“Love, Simon” and My Ferris Wheel of Emotions

Before anything, with the Disney-Fox merger purchase becoming closer to official everyday, I am including this post about the Fox 2000 film, Love, Simon, on the BOP. Some spoilers for the film are below. Proceed with caution.

There is a moment in Love, Simon where the titular character writes to Blue (as his alter ego, Jacques) and discusses his feelings about coming out so late in his public school career. I’m paraphrasing, but he wonders if it’s even worth the trouble. He’s held in his biggest secret, arguably the biggest a person can have, for so long, what is another school year?

I’m not a crier in movies, so this idea didn’t affect me in the moment. I did fully tear up when Simon’s dad confronted his son with his own realizations and apologies, but that was the extent. However, I left the film with a lot of emotions. I’d never felt like this before, weighed down by what a film had said during its runtime. I had this odd sensation for the 2 hours after viewing that I could breakdown and cry at any point.

Trying to figure out why exactly I felt this way led me back to that specific email Simon sends to the elusive Blue. I resonated. I knew I was gay. The entire world knew I was gay. It was as obvious as the color of the White House. And yet, something held me back my senior year. I felt, deep down, like the time was arising. All these emotions had bubbled up inside me. Many late-night thinking sessions when I was trying to sleep kept telling me to just say those two words: I’m gay. Then, Simon’s thoughts (before I knew they were his) seeped in. Why ruin senior year? The word brings so much hatred your way, do you want to ruin the normalcy of your high school career? Why would you do this.

What Simon had to deal with once his emails were leaked was my worry, and probably remains the worry of every other closeted high school student in the world. Will the bickering get worse? Will the “faggot” comments ever stop? It’s a stressful time.

When his core group of friends get mad at him for creating tension in their friend group, I didn’t understand it. He messed things up, and that was horrible, but do they have no sympathy for his experience, too? Leah, his best friend, says he could have handled him being gay, but not a liar. Imagine being blackmailed about something you can’t explain to your friends without breaking down. They couldn’t even kind of understand where Simon is coming from?

That seems to be a large issue involved in the coming out process, and this movie brings up a lot of interesting points. The Coming Out process of an individual is not one for others to decide upon. No one should be “outed,” no matter the reasoning. On top of that, individuals should realize that when someone is ready to come out, they will. So blaming someone on the grounds of “you should have just told me” is weird and a bit uncalled for.

I, like many other gay teens, felt the same way. Anytime someone even mentioned the word in regards to my sexuality, I went on the defensive. I got angry at friends for bringing it up. People made fun of me on social media and in person and all I could do was “uh huh” and walk away. Someone once handed me a picture of a penis in the hallway at school and said “I know you like those,” and I couldn’t react without a fear of being seen as a faggot for issuing a rebuttal. So, the idea of being outed is a devastating one, especially in this case.

Blue’s first entry to announce his sexuality to the world, anonymously of course, really spoke to this experience. “Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck on a ferris wheel. One minute I’m on top of the world, then the next I’m rock bottom.”

It’s an idea that stays consistent throughout the entire film and really hits home about the high school experience of being in the closet. You forget in the craziness of senior year what you’re hiding, but then you get a moment alone and it all seeps back in.

The movie ends on a glorious note. We see Simon finally unite with Blue. We see a beautiful kiss at the top of the ferris wheel. My audience cheered loudly. I smiled and ruminated. Simon got what he deserved. A boyfriend, a group of friends that love him, and a kiss that he can cherish for the rest of his life.

I came out in college, as I couldn’t stand the thought of what would happen if I officially said something in high school. I didn’t get the high school boyfriend. I didn’t get the driving around the suburbs late at night with iced coffee talking and jamming. I didn’t get the ferris wheel moment, and yet, I still left the movie feeling hopeful.

After coming out, I felt trapped between being stereotyped and my need to stay in hiding, even though I was finally being true to myself. However, like Jennifer Garner says, you leave with the ability to exhale. You’ve dealt with sadness and secrets for your whole life, and now, you can finally enjoy and be present.

