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.

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.

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

The Almost Lack of a Post about Moana (but still a bit spoilery maybe)

So I’m fresh from seeing Moana and my thoughts are ungathered. Mostly I recall a very large, very talkative group of kids saying things like, “Lightning McQueen dies!” and in response to that add that’s like, “Come see Moana on November 23,” one kid said, very scathingly, “That was yesterday,” and “Is he attracted to it?” and, “That’s what happens when you pee in water,” and “What happened to that lava guy?” and “He learned how to turn into animals, it was cool,” and “That was the best movie ever!” and “I have to use the washroom,” right at the super emotional quiet part.

Kids.

To be clear, kids should see kids movies. (<< What do you think, most redundant statement of the century?) And kids being excited enough to loudly discuss things as they watch is nice. But the occasional, gentle, parental reminder to keep it to whispers at least would be nice.

In this case it was a party, so there wasn’t anyone to blame. And they made us laugh.

Also marring my thought process in a less charming way is an impromptu argument I had over Facebook with a barely-acquaintance/relative that started with me gently challenging his vitriol about safe spaces and ended (so far) with me gently challenging his non-backed up claim that most campus rape cases are just about the accusers regretting sex. We had another argument a week and a half ago about acknowledging racism in Trump’s win (he would not) in which he implied that I am a spoiled, arrogant elite, contemptuously implying that he is a racist because I don’t know what the real world is. I did of course tell him what I make hourly. And then I said something about Hitler. It wasn’t my best moment on social media, is what I’m saying.

Usually I just ignore his posts (three blocked him years ago, around that time he was being so deliberately obtuse that he implied our dad raped our mom. Yeah.) but I’m trying this new thing where I call people out on their stupidity. Gently, so that they might learn something.

Palate-cleansing Gramma Tala clip:

So, the things I really liked:

  • yes please to Disney highlighting a culture and giving it some major visibility and very good protagonists
  • as above to Disney referencing Disney. I drew parallels to The Little Mermaid, The Lion KingMulanTangled, and Frozen so far (and all of those are winners, if you didn’t know that already)
  • omg I can write a blog now about multiple romance-less ladies ELSA! MERIDA! STAND BY!
  • so much emphasis on Moana being a child, which I love! Especially for women of colour, who tend to lose the societal protection being a child grants them far too early. We’ve seen this happen before our eyes once or twice, and also of course in the news
  • the music is of course excellent
  • Heihei and Pua. I wish Pua had gone with them though. He could have looked out for Heihei (the ocean seemed to be at the end of its rope)
  • The part where Moana ends a very beautiful reprise by seizing her identity was the standout moment for both three and I (y’know. Apart from the kids). “I am Moana!” That was so important for a movie focused on cultural identity, but it’s a new development (maybe?) for Disney princesses. Disney/Pixar princesses might have done this a bit already but we’ll have to look into that
  • Gramma Tala (everything needs more grandparents)

So that’s it for the princesses for now. But oh hey, did you see the new Pocket Princesses? Go look, go look! My favourite makes a cameo and it made my day.

The Irony of Wanting: The “I Want” Song from The Lion King On

Last time we celebrated the “I Want” song, taking it for what it is: a sweet, fun little through-line into being invested in our protagonist.

But Disney movies began to do a strange thing with their “I Want” songs right around the heart of the Renaissance. Rather than set up our protagonist’s happily-ever-after, the songs instead set up a cruel life-lesson for our characters to suffer through. As always, there’s a bit of a spectrum for this; not all ironic “I Want” songs set up our heroes to get badly hurt, but a couple of them do.

We are intrigued by this trend and have decided to talk it through. Let’s start at the beginning.

(and be warned that we use the phrase “learn him” or “learned them” a couple of times and we don’t know why. Learn us some explanation for why we used that phrase please.)

