Pictured: most likely me when someone tries to explain this. (via PopKey)
One of the biggest mysteries of this season in my eyes is “how in the world have the Harry Potter films become a Christmas/holiday tradition?” Sorcerer’s Stone came out in November back in 2001, but the timeframe doesn’t instantly make a film a Christmas classic. Sure enough, though, every December I can turn the channel to ABC Family (or whatever it’s called now) and find each and every Harry Potter film nestled snugly in between other classics such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express. While this mystery may never be solved in my eyes, it got me thinking about a certain facet of the Harry Potter series that, in all its exploration of magic, seems to be woefully underutilized—a fellow holiday tradition, food.
Fans of course remember the grand banquets during the sorting ceremonies and have fond memories of the pumpkin pasties and the chocolate frogs available on the Hogwarts Express, but all things considered, wizard food remains strangely mundane compared to Muggle food. Stranger still is how it seems that, in general, the more realistic the story, the more magical its food seems to be. Yet in a way this makes sense; these seemingly at odds representations of the magic of food serve to reinforce what the characters are looking for in their respective stories.
This October, Disney announced that it would soon be making a live-action remake of its 1998 movie Mulan, thus continuing 2016 as the Year of the Remake. Like most remakes, this one was immediately engulfed in controversy. There were rumors, later confirmed, that Disney was planning on inserting a white male love interest for Mulan who falls in love with her and saves China for her, thus proving that everything Hollywood touches turns to the opposite of gold. Fortunately, Disney has now said that everyone of note in the movie will be Chinese, but given Hollywood’s past missteps with this and other movies, I’m not entirely convinced of their sincerity. Yet it’s frustrating to me that Disney is already failing at basic representation when there are so many other ways they could mess up this remake that they haven’t yet addressed. So let’s take a look back at the original Disney movie and try and figure out what kind of story the remake might be.
A while back I reviewed a trailer for a little movie called Moana. I was worried about the lack of early advertising the movie was getting—I hoped that the hype among my own age group and demographic would translate to ticket sales, so that Disney couldn’t use a less-than-successful premiere to justify avoiding nonwhite Princess stories for another decade.
Turns out I needn’t have worried—Moana opened this weekend to a phenomenal box office take, only barely failing to unseat Frozen as the #1 Thanksgiving animated film opening of all time, and I’m honestly pinching pennies in the hope of seeing it again soon. To me, it was a sweet, empowering, and well-made movie; however, some native Polynesian critics felt that it played too fast and loose with their culture. Let’s get into it after the jump!
Most people have what they would consider their quintessential Halloween movie, from groan-worthy B movies to the scariest of horror flicks. While I would be hard pressed to pick the Halloween movie for me—I’m indecisive—I would absolutely say that one of them is the 1998 made-for-Disney-TV-movie Halloweentown. I mean, it’s got “Halloween” right in the title. Yet, as with most things from our childhoods, there’s always the fear that going back and revisiting previously cherished media will reveal how shitty and terrible it actually was. I’m not sure if it was by virtue of it being a Disney flick (and thus having to be pretty safe anyway) or the quality of the film’s script, but even almost twenty years later, Halloweentown, despite some problems, remains a bright spot in Disney’s filmography because it focuses on the power of family in an almost unbelievable situation.
That’s kind of terrifying. It’s pretty horrible that adults just don’t get simple concepts like “no means no”, “inability to consent means no”, “the absence of a yes means no”, or “coerced consent is not consent”. And what’s worse is that, when this way of thinking lodges itself in our cultural headspace, it isn’t just adults who are on the receiving end of it. Rather, this mentality creeps its way into children’s media as well, and too often goes entirely unchallenged within that media. Kids aren’t going to go read a blog post about Snow White or Sleeping Beauty’s inability to consent while asleep after watching those movies—there needs to be some kind of message within the film (or book, or show) that shows them why it isn’t kosher. And while there’s a lot of onus on kids’ media to be didactic in some way, a lot of it still falls flat.
The movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit is probably one of my all time favorite movies and Jessica Rabbit is definitely one of my favorite characters. In the movie, Eddie Valiant suspects Jessica of being somehow involved in a murder that Roger Rabbit, her husband, was framed for. During the movie, she is accused of being everything from a seductress, to a gold digger, to an adulteress, to a murderer, but is proven to be nothing but a loyal wife as the movie progresses. She even tells Eddie that she’s “not bad, [she’s] just drawn that way” and in that regard Jessica has a point. Throughout the movie Jessica is viewed as a bad person largely because of how she looks. It seems in animation the more sexualized a woman is or the more she engages in stereotypical feminine things like wearing makeup and sexy outfits, the more likely she is to be portrayed as evil.
Disney is probably one of the biggest perpetrators of this negative trope. While their female heroines dress mostly modestly and appear to wear little to no makeup, female villains are usually portrayed as very sexual, wearing lots of makeup and are often drawn with seductive, heavy-lidded eyes. It doesn’t take much to see what female qualities are being demonized and which lauded as virtuous.
Originally, I was going to review Balto for this post, but as I’m still looking for my copy of it, I instead had to turn to yet another favorite movie of mine featuring a dog. The Fox and the Hound is a 1981 buddy film about a talking fox and hound and it is really sad to watch. I actually cannot watch this movie without crying. I mean, that might not be saying much, because the same is also true for the Pete’s Dragon remake, which also went out of its way to tug at my cold dead heartstrings. The difference here is that The Fox and the Hound actually deserves my tears.
Spoilers for a twenty-five-year-old movie up ahead.