I left Love, Simon ready to head to the top of the ferris wheel,  and to search for my own iced coffee person, my own Blue.

So, thanks to everyone involved with Love, Simon for making the movie that I wish I had when I was younger, but also the movie I am glad I have now.

Time’s Up for Disney’s Lack of Women in Film

I sit here after watching this year’s Golden Globes telecast. This will go up a week later, but the sentiments shared through the show can still be heard and felt. From Oprah’s stunning 9-minute oratory to Reese & Laura’s beautiful words after winning their respective awards for Big Little Lies, the #MeToo and #TIMESUP movements are here to stay.

We are living in a fabulous time for women. No longer must they feel the need to stay silent about pay disparity, sexual harassment and assault, or any lack of equality in any medium. However, this movement has grown out of Hollywood. The back-to-back Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey draggings have kick-started the process of weeding out the men who do not deserve any accolade of any kind, but are someone still allowed to flourish in the entertainment industry. (See here and here and here)

With this movement to weed out the bad also allows for a push to bring forward the good. Women deserve starring roles in films. Women deserve directing jobs. Women deserve to write screenplays and edit films and sound mix and costume design and score. They deserve every role any male has ever had, period end-of-story.

If we look through a Disney lens, we can see that the movement has started creating small waves. A Wrinkle in Time is being written by Jennifer Lee and directed by Ava DuVernay (the first woman of color to every be given the reigns to direct a film with a budget over $100 million). Mulan is being directed by Niki Caro. Now, there are a few screenplays co-written by women (Wreck-It Ralph 2, Nutcracker and the 4 Realms, Christopher Robin, Aladdin), but the only women directors lined-up are Ava, Niki, and Jennifer Lee (co-directing Frozen 2).

If we bring Marvel and Lucasfilm into the fray, we find that Captain Marvel is the only one with a woman attached and, once again, it’s co-directing with a man.

Disney has found it very easy to pat themselves on the back for hiring women directors, but three out of a double-digit slate is humorous.

Two big budget franchises are being discussed for Disney right now, with Artemis Fowl and Sword in the Stone adaptations on the way. These can end up being multi-film franchises with big bucks and big opportunities paired with them. Yet, Artemis is going to Kenneth Branagh (white man) and the Sword is going to, reportedly, Ridley Scott (white man). Now, there is nothing wrong with these men. They are great directors. However, if we are championing ourselves for allowing women to join the conversation and be a part of these films, going right back to their old white men tricks leaves something big to be desired.

I don’t want to hear any excuses from them, either. It’s not like women directors are hard to find, they just aren’t getting the work because no one will allow them to have it. Queen Sugar and this upcoming season of Jessica Jones have female directors for every single episode. Hire some female directors. It’s not hard, you’re just lazy.

Look, here’s a nifty database that compiles over 1000 female directors that would love to be able to put their spin on a live-action fairytale or an original story! Now there’s even less of an excuse!

Same goes for screenwriters (I’m all for a collaborative effort, but why not MULTIPLE women?!), editors, songwriters, composers, etc. Every role can be a woman and every role should be a woman.

On top of all this, we still have to deal with John Lasseter being the worst. When statements come out against someone saying that they needed chaperones for an adult male to make sure he wasn’t creepy and gross to character performers, he needs to go. No 6-month sabbatical. He needs to go.

Since the onslaught of men being outed as awful people is coming at such a rapid pace, some still want to look to their artistic achievements as  reason enough for them to remain in the public eye, but that can’t happen. It continues to perpetuate the cycle and fineness with harassment and assault occurring. Even if John Lasseter is the person who saved Disney Animation, it doesn’t matter. Nothing is worth keeping around someone who has ruined many women’s lives.

The best thing for Disney to do would be replace him with a woman to show solidarity and to help get more women into roles that are lacking their presence, within animation especially, but within the company as a whole. I hear Jennifer Lee is free…

Time’s Up. Movies aren’t a man’s game any longer.