(screencaps AS ALWAYS from disney screencaps dot com)

I Just Can’t Wait to be King

Simba sings this very fun and carefree song early in The Lion King. You might suggest that it doesn’t count as an “I Want” song, and sure, its not as explicit as Ariel’s “I wanna be where the people are,” or Belle’s “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere,” but Simba’s little romp through imagining how great it’ll be to finally become an adult with a frightening amount of responsibility fits in with some of the others, like Snow White’s “Someday my Prince will come.” She isn’t explicitly saying, “I want my prince to show up,” but it’s still clear that’s what she wants, even with the indirect language. She’s just being demure about it. (It’s important to note this because a lot of the “I Want” songs use indirect language, and we’re just going to go ahead and assume that when Disney protags say things like, “I just can’t wait,” or “When will my,” or “For the first time,” or whatever, they actually mean that they want those things, and not just vaguely speculating about the possibilities.)

Simba wants to be king. He imagines a carefree existence in which he can go desecrate burial sites with Nala without supervision, and he can fight hyenas from dawn until dusk with no one to send him home out of parental concern for his safety. Oh Simba, our sweet summer child.

Simba gets what he wants. And how. Mufasa is murdered after Scar sings his version of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” which includes a lot more death threats than Simba’s does. This of course makes Simba the rightful king, and then he is chased away by a physical threat of death and the unfair, unwarranted guilt he is made to feel. He still has Sarabi, but Scar deliberately severs the tie by manipulating and scaring the cub. “What will your mother think?”

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hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

(can we take this opportunity to despise Scar for a second)

So two things: One, Simba is the king. It doesn’t matter that Scar pretends that he’s dead. He’s alive, and that makes him the king whether he’s eating grubs with Timon and Puumba in the rainforest or roaring on Pride Rock. It’s easy to forget this, because Hakuna Matata is so fun and also kind of ironic. But when Nala shows up and ruins everything by saying, “And that means, you’re the king,” even Timon and Puumba acknowledge the truth of this statement. Puumba does so with reverence and incorrect diction. Timon, cynical, cynical Timon, doesn’t believe it for a second, but then he cements it for the audience: “I can’t believe it. You’re the king? And you never told us?”

Simba’s like, “Look, I’m still the same guy.”

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Timon, apparently plotting something: “But with power!”

So it’s settled. Simba is the king, and he has been since Mufasa’s death. Add this to the fact that Simba has believed since then that his father’s death is his own fault, and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” is suddenly pretty horrific.

As for two, Simba now has no one telling him to do this, be there, stop that, see here, but it’s not at all the way he imagined. It’s not all bad, of course, because meeting Timon and Puumba means that he also meets the concept of not ever worrying about his problems, but we know that this is unsustainable. Everything Simba wants in “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” comes true, but his freedom and carefree life is a lie, and is built on the murder of his father. Even before Nala shows up to ruin everything, something as simple and supposedly nice as looking up at the stars reminds him of his painful past. You’re the king, though, Simba! Remember when that was all you wanted?

We don’t think the movie is punishing Simba, but if not, why put this retrospectively cruel song in there at all?

Partly, we think, is the ever present need in Disney films to speak to and about other Disney films. Disney loves itself some Disney. So they’re making a movie, the formula demands an “I Want” song, and it definitely makes sense for a crown prince to be excited about his future. But remember how Ariel gets the legs she wanted, but it’s also a trap? Why not take it even further, and have Simba’s wish come true in the most horrific way possible?

The other part would be how well it fits in to the rest of the film. The theme is leadership, male leadership in particular, and our villain really wants all of the perks of kinghood without any of the actual responsibility. Simba sings a fun little song about doing whatever he wants once no one can question him, but he grows up and becomes a good king, fighting a difficult battle (mostly against himself) because his kingdom needs him to. His arc is just magical to watch.

Simba’s cruel “I Want” song serves his characterization. Our hero learns. He starts from a place of naivety, and when confronted with the horrors of adulthood and leadership in extremes that no one should have to face, especially as a child, he devolves into a carefree layabout in order to cope. And when he roars at the tip of Pride Rock, we know how far he has come.

