Ariel: Underrated Feminist?

Ariel is our favorite red-headed mermaid, and yet she never gets the credit she deserves. She kickstarted the resurgence of Disney Princesses in animated films, but she is pushed to the side for not being as progressive as the other women around her. Belle is a book lover and a caring soul. Jasmine is tired of the patriarchy, with Merida agreeing wholeheartedly. Pocahontas is an eco-warrior and Mulan is a legit warrior. We consistently hear “Not your average Disney Princess” as a descriptor for new films, and yet, the average Disney Princess now is strong, independent, and a proud feminist.

Yet, Ariel always get shoved into the grouping with Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora (Sorry, ladies). I firmly believe our favorite friend under the sea doesn’t deserve the shade being thrown her way. Ariel is just as feminist as the others and that should be celebrated.

People associate Ariel with “But Daddy, I LOVE HIM!” and “I’m 16, I’m not a child,” which is relatively damming evidence for adhering to gender roles, but we forget how independent she is from the get-go. She is very interested in humans from the start, but the force of her father won’t allow her to educate herself. She is placed in a box, that being a singer with her family band (very “Partridge Family”). Her father wants her to just sing, and in the words of Belle, can anyone be happy if they aren’t free? She doesn’t enjoy singing, she enjoys learning. Ariel is risking her life to acquire more human artifacts just to comprehend the world above her. She just wants to learn. Honestly, it’s a very Fahrenheit 451 situation, especially after her father destroys her grotto. Even with “Part of Your World” being her I-want-song, it is just a list of things she wants to learn about the human world. Ariel needs information, gosh darn it!

When Eric is introduced, it isn’t a strictly love situation. “But she says she does, like, blatantly!” Yes, I realize annoyed reader. However, the love is also towards the idea of humans. She wants to know what’s above her and that just happens to include Eric. Then she saves his life, y’all. Did Cinderella save anyone’s life? Um, no. Getting close to Eric during the rescue on the beach piques her interest even more as she’s never been that close to a completely new species before, especially one she’s been enamored with since birth. It was, in her mind, as if all these years spent interested and compiling information and looking on from a far were finally rewarded. I liken it to you finally meeting your favorite celebrity. You’ve followed their social media, you’ve watched their films/listened to their music/watched their every move, and now you are seeing them in person. You’d have some pretty strong feelings in that moment, too, and for Ariel, they occurred in her mind as love.

Ursula’s contract states that to become a human for good, she must receive Eric’s true love’s kiss. Now, the love is nice incentive and there is clearly a reason for its existence, but she wants to kiss him more to remain a human and not strictly for the relationship. Really, Eric is the one who is more in it for love. He is in search of the girl who saved him in the hopes to fall in love with her, strictly based on her voice. Eric is solely on this hunt for a wife with no concept of the repercussions or weirdness of the whole thing, easily making him the worst character in the film, even if his ship captaining does kill Ursula in the finale. As the film draws to a close, Ariel gets to remain human for the rest of her days as her father (FINALLY) sees what she’s been fight for her whole life. She was a human born in a mermaid’s body and she can finally live her truth. She can finally be where the people are!

Ariel is a feminist. She revolts against the patriarchy and gender roles her stern father has assigned to her and eventually gains freedom and the chance to be her true self. I love Ariel and will never be ashamed to say that.

We Wants The Redhead, but also, like, No Insinuated Rape?

While the great wave of anger has mostly passed, I still thought I would share my thoughts on The Great Pirates of the Caribbean Debacle of 2017.

For those unaware, the Disney Parks Blog recently revealed that Disneyland Paris’ version of the ride would reopen with some changes, including the auction scene changing from women to items stolen by the pirates. They then snuck in that during the CA and FL rides’ refurbishments next year, they would also be receiving the switch. And then all the white men went NOOOOOOO and then a giant wave hit the eastern seaboard and acid rain fell across the country and then the apocalypse was confirmed and we all died.

There seems to be a thing amongst the Disney fandom where people are thrilled for changes, unless it’s a ride they like, then don’t you lay a damn finger on it or so help me god. I have to fess up as I have done it in the past. Tower to Guardians in CA had me angry, but then the ride was presented to us and I was totally fine with it. (Sans the outside of that building. Woof.) We’re all going to be bitter about different things, but this time around, things became vile.

This announcement had people up in arms more than usual as if someone was going to pull a Sophie’s Choice on their children. It was insane. There were people claiming the legacy would be lost with the change, there were people saying the mechanics of the ride story would change enough to hurt the attraction, there were people claiming “too PC,” etc.

