Magical Mondays: Sentience Is Magical—and Horrifying

Sometimes it’s a bad idea to think too hard about the things you love. Last week, while we were looking for something to watch between the Tonys red carpet and the actual Tonys, my friend and I settled on a channel showing Toy Story.

Now don’t get me wrong, I adore the Toy Story franchise. However, it’s one of many beloved childhood stories where, if you poke too closely at the seams of the worldbuilding, it starts to unravel into questions that only get more disturbing.

Um, yikes (via inquisitr)

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Trailer Tuesdays: Coco

During the middle of last week, Disney finally released their U.S. trailer for their own theatrical jaunt into the Day of the Dead mythos, Coco. I, for my part, completely forgot this movie was even going to be a thing, and still kind of wish that it wasn’t. The bad blood Disney created during the film’s production still lingers, and with a seemingly superior film, The Book of Life, having already been released, many still question why we even need Disney’s spin on Mexican culture. Does Coco seem worth giving the time of day? For the time being, I’m going to give it a somewhat wary “yes”.

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Up, Grief, and Healing from Loss

Disney-Pixar’s Up has a special place in my heart. It’s a fun adventure film with some stunning animation and great writing, and every time I sit down to rewatch it, I find myself in love with nearly everything on the screen all over again. This wasn’t always the case, though. The story is centered on a man dealing with his wife’s death, and fridgings are an overused trope that I hate a great deal. But the more I thought about it, the less this fridging in particular bothered me. Up takes that common trope and reworks it into an important life lesson with a surprisingly positive message about dealing with the death of a loved one.

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Thinking Too Hard About Inside Out

inside outA new Pixar offering is always going to get me in a theater seat, and Inside Out was no exception. I saw it a few days ago, and while it was definitely a good movie, I don’t know that I’d call it a great one. Mild spoilers below the jump.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Inside Out

Pixar’s trailer for its new film, Inside Out, has been making the rounds—I’ve seen it in theaters, on the internet, and during the Puppy Bowl this weekend. It looks like it’s going to be pretty fun (it especially looks like they’re going to have a good time making dolls of all the emotions to sell), but there are also some things that might veer into problematic territory if Pixar isn’t careful.

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Disney Princesses and Feminist Femininity

Disney PrincessesThe first thing to know about feminism is that it’s concerned with women’s well-being, and the well-being of all. The second thing to know about feminism is that it’s incredibly complicated. There are many, many forms of feminism, including ones that directly conflict with one another. One of the things that all feminists can agree on is that we need good role models for young girls. But what kinds of role models are we talking about? Disney Princesses are a source of love and contention for many feminists. We can’t seem to agree on which princesses are the best; these two different rankings both claim to be done through a feminist lens, yet they’re completely different. In one, Mulan is at the top, the other she’s near the bottom.

On one hand, we see lots of little girls so excited (excited is putting it mildly) to watch Disney Princess movies, wear Disney Princess costumes, meet Disney Princesses at theme parks, and pretend to be Disney Princesses. Many of the popular Disney Princesses exemplify traditional Western standards of feminine perfection, and what’s wrong with wanting to be feminine? On the other hand, some of the Princesses are treated like objects instead of people; their agency is limited to going about their lives until a man (usually a Prince, but not always) swoops in to rescue them. They’re also drawn as unrealistically skinny, and I’m certain that barring a few height differences, every single one could swap outfits with each other. It’s a bad message to send to girls who are already subjected to a lot of body image issues. Other more modern Disney Princesses do have strong personalities and dreams of their own, and send good messages to kids. So which ones really are the good princesses, and are there any redeeming qualities to the seemingly not-so-feminist ones?

