal commits actual murder.

Chicken Little… Really

There are a couple of reasons why I actually really like Chicken Little. 

Fish

Fish is just good.

The Baseball Scene

This scene is probably the best in the movie. The dog announcer’s dialogue is clever (my favourite line is “Hold your horses, here, and horses, hold your breath,”). A cow outfielder grazing, a dog outfielder rolling around aimlessly, and a gopher digging for grubs because Chicken Little is an “easy out” is too funny. This scene ends up being kind of pointless since aliens are the entirety of the second half of the movie, so the “I’ll make dad proud by emulating his baseball prowess and this will solve everything I bet” thing just kind of full-stops. But that’s OK. Honestly I think it makes me like the scene even more.

Hollywood’s Version of Events

It’s a good joke.

Abbey’s Magazines

Teen Vogue is impressive lately, so when I rewatched this and remembered that Abbey’s multiple teen magazines give really good advice about communicating I yelled, “Topical!” at no one in particular.

Chicken Little’s Posse

The major reason that there’s a Chicken Little-shaped place in my heart is because Chicken Little’s quartet remind me of my friends in high school.

Maybe I should clarify. I didn’t know anyone exactly like Fish, or Runt, or even like Abbey, but my group was full of people who at different times displayed all of those quirks. We ate lunch in a stairwell. I’m only now realizing how weird that was. So we were all easily summed up by Chicken Little’s plucky nerdyness, and we were occasionally Runt with our anxiety and our love of showtunes (I know he’s a Streisand fan but that’s almost the same thing), and we were all about over-analyzing everything like Abbey (maybe some of us still do that *cough*). Occasionally we all played the role of Fish – I did that quite often. I didn’t build newspaper sculptures of the Empire State Building but when my friends were being really angsty (and it got really angsty. Once two of them drove off so that they could cry in a parking lot. Because of reasons.) I’d just be there like, “… wheeee.”

I absolutely would have done this ^^ – at the most inappropriate moment, too.

And while we never did Spice Girls karaoke we would have, if we’d had any notion of how to live our best lives during those woefully angst-filled times.

Contrariwise…

But on the other hand, this movie is also not really aware of how to live its best life. I have just a few thoughts on that.

Apparently the original concept of the film was that Chicken Little would be a girl, because the filmmakers wanted a vulnerable main character and “girls are more vulnerable than boys.” But Michael Eisner said that being small is more of a problem for boys than for girls, and therefore the whole thing would be “more interesting” with a male lead.

I do get where Eisner is coming from here because there are a lot of things that are harder for guys. Displaying emotions, for example, is a little a lot rougher for the menfolk. But it’s hard not to wonder whether having the female lead would have made the movie work better, especially in our post-Frozen world.

A Little About the Dad

I read a “Top Ten Worst Disney Films” list. I should say instead, I skimmed it. I noticed Frozen was on it. I smirked and stopped feeling bad for skimming.

But the major themes of the part where they explained why everyone hated Chicken Little were aliens, and Buck, Chicken Little’s father. Personally I don’t mind the aliens, and while I understand why Buck gets on people’s nerves I kind of respect the film for having him be the way he is.

Buck’s version of parental support is to cringe really obviously whenever he’s reminded of Chicken Little’s big “mistake” and to smother any of his son’s attempts to stand out. He’s horrified by Chicken Little’s attempts to be a baseball hero, but when his son actually does become that hero it seems like their relationship is repaired. Buck is proud, because the entire town sees Chicken Little as the athlete who won them the game. He’s a fair weather father, I guess.

During the alien invasion, Chicken Little stops everything to yell at his father about not ever being there for him (apart from after winning the big game), and Buck says, “You need to know that I love you. And I’m sorry. And I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like that was something you had to earn.”

Despite how not great Buck is at parenting throughout most of the film, I like him and his character arc, and I also think it’s important for the story to have gone this way. Maybe in an ideal world, parents wouldn’t need their kids to yell at them in order for them to try to be better at parenting but that isn’t the world we live in. I still remember the Little Mermaid clickbait that complained that the movie gave Ariel a happy ending even though she “disobeyed her father.” As though parents always know what’s best. Parents are not infallible, actually, and it’s one of the earliest and most painful lessons of childhood. And I’m only talking about parents who are generally good, but who make mistakes because they’re human. There are parents out there who are actively abusive, or who hold their love hostage to an ideal their children cannot and will not grow into.

Maybe there are better animated films that deal with infallible parents (The Little MermaidHow to Train Your Dragon, Happy Feet, Ratatouille, etc.), but none of them does it quite like Chicken Little does. A common theme I see running through these others is defiance. Ariel disagrees with her father’s outlook on humans. Remy and his dad are always at odds about… humans. Hiccup and Stoic have rather different opinions about dragons. And Mumble’s too sweet for defiance but he’s not really looking for parental approval, either. Chicken Little’s whole story is about fixing the broken relationship between him and his father, and it seems possible to me that one of those kids who loved this movie might have learned something really important from it. Disney movies do that, even when they’re not at their best.

Also Fish is in it.

❤ erm