(To donate to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, providing subsidized legal support to those affected by workplace sexual harassment and assault, head here)

“All the Stars” are Aligned for the Black Panther Soundtrack

I would argue that the last time a non-musical soundtrack became a bonafide sensation was Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? and that was in 2000. The soundtrack went 8 times platinum, won Album of the Year at the 2002 Grammys, and has become more popular than the film itself.

Soundtracks used to be an integral part of the movie experience, adding to the anticipation or the post-viewing coma. You’d buy the album the moment it was released to get you excited for the movie, go see the movie opening weekend, then obsess over the album some more after you watched.

For some reason, that experience has vanished, mostly because we consume music in new and innovative ways. We are in a single-based music industry now, and because of this studios don’t find that creating a perfect soundtrack is as beneficial to create “buzz” around their film as much as one song can. Look at the Hunger Games franchise: We received soundtracks, but they were never as buzzy as one song from each (“Safe and Sound” for the OG film and “The Hanging Tree” from Mockingjay Part 1, which became an accidental smash.)

Luckily, Disney is helping revitalize the dying soundtrack genre by bringing Kendrick Lamar, the biggest male rapper in the world right now, to produce and personally curate the Black Panther soundtrack. I was stunned when I read the headline, ’cause that is a HUGE get.

It shows the power of the representation. When you have a black superhero, in addition to some strong kicka** black women, the community you are representing is going to lift you up and deliver the results you want to see. Kendrick, one of the biggest and most sought after stars today, will create a soundtrack because he wants to support the representation and his community. It’s common sense, and for some reason, entertainment companies still don’t get it. I mean, just look at this video Ava DuVernay tweeted out the other day:

THAT is the power of representation. THAT is the power of creating heros that represent all people, not just straight white men. THAT is the power of visibility. Ugh, the video makes me so happy. ANYWHO, back to music…

With the announcement came the release of the first single off the album, “All the Stars” sung by Kendrick Lamar and SZA (who is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists right now). This song is…how do I put this eloquently? Everything. It is everything. It is serving up an ethereal trip to another dimension by way of Wakanda purity realness. SZA’s voice on the track gives me chills. CHILLS, I SAY!

If this is the tone and mood we have to look forward to on this soundtrack, it’s going to become the Album of the Year, I can guarantee it. I was already stoked for Black Panther, even as a non-superhero fan, because of how crazy good it looks (and my queen, Lupita Nyong’o), but this soundtrack is getting me even more excited.

Be sure to check out “All the Stars” on Apple Music or wherever you listen and to go see Black Panther when it heads to theaters on February 16th.

 

Grown-ish, Yara Shahidi, and the Allure of Nostalgia

College sucks. I mean, at least for me, it has been the worst experience of my life. I’ve jumped from school-to-school, on-campus to online, trying to find something that makes school tolerable for me and nothing has worked. I’ve tried two universities and two separate majors across my four years in higher education and all of it has, to put it plainly, sucked. I’ve been angry at the ways these institutions take my money for no reason, how they price gouge for textbooks, how they don’t care about students (I’ve had one actually helpful advisor out of five. OUT OF FIVE.), etc. My on campus experiences have been secluded (partly due to my own decisions, I’ll take the blame for that.) that’s led to depression and loneliness. And yet, after watching the first two episodes of Grown-ish, the Black-ish spin-off that premiered January 3rd on Freeform, I want the college experience.

I want to have a crew of 6 best friends who go out partying and pregame in my dorm and who have 2am study sessions in the on-campus library/Starbucks and tailgate at football games and sneak into frat parties and WHAT?! WHO AM I BECOMING?!

This isn’t the first time I’ve been nostalgic about the “college experience,” but it’s the most profound. I currently go to the University of Florida through their online program, but I’ve been an on-campus student during two separate semesters, both being awful experiences. Not because of the people I’ve met (Shout out to my Acting 1 and Beginning Costume classes! Hope y’all are well!), but because that environment is just toxic for me. I was nostalgic for the classic brick campus and bell tower before, leading me to move back for the Spring semester last year and go “Oh right, this sucks…why am I here?”

Grown-ish gave me the same effect.  The camaraderie the cast shares right out of the gate is infectious and it makes me want to have that same experience.