The scene, for those of you  who are somehow unfamiliar (No judgement, honestly impressed you’re reading this anyway. Welcome!), the scene features a banner reading “Auction: Take a Wench for a Bride,” along with a pirate barker trying to sell a group of tied-together crying women to a bunch of drunken pirates. The crowd watching the auction at one point yells “We Wants the Redhead!” who is a sexy woman in red satin standing next in line and showing a little ankle (OOOO GIRL, GET IT!).

The new scene will have the redhead become a pirate and join in the selling of the stolen goods to the crowd watching across the water.

For some reason, this is the thing that has people going crazy and I don’t understand why. Sarah Sterling made a great point about it on Twitter, stating that we, as Disney fans, are used to it at this point. However, if you were to ride fresh right now, you’d probably think “Um…isn’t this just a rape auction?”

Writer Kate Abbott also had a fantastic thread on the ordeal:

For some reason, a large chunk of fans are fine with this, because “That’s what pirates do!” This is an argument I do not understand. Then, I’d like the Donald Trump audio-animatronic to be groping women as the curtain at The Hall Of Presidents opens, because that’s what he does! I want to walk by the Mexico pavilion at Epcot to see a human sacrifice taking place on the steps because that’s what they did! The argument does not hold up.

I think everyone angry at this needs to look at it from all sides. Can you imagine going on a Disney ride and going past a scene insinuating pirates raping your gender? Imagine it flipped, where they are auctioning off men for pirates to castrate. Would you feel the same way then?

We should be celebrating Disney realizing a problem within a classic attraction and taking the time to change the narrative. The redhead is still front-and-center, just in a new role. We will still have an auction, we will still see pirates doing pirate things. We will still have the beloved attraction just without rape and that should be a win for us all.

The Importance of Ellen’s Energy Adventure (Yeah, I know)

Ellen’s Energy Adventure will be closing on August 13th to make way for a new Guardians of the Galaxy thrill ride. This is a lose-lose situation for me as I don’t like Guardians (I can hear you yelling already. I’ve tried and I can’t get into a franchise where a planet is a villain. Sorry ’bout it.) and Ellen’s Energy Adventure is my favorite attraction.

You heard me. Ellen’s Energy Adventure is my favorite ride.

The ride system is incredible and never ceases to blow my mind. A theater that spins 180 degrees, then moves in tandem into dinosaur show scenes, breaks apart into individual cars through the diorama, then joins together again. There’s nothing else like it in the world and it’s spectacular.

Now, I understand Universe of Energy is more beloved, but I adore the script and humor of Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Yes, the film is incredibly outdated (Stop yelling at me, I can hear you!). I mean, she uses a cell phone with an antenna. It’s rough. Yet, the humor never gets old for me. I always laugh at “Stupid Judy” or “The Piggy Bank? The Ding Dang?” or when she goes to punch Bill Nye after he continues to speak after drenching her. It has some truly hilarious moments. “Sorry Ellen, we were looking for something more than just an embellishment of what I had already said.” It’s just so good!

Besides my love for the attraction itself and the humor and how it’s the greatest pre-show in the history of Disney World don’t @ me, it has the importance of representation, as well.

Ellen’s Energy Adventure opened on June 14th, 1996, at the height of her titular sitcom’s success on ABC. In April 1997, however, was the infamous Puppy Episode. Just hitting it’s 20-year milestone 4 months ago, the episode featured Ellen’s big coming out moment, instantly becoming an iconic TV moment and a huge ratings success. Immediately after the success, however, Ellen’s career took a hard nose dive. Her revealing her sexuality caused her to not get work for months, even years, after the episode aired. She didn’t get back to her earlier success until her daytime talk show premiered in 2003.

Think about it (“You’re in your car, you’re driving and I just pop up behind you and go HEY!” Oh, sorry, that’s more quotes. Continue.), during her downfall being shunned by all media for her sexuality, Ellen’s Energy Adventure remained open. The ride hadn’t even been open for a year before her coming out, and yet, Disney kept it open, despite the backlash it’s star was facing.

For the past 21 years, the lead in an attraction at a Disney theme park has been and out and proud lesbian. That is pretty remarkable. Looking at current “Celebrities in Disney Rides,” Rosie O’Donnell still leads up the Boudin Bakery Tour, but now in a smaller role and not with the same impact a ride has had. Unless I am mistaken, everyone else is straight. Having that representation at the Most Magical Place on Earth is comforting. It shows many that being gay is not a disease or an illness, but something that is normal, something to be proud of, and something that allows you to hang out with Bill Nye on a trip to the Big Bang.

Ellen’s Energy Adventure, I will always love you. I will see you on August 12th to pay my respects, take photos against your beautiful tile mural, and leave a high efficiency light bulb on your reflection pool. Stupid Judy, Ellen. *wipes tear away*. Stupid Judy.

 

The Importance of That’s So Raven’s “True Colors” Episode

This week is Raven Week on disneyBOP! We’ll bring you a new post leading up to the premiere of Raven’s Home this Friday.

