Watch This: Once Upon A Time

photo of once upon a time pictures
You guys, my Super Best Friend has only recently started watching Once Upon A Time. He and I tend to watch a lot of different television shows and put off watching others or giving others a try. When we finally do, the result is usually similar to Squidward’s first time tasting a Krabby Patty on SpongeBog Squarepants: “All the wasted years!”

I mean, he’s the guy who first got me to watch Gossip Girl, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Dante’s Cove, Titan Maximum, and Gundam Wing. And, soon, Revenge, which I know is totally up my alley. “This is not a story about forgiveness.” That line could be the blurb under my biography.

Right, so, the show comes on ABC on Sunday nights and, honestly, I was not all that impressed when I watched the first few episodes. Well, the first episode. It’s one of those shows that has an awkward beginning but gets better and better until you can no longer remember a time when you were not in love with the show. Every week slows to a crawl as you anticipate the arrival of the next episode.

Yeah. This show also has a very rabid fandom.

I want to talk about the women on the show. Women have not, historically, had the best roles in fairy tales. They tend to be the villains or the helpless damsels. And while Disney “villains” are typically the most interesting parts of the films (and ABC is a part of Disney, so there are overt references on the show to Disney’s interpretations of a few fairytales. Jiminy Cricket is a character, the “Evil Fairy” from Sleeping Beauty is called “Maleficent,” etc), the princesses did not really possess a great deal of agency until more recent years.

Regina Mills is, as far as I am concerned, the main character. In season one, the writers try to make her out to be the primary antagonist, but …

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Five Shades of Misogyny in “Fifty Shades of Grey”

photo of 50 shades of grey pictures
As soon as I heard about E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, I knew I’d probably end up reading it.  I tend to go to the those “bandwagon books” (The Hunger Games, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and so on) kicking and screaming, but I’m somehow always convinced to read them.

I bought Fifty Shades of Grey when I went into the town bookstore to get a book for one of my students.  I’d heard about it, of course, and figured it was as good a time as any to read it.  I read that book with a mixture of fascination and disgust, and I’m pretty sure my family was disgusted with me.  I kept commenting on how skeeved out I was by it, and my mother would say, “Then why the hell are you still reading it?”

And then I lost all credibility when I got the subsequent books (Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed) on my Nook.  Why, you might ask, if I was not exactly enjoying the experience?  Well, I wanted to know what happened.

Which is really stupid if you think about it; after all, I’ve read the Twilight books, and Fifty Shades began life as Twilight fanfiction.  What that means, just so you know, is that you can do this:

Twilight/Fifty Shades of Grey is the story of an innocent young woman named Bella Swann/Anastasia Steele who somehow attracts the attention of a gorgeous, rich young man named Edward Cullen/Christian Grey who lives with his adoptive family.  Edward/Christian is not as perfect as he appears, though; there is something about him that could be potentially fatal to Bella/Ana: he is a vampire/obsessed with S&M.  There are several twists and turns, of course (notably Bella’s/Ana’s longtime friend, Jacob/Jose, who develops romantic feelings for her that lead to awkwardness with Edward/Christian), but they ultimately end up together after Bella/Ana changes herself to become a true part of Edward’s/Christian’s dark world, and they all live happily every after.

But that isn’t really my problem … I mean, to some degree, you can do that with many stories.  As one of my wise English professors once said, “There are only five original stories in the world.  The rest is in the details.”  And, to be fair, this book was never billed as fine literature.

Nope, my beef with Fifty Shades is the misogyny present therein.  A small sampling …

1.  A woman should not have to change herself to fit into the idea of a man’s perfection.

I’m not talking about the S&M so much, either.

Ana is chastised repeatedly for going out with her friends without Christian’s …

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Single Parents the Losers in Bill O’Reilly/Jennifer Aniston Fracas

You know, sometimes celebrities should just stick to acting. Or being bigoted bullies. Or whatever. This “feud” between Jennifer Aniston and Bill O’Reilly is getting totally out of hand and is fanning fires instead of generating useful discussion, which some disagreements between public figures so effectively do.

The gist of the situation is that Aniston made an attempt to de-stigmatize single-parent families at a recent press conference, emphasizing that women “don’t have to settle with a man just to have that child” and noting that there are numerous options out there in this day and age if a single woman does desire a child.

This is a mindset that I agree with wholeheartedly. In a world where the nuclear family is fast disappearing and some of the happiest and most loving families are …

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Disney Princesses Play into Gender Stereotypes, Set Bad Examples for Little Girls

photo of disney princesses

Humorous cartoons bring to light some rather harsh truths about the portrayal of so-called “Disney Princesses” in many movies made by the Walt Disney Company. One depicts the perspective of the princesses while the other looks at it from the princes’ sides.

The Little Mermaid
Ariel, a mermaid obsessed with the human world, falls in love with Prince Eric after saving his life at sea. She trades her voice to the evil sea witch in exchange for human legs, and is of course not able to tell Eric the truth about who she is (although she is capable of writing her name when she signs Ursula’s scroll, but whatevs).

Ariel: “It’s okay to abandon your family, drastically change your body, and give up your strongest talent in order to get your man. Once he sees your pretty face, only a witch’s spell could draw his eyes away from you.”
Eric: “Women have nothing important to say.”

While Eric is taken in by Ariel’s pretty face and sweet ways, he doesn’t seem bothered by her silence—in fact, he might even prefer it. And the fact that Ariel gave up every ounce of her true self—singing voice, fins, sisters, the little crab/fish combo she chillaxes with—for a man is really pretty disconcerting.

Snow White
Snow White is sent deep into the woods by a woodcutter who was supposed to kill her but lets her escape, where she finds refuge in a house of seven dwarfs. She’s pretty happy there, until the jealous queen poisons Snow White with an apple.

Snow White: “At first it may seem terrible being so beautiful that other women get jealous enough to try and kill you. But don’t worry, once your beauty attracts a man, he’ll protect you.”
The Prince: “Necrophilia is a good dating strategy.”

Yeah, it sucks to be so beautiful, Snow White. Karma, though … you’re a good person, you take care of the dwarfs in ways I don’t even want to consider, and then, okay, you end up dead for a while, but then a prince comes along so impressed by your beauty that he kisses your dead lips and voila!

Aladdin
So called ‘Street Rat’ Aladdin meets the beautiful Princess Jasmine when she leaves the palace to see the world away from her sheltered life. The two hit it off, but Aladdin is convinced that Jasmine could never love a homeless street kid. Enter Robin Williams as the Genie, and Aladdin becomes the rich and powerful Prince Ali.

Jasmine: “As a woman, your political worth is reduced to your marriageability.”
Aladdin: “Just lie, it’ll totally work.”

Yeah, Jasmine has the connection between politics and relationships figured out pretty well, all things considered. She was definitely the brains in the relationship. And Aladdin? He’s an opportunist—you lie and then smile winningly when caught, and it’ll all work out all right.
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