Tag Archives: Disney

1 Surefire Way to Talk More Inspiringly

16 Feb

Watch your language.

Words are important. They’re one of the primary ways we as humans communicate. Therefore, what we say, what our speech is, to ourselves and others, is important, right?

You fucking bet your ass it is! Seriously. “Bad words” are only “bad” when they’re used in a malicious way. But a word doesn’t have to be a four letter one to qualify for that. I’ve had personal experience seeing how much more damage the intentional use of the word “asinine” can have compared to casually (and amicably) calling someone a dick. So what is it that makes these particular words – you know, fuck and shit and dammit and holy crapballs and the like – “bad?” Well, mostly ’cause that’s what the stingy adults of the past 3 generations or so have decided. What words count as “unacceptable” changes over time. “Jiminy Cricket” used to be a highly frowned upon phrase. Now it’s the name of a featured character in a Disney movie.

I used to curb my language. For ever and for always. Now I pretty much allow myself to use whatever vocabulary I want – as long as I am also being respectful of the people around me. Like, I’m not going to use sailor language around my ten year old cousin because I know her mom wouldn’t like that. Just like how I’m not going to hug the friends I have who need really big space bubbles. But if I’m talking with a peer or hanging out with my boyfriend? I know that saying words like “ass” or I dunno, licking his arm or something isn’t going to cause either of them psychological damage or whatever.

And you know what? Watching my language – well, watching my language do whatever it wants – it’s been really freeing. I used to feel guilty as hell for just thinking the word fuck. And I didn’t even really have much choice over that! Now that I’ve realized I’m no worse a person for say damn and shit than I am for saying bubbles or rainbows, I no longer shlog around with the weight of a whip-wielding  propriety judge on my back. I feel so much better. More confident. Stable. I mean, shit, that propriety judge was such a dick anyway.

Now, lovely readers, I’m sorry if any of you feel that the title of this post was click bait. If you’ve never read my blog before, sorry for any misrepresentation. But the rest of you – hopefully you all know how I feel about “5 Ways to Blah Blah Blah” style lists by now. Seriously. What did you think I was going to do, anyway? 😉

More Than 7 Reasons ‘Frozen’ is Not a Progressive Movie

24 Jan

So, I love Frozen. Like, fairly legitimately love. I’ve already seen it twice and plan on throwing money at Disney a third time once the sing-along version hits theaters. And Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer? Definitely on my “most favorite fictional characters” list. They possibly have the most common sense out of all the characters in the movie. Seriously. I love the look on Sven’s face near the end of the movie before he and Kristoff go hurtling back into Arendelle that clearly says, “Why do I have to fix everybody’s shit? I always fix everybody’s shit…”

Thanks Disney! Source: http://www.disney.co.za/movies/frozen/gallery

This face.

But, given all that, I would not label Frozen as “progessive.” Sure, on some points it does marginally better than some of Disney’s previous movies have done, but I think the points made in Gina Luttrell’s PolicyMic article, “7 Moments That Made ‘Frozen’ the Most Progressive Disney Movie Ever” are fairly shortsighted in their praise. I’m rather horrified at the thought that hype around surface impressions of the movie will set Frozen as the new standard for Disney progressivism. Disney still needs to do way better before I grant it the label of “progressive.”

Here’s why.

1. “Elsa and Anna’s abusive parents”

Since when is having abusive parents in a fairy tale progressive? It’s not even new. Cinderella’s stepmother forces her to be a domestic slave. In the original fairy tale, it even happens while Cinderella’s father is still alive. He lets his new wife subjugate his biological daughter. Then there’s Snow White’s stepmother who tries to have her killed. Hansel and Gretel’s father tries to send his children off into the woods to die (but hey, they weren’t his problem anymore, right?) once he remarries. In Aladdin, Jasmine’s father treats her in the usual fashion of female objectification as property. In Mulan, the namesake protagonist’s father orders her about and expects her to be a docile, obedient daughter willing to take her father’s words and decisions without a peep. And while not a Disney film, but in Shrek, Fiona’s parents lock her away because they think it’s the best way to handle her curse. Sound familiar?

Yes, parental misunderstanding of the best way to help a kid with idiosyncrasies of some sort or other is rampant these days. Just like it’s been rampant since always. But while Elsa and Anna’s parents are obviously ignorant when it comes to what they should actually do (like embrace Elsa’s gift and help her learn about it openly, instead of telling her to basically pretend like it doesn’t exist), they clearly always act out of love. And while abuse can often come under the “title” of “love,” I really don’t see anything malicious in what Elsa’s parents do. They were told that if people became afraid of their daughter, they would hurt her. So they in their shortsighted way do what they thought was the best way to make sure nobody would ever be afraid of their daughter. And at no point does Elsa ever indicate that she thinks there’s a better way to handle it or ask for something different. She turns Anna away voluntarily, because she also thought her isolation was for the best.

But then there’s also the fact that even if the actions of Elsa’s parents were abusive, the movie never ventures on to explicitly point out why their response was wrong or suggest how it should have been different.

2. “Elsa’s self-empowerment”

So, I love the song “Let It Go.” I play it on loop. But let’s examine the song in a larger context. Yes, Elsa feels she is finally free to be herself…

…now that she’s been chased out of her community, cut ties with everyone she loves, explicitly told her brand of individuality isn’t appreciated, and decided to continue her life of self-imposed isolation. What’s the message here? “You can be yourself, but only if you’re completely isolated away from the rest of society where you’ll have to deal with disapproval if you do show that you’re different.”

Besides, Elsa still doesn’t completely understand herself or her powers. Sure, she can do some cool shit with it, but she still can’t control it, as we see when she later accidentally nearly kills her sister again. It’s clear that all of the creation that happens during “Let It Go” is coming from emotions like rage, vengeance, and smugness. She’s not calm when she creates. She’s still in emotional throes.

