June 10th, 2009


What's wrong with being a princess?

Last night we had a girls' night out kind of thing with Mom, our sisters, and Mom's friend, where we all went out for dessert. It was pretty neat, and there was a lot of interesting conversation and food for thought. Unfortunately, my thought doesn't have that much of an appetite, so it's been a little hard to focus on anything when we don't have anything specific we're supposed to be doing, like work or something. It came up that A)Celeste hadn't seen UP yet, and B)her husband was going to be out late with his own friends, so we decided to be spontaneous and catch a showing. As it turned out, the theater we went to has discount tickets on Tuesday nights, so we all three got in for just $15! Nice!

This time, we saw the regular old non-3D version, but because of that, we were able to watch non-3D trailers, and thus we finally saw the new trailer for The Princess and the Frog that Donald told us about last time we were at Disneyland. It was kind of funny because he said we could watch it on YouTube, and we were like, "No, we don't go out of our way to watch trailers of movies we're going to see anyway, because it can be super fun to not know anything going in," and so Donald immediately told us what he saw in the trailer. Han was like, "Dude, they just said they didn't want to know anything," and then I was like, "The one thing I want to know is how she got to be the princess of New Orleans," and Donald was like, "Well, I have a theory based on the trailer, but I don't want to tell you now." Now that we've seen the trailer, we can hear his theory, because we're still confused. Anyway, the movie itself looks pretty darn shiny.

And speaking of UP and The Princess and the Frog, a while back, parkcooper linked us to this article and asked our opinion on it. We responded with our first reaction, which was basically that there are Disney movies out there about girls who aren't princesses, but I think it was kind of a thoughtless response, so we were going to send a follow up. But then umadoshi linked the article from her LJ, so now that we've seen it twice, we figure we might as well write our response here. The thing is, the article makes us a little angry, but it took us a while to figure out all the whys involved.

As a disclaimer, we have absolutely no problem with movies about girls. We like movies that are well-made regardless of the main character's gender, and we think it would be great if Pixar had movies with girl main characters.

So anyway, our first reaction was, "But Disney already made movies about girls who aren't princesses. Hasn't she seen Alice in Wonderland? What about Mulan? Belle didn't start out as a princess, and Peter Pan may be the title character, but Wendy really seems to be the main focus of that movie." Actually, at our gathering last night, we were trying to get a better understanding for the reasoning behind the article, so we brought it up and summarized it thusly: There's this article online where a woman is writing a letter to Pixar, asking them to make a movie about a girl who's not a princess. And Celeste and Sarah both immediately responded with, "Mulan?"

Then our next reaction was, "Hey, what's wrong with princesses?" I think the woman's problem with princesses was described in this paragraph:

"And even many of them who do aspire to be princesses are mixing their princess tendencies with all manner of other delicious things. Their tiaras fall off when they skin their knees running at top speed; they get fingerpaint on their pink dresses; they chip their front teeth chasing each other in plastic high-heeled shoes."

If she thinks that the Disney princesses don't do any of that stuff, she is not paying any kind of attention at all. Okay, so Snow White was a prissy little girl, but Ariel totally would have been skinning her knees is she had any. And did she see Jasmine pole-vault across rooftops? I will grant that none of them got finger-paint anywhere, but none of them really seemed to be aspiring artists. Though that could make for a cute main character. (Toulouse in the Aristocats got paint everywhere, but he's a boy.)

So the train of thought kept going. Why would she think Disney princesses don't do that stuff? And then it inevitably reached Enchanted, and my campfire of anger turned into an inferno of fury! Rarrrrr!!! (Now you have to imagine me holding up my hands in claws, like the end of the Wilderness Explorer call. But the roar is cute, not ferocious. For now♥) When Enchanted was still fairly new, a friend of ours found out we didn't like it and, shocked, she asked, "You don't like it? But you're Disney fans!" And our response was, "That's why we don't like it!" Enchanted basically takes the idea that all Disney princesses are the same, ditzy, air-headed, boy-crazy girl who waits for her prince in shining armor to come rescue her and says, "Yeah, pretty much." Only it's not true! It's not true-hoo-hoo...! (Now you have to imagine me sobbing.) And the thought did occur to me fairly recently that maybe less people think of it that way than I thought. And then I read that article, and thought and thought and thought about it, and it seems to me like someone saw Enchanted and decided that all Disney princesses fit into that horrible horrible stereotype. (Actually, we don't think the stereotype is quite so bad, until they make the girl a complete idiot, which, well...)

Anyway, I was thinking about it so hard that I had some nice things to say about strength in female characters, but I forgot almost all of them in the process of work. Of course, there was something in Gakuen Alice that made our point very well for me, but that's not until volume 11, and that won't be out for a while now. But the main thing is kicking butt and taking names isn't the only way to show strength. Mulan's actually a really good example here. She learns how to fight really well (Shang's whole unit can totally use the Force), but all the really big stuff she did involved using her brain. I think there are a lot of good role models for girls in Disney movies, and while it would be neat to see Pixar create more, I don't think the little girls of America are deprived of heroines to look up to.

Today I'm thankful for getting to see UP again, having a good time with people last night, having a ride to the vet tomorrow, food for thought, and getting to see The Princess and the Frog trailer.