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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Double the Fun, Half the Character? A Critical Look at Twins in Pop Culture

In the last few days of the star sign Gemini, I wanted to talk a bit about twins in pop culture. I think television writers struggle with how to portray twins, and that’s putting it lightly. Identical twins seem to be the ones featured most prominently—why bother making two characters twins if they don’t look alike? Never mind the hundreds of fraternal twins actually out there who get less representation on TV because they’re less of a curiosity. Identical twins tend to be used as visually striking additions to TV shows, typically in sort of a gimmicky way: “oh look how kewl, they look exactly like each other!” However, the line between novelty and fetishizing, and even dehumanizing, is terribly thin. It contributes to what is honestly a freak show mentality, which leads to poor writing, poor character development, and overall less than ideal portrayals of twins. Spoiler alerts for Teen Wolf Season 3 and Heroes Season 2 below.

Identically adorable.

Identically adorable.

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Hex Appeal: Did Maleficent Deliver or Disappoint?

Eleanor Audley Maleficent

Big shoes to fill. Eleanor Audley provided both the voice and visual inspiration for animators of the iconic Maleficent in the 1959 Disney film.

Huzzah, Maleficent is finally here! Ace wrote about this project back in November, which seems like a long time ago, but one could say this movie has been in the making much longer than that. The awe-inspiring “Mistress of All Evil” hails from Walt Disney’s 1959 film Sleeping Beauty. This means that for fifty-five years she has managed to captivate the imagination and fascination of viewers everywhere, culminating in this 2014 blockbuster starring one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses. Now, the wicked fairy has been a staple of original Sleeping Beauty-esque myths since their centuries-old origins; originally she is nameless, later she’s occasionally known as Carabosse, before making her unforgettable debut as Maleficent in Disney’s version of the tale. Maleficent’s unique aesthetics and commanding voice have made her sinister presence singularly stand out among many Disney villains, and Angelina Jolie captured these characteristics masterfully in her film. But aside from its powerhouse main character, how did the rest of the movie stack up? Unfortunately, I’d give it an “eh”.

Maleficent Jolie PosterSpoilers below. This is a revisionist tale in the style of Wicked, so whatever spoilers you may know for the original fairytale or Disney are largely turned upside down.

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Once Upon A Time Midseason Review

It’s been a week and a half since the midseason finale of Once Upon a Time’s Season 3, which means I’ve had plenty of time to sit around and figure out what I thought of it. In general, I think it’s moving in a good direction, but I still have some complaints. Specificity (and therefore spoilers) after the jump.

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Sexualized Saturdays: “It’s totally canon now!”

Queer representation is not a sneaky thing. It doesn’t creep up like a ninja, and it doesn’t hide behind equivocation. If something has queer representation, it’s because it includes a queer character who at some point has audibly and unambiguously expressed romantic or sexual interest in the same gender. Anything else is speculation. Hell, even Word of God is tricky—JKR may have said that Dumbledore is gay, but anyone who just reads the books and doesn’t bother to dig up an interview from ten years ago will have no idea.

mulanI bring this up because of a recent trend I’ve seen in fandom, where all sorts of interactions and statements that don’t fit the above criteria are being held up as proof of a queer pairing’s now-canon status. Continue reading

My Ongoing Issue with Once Upon A Time

Okay, look, I really don’t have a ton of problems with Once Upon A Time. Do I think the plot needs to get a hold of itself after the tangled mess that was the lead-up to the S2 finale? Yes. But in general, it’s a pretty great show and it’s leagues ahead of a lot of shows in that it has a variety of very different female characters with a variety of personality types, interests, and skills.

So what’s my beef? Well, here’s the thing. What legitimately always saves the day in Storybrooke? Say it with me: true love—especially true love’s kiss. Whether it’s platonic and familial or romantic, whether it’s Emma’s love for her son or Snow’s love for Charming, the power of true love truly seems to conquer all when it comes to our misplaced fairytale heroes. And that’s all well and good, but something’s missing. In a storyline that literally revolves around the power of true love, the portrayal of true love remains depressingly heterosexual.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Femslash February Fairy Tales

The amount of male/male slash fiction floating around out in the aether of the internet grossly outnumbers the amount that features two ladies. We’ve grumped about this fact before, but recently, annoyed with this trend, people have decided to take action. This February has dubbed “Femslash February”, and writers and artists are using this month to focus their efforts on creating stories and artwork that focus on queer female relationships.

I knew that I wanted to write about femslash today, but I was having trouble finding any really great fics in my bookmarks. Part of the reason I think femslash is so rare comparatively is that it’s rare enough to see shows or movies that pass the Bechdel test, let alone have enough female-with-female interaction to base a pairing on. And although I love my Supernatural, my Marvel Cinematic Universe, my myriad action-packed anime, and even Les Mis and Tolkien, they’re all hella problematic when it comes to female representation and portrayal.

So I buckled down and subjected myself to the truly *ahem* laborious and unpleasant task of reading tons of femslash in order to bring you some Femslash February recommendations.

My current femslash OTP is Mulan and Aurora from Once Upon A Time. OUAT has a really diverse and interesting female cast, and so the show is a godsend to femslash shippers (and people who like cool pairing names—seriously, Swan Queen? Sleeping Warrior?) Both of these fanfics feature Mulan/Aurora as the main pairing; I couldn’t decide which one to rec, so instead of picking I’ve brought you one short and funny fic set in canon, and one long, dramatic, romantic AU. Continue reading