Tangled

Tangled is my personal favorite out of all Disney Princess films, for a few reasons, but I will discuss what is problematic about it as well.

There are 0 PoC in this whole film.

There is a charismatic chameleon, but not PoC. I know a lot of people like to try to “debunk” the missing PoC in Disney due to some twisted and ignorant form of “historical accuracy” but let’s be real here. There is a chameleon that talks but no PoC. The absurd “historical accuracy” argument in regards to this film is junk.

 

A really cool aspect to this film is how it deals with toxic relationships and emotional abuse. Rapunzel’s relationship with Mother Gothel is the epitome of a toxic relationship. Gothel never actually wants to protect Rapunzel, she just wants to retain eternal youth and hold Rapunzel’s magic hair captive. Not to mention, Gothel STOLE RAPUNZEL FROM HER CRIB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. Talk about a parent’s worst nightmare.

Gothel makes Rapunzel feel like she’s not good enough for anyone to love her. That staying trapped in the tower and being used by Gothel is as good as life is going to get for Rapunzel. I believe that the tower is a metaphor for the way abused victims feel while in an abusive relationship. You’re under a certain fog. The real world seems surreal and scary. You feel worthless. And all the while I was watching Tangled, I saw myself in Rapunzel.

The really cool thing about Tangled is that it breaks barriers on abusive relationships. While a lot of people think of abuse as something that happens in intimate relationships, it also happens in parent-child relationships. It’s always important to remember that. Also in this instance a woman is the abuser. While abuse IS a gendered issue, and 9 out of 10 times the abuser is a man, women can exert abusive behaviors as well.

Here is a power and control wheel, designed by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Mother Gothel exerts many of the behaviors on this wheel in her relationship with Rapunzel.

 

Watch Gothel’s big musical number in relation to the power and control wheel. You’ll understand where I’m coming from. Seeing myself represented in this film was a major step in my recovery from a abusive parental relationship that I had. Representation in media and discussion of tough topics is so extremely important.

Feminist rating: 9/10

Passes Bechdel Test

Fails Racial Bechdel Test

 

 

The Danger of a Single Story

In this video, the acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses her upbringing and the stories she was surrounded by as a child. She reflects on how they affected her. Even though she grew up in Nigeria, she was surrounded by Western literature. She loved to read and write stories, but they were similar to the stories that she read. They were about white people, in the snow, drinking ginger beer and eating apples.

As an author of stories about Africa, and being African herself, she recentered around African literature when she got ahold of it when she was younger. Suddenly she felt represented and more connected to her reading.

In this TED talk, Adichie warns against the “single story”:

“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”

Adichie’s words apply to Disney. With the evolution and growth of television and movies in children’s lives, Disney is a socialization agent unto itself. Disney still dabbles in racist and sexist stereotypes (see: Tangled and Princess and the Frog) and as our children consume these stories, they become perceived truth.

Image source: feministdisney.tumblr.com                                                She’s a really incredible blogger and you should all check her out & follow her!

 

Dissatisfied Princesses

This is a cute video created by YouTube user AVByte that criticizes Disney’s princess stereotype. The princesses featured in the video (Jasmine, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, Belle) are lectured by Queen Elsa on their refusal to critically think about their story lines. Princesses such as Pocahontas, Mulan, and Merida are omitted, perhaps because their story line does not revolve around finding love but on other factors and AVByte’s criticism might not have held up.

This video exposes many of the problems that are prevalent within the older princess films. While progress has been made with films such as Frozen and Brave, old princess tropes are still prevalent and surround our young girls. Even though Snow White and Cinderella are older films, I grew up watching them and even though I am now in my twenties I still see young girls enjoying them. The presence of criticism such as this cutesy YouTube clip is uplifting, however, because videos such as this can spur discussion among mothers and their daughters about what being a girl and a woman means. And even newer Disney princess films such Tangled fall under this trope, with Rapunzel being saved from Mother Gothel by Flynn Rider and never given the chance to grow outside of someone else.

Girls need to recognize that they need to develop as themselves first, then worry about falling in love. Love is an incredible human emotion and should be experienced by everyone one way or another, either between siblings such as in Frozen, family such as in Brave, between friends,  or between those in a consensual relationship. Dialogue such as this video needs to exist to bring light to the fact that men are not the be all and end all. While these older stories may center around the woman character, the real story is about finding and keeping a man. So are the stereotypical Disney princess movies really about women? ‘Cause it really seems to revolve around men.

The Purpose of this Blog

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The purpose of this blog is to examine the different roles women play in children’s media – primarily in Disney films. Many criticisms of Disney exist in regards to representation of race and women. While I plan on exploring both of those topics on my own, I will also reflect on my childhood and how growing up in the so-called “Disney Renaissance” affected my perceptions and expectations of the world. As a white girl, I had no shortage of princesses to identify with. Belle and Ariel were two favorites of mine until Rapunzel came along in 2010 (in all honesty, however, my ALL TIME favorite Disney movie growing up was the Lion King).

 I can’t help but wonder, however, who did little girls of other races have to identify with? Mulan, maybe Jasmine, maybe Esmeralda. But the pickings are slim and representations of their races are problematic for reasons I will get into later. We would be kidding ourselves to think that girls of color do not watch and subsequently are not influenced by Disney films.

So, how are women of color represented in Disney? How are they different from the white women? They act differently, dress differently, and almost seem to operate in a separate dimension than white women. For example, why is Mulan a soldier in full armor on screen, but only marketed to parents and girls in her kimono? Why is Jasmine dressed so scantily compared to the other princesses (not to mention how inappropriate her outfit is for an Arabic princess)? Why does Tiana spend the majority of The Princess and the Frog as a frog instead of as the black woman she is? In addition, I want to explore women of color’s erasure in Disney films. Why was there a charismatic chameleon but no women of color in Tangled? Why was there a talking snow man  in Frozen but not a single woman of color in that film, either?

I will be re-watching Disney movies and investigating such dilemmas. I will be working with a feminist lens with which I am going to employ my knowledge of intersectionality within feminism. I will also be stressing the importance of presenting images to children they can identify with.