What Disney Has Made Us

Whether or not you grew up watching Disney films (you did), they are a vastly common form of pop culture for children. Disney has created a slew of famous movies with mostly female main characters. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was released in 1937 as Walt Disney’s first full length feature film. If you adjust for inflation, this film is one of the top performers in the North American box office ever. It stars a female, who is beautiful, graceful, and kind. She brings joy to those around her and makes friends easily. However, she is dependent on a prince showing up to save her life and carry her away to a brand new future.

It goes on from there. You’ve seen the movies. Currently, Disney and it’s acquired company Pixar keep spitting out hilarious, adorable cartoons year after year. These main characters are definitely much more opinionated and adventuresome than their precursors.

Of these royal Disney movies, the female has always been the lead character. We can list our Disney princesses much easier than the Disney princes. Still, it comes back to what kind of character Disney will give us. In 1937, would a movie about a bold, opinionated princess have grossed as much as Snow White did? Does Disney create characters that they 1) know, 2) think that the public wants, 3) think that the public represents, or  4) think that the public needs?

There are a few lessons that Disney films have given me that I find ridiculous. The first is a common idea today: Disney gave me unrealistic expectations of love. The earlier princess films give a clear picture that a handsome prince with all of his hair is going to show up and save me from the villains of my life. Sure, it is ok to ask for help, but no prince is going to omnisciently know that that I am in trouble.

The other falsehood Disney gave me: tying my hair up with a ribbon. Not only could birds do it for me if I was lovely enough, but this ribbon would stay in and continue looking fabulous. Malicious lies.



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The Modern Fairytale

Weddings have taken many forms and purposes across human existence. For a great period of time, weddings were primarily an exchange of a daughter as a valuable good. In other times, the daughter is something that needed to be unloaded and taken as a bribe with a dowry.

A slightly more modern perspective houses the now classic fairytales as inspiration. Allusions are often made to the cartoon versions of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and the like. Whether or not the lady started out as a Princess or merely ended up as one, there is always a wonderful love story and a fabulous wedding to go along with it. Many a girl now laments “Disney gave me unrealistic expectations about love!” After all, it is a Facebook group.

It is now nearly an American standard to spend about $30,000 on a wedding. The wedding ceremony and reception are the pinnacle of love and romance for the fairytale achievement. It is evem common to plan your wedding on Pinterest- whether you are in a relationship currently or not.

TLC hosts multiple shows about finding the perfect wedding dress for this fairy tale. “Friday is Bride Day on TLC.” An entire day is dedicated to this search!

In all, it sounds like great fun. Ridiculously expensive, but definitely fun.

From what I’ve gathered from my TLC wedding education, there seem to be quite a few rules for wedding gown shopping. These begin at 1) already knowing what kind of dress you like, 2) having a several thousand dollar budget, and 3) don’t bring the groom with you.

Every episode encounters different kinds of brides, families, situations, styles, and weddings. If you will, TLC hosts a type of microcosm of this modern fairytale world. Apparently, according to this popular network, this is the formula for fulfilling your ideal of the fairytale.

The point of all of this: making the bride choose what she wants. She so often has at least five people sitting on a couch in front of her, telling her exactly what they think she should wear, how her body looks in it, and giving or denying approval. It is a painful process. People cry. Often.

In the end, a woman stands up for herself and chooses exactly what most beautiful self she will be, in front of all her loved ones, when she declares her eternal love and begins a new phase in her life. She has already chosen her mate, potentially the most difficult decision of her life. She better be able to choose a very expensive, white frock.

The modern fairytale: the pursuit of life, liberty, love and happiness, all while you live it your own way and to your best ideals possible. That is rather feministic.



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Disney Makeover

When Disney released “Brave” in 2012 I was so excited. First: she’s a red head, second: she’s sassy, third: she’s Scottish, fourth: she doesn’t need a man, fifth: she’s beautiful without being package. She didn’t look like the normal Disney princess.

HuffPost blogger Kristen Howerton put it best when she wrote, “‘Brave’ may be considered by many to be the first feminist princess movie. Merida does not pine for a prince to come to her rescue, and solves her own problems without the aid of a suitor.”

She was a healthy role model for girls. Her hair was frizzy, her body was more athletic than Barbie’s 34-18-32, she was tough and smart—she was perfect. When Disney announced they were formally making her the 11th princesses feminists of the world rejoiced!