Out There

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Quasi sings about wanting to go outside. Ultimately it seems that this wish is fair and fulfilled, since Esmeralda pulls him out into the sunlight after the war on Notre Dame, and he is accepted by the crowd.

Unfortunately for Quasi, before this happy ending, his venturing outside teaches him something: he is never going out there again. No sir.

When Paris gets a taste of his face, at first they don’t know how to react, and then Clopin’s like, “Dude, this is exactly what we asked for,” so they celebrate, but then the second some bozo guard decides to throw fruit everyone’s suddenly like, “Yeah, cool, that’s actually a better idea.” The cruelty of this scene, which may actually be the standout for a Disney film, makes us wonder about the happy ending. Sure, everyone is being nice to him now, because Es and that little girl are accepting of him, but in five minutes when someone throws some rotten tomato at him it’ll be pandemonium all over again. Or maybe we’re supposed to believe that Frollo’s reign of terror learned them all some lessons about prejudice and things. Fine. We can buy that. But only because of the scenes showing people refusing to turn Es in, and Frollo trying to burn the miller family alive in front of horrified witnesses this is a children’s movie.

Quasi wants to be “like ordinary men who freely walk about,” which could be interpreted as his wanting to look like everyone else, but we prefer to see it as his wanting to be able to walk around and, we suppose, not worry about having fruit thrown at him – which would be a perfectly reasonable request if not for the guards.

In theory the Feast of Fools should provide that perfect opportunity for Quasi to be accepted among the crowd because he can go in disguise. It does at first, but because people behave badly in a crowd it turns poisonous pretty quickly. Not to mention that manipulative Frollo can go on and on about how he’s protecting Quasi at the beginning of the movie, but he has many an opportunity to stop the crowd torturing Quasi and refuses, in order to teach him a lesson. The audience learns two things through “Out There” and the complementary torture scene: Quasi really wants to go outside, but we know why he’s not going to do it again, until it becomes absolutely necessary; and we learn that Frollo is the worst. Which we already knew. But it’s nice to have a reminder, we suppose.

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yup, that pretty much qualifies as “it is now necessary for me to go outside”

In the end, Quasi being accepted by the crowd is more powerful because we know that’s all he wanted all along, and we also know how badly wrong this could have gone because THEY SHOWED IT TO US OMG WHY

It’s kind of like if Snow White riding off to the Prince’s castle at the end was preceded by the Prince showing up briefly near the beginning but he’s terrifying OH WAIT

Go the Distance

gothedistance

So, first thing’s first. Lindsay Ellis made this:

(watch this 37 minutes of EXCELLENT for a thorough look at Hercules as well as its want vs need and Clements and Musker and “chosen one” stories and other 90s Disney about men and. Just watch it)

Hercules is no The Lion King. Or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. So the ironic “I Want” song is a little less poignant, but it exists so whatever, we’ll discuss it.

Herc feels like an outsider because he’s constantly endangering the lives of everyone around him with his supersonic strength. He just wishes like he felt like he belonged. We could get with this a little more if his parents aren’t shown to be such sweet and supportive people, but, sweet and supportive parents are a nice change. Right, Lady Tremaine?

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Partway through the song he decides that the gods probably have the answers, and talking to them will learn him how to find where he belongs. He’s right (for now) – Zeus spills the beans, and Hercules learns that he can and should become A True Hero™ so that he can rejoin the gods and his bio parents, thus, belonging.

His reprise is basically about how that’s what he’s going to do, by Jove.

But in the end he decides he belongs in the human world with Meg.

This is ironic, not like rain on your wedding day, but instead like getting the certification you need to finally get into Mount Olympus but it turns out that in order to get that certification you accidentally had to fall in love with someone and then you decide that you actually belong with the person you fell in love with instead of the gods and the bio parents on Mount Olympus. It seems like we could have saved Herc some time and just signed him up for eHarmony or something. Except not, obviously. We like this movie, ridiculous as it is.

