Monthly Archives: December 2014

Avatar: The Last Airbender and Sexism in Season 1

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I’ve wanted to talk about Avatar: The Last Airbender for a long time. And now that I’ve been rewatching season 1, I thought it would be interesting to explore one topic that comes up quite a few times during the season: sexism.

Sexism is discrimination based on gender, or the belief that one gender is superior to the other. For the sake of this Meta, I’ll be focusing on discrimination against women, and how men view themselves as superior to them at varying points in the series.

Avatar: The Last Airbender tackles a lot of issues, but I feel like sexism is a really important one, especially in regards to the other characters, most importantly, Sokka and Katara.

Let’s start with Sokka, because part of his character arc for season 1 involves sexism, or more specifically, how his discriminatory thoughts about women are proven false over time.

Warning: this post contains some spoilers from three season 1 episodes: episode 1 (The Boy in the Iceberg), episode 4 (The Warriors of Kyoshi) and episode 18 (The Waterbending Master).

Sokka’s Character Arc: Pride Before The Fall, or How Sexism Fades Over a Season
When we start the show, Sokka is hilarious, but also unfortunately very sexist. Now why do I love Sokka, despite his internalized sexism in early season 1? Well, because he overcomes it, and becomes a better person for it.
The Sokka in episode 1 is very set in his ways, and very condescending toward his sister. He dismisses her waterbending as weird, and then expresses annoyance at bringing her along fishing when they get off course: “Leave it to a girl to screw things up!” (Transcript: The Boy in the Iceberg)
Katara (and the creators) do not agree with his sentiment, because after he says that, Katara goes off on him:

atla katara goes off on sokka (1.1)
Katara is the first person in the series to call out Sokka on his sexism. We don’t get much time to address how he feels about this though, because that’s when the two find Aang, and they get distracted by that.
We revisit Sokka’s sexism in The Warriors of Kyoshi, or as I like to call it, “Sokka’s pride takes a nosedive and his internalized sexism is called into question.”
First, there’s a moment early on in the episode that’s particularly enlightening:

Sokka: Stop bugging her, airhead. You need to give girls space when they do their sewing.
Katara: [Close side-view shot of Katara as she casts her brother an annoyed glare; irritably.] What does me being a girl have to do with sewing? 
atla sokka being patriarchalatla katara pwning sokka
Sokka: [Protesting and pleading.] Wait! I was just kidding. [Sticks one arm through the large hole in his pants.] I can’t wear these! Katara, please!
(Transcript: The Warriors of Kyoshi)

Here, Sokka’s views are laid out: girls are better at doing feminine things, like sewing, and boys are better at hunting and fighting. Katara, as a girl who can hold her own in a fight (and can catch fish better than her brother) decides to teach Sokka a lesson, and from Sokka’s pleading and protesting, we can see the lesson having an effect on him.

But because this is an episode devoted to changing up Sokka’s views on sexism, this isn’t the only issue he encounters. When the group is ambushed by the Kyoshi Warriors, they’re blindfolded.

atla show yourself

When the girls are revealed to them, Sokka demands to know where the men who ambushed them are. When Suki (the leader) tells him that it was them who attacked him, he laughs at the idea, mocking them and saying there’s no way they could’ve taken them down. That’s impossible, he thinks; girls aren’t good at fighting. It’s only Katara and Aang’s intervention that keeps Sokka from getting thrown into the water to become fish food.

Sokka spends a lot of this episode sulking. His internalized sexism is being torn apart. First Katara teaches him a lesson about gender roles, and now this group of girls kicked his butt in a fight. He’s determined to prove that he can take them on, and thus he heads to where they’re training in order to prove himself. Unfortunately, what happens is that he gets his butt kicked, again. And again. And again.

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atla suki pwns sokkaatla suki is amazing

It’s pretty painful, and by the end, when Suki mockingly asks if he’s got anything else to teach them, his cheeks are flushed with humiliation.
It’s a painful lesson (and a painful blow to Sokka’s pride), but it’s one that he needs, because the next time he approaches the girls, he’s timid and ready to learn:
Sokka: [Sokka…humbly drops to his knees in front of her.] I would be honored if you would teach me.
Suki: [Frog view of Suki; hostile.] Even if I’m a girl?
Sokka: [Averting his eyes.] I’m sorry if I insulted you earlier. I was … wrong.
(Transcript: The Warriors of Kyoshi)

 

Sokka is one of those characters who absolutely loathes admitting he’s wrong, so for him to get down on his knees in front of a girl, apologize and admit his wrong-doing is a huge character development for him. Even when Sokka is wary about wearing the Kyoshi warrior uniform due to its girly nature, it’s Suki’s description of the meanings of the uniform (“The silk threads symbolize the brave blood that flows through our veins. The gold insignia represents the honor of the warrior’s heart”) that turns him around and makes him proud to be one of the rare men able to wear it.

atla sokka learning from suki
It’s Sokka’s willingness to learn and work past his sexism that makes him a strong character, and the moves he learns from Suki lead to him finally being able to beat her in a fight.

