Now that Moana has been released and Lindsey Ellis, formally known as the Nostalgia Chick, did a video essay comparing it to Pocahontas and talking about cultural appropriation, I’ve been thinking a lot more about Disney’s 1995 Pocahontas movie. I absolutely don’t want to defend Pocahontas because, well… it’s bad. It’s really bad and racist, but this movie did have a lot of positive effects on me and my understanding of the genocide white people waged on Native Americans. And even nowadays, over twenty years later, it once again indirectly managed to help me come to terms with a personal trauma. Lindsey Ellis’s video does a really good job deconstructing everything that’s wrong with this movie and I wholeheartedly recommend everyone watch it, because Pocahontas is on the whole a really awful movie. Despite my love for it and the positive influence it had on my life, those things do not erase the negatives.
There were two things I knew when I went into this movie a couple days ago. For one, Beauty and the Beast is a classic among classic Disney animated films. More pertinently, though, is that I am way behind on any sort of analysis I could offer on this movie. Beauty and the Beast’s 2017 remake came out back in March and despite me kind of wanting to see it, I never got around to it while it was in theaters. For the sake of full disclosure I’ve never watched any of the previous Beauty and the Beast animated films in their entirety, so I don’t really have any of that childhood attachment or nostalgia for the film that the remake was trying to desperately to cash in on. When the 2017 version was originally announced, I wanted to watch it mostly because of the darker aesthetics–I wanted to see if Disney had learned anything from their Alice In Wonderland mess. As fate would have it, though, I jumped into the film with the aesthetics’ unwanted friend tagging alongside it: the painfully laughable characterization of Le Fou that Disney (or Le Fou’s actor, Josh Gad, at least) tried so hard to call “gay representation”. I’ll admit, that may have colored my viewing more than a little bit. Still, that alone didn’t make it a bad movie. What made it a bad movie—maybe bad’s a little harsh. Exhausting?—was how hard it tried to convince me that it was better than the sum of its parts.
The new Black Panther trailer has been released and I’m beyond hyped. February can’t get here soon enough! Coming off the heels of Wonder Woman’s success and a wave of support for inclusion of marginalized voices, Marvel finally released a trailer with a non-white male lead. I got to see the intersection of Black Twitter and Nerd Twitter come out in full force, so with all this excitement, I should probably explain why it looks so great.
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.
“A bunch of friends who might not be film experts, but sure do have funny opinions, watch bad movies and rag on them” is a podcasting trope by now, if such a thing can exist. How do you wade through the sea of cinematic chit-chat to find one you know will be good? That’s not actually a question I can answer, since I was lucky enough to stumble into Trash & Treasures sideways, but I can help by assuring you that Trash & Treasures is one worth checking out.
Trash & Treasures is where self-described “three weirdos”, Vrai, Dorothy, and Chris, watch movies and sometimes TV series that have been lost down the back of the pop culture couch. Maybe they’re a product of Disney’s awkward and edgy dark era where the company was low on funds and fighting with Don Bluth, maybe they’re an obscure single-release piece of queer action cinema, maybe they’re… just plain bad. Each episode is devoted to a different piece of media, and the trio discuss the plot, context and history of how this movie came to be and how they came to find it, and which parts of it are terrible and which parts are actually, maybe, kind of good.
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”.
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.
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.
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.