And Meg is the best. EVERYONE belongs with Meg.

Huge Interlude: it has not escaped our notice that all of these ironic “I Want” songs are sung by men. Men, you aren’t allowed to want something and just get it, no questions asked. That’s just for us women types.

Reflection

Mulan

Here, one by a girl. Mulan sings “When will my reflection show who I am inside?” – a sad little ditty about not being able to pass as a dutiful bride even though she looks exactly like one. Mulan is worried that the person she truly is inside is not capable of making her family proud, and as much as she tries, and she puts the dress on and the makeup, she just isn’t that person.

She’s not entirely angry at herself for failing, of course. What she wants is a little bit more complicated than just, “I wish I could be exactly the way I’m supposed to be according to these people.” She wants to be allowed to be herself and be accepted as she is. But how, with such rigid gender roles?

Shortly after this song, Mulan gets to feel more like herself by disguising as a man. As a man, she can be true to herself by rescuing her father, which is all she cares about once Chi Fu rides in with conscription notices. As time goes on she starts to excel and seems to be enjoying herself as well.

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heh

But the whole time she’s still hyper conscious of being a woman disguised as a man. Her reflection still isn’t showing who she truly is. When she’s finally revealed as a woman, coincidentally enough at the same moment that she should be being celebrated as an intensely heroic hero, she finds herself rejected once again, even though she’s done everything right this time. And really we could argue that her meeting with the matchmaker was going fine as well, but Cri Kee ruined everything. And it isn’t even Cri Kee, really. She can’t just say outright, “Hey, there’s a cricket in your tea, ma’am,” because she’s a woman and must be silent. And even when she’s saving her commanding officer in a battle she just single-handedly won, she’s not even allowed to be there because she’s a woman and can’t impersonate a soldier.

In the end, as with Quasi, it seems that Mulan does eventually get her wish. The Emperor of China offers her a very important job right after he and everyone else bows to her for being AWESOME. But all she wants is to get home. She presents all of the gifts she received for saving China while dressed as herself, no bridal makeup, no cheat sheet on her wrist, no armour and very bad man-impersonation voice, but her dad’s just like, “Literally all I care about is you.”

So she gets there, but she wouldn’t have been able to without drastically changing her appearance and pretending to be a whole other person. Semi-ironic.

Almost There

Tiana

No you’re not, Tiana.

Tiana’s “I Want” song is only ironic because it’s not even an “I Want” song.

What?

OK, just bear with is.

We’ve said the vague, indirect language still ultimately means “I want,” but in Tiana’s case, she’s not vaguely saying she wants something. She’s saying, “I’m doing it. It’s happening. I’m making it happen.”

As a typical “I Want” song, it wouldn’t be ironic at all. It would be more like Rapunzel’s “When Will My Life Begin,” which explains what she wants and sets her up to get it, which she does. Tiana gets her restaurant at the end, as well as a bonus prince on the side. But “Almost There” isn’t about wanting, not really. She’s celebrating getting what she wants prematurely. She isn’t almost there, because of unhappy circumstance, racist realtors, voodoo madness, and froggy princes. These are things completely out of her control. Fairy tale adventure Disney movie things (OK not the racism and realtors) (OK maybe the racism a little bit because we remember Peter Pan and Dumbo) (but still).

When all seems lost right at the beginning because the realtors are going to sell the place to someone else, she gets a sad reprise, “People would have come from everywhere, and I was almost there.” This is the moment where her logical, driven, determined self has given up, and afterwards the last vestiges of hope compel her to wish on Evangeline. It’s only now that she gets to make wishes, when her drive and determination and hard work just couldn’t beat out random rich buyers and racism.

Tiana is an interesting princess because she basically has to be tricked into participating in her own fairy tale. That stuff is for Lotte, after all. She is 110% against this frog prince story. She doesn’t kiss frogs, as a rule. But she does kiss frog-Naveen, and she does eventually participate in the fairy tale. But first, before she can do the fairy tale thing, she needs to watch all of her hard work NOT pay off the way it was supposed to for arbitrary and random circumstance reasons.

