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.

 

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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.

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.

The Ethics of the Sun’s Gift

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Don’t ask us for sources, but we have a general recollection of people arguing in defense of Mother Gothel’s actions in Tangled by invoking the “it’s not fair that they took that flower and boiled it just to save a monarch” argument. We thought it might be immense fun to use that as a jumping off point to talk about all of the ethical issues of the Sun’s Gift in Tangled that we could think of. Yeeeeey.

Continue reading “The Ethics of the Sun’s Gift”