It brings up an interesting point about how powerful the drug of nostalgia can be. Look at the current political climate: We are all nostalgic for the Bush years because our current administration is led by a human circus peanut and his gaggle of buffoons. Yet, those years included horrible words against the LGBTQ+ community and, oh that’s right, A WAR. That’s where we are now. Nostalgic for a war.

Grown-ish gave me that personal nostalgia drug of wanting to relive an awful experience, which shows how perfectly it understands the college experience today. The 2nd episode revolved around adderall and was pitch perfect in its ability to show how it has become synonymous with the millennial college experience. It was laugh-out-loud funny, while also bringing up some great points. Why has adderall become some common? Is it causing better grades for students across the board? Would students be able to thrive without it?

My favorite part about the show just two episodes in is the lack of condescension towards young people and their ideas. This is a show from the viewpoint of students, not from the viewpoint of adults about students. It makes everything feel more truthful and more lived in.

Yara Shahidi, activism goddess walking among us peasants, was recently on The View. Her talking points were all eloquent and thorough and helped me understand certain buzzy topics, like the current protests in Iran (for those unaware, she is Iranian with family members currently in the thick of the protests.) However, everytime she made a great point that deserved applause from the audience (commonplace on The View), the co-hosts had to point out her age. Meghan McCain said, after Yara’s thoughts on the recent Tr*mp “Bigger Button” tweets, “By the way, that is a very good take for a 17-year-old.” After Yara’s informative thoughts on the Iranian protests, Whoopi Goldberg gave a congratulatory “go ahead!” I don’t think either of these women meant to come across this way, but both comments came across as condescending. A 17-year-old? With an opinion? THAT’S SMART?! Say it isn’t so!!!

Grown-ish is proud about the commentary it has on the millennial experience, the college experience, the black experience, etc. It should be proud, it’s speaking with voices we haven’t heard from yet on television and it’s so refreshing.

Grown-ish airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on Freeform and I really suggest you tune in. It’s a fantastic comedy about what our generation deals with in college. Appreciate all it has to say, but if you’re getting nostalgic for the college experience, be sure to really consider it before you jump back into the real-life environment. Take it from one who has been there and back. Woof.

Andi Mack’s LGBTQ Storyline Is Revealed

Thursday the news broke that Andi Mack would be receiving the first coming-out storyline in the history of Disney Channel (or any live-action American kids show, for that matter). I saw the headline and knew that it had to be Cyrus.

If you’ve watched the show at all (which you really must, as it’s fantastic), you probably guessed Cyrus would be receiving the storyline as well. I was hoping it would happen as I watched Season 1, as all signs pointed to it. Joshua Rush, the actor who plays Cyrus, was adding quirks here and there that I absolutely related to every time I caught them. The excitement of having a girlfriend, even when you knew it wasn’t in a attraction way. Feeling super awkward around the cute popular guys. Never understand “bro” stuff. Feeling super self-conscious being called girly. He played every one of those situations with great finesse, but also with an underlying understanding that there was more to Cyrus than what was being said aloud.

Friday night Andi Mack returned for a 2nd season with an hour-long premiere. The moment occurred about 20 minutes in and once Buffy sat across from Cyrus at The Spoon, I knew it was coming. The music stopped. The emotions were high. Take a look:

I didn’t expect to cry, but I did. A lot. I don’t think a tear has rolled down my cheek in at least 3 years. It was a combination of so many things. It was knowing that so many kids will watch this and it will help them realize something about themselves. It was being proud that Disney was the one to break this ground for a children’s program. It was relating to that moment. It was seeing that strong support system from Buffy (the fab Sofia Wylie) was in place. It was hearing “You’re No Different.”

The cast of the show has been using social media to express support for the storyline and understand the weight of this monumental scene. They’ve been using #YoureNoDifferent and that is such a strong message within this context for the network.