And when we last see Suki during the season, we get this wonderful (and adorable) moment:
Suki: There’s no time to say goodbye.
Sokka: What about, “I’m sorry?”
Suki: [Surprised.] For what?
Sokka: [Close-up. Regretful.] I treated you like a girl when I should’ve treated you like a warrior.
Suki [Side-view.] I am a warrior. [She leans over and kisses Sokka on the cheek, before continuing again. A surprised Sokka touches his cheek where Suki just kissed him.] But I’m a girl, too.

atla Sokka-and-suki
(Transcript: The Warriors of Kyoshi)
Sokka has realized that women can be warriors and that all along, he should’ve been treating his sister, Suki, and the other Kyoshi Warriors as the warriors that they are, rather than girls he underestimates and mocks. It’s a huge step of development for the boy who said “leave it up a girl to screw things up” in the pilot, and an especially big step for the boy who thought a group of girls could never get the upper hand on him. Sokka has a ways to go, but he’s on a great start, and after this, he’s learned not to underestimate women, and more importantly, to treat women as equals, both on the battlefield and off.
Now, let’s move onto Katara’s more external battle against sexism.

 

The Northern Water Tribe and Katara’s Stand Against Sexism
Out of all of the locations in the world of ATLA, the Northern Water Tribe has always struck me as the most patriarchal (and sexist). While the South is in shambles, the North is all about tradition and gender roles. Men fight. Women heal. So when Katara shows up there looking for a waterbending teacher, it’s an uphill battle for her.
When she shows up to Pakku’s lesson with Aang, he instantly shuts down her hopes of learning waterbending: “In our tribe, it is forbidden for women to learn waterbending.” (Transcript: The Waterbending Master)
Naturally, Katara is furious. Katara’s main goal in season 1 is getting up to the Nothern Water Tribe to find an instructor in waterbending. Back home, in the South, Katara is the last remaining bender, which means any waterbending she’s learned has been by her own instruction, or via the scroll she and Aang nabbed in The Waterbending Scroll.
But despite her protests, Pakku won’t relent:

atla pakku being sternatla katara thinks his rules suck (1.18)

 

Aang clearly agrees, because he’s ready to quit and find a new teacher before Katara insists that he needs the lessons as the Avatar. The two get around the rules when Aang (on Sokka’s suggestion – see how much Sokka has grown as a character?) to teach her what he learns from Pakku, but Pakku finds out, and in order to get Aang his lessons back, Katara needs to “swallow her pride and apologize”.

Does Katara do that? Hell no, especially after he patronizingly calls her a little girl. Instead of apologizing, she challenges him to a fight, taunting him right back: “I’ll be outside if you’re man enough to fight me.” (Transcript: The Waterbending Master)
What occurs next is an epic waterbending dual between waterbending master and determined waterbender in training.

atla pakku-katara fightatla you can't knock me down

atla katara-pakku fight (1.18)

Pakku taunts her throughout the fight, at first telling her to go back to the healing huts where she belongs, and then telling her that he won’t hurt her. Katara ignores the taunts and fights back, holding her own pretty well against a waterbending master. Consider this: Katara has been learning on her own the entire season. And Pakku has obviously been a master waterbender for many years now. The fact that Katara holds her own against a master waterbender proves that she’s a worthy student, and yet Pakku still won’t teach her.
It isn’t until Pakku sees Katara’s necklace – the betrothal necklace she’s worn for years now – that he realizes the necklace belonged to the woman he was supposed to marry: Katara’s grandmother. Katara’s words about her grandmother obviously give him pause.
“It was an arranged marriage. Gran-Gran wouldn’t let your tribe’s stupid customs run her life. That’s why she left. It must have taken a lot of courage,” she says. (Transcript: The Waterbending Master)
Pakku obviously agrees, and this is where he has a turn-around. He’s already lost one thing to these traditions: the woman he wanted to marry. Maybe the traditions aren’t as sound as he thought. And the girl he fought is incredibly skilled. Those two factors lead to him agreeing to teach Katara. It’s slow progress, but Katara gets her teacher, and Pakku begins reconsidering his views.
They’re validated next episode when she kicks his students’ butts and proves herself his best student, despite not being taught nearly as long. The change is slow-coming, but slowly, Katara has begun eroding the traditions and sexism of the Water Tribe, one man at a time.

atla pwnage
It’s only a matter of time until it gets better (and it does).