As a child, her father tells her, “That star can only take you part of the way.” He encourages her to wish and dream, but she has to help her dreams on with a bit of hard work. His words are “a bit of hard work.” Tiana apparently takes this to mean she should only get two seconds of sleep daily, and also she shouldn’t do anything not related to hard work ever, even if she kind of wants to.

She goes to a Masquerade Ball and makes beignets. WHAT. (We know she was doing it for the last of the down payment but still. It makes it hard to believe she ever goes to a party and doesn’t just serve or cater or whatever. Juggle? DJ? Make balloon animals?)

Tiana is the princess who openly challenges the “Cause if you’re good and you’re attractive, no need to be proactive, good things will just happen to you!”* aspect of Disney protagonists. But her song shows that hard work is just another form of wishing, one that we value more as a culture because of individualism and stuff. At the end of all of that hard work is supposed to be the shining reward, right? Because you didn’t just hope and dream, you backed it up. But it doesn’t here, not for Tiana. She did all the work, but now she has to find a magical princess-kiss for Naveen or she’ll just be a frog forever. “Almost There” is not ironic because she doesn’t get there eventually, it’s ironic because of where she has to go to get there – down a road of magic and voodoo and dancing and love. And it’s only when she gives up completely on her restaurant that she gets what she wants, by getting what she needs: love. Even while frogging.

Tiana’s mantra: you can’t just kiss frogs and expect your prince charming to show up. You have to work hard. Wishing on stars is for kids.

The movie: You have to work hard, but even then someone is likely to stop you for arbitrary reasons, and then you befriend an enforcer alligator and kiss a frog and suddenly you’re good. The wishing and dreaming is what keeps you centered through transforming into an amphibian. So there.

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We have a lot to say about this movie and will probably do it at some point, but for now, this: “Almost There” is the crown jewel of Tiana’s fool-proof “get what you want by getting it yourself” plan, but it’s foiled because Disney would like to take the opportunity to reinforce the Disney ideals of wishing, magic, love, and getting a LOT of help from singing animals.

For the First Time in Forever

Elsa, we believe, doesn’t get an “I Want” song. That’s because in this song, she’s just singing a personal mantra of “DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO TO MAKE SURE NOBODY KNOWS.” There’s also “Let it Go,” but this time she’s talking to herself about what she should do now that she’s “free.”

Also! Anna sings to Elsa, “Do you want to build a snowman?”

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We can surmise that Elsa does, in fact, want to build a snowman, as it’s one of the first things she does once she’s alone.

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But it’s Anna who sings about it. It’s really cool to us that Elsa’s songs are her addressing herself about what she has to do, what she’s finally allowed to do, and there’s one that belongs to her sister asking her if she wants to do something that she definitely does want to do. That in itself is a really interesting twist in the whole “I Want” thing with the princesses and just one of the billion reasons that Frozen is not “the worst Disney movie ever and so overrated they should just go back to making stuff like Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Side note: people who say these things? Yeah, you. Quasimodo would love Anna and Elsa, and he would make really cute wooden sculptures of them, and he would be saddened by your unnecessarily aggressive and anti-intellectual approach to movie criticism. Thank you for listening.

It makes sense that Elsa doesn’t have an “I Want” song, because it’s Anna who really is the new renaissance princess in this movie, so she’s the one who gets to wish for something. And what Anna wishes for is to enjoy the party, meet a bunch of people, and fall immediately in love.

Here again we’re in “Just Can’t Wait to be King” levels of cruelty. Anna does meet “the one,” she does embarrass herself in front of him, they do “laugh and talk all evening,” and because she knows “it all ends tomorrow, it just has to be today,” she accepts Hans’s marriage proposal.