I was stunned at how much weight the moment had within the episode and how it was handled. Joshua’s answer to “Do you like Andi?” was so powerful that it hit me like a brick wall. It had so much behind it. That feeling of knowing that the truth is about to come out, and the reaction from the person could go very wrong very fast, but not being able to say anything in response. It was fantastic. He couldn’t even get the word “no” out of his mouth, as he didn’t want to say anything that could insinuate anything to Buffy.

Buffy’s comforting, yet forceful “You’ll be okay. I promise,” made the tears flow even faster. He has a strong support system in place which will make this personal journey for him so much easier.

Later in the episode, they touched on some topics that excite me for the rest of the season. They touched on competing for the same boy (in a light hearted way). Cyrus brought up having a “cover-up” girlfriend, or rather, just getting a girlfriend when he’s coming to terms with his own sexuality. Buffy realized, very quickly, that the coming out process isn’t a one-and-done situation and he’ll have to be patient with Cyrus as he comes to terms with himself more and more. It was all superbly done.

I know that if I saw this as a tween, I don’t think I would’ve been as combative. I wouldn’t have felt the need to suppress the word for years, even though I knew, deep down, it was true. I would’ve found my own Buffy, gone to her, and helped be my true self.

I didn’t expect to feel so proud of a character or so emotional. I am not one to cry over things, but I’ve cried three times over the scene. THREE.

I hate saying the word proud in these cases, as I have no relation to these cast members or “ownership” of the show, however I can’t find a better word to describe my feelings. I am so proud of the cast and crew of Andi Mack for tackling this storyline. I’m proud of Terri Minsky for making sure this aired on Disney Channel. I’m proud of Disney for airing it and bringing in GLAAD and other LGBTQ representation groups to work on getting the plot just right. I’m proud of Joshua Rush and Sofia Wylie for being at the forefront of this storyline and being incredible at revealing all the emotions surrounding it time and time again. I’m just proud.

I’m looking forward to the conversations this will bring up. I’m looking forward to see how this plotline continues. I’m looking forward to crying more.

 

 

 

 

Preserving the Heart of the Tahitian Language with “Moana”

I am so grateful and thrilled to introduce this fantastic post by Dr. Natalie Keefer, my former AP Human Geography teacher! She got really got me into linguistics, so I had to ask her to write about this. Enjoy! 

Thousands of years ago, small groups of humans sailed towards far away lands in the Pacific with a keen sense of how to navigate through the Pacific Sea on small sailboats. Over time, the language spoken by these peoples would morph into what is known as the Polynesian language family – a cluster of languages widely spoken on the Pacific Islands. From these languages were born the cultures that inspired the creation of Disney’s movie Moana. Since language is the heartbeat of culture, transmitting its myths, beliefs, and customs, the upcoming Tahitian language version of Moana is an important decision on the part of Disney to honor and preserve the Polynesian cultures that are represented in the film.

Disney wisely assembled a group of experts in Polynesian culture, known as the Oceanic Trust, to serve as culture, language, music, and dance advisors during the creation of the movie. The Oceanic Trust was comprised of a team of anthropologists, historians, linguists, and cultural experts on Polynesian culture who lent their expertise in assuring as much cultural authenticity as possible in the creation of Disney’s Moana. However, the movie Moana was still subject to scrutiny. One of the complaints from Polynesian community concerned the depiction of the revered Polynesian God Maui who is portrayed in Polynesian folklore as a trim and powerful youth. Why was he stereotypically depicted as an obese Samoan surfer-dude? Also, the use of coconuts to portray the Kakamora, short-statured people from the Solomon Islands, as pirates appropriates from a cringe worthy cultural slur of Polynesians as “coconut people”.1 Lastly, Polynesian culture is diverse; there are numerous differences in ritual, language, and beliefs across the vast expanse of the Pacific. However, in Moana the mix of Polynesian culture and language was depicted as uniform. Despite these concerns, the Oceanic Trust’s advice was instrumental in creating a film that included many accurate representations of Polynesian dance, song, and culture. The Oceanic Trust was also influential is securing from Disney an agreement to produce the much-anticipated Tahitian version of the movie as homage to the Tahitian culture and language.