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Sexualized Saturdays: Female Chefs in the Media

Usually I’m an easygoing person, but one thing that gets under my skin is “kitchen jokes”. Partly because someone actually thinks they’re being clever, and in my opinion, they’re ironic. As a woman who has been working in food service for seven years now, I’m not blind to “men only” kitchens in restaurants. The general reason for this seems to be “because women can’t handle the pressure and the workload”. I know that that excuse is complete malarkey, but I don’t understand why it seems to be a continuing trend, especially in the media. Women are portrayed as home cooks, and not as professional chefs. On television there are many examples of serious female chefs. There’s Cat Cora, who’s still the only female Iron Chef in America. Julia Child, one of the first chefs ever televised in America, is famous for her influence in culinary arts. If we have women on TV who can be professional chefs, why can’t this be more common in fictional mediums?

Cooking Mama gets borderline insulting as it is.....

Cooking Mama gets borderline insulting as it is…..

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Trailer Tuesdays: Monsters University

I can’t say I ever felt the need for another Monsters, Inc. movie. Oh, don’t misunderstand; I loved the original, but it was a movie that I felt told its story very well and didn’t seem at all incomplete. (Of course, I wanted to know how the Boo/Sully reunion turned out at the end of the movie. I mean, I’m not made of stone! Still, I couldn’t see a movie made out of that alone). Then the decade which passed after the original’s release pretty much solidified in my mind that Monsters, Inc. was a standalone film. As such, when news of Monsters University reached my ears I was certainly interested, as any “True 90’s Kid” is required to be, but perhaps not as ecstatic as I was when, say, Toy Story 3 was announced.

The movie had some convincing to do, in order to get me excited, and to put it simply: it has.

The fact that this movie is a prequel rather than a sequel is a large part of what has me interested. Even though it’s going in the opposite direction of where my interest lies after the first movie (Are Sully and Boo still friends? Did she outgrow, or stop believing in, her monsters? These are the things I need to know!) it has me interested mainly because of what’s being revealed about Mike Wazowski. Mike, as Monsters, Inc. fans know from the original, is employed as a Scare Assistant: the less glamorous employee who helps out the much-admired Scarers in their job of collecting children’s screams to be converted into energy. What’s interesting is that Mike appears to be very proud of his job in the original movie, if a little jealous of the recognition Sully and the other Scarers get. In Monsters University, however, it is revealed that Mike’s dream was to be a Scarer.

I think this makes the movie more interesting, because it throws a wrench in the workings of this character. One of the toughest things to get right about a prequel is to make it interesting when the intended audience essentially knows the “ending” thanks to the already released original movie. This character revelation about Mike presents an unexpected development, because even though we know where he ends up, we now know that it was not at all where he had planned to be. Because of this, the movie has the potential to make commentary on how dreams change and some of the harsh realities of setting yourself up for one goal and realizing that it wasn’t the right one after all; stories that aren’t often told in children’s movies but probably should.

While following your dreams is important and I don’t think we should ever teach our children to limit themselves, it’s also important to teach them that dreams can change and sometimes you can work for an ideal and find out down the road that it’s not quite the right fit. It’s good to teach them to be open to adjusting their goals, rather than doggedly pursuing one dream and ignoring other possibilities.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this and/or putting too much weight on an animated movie, but I do take entertainment directed at kids pretty seriously, both for my own entertainment and for what message it sends to young people. From what I can see, Monsters University is poised to pay off well in both respects.

Sexualized Saturdays: BMO Versus the Fembots

I’ve been watching Adventure Time for almost a year now, and for most of that time I’ve wondered whether BMO was intended to be a male or female character. And then recently it hit me. It doesn’t matter. BMO is a robot, and inherently genderless. Why do we assume that Pixar’s EVE and WALL-E are a girl and a boy? Would their relationship, which is portrayed as innocently romantic, be as meaningful to us if it had been presented without gendered markers?

wall-e-and-eve-wallpaper-2This led me to wonder why we feel a need to give gender to robots—who, even if they have artificial intelligence, are non-gendered machines. Why do we need to force our standards of gender and sexuality onto what is at best a sentient toaster in order to be able to interact with it comfortably?

And worse, why does the way robots are gendered affect the tasks they are presented doing? Continue reading