Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

09 March 2010

Women's History Month: Why I love Ariel & Belle

Today's Women's History Tidbit:
1990: Dr. Antonia Novello was sworn in as both the first Hispanic and woman to be U.S. surgeon general.*


When Nobel Savage tweeted that Disney was renaming and reframing the Rapunzel story in a way that "allows" more boys to enjoy it, I thought, BULLSHIT! But as I read the LA Times piece, I started to laugh:
After the less-than-fairy-tale results for its most recent animated release, "The Princess and the Frog," executives at the Burbank studio believe they know why the acclaimed movie came up short at the box office....Brace yourself: Boys didn't want to see a movie with "princess" in the title...Disney can ill afford a moniker that alienates half the potential audience, young boys, who are needed to make an expensive family film a success.

"We did not want to be put in a box," said Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, explaining the reason for the name change. "Some people might assume it's a fairy tale for girls when it's not. We make movies to be appreciated and loved by everybody."
My first laugh was because "AHA! Princess backlash!" Perhaps it's not just parents of boys who are keeping their girls from princess movies. Then I got serious and thought, "Shit, I hope the princess takes the fall and not the fact that it was a Black princess!" Then I laughed again at how Disney might have just marketed themselves out of money by playing the princess card over and over.
Princesses and other female protagonists helped lead the 1980s and '90s revival of the animation unit with "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Mulan." The difference between those releases and "Princess and the Frog" is that those earlier films weren't marketed as princess movies.
Back in the time of Ariel and Belle, I was in high school. Not the target audience, I know, but still I was a kid. What I loved about Ariel was not just that it was a telling of one my favorite fairy tales, but that Ariel was portrayed as a headstrong teen who was curious and adventurous. I prefer mermaid-Ariel to princess-Ariel any day. Then Belle came along. Oh Belle! We bonded as bookworms. Again, when I think of Belle, I think of her sitting in that mega-library with a cuppa tea and her nose in a book. Now that's my fairy tale.

Oh yes, I know all the feminist critiques of both characters and movies, but for me, I fell in love with them for other reasons. The critiques are valid mind you. But Disney...Disney, oh how I do love you! Correction: I love Disney movies, not Disney the company that seems to be playing hard ball with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.^ You must understand that I didn't fall in love with the princess aspect of the tale, but rather the adventurousness and the intellect of the leads. Don't scrap Rapunzel, scrap the princess-centric tale and marketing plan.

While you're at it, scrap the lazy dude theme too.

If I had a boy, I would have tweeted as I walked out of "Princess and the Frog." We don't need a movie about how a woman has to kick a guy in the ass to work. Yes, the prince is lazy and he learns otherwise, but lately the media is all about telling our boys that they are lazy, they don't work as hard and yes, a lot of us joke about it. But you, Disney, have no need to wallow in that pool. Telling tales of girls and their dreams doesn't mean that the boys in the movie can't also dream big.

Cause really, in my fairy tale, my guy and I share the same big dreams of adventure and intellectual intercourse.

^ I know it is hard to split the company from the movies from the theme park. In fact it is impossible. My heart of fond childhood memories of the Big Mouse, trips to Orlando and the movies keeps me coming back for more. But my head keeps me focused on the fight. Please read CCFC's response to the latest showdown with Disney.

*Source: This Day in History and  the National Women's Hall of Fame

1 comments:

I love this post. It's so true! Reverse discrimination does not get women any closer to being seen as societal equals. People of all genders should aspire to achieve, and it's okay, too, to make a movie about a princess! Not everything has to be completely politically correct; sometimes it's nice to watch an old-school happily ever after. Disney Princesses like Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas, and Mulan are more likeable and remembered because their stories are a great compromise of realistic, powerful females and "fairy tale ending" narratives.