But with her new role came a new look—her hair is smoother and the curls are more defined, she’s thinner with a more defined waist and hips, her eyes are more almond and cat like, her lips are fuller and she no longer has  that open smile it’s now merely a smirk.

In short they ruined her. They turned her into every other Disney princess. Her looks are more important than her mind or personality.  A Mighty Girl, a female empowerment website, has taken to Change.org to try and convince Disney to leave Merida alone.

The letter on Change.org reads, in part:

 

The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.

The author of Cinderalla Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein, wrote on her personal blog about Merida’s makeover: “In the end, it wasn’t about being brave after all. It was about being pretty.” I couldn’t agree more, I also think Sarah Gray of The Frisky also hit the nail on the head when she said: “If anything Disney should be looking to Merida’s example, and mold the other Princesses in her image: confident, strong and Brave.”

 



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Jar Jar Abrams

 

I awoke one day and twitter was all abuzz about JJ Abrams signing on to direct the next Star Wars film. If you have been in hibernation for the past few months, George Lucas sold LucasArts to Disney, and Disney announced that Star Wars: Episodes VII-IX will happen. Episode VI is expected to come out in 2015.

Now, I’ve loved Star Wars for most of my life. That’s true, I think, for a lot of people who were born after the first three films came out. I enjoy the prequels—they do a number of things very well, though they have their shortcomings. Honestly, much better than any of the films is the current series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is expected to move from Cartoon Network* to DisneyXD after this season, now that ownership of the series has changed hands. Hopefully, none of the content of Clone Wars will change. It’s seriously just . . . so much better than the films. Have a marathon of Clone Wars with some friends and then try to watch one of the films. It’s a weird experience.

I am cautiously optimistic about Disney’s ownership of LucasArts. I mean, Disney is a giant, terrifying corporation. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to quality. This is the company that made the iconic movies that dominated just about everyone’s childhoods. They’re not out to ruin the franchise that they just paid billions of dollars to buy. Plus, Leia is a Disney Princess, now. Super exciting.

Now, JJ Abrams will be directing the next film. Once I have learned all that I can about something, I usually react fairly quickly with “I love this” or “I hate this.” According to high-powered executives on some comedy shows (like Better Off Ted), that would make me a great leader. However, when the JJ Abrams-as-director thing was announced, I had a more cautious reaction.

First of all, JJ Abrams destroyed the planet Vulcan in his first Star Trek film, for which I will never forgive him (yes, the planet is ugly and brown, but seriously the Vulcans are awesome leave them alone). At least now he will be in a setting where the destruction of planets is less of a shock and more of a fact of life.

JJ Abrams’ previous projects are . . . well, interesting. He did a wonderful thing for Star Trek. And while I have some issues with a few things from the 2009 Star Trek film and while all that I know from the trailers for the next Star Trek film is that there will be many explosions and that Benedict Cumberbatch’s face is as ridiculous as his name, I’m glad that he’s doing it.

Lost is much-acclaimed by some people but irritates me to no end. That said, JJ Abrams really just did the pilot of it and then the writers and showrunners after that kind of had no idea where they were going with it. The best things that I can say about Lost is that they had two former cast members from Babylon 5 and that Lost was filmed on the same island as Dante’s Cove.

Fringe is definitely a weird show (and it recently had its finale), but it’s a truly enjoyable show that I . . . did not watch all of the way through.

So I really think that we should be open-minded about JJ Abrams taking on Star Wars. That said, I was “open-minded” about M. Night Shyamalan adapting the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender (one of the greatest shows of all time) into a live-action film, and The Last Airbender turned out to be an outrageous abomination. I’m not saying that I would kill him, but if M Night Shyamalan were dying of thirst and I had an unlimited supply of water, I don’t know that I would share. And I don’t even drink water.

So, JJ Abrams needs to be careful and make something that will please the show’s fans and possibly even attract some new ones. But we should not just dismiss him or these new Star Wars films because we’ve been disappointed in the past.

 

*This is probably for the best, as Cartoon Network apparently likes to cancel its best and most well-rated shows. Like, for example, Young Justice is ranked #2 on IMDB of Cartoon Network’s shows, but they have failed to renew it for a third season. I am all kinds of outraged over this. They’re keeping The Annoying Orange and some of their other, um, “stellar” programming. Oh, and they’re continuing to air live-action shows. On Cartoon Network. Because that makes so much sense. (No but seriously I am so irate with them)



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