What’s more, it’s not like Elsa’s newfound semi-embrace of her powers came from within. She didn’t just walk outside into Arandelle all, “Look here, people, I’m a BAMF! Watch what I can do!” No. She lost control and was forced to out herself while trying to escape an uncomfortable social situation. The set-up of “go take your strangeness and have it by yourself on some mountain!” is the equivalent of “she was crazy, so we locked her in an asylum.”

Also, what the hell is she going to eat in an ice castle??

3. “Anna’s clumsiness, awkwardness, and honesty.”

Yeah, four words: Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Seriously. All Disney’s done is trade one limiting trope for another.

Also, “until Brave, the idea of an outspoken princess is unheard of.” Really??? How about Belle from Beauty and the Beast, who managed to be outspoken and didn’t sound like an idiot half the time while doing it?

4. “Kristoff’s ability to lead next to a strong woman”

Ah yes, how progressive, we definitely needed another male figure whose authority still trumps that of the strong female lead. Also, “Kristoff is a wonderful example of what a masculine, 21st century man looks like.” Blond, muscular, self-confident and self-made? Ah yes, that totally defies stereotypes and expands the bounds of what we’ve come to understand a man can be in these progressive times…

Really. Kristoff doesn’t seem like the Disney Princes of old because Frozen adjusted its tone to match that of modern teens and twenty-somethings. The characters don’t use the formal language or etiquette portrayed in more period-true movies like Cinderella. For years, Disney’s basically taken modern day people and stuck them in old clothing. But that doesn’t mean they’ve inherently changed at all. When Kristoff first interacts with Anna, it’s to gruffly tell her to move. Dang women, always getting in the way of what men want! Seriously, he can’t even say “please.” Because apparently Anna, obviously a stranger to those parts, is supposed to magically read his mind to know what he wants (because every woman should intuitively know how to please a man, right?). Later, Kristoff escorts Anna to the mountain first because he feels he owes her for the supplies she bought him, and then because he wants Anna to give him a new sleigh. Throughout the entire movie, it’s clear to the audience that Kristoff is condescending towards Anna and doubtful of her judgment. “He’s not afraid to call Anna out on her poor decisions?” Yeah, telling a woman she’s wrong and that a man knows better is really progressive.

Yes, in the end Kristoff falls in love with Anna and tolerates her “quirkiness.” But hey, she is a manic pixie dream girl after all.

5. “Oaken’s gay family”

How progressive is it really if most of the audience isn’t even going to catch what’s going on in this scene? “Oh hey, we’ll make a statement, but nobody will hear it!”

Besides, the man in the sauna isn’t “clearly” Oaken’s husband – he’s much younger and in fact looks like he’s more in the age cohort of the woman next to him. All in all, it’s inconclusive. If he is the gay partner, then great, props. But again, Disney could have done much better.

6. “Arendelle’s unquestioning acceptance of a queen”

“Unquestioning acceptance?” Sure, as long as she’s exactly what they want and expect her to be. But as soon as she exhibits unexpected power, the immediate response is to distrust her and chase her out of the kingdom. Besides, who else does the kingdom even have to rule them??? The previous two monarchs died and the runner-up has been locked in a castle (just like in Sleeping Beauty…) until she came of age. There’s no potential male competitor ever mentioned. And what’s more, all we see is the coronation. Who knows what pressure there could have been on Elsa to marry after that?

Besides, female queens? How about Tangled? Flynn rider wasn’t a prince. He only became royalty because he married into it. Then there’s Brave, which focuses on explicitly proving why Merida’s totally capable of being a ruler all on her own.

And Luttrell’s comment about how at least Anna and Elsa aren’t sitting by twirling around in their ball gowns while a male rules? Yeah, still looks like they’re wearing ball gowns to me. Ball gowns that show off their stereotypical unachievable female figure, no less. And are we supposed to forget the scene immediately before that? The “For the First Time in Forever” sequence where Anna sings about how she’ll get to twirl around in her ballgown and flirt with boys now?

7. “Everyone’s reaction to Anna’s foolish engagement”

Alrighty. The “da fuq?” response to the snap engagement is pretty cool. But yet again, what about Merida, whose story kinda centered around her not wanting to get married at all? I’d say it addresses the trope expecting women to want marriage much more successfully than Frozen, in which, uh, Anna wants to get married. And how about the fact that it’s only Anna who gets chastised for the decision? Everyone focuses on telling her that she’s wrong, but not one single person ever rebukes Hans! Of course, when a bad situation crops up, it’s always the woman’s fault, yet again.

And anyway, what about Disney movies that don’t focus on marriage at all? Alice in Wonderland? Lilo and Stitch? Women have adventures without marriage or relationships even having to be remotely a causative factor.

8. ALL THE REST

There are still so many remaining issues to bar Frozen from being counted as progressive. Like Disney’s continued insistence on perpetuating an factually infeasible female body image. In fact, there was a fair amount of heat before the movie was even released over the comment from Disney’s head animator that no matter what they’re experiencing, no matter what emotion they’re going through, when animating females, “you have to keep them pretty.” Seriously. The very construction of the female’s bodies is ridiculous. BOTH female protagonists, and most of the other women, are still portrayed as stick-thin with eyes that have bigger circumferences than their wrists, heads that have bigger circumferences than their waists, and hands that are actually impossibly too small. The male protagonists fare no better. Both male leads are portrayed as big and burly.

You can’t be “progressive” if you haven’t actually changed anything.

All in all, Frozen takes no drastic steps towards being any different from the rest of Disney’s canon. It’s amusing, it’s got a great soundtrack, and it does mildly better on some points. But better enough to be deemed “progressive?” I don’t think so.