In the English version of Moana, Polynesian language is interspersed throughout the film, mostly included in the Tokelauan lyrics of the song We Know the Way. This is prehistorically accurate if Moana is Samoan, hailing from the birthplace of Polynesian culture before the reawakening of island exploration.2 Today only a few thousand speakers of the Tokelauan language remain. Most speakers of Tokelauan live on islands that belong to American Samoa where the predominant language is English. This leaves the Tokelauan language at risk of becoming extinct, and with the extinction of the language comes the extinction of the culture, including its folklore, beliefs, and the secrets of the way of life of its speakers. It is for this reason that the retelling of Moana in another Polynesian language, Tahitian, is important for the preservation of Polynesian culture and language.

Fewer than 125,000 people speak the Tahitian language in French Polynesia. Its closest relatives are languages spoken in the Pacific such as Hawaiian and Rarotongan, a Maori dialect spoken on the Cook Islands.3 In order to preserve Polynesian culture the use of Polynesian languages in schools, in the community, and in the media is essential. In the South Pacific, English and French are widely represented in the media and spoken for business purposes. The dominance of English and French in the South Pacific has led to the near extinction of thousands of local languages such as Tokelauan and Hawaiian. On the Hawaiian Islands, for example, there are fewer than 2,000 native speakers. Tahitian is not in as precarious of a situation as Tokelauan or Hawaiian because it is still used in the media. Tahitian enjoys limited use in schools, allowing children to be socialized and educated in the language, yet another example of how Tahitian has fared better than its linguistic counterparts on other Polynesian islands. This may be why Disney selected Tahitian for the Polynesian language version of Moana. There are enough Tahitian speakers today that creating a version of Moana in this language can have an impact on the preservation of Polynesian culture and language. Polynesian language use in movies such as Moana, and Disney’s pledge to produce a Tahitian language version of the film is an important step on the road to preserve and instill pride in Polynesian culture for future generations.

Casting for the Tahitian language version of Moana began in October, 2016 with the assistance of Oceanic Trust member Hinano Murphy. Ms. Murphy can select the cast of Moana from a relatively large population of Tahitian speakers. Tahitian is the most widely spoken of the indigenous languages in French Polynesia, with 24% of all inhabitants speaking Tahitian at home. Hinano Murphy hopes that the Tahitian version of Moana will serve as an educational tool that will inspire the Tahitian community to maintain their pride and use of the Tahitian language. Ms. Murphy’s sentiment is key because children’s films such as Moana target the youth population that is vital for language revitalization projects. Teachers and parents will be able to use Moana as an educational resource for teaching children the Tahitian language in its spoken form. Successful language revitalization programs target youth, especially when indigenous languages, like Tahitian, were replaced by European languages for communication and business. In these cases, generational language loss often occurred because parents and members of the community believed that the indigenous language was not valuable for their children in the job market. However, a Tahitian language version of Disney’s Moana may inspire hope for many people who are interested in the revival of indigenous Polynesian languages.4 Disney’s popularity among children and parents has the capacity to reinforce pride in Polynesian culture, and the Tahitian version of the Moana will serve as an effective educational resource for Polynesian culture and the Tahitian language.

 

References

1.      Herman, Doug. “How the Story of “Moana” and Maui Holds Up Against Cultural Truths”. The Smithsonian. December 2, 2016. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-story-moana-and-maui-holds-against-cultural-truths-180961258/

2.      de Ferrière, Jacques Franc. “The True Origins of Disney Princess Moana”. Tahiti Infos. July 9, 2017. http://www.tahiti-infos.com/The-true-origins-of-Disney-princess-Moana_a142314.html#

3.      “Tahitian”. Omniglot. July 9, 2017. http://www.omniglot.com/writing/tahitian.htm

4.      “Disney Offers Tahitian Translation of Moana”. ABC News: Pacific Beat. November 11, 2016. http://www.abc.net.au/news/programs/pacific-beat/2016-11-11/disney-offers-tahitian-translation-of-moana/8019132

 

 

Natalie Keefer is an Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education with a background in educational anthropology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

 

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.