First, Elsa’s denial of what Anna supposedly wants most in the world leads to Elsa’s accidental big reveal and the subsequent freezing of Arendell and its fjord. Then, requiring Hans to save her life with True Love’s Kiss™, he reveals that he just manipulated her. Because she was so easy to manipulate, wanting to find love so badly and all.

Anna, like Simba, is being naive. Scar and Hans are terrible manipulators. But Simba learns to be a good king who takes responsibility in spite of the horrors he endures. What does Anna learn from this cruelty?

She is sad, of course, right after Hans’s betrayal, saying to Olaf, “I don’t even know what love is.” But soon afterwards, she’s ready to accept the possibility that Kristoff might actually love her enough to save her. She doesn’t lose her ability to trust, which is nice.

What’s also important, REALLY important, about her sad but strong reaction to Hans’s betrayal, is that it serves as a smaller version of what’s going on between her and Elsa. Anna comes to Elsa’s palace hoping to be able to connect with her sister, now that she knows the truth. Nothing should come between them at this point, right? But Elsa is still terrified that she will harm Anna, so she throws her out via Marshmallow. And before this, she accidentally strikes her in the heart, which Anna later learns will kill her if she can’t find an act of true love to thaw it.

This is mirrored by Hans’s betrayal: she comes to him in need, not even suspecting that he will refuse to help her (because she is an optimist, she was positive that she and Elsa could work things out as well). Hans refuses, reveals he doesn’t love her and was just using her, and as if that wasn’t enough hurt to dole out, he mocks her and her optimism – striking in the heart.

Hans is cruel to Anna. He deliberately hurts her. Not kissing her is one thing, but mocking her, being cruel in what he says to her, could have potentially ruined her for being able to be open-hearted to other people, which she needs to be in order to commit the act of true love that will save her life. But she is still able to be optimistic, and she is still open to the possibility of maybe loving some other guy. So we know that even though Elsa hurt her, not deliberately but in a much more harmful way, Anna will be capable of and willing to forgive her, to the point of sacrificing her life for Elsa’s. It’s because of “For the First Time in Forever” that we know how much Anna has learned about love and herself in this short amount of time, or perhaps what she sort of already knew about it without knowing she knew.

Conclusionary Words

Imagine The Lion King where Simba sings solemnly about how he thinks he’s ready to take on the tough responsibilities of kinghood, and Anna sings a ballad about how she wants to be close to her sister again. That would be OK, but we’re digging the ironic “I Want” songs. We like how they’re really easy ways of rounding our characters, giving them room to grow, and how they still allow for us to connect to them and root for them to succeed in their endeavors.

If erm sang an ironic “I Want” song, it would probably be called, “I Wish there were More Vegan Restaurants in Close Proximity to Me” and the movie would end with her having no money because she spent it all on food.

If three sang an ironic “I Want” song, it would be called, “I Just Want a Raise Thank You Sir” and the movie would end with her getting a $500.00 raise and subsequently wanting another raise and being eternally dissatisfied.

Ta.

*Starkid. Twisted. Hilarious. And they come around, in the end.

The Power of the Princesses

In the spirit of Princess Appreciation, here is another great piece on what we can learn from the Disney Princesses. Enjoy!
– erm & three

Kids Riding Bicycles

If you read Buzzfeed you may have already heard of the story of Brooke Lowery, a woman who ended her engagement and had a photoshoot at Disneyland to help pick herself up again. It’s a lovely story and can be read in full here.

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There are many more pictures like that at the link I’ve posted, and they’re all equally as nice. Miss Lowery is a vision of loveliness and Disneyland looks astonishing, as it always does. The whole thing has a hint of the old Date Nite At Disneyland events they used to hold in the 50s, and which I kinda wish they’d bring back because, well, just look at it. Those swingin’ cats look gosh-darned adorable, and it’s all so lovely and…

Well, we’re not here to talk about Date Nite at Disneyland. Back to Brooke Lowery, who had this to say about her photoshoot.

“London is my absolute…

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