During my rewatch of That’s So Raven to prepare for Raven’s Home, I had the opportunity to view the “True Colors” episode. Airing in February of 2005, the episode focused on the past and present of Black History Month and the black experience in America.

The Cory plotline has him trying to write a school report on Black History Month. During an extended dream sequence, Cory meets the black icons and trailblazers of the past. It is a quick segment in the grand scheme of things, but a really important one for me as a kid. It was one of the first times I heard names like Bessie Coleman and Madame CJ Walker. In the normal elementary curriculum we are accustomed to hits the same highlights every year. Martin Luther King Jr. George Washington Carver. That’s about it. They invite around 10 different black figures who have changed the face of the globe into the Baxter house during Cory’s dream sequence.

The main purpose of the episode is to highlight racial discrimination in the workplace and how it still exists in a post-Civil Right society. Yes, you read that right. A Disney Channel sitcom tackled workplace racism and prejudice.

When Raven goes to apply for a job at the mall, Chelsea joins in. Raven aces the interview. Chelsea…completes it. When Chelsea gets the job, shockingly, and Raven doesn’t, questions arise.

A vision comes in and it shows the shop manager saying “I don’t hire black people,” and the air drops out of the room. From there, the show straight up tackles racism. It’s an important episode and one that opened up an important dialogue for kids across the country.

When the episode was released, I was in the 3rd grade. Up to that point, all discussions of Black History Month were in the past. Modern black icons were never discussed, nor was anything talked about post-desegregation. All events and people after that were ignored in school. So, even though I knew it existed, seeing a television show mention it in such a direct way was important and incredibly educational.

That was one of the first moments where my eyes were opened to the prejudices of people in the world and how racism still exists. It began an important conversation for a generation that wasn’t receiving it in school, all while still bringing the laughs. However, did we expect anything less from the show that tackled body shaming and culture-based bullying?! NO MA’AM.

 

ABC’s Minnie Driver & America Ferrera gets frank on Feminism in Hollywood

The Hollywood Reporter has a series of Roundtables every year released around their respective award shows, highlighting those who have given us inspired performances within their mediums. The TV episodes are starting to be released just as Emmy nominations are being locked in. I wait with bated breath every year for the TV Comedy Actresses panel as they are consistently the most real, honest, and inspiring conversations. This year is no exception.

There are two veterans of ABC this time around, with America Ferrera (who won the 2007 Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy and Golden Globe for Ugly Betty) and Minnie Driver (currently starring in the fabulous Wednesday night sitcom Speechless, which is a required Hulu binge).

Both talk about the importance of intersectional female stories being told on television, the underlying patriarchal basis of nudity on television, and the many factors that go into the pay disparity for women in the workplace and whether or not it has become a lose-lose situation.

The conversation is fascinating, enlightening, and all the women on the panel (including the fabulous Issa Rae, who’s HBO show Insecure was a highlight of this television season) bring poise and humor to the topics discussed.

It is an hour long, so grab a snack and a cup of tea (literal and figurative) and hang out with these fabulous women talkin’ ’bout feminism.

 

Looking Back at LeFou’s Coming Out Craziness

LeFou has had one hell of a 2017. From being a simply enjoyable sidekick to the face of the LGBTQ community (but like, not really at all). Bill Condon’s interview stating that LeFou will have an “exclusively gay moment” threw the world for a loop and now that we’ve been able to see the film and let the moment itself sink in, we need to dissect the situation. (Side note: “exclusively gay moment” is such a weirdly worded phrase. It’s the new “conscious uncoupling.”)

The moment we were promised was certainly less than to be desired. If you have yet to see the live-action Beauty and the Beast, that’s crazy and why are you reading this in the first place, but also spoilers ahead.

During the big fight scene, Audra McBoudoir (not her actual character name, but I will call her that from here on out) throws a variety of fabrics and accoutrement at three revolting townsfolk until they are in dresses and their faces are powdered. Two are horrified that anyone would ever see them not adhering to masculine societal norms, while one is okay with it and smiles back at Audra McBoudoir. The moment is played for a laugh, which bothered me a bit, but the underlying meaning behind it I appreciated. Be your true self, nameless character! Audition for RuPaul’s Drag Race! Live your best life! *confetti*

This is key to remember as in the finale of the film, as everyone is dancing in the newly bright ballroom (They Loved It and didn’t List it.), LeFou is dancing with a woman and then spins around to find himself dancing with the nameless townsperson. I have read other reports where they say their faces light up in a way to signify that they are happier, but that is a little much. I have seen the film four times now (don’t @ me) and there is nothing to suggest that. However, that’s the moment. That is what was hyped out the wazoo. It was a disappointment, to say the least.

