On the Net: Disney Princesses—Damsels in Distress?

From “Cinderella Fights Back” by Kate Forsyth on MamaMia:

“The original Little Red Riding Hood, for example, was a peasant girl who escapes the wolf due entirely to her own cleverness. It was Charles Perrault who gave her a red cap—symbolic of passion and blood—and made the tale a cautionary one in which the heroine is gobbled up by the wolf. It was the Grimm Brothers who brought in a male hunter to save her, making her seem like a twit.

“The original Rapunzel—named ‘Persinette’ in a 1696 tale by French writer Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force—was the daughter of poor people, so hungry they steal a handful of parsley from a witch. They are forced to give up their child or face the death penalty. Locked away in solitary confinement in a tower, Persinette sings so beautifully she causes the prince to fall in love with her. Persinette has sex with him, plots with him to escape and, in the end, gives birth to twins, saves the prince with her healing tears, and persuades the witch to relent. The Grimm Brothers’ retelling made her into such a meek little idiot that the psychological term ‘Rapunzel syndrome’ was coined to describe a woman who waits passively to be rescued.

“Fairy tales work because they speak in metaphor, archetype, and symbol. They contain within them all of our deepest fears and deepest desires. Don’t deny your children the thrill and danger and power of a good fairy tale; just pick the right ones to tell them. One in which the heroine is brave, bright, kind, resourceful, and saves both herself and others.”

[MamaMia] Cinderella Fights Back.

On the Net: More Disney/Hipster Mash-Ups.

Yesterday I promised some more Disney hipsters, so here they are:

[BuzzFeed] A Collection of the Best Hipster Disney Memes.

[Geekosystem] 20 of the Very Best Hipster Disney Princesses.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mean Girls 3: Disney Princess HIPSTER Version.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Super-Villain.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] It’s Hip(ster) to be a Mermaid.

Images via BuzzFeed, Geekosystem.

Movies: Blondes Have More Fun—And They’re Magical!—In Tangled.

The premise of the latest Disney princess effort—a retelling of the story of Rapunzel—is that the damsel in distress is locked away in her tower so that mean baddies won’t be able to find her and steal her supernatural healing powers.

The clincher is that if she cuts her long hair, it turns brown and loses its magical properties. A blatant favouritism of blondes over brunettes if ever there was one!

Granted, the brunette Disney princess has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, with the first African American princess, Tiana, in The Princess & the Frog, Mulan, Esmeralda of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, Jasmine from Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast’s Belle, and even the flame haired Little Mermaid. Perhaps the blonde haired heroines (okay, I wouldn’t exactly class Cinderella and Aurora as “heroines” per se, but Rapunzel certainly kicked some but in Tangled) wanted a shot at the multi-dimensional princess crown.

Other than that, I really enjoyed Tangled. I usually find Mandy Moore supremely annoying, her voice especially, but I could barely tell it was her throughout the movie. Chuck’s Zachary Levi was great as the misunderstood Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert. Unfortunately, I missed the first ten minutes or so due to a delicious brunch and Saturday morning traffic on Chapel Street, however it was fairly easy to pick back-story up at the tear jerking pinnacle. (Will definitely be catching it again at ACMI—at a mere $6, who could say no?)

[ACMI] Tangled.

Attack of the Three Dimensional Disney Character.

So there’s the vanilla damsels in distress of early Disney films, like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

And there’s the first independent princess, Belle, “who enjoyed reading and learning, and who lived her life according to her standards”.

But there’s a new kind of three dimensional Disney character, in the form of the villain.

Now, The Beast from Beauty & the Beast isn’t exactly new (he’s pushing 20 years old), but seeing the process the Disney animators went through to create him in Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairytales (there’s also some featurettes on the DVD, which has been re-released from the vault) reveals just how complex a character he is.

Incorporating features from a buffalo, bear, gorilla, lion, boar and wolf, but with gentle cows ears, ensures The Beast doesn’t come across as completely horrible.

Both in the exhibition and in the curator’s talk I attended, it was mentioned that despite his ugly exterior, the Beast had to have attributes (both physicalthe aforementioned cows ears, and blue eyesand personality-wise) that a beautiful woman of Belle’s integrity, intelligence and courage could fall in love with. (It could be argued that there are some classic abusive relationship markers in Belle and the Beast’s union, but more to come on that next week.)

Elsewhere, in the upcoming Tangled, which is also featured in Dreams Come True, Mother Gothel, Rapunzel’s keeper, is the movie’s villain. However, she and Rapunzel share are more complicated relationship than that of Snow White and the Evil Queen, Cinderella and her evil stepmother, or Aurora and Maleficent (whose appearance was based on Katharine Hepburn, FYI), in that the animators wanted Mother Gothel to be “believable for Rapunzel to love”. God knows I’ve had my fair share of love-hate with my mother, so I think this movie will be quite relatable in that respect.

Can’t wait to see it in January!

[Overthinking It] Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women.

[Overthinking It] Why Weak Male Characters Are Bad for Women.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] You Can Ring My Belle.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Female Characters Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

Drug of Choice: The Disney Heroine.

Last weekend’s The Age supplement, A2, was jammed packed full of goodness (check out “Newspaper Clipping of the Week” later in the week), including a feature on the recent spate of fairytale-inspired exhibitions.

One of the exhibitions talked about in the article is the Bendigo Art Gallery’s “Looking for Faeries: The Victorian Tradition”, which I saw yesterday, and ACMI’s “Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairy Tales”, about the fairytales adapted for the screen by Walt Disney, with the groundbreaking (for the Time) Snow White & the Seven Dwarves being a key component.

As you know, I can’t get enough of my Disney princesses, especially the constant discourse surrounding their affect on young girls, so this passage from the article took my fancy:

“In the past, and particularly in the 1950s, Disney fairytale heroes and, above all, heroines, were insubstantial figures, despite their predicaments, and energy and comedy were provided by the sidekicksthe dwarves in Snow White, for example. You can see a change in 1991’s witty, thoroughly engaging Beauty & the Beast: Belle was a more dynamic heroine than Snow White, and there was a character in the film who thought he was a handsome prince, but definitely wasn’tthe vain and vicious Gaston.

“[Tangled producer Roy] Conli credits John Lasseter, producer, director and chief creative officer at Disney/Pixar, for an insistence that central characters have to be the emotional and the comic core of a film. So, Rapunzel, the girl with 20 metres of blonde hairwho has been shut up in a tower her whole life, or, “like, grounded, like, forever”isn’t simply set free, end of story. In Tangled, she has a male counterpart, a foil, he says, a worldly, dashing thief called Flynn Rider whose adventure of discovery takes place alongside hers.

“… Whatever we make of these new fairytale dynamics, whether we regard them as retrograde or progressive, misguided or inventive… fairytales are often more appealing to adults than children.”

Perhaps that’s why I still can’t get enough of Belle… and it’s nice to see a modern-day Rapunzel adopting, like, a modern-day vernacular.

[Bendigo Art Gallery] Looking for Faeries: The Victorian Tradition.

[Australian Centre for the Moving Image] Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairy Tales.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?