The Pebbles is almost done with yon bonny graduate school, and this means that she will soon become *drum roll* A MASTER OF ALL ENGLISH!!! OOOOOH YEEEAAAAAHYAAAAAH...and of romance novels. Because I'm totes writing my final thingie ON ROMANCE NOVELS! WOOHOO! Death to the anti-romance novel oppressor!!!! Death to the proletariate! wait, what?
Anyhoos, thankfully I've had more opportunity to think and contemplate romantical cwaep lately, but no real outlet other than my scholarly writings to evacuate said thoughts and contemplations, and I must, as you know, be fairly restrained in such cases (not everyone appreciates The Pebbles "pebble-ocity," you know).
Today I'm thinking back to the stuff that started it all. You know, Disney. Not really just Disney though, because though I loved me some Aladdin and some Beauty & the Beast, and later Mulan, I wasn't a big "OMG DISNEY!!!!" kid- mostly because almost all Disney movies scared the cwaep out of me at some point (Beauty & the Beast has those wolves, okay? and the whole West Wing thing made me crap my designer toddler undies).
Unfortunately, this will begin as a scholarly-ish sounding series and deteriorate later on into a series of ranting posts (undoubtedly). Or, like most things I do on here, it will just sort of fade away until I get distracted by something else shiny and rant-able.
First, there was this article, ya'see...
Read it. I dare you. If you like Disney Princesses and think there's nothing un-feminist about being a girl and wanting love and marriage, then you might (like me) get a little pissy. Or, if you're brilliant like me, you'll be like um...yeah...bitch, you dumb. Although, let's be honest, that's usually how I respond to anyone I don't like. I'm immature like that.
So basically, this thing ranked Disney Princess movies in order from most-feminist heroine to least feminist heroine. I'm probably going to have to turn this into a series of responses to each ranking (based on how much I disagree), but for now, just go read it. It's short, and you'll get to see pretty pictures (oooooo! PINK!).
Read it? Good.
Didn't read it?
Bitch, you lazy.
Basically, it says they should be ranked as follows:
9. Snow White
Also, check out this awesomeness (basically from 11:00-22:00 is what I'm going to discuss a bit).
I'm not getting overly argumentative with the lower 3- I haven't seen them recently enough to judge whether the ranking is inappropriate- since Aurora is named after half a light show in Balto and spends half the film asleep, I'm pretty okay with her being at the bottom (that's what she said...); Snow White gives me some unpleasant pedophile squick (come ON, the girl is like 12, scampering through the woods and then sleeping in a house with a bunch of little old men) and some major necrophiliac AAAK (the Prince is like "dead girl in a glass coffin? SOLD!"); Cinderella is, yes, imprisoned by her bitch of a stepmother, and basically wholly reliant on the godmother for aid, but I guess she does exert a certain patriarchal colonialism over the primitive mice...
|I love Belle, and I think the quote is adorbz.|
But hipsters, even Hipster Belle, should be punched in the neck.
Now, Mulan, I get. Seriously, I really do. Bitch has it ALL. It's an awesome movie, and yeah, she's pretty damn good. Pocahontas poses a few interesting problems (and I won't really be focusing on race, since the topic is feminism and gender, but...yeah...), Tiana I just didn't like, though I do think we can argue her feminist value, Rapunzel was ADORBZ, but I'm not really feeling how she's better than Belle...
Basically, I'm going to focus on Belle and Mulan right now, because I'm the most familiar with them, and I actually think I would at this point be pretty happy making an argument that they should be tied for #1 on this list. But, well...here goes...and forgive me for ranting about incoherently, it's what I do sometimes...
I’ll confess, I was rather annoyed by the rankings of the Disney princesses., and frustrated by the views expressed in The Mickey Mouse Monopoly- primarily because I felt as though they were using a set of criteria to judge levels of “feminism” that was necessarily suited to making such a determination.
Essentially, I suppose my primary point of disagreement lies in how the author/interviewees chose to “read” the chosen female characters; do we judge their level of feminism based on the most basic aspects of the plot (Belle ends up imprisoned and then married, Mulan carries a sword and slays people, Tiana starts her own business…) or do we try to judge their position within feminist ideals based on the level of authorship that the female characters exercise over their own narratives? The former seems to be the chosen set of standards used by the author of the original article and the commenters in The Mickey Mouse Monopoly, but the problem with this way of interpreting seems to be that it relies upon gendered actions and behaviors in order to determine feminism; Mulan is cited as the most feminist for her adoption of male attire and culturally masculine actions (she takes the place of a son and goes to war)- Mulan is cited as a “real, independent female” because of these actions. This seems extremely problematic if we wish to discuss “feminism,” because it presupposes that true feminism requires qualities and behaviors that we gender traditionally as masculine (is it bad if you’re a girl and don’t don armor and go to war? Are you less feminist or powerful?).
I would not argue with Mulan’s ranking, though I feel that she could be placed more laterally with Belle; the author’s and the commenters issue with Mulan seems to be one that fixates on the idea of love and marriage as essentially un-feminist, which seems hardly logical- what seems to matter is that both Belle and Mulan are characters that actively pursue an attempt to alter and control not only their own narrative, but those around them as well: Mulan alters not only her father’s potentially scripted narrative by taking his place, and that of her people by saving them from destruction; Belle too plays such a role in saving her own father, and enacts a very physical (but potentially symbolic) change in the Beast’s narrative as well (literally producing a transformation). These are just two chosen examples of a reading that is less reliant upon basic plot elements and actions to determine a character’s feminist standing, but it seems plausible that a rereading of other princesses might reveal some to be more equal to one another (before we take a moderate drop into the downtrodden and woeful era of Sleeping Beauties, Cinderellas and Snow Whites).
I would challenge the argument presented in The Mickey Mouse Monopoly that Beauty & the Beast depicts and romanticizes abuse- were this a real life situation (girlfriend locked in the house, yelling and temper tantrums, excuses, marriage, etc.) then we could logically begin arguing the situation as pseudo-feminist (clearly, this girl is not really going to turn out to be as in control as she believes herself to be). However, because we are dealing with narrative, we should perhaps set aside the temptation to interpret the film based on factors that lie outside of its constructed narrative- the story of Beauty & the Beast results in a literal and very empowering transformation of the male character, not an implication that Belle has not actually managed to change him, or that her power is an illusion. Therefore, although the violence and underlying abusive elements of the story might necessitate discussion between parents and children, they do necessarily work as evidence for a lack of feminism in the story.
Lastly, there was one point made by both the article’s author and The Mickey Mouse Monopoly that I found rather troubling. Namely, the condemnation of Jasmine’s use of her sexuality to distract/control Jafar- essentially, the idea that she couldn’t possibly be a strong figure or role model if she used her sexuality so blatantly. Although I understand the concern that she might (superficially) be seen to uphold an idea of young women as sexual objects (again, a discussion for parents and children), I hardly think it detracts from her position as a strong female character. The excessive levels of concern over her actions seem somehow to revert to a more stereotypically male response: how dare a women use her physical attributes as a weapon- she must be a slut.
I suppose my rampant musings are the result of too many romance novels, marriage, an enjoyment of adventurous romances that end with happily-ever-after, and blissful enjoyment in being as girly as possible. And I do, of course, recognize that my own "pseudo-feminist" narrative is not an essential Truth for the masses. I also realize that I wrote this thing while my bread was in the oven, dressed in a fluffy skirt and an apron, while in grad school because I'm fwaeking brilliant...and that, my peoples, is kind of my point.