It was even more of a disappointment considering that they built it up as a tribute to Howard Ashman. For those unfamiliar, the producer and songwriter for the key films during the Disney Renaissance was a gay man who died due to AIDS months before the release of Beauty and the Beast. Roy Disney has said he was another Walt, which is a huge title to be bestowed on someone. He revolutionized Disney Animation Studios, arguably saved the animation department from death single-handedly, and changed the company forever. His presence is truly missed, but the work he did for the company in that short amount of time has left a lasting impression on the Disney brand and entertainment world as a whole.

Thinking about this, a tribute to Ashman through a “gay moment” is very cool and heartwarming. This man died from a disease that was ignored by many because of its ties to the gay community (as a “baby gay,” I highly suggest you check out ABC’s When We Rise, where I learned so much about the community during that tumultuous time.) and blatantly stating a character is gay in his honor is a great tribute in my eyes. Yet, the moment wasn’t that at all. It was so overhyped that what we received what such a big pile of nothing compared to where everyone’s expectations were set.

Now, LeFou throughout the film had many more instances that were smaller, but more telling in my eyes compared to the final dance. During the “Gaston” sequence, he had subtle feminine tendencies that I immediately caught onto and appreciated. It wasn’t in an offensive way or a stereotype, just relatable. When he sits on the bar and tries to get the three nameless townsfolk to join in, I picked on every nuance, for lack of a better word. The placement of his shoulders, the flipping of the hair, etc. It was the stuff most LGBTQ+ kids have to adamantly avoid doing in school, even if it’s how they naturally carry themselves, to avoid bullying (take it from one who has been there and back). Later during the fight, LeFou’s face when Mrs. Potts says that he’s too good for Gaston is great, as well. He’s realizing things about himself and you can see it in his eyes. I loved being able to tell when LeFou realized he shouldn’t stick with a guy who doesn’t love him back.

I feel that if Bill Condon did the interview after the release saying that LeFou was meant to be seen as gay and these moments were a small tribute to Mr. Ashman, the collective feeling would have been more positive from the community (not a huge difference, but it would’ve swayed positive), but the build-up was so great that it would never be able to compete unless LeFou straight up made-out with his dance partner on the lips.

Now, the backlash was strong for these small moments and I do give incredible amounts of credit to Disney for calling bluffs when they saw them. Malaysia, Russia, and China’s big ratings uptick for these miniscule moments were hefty, but Disney didn’t care. They stuck to their guns and wouldn’t allow any edits to the film whatsoever, which is a not only a powerful statement, but also incredibly moving. It’s so great to see how far the community has come in just the last decade, and especially the allies the community has gained in that amount of time. (Just look at the amount of large companies who made mention of Pride in any way, shape, or form last month.) That one Alabama drive-in that banned the movie had no effect on Disney or the box office. The mom who said she would cancel her trip because of these small moments was abhorrent, but Disney didn’t bat an eyelash. You can go take your kids somewhere else, the Magic Kingdom is a place for acceptance. Sorry, lady. Disney is filled with pride.

It was underwhelming compared to the build-up, but it was a step. Hopefully, that step leads into bigger representation down the line. In live-action reboots, in original films, in animated properties, etc. I hope this creates a snowball of LGBTQ+ representation in Disney product, and diverse LGBTQ+ representation at that. So, Disney, I give you a single clap for this, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can give you a standing ovation.

“Star Wars: Forces of Destiny” Debuts Galactic Feminism

The first in a series of Star Wars shorts was just released and it is two minutes and forty-eight seconds of pure joy. The new Star Wars: Forces of Destiny shorts will follow the various kick butt women of the Star Wars universe in small stories that take place within their respective timelines.

“Sands of Jakku” was just released on Disney’s YouTube channel and it follows Rey soon after meeting BB-8. The story is simple, but shows the true character of Rey. She is swift, smart, and solicitous. Take a look below at the first short.

Daisy Ridley reprised her role for the short, which was great. The animation style is rather simple, but I adored how you could see everything in her eyes. She cares about everyone, from droids to monsters. How can you not love Rey?!

The series will follow other powerful Star Wars females, like Jyn Erso (from Rogue One), Ahsoka Tano (from The Clone Wars and, more importantly, voiced by Muffy from That’s So Raven), and Padme Amidala (from the prequels).

I am openly not a huge Star Wars fan. I really enjoyed The Force Awakens, but everything else I’ve seen just isn’t my cup of tea. However, give me some small doses of animation, sprinkle in a gorgeous title card (narrated by my queen, Lupita Nyong’o, no less), and some female empowerment and I am all in.

These will be slowly released online and will be also airing on Disney Channel. I’m excited for more and looking forward to more girls seeing heroes that look like them. May the Force Be With You.