Two siblings, two separate struggles with sexism, and progress with both: what could be more epic than that? Sokka overcomes his internal sexism, and Katara beats external sexism in the Northern Water Tribe. Pretty amazing wins on both ends, if you ask me.

 

Do any of you guys watch ATLA? (And if you don’t, did my post make you want to check the show out?) If so, let us know in the comments!

You can follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. I hope you guys have a happy Tuesday!

Cheers,

M&M!

 

Works Cited
Transcript: The Boy in the Iceberg. (n.d.). Retrieved December 30, 2014, from Avatar Wiki: http://avatar.wikia.com/wiki/Transcript:The_Boy_in_the_Iceberg

Transcript: The Warriors of Kyoshi. (n.d.). Retrieved December 30, 2014, from Avatar Wiki: http://avatar.wikia.com/wiki/Transcript:The_Warriors_of_Kyoshi

Transcript: The Waterbending Master. (n.d.). Retrieved December 30, 2014, from Avatar Wiki: http://avatar.wikia.com/wiki/Transcript:The_Waterbending_Master

 

I got a lot of my Kyoshi Warriors gifs from Avatar Gifs and Avatar Parallels so I thought I’d give a shout-out to both of them as well:

http://avatar-gifs.tumblr.com/ and http://avatarparallels.tumblr.com/

What was Your Favorite Animated Movie of 2014?

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What was your favorite animated movie of 2014? The year is coming to a close, so there’s no better time to take a look back at the contenders and crown a winner!

Entering the ring with confidence and a badass swagger:

frozen

Big Hero 6 (Disney)

This movie was funny and touching and just adorable. I loved, loved every character. It’s a movie about a bunch of geeks saving the world while conquering their grief and oh my gosh, Bayamax is the cutest little robot ever. Also, amazing lady superhero that unabashedly loves pink.

 

The Book of Life (20th Century)

I haven’t seen this yet, but the artwork looked really interesting. I was happy to see Hispanic representation come to life in this project. “A visually wondrous animated concoction that crackles with energy and creativity… an enjoyably frenetic enchilada of a family film.” [x]

 

The Boxtrolls (Laika)

The handshake joke always amuses me, but it wasn’t enough to get me to watch this film. What can I say—this type of animation tends to freak me out a little. “There’s little conventional about this movie at all. Thank heavens.” [x]

 

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks)

Okay people, lets talk about the amazing, wonderful, epic HtTYD2. My feels cannot be contained because I adore this film. It’s beautiful visually and musically, but the story is also super amazing. So much humor, so much heart, so many tears I shed.

 

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (DreamWorks)

“A flawless remake that maintains the eccentric tone and wit of the original animated shorts.” [x]

 

Penguins of Madagascar (DreamWorks)

I haven’t seen this yet, but I really want to! “Penguins play charades, dress in lederhosen, dance Irish style & wear mermaid suits in this fast moving, high energy, witty & inventive 3d animation in themes that reinforce the importance of family.” [x] It sounds perfect for me.

 

Rio 2 (Blue Sky)

I wasn’t overly fond of Rio, so this wasn’t something I saw this year. “’Rio 2′ explodes with personality and atmosphere, and if you’re suffering any sort of World Cup letdown, this energetic Amazonian adventure is a good way to taper off.” [x] 

 

The Lego Movie (Warner Bros.)

This one was a favorite for a lot of people, but not me. I watched about the first half hour before I had to tune out. Nevertheless, “movies about toys need to be approached with extreme caution; some of them have been bad enough to count as health hazards. This one is the exception.” [x]

 

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All right! There are our worthy challengers! Vote below to crown a winner:


Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr!

Cheers!

-M&M

Kim Possible: Subverting Gender Roles While Saving the World

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As a 90s baby, I feel like I’ve grow up with access to a lot of animated female characters that influenced me greatly, and one of my absolute favorites was Kim Possible.

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Kim Possible is probably one of my absolute favorite animated series. It’s one of those shows that still holds up on a re-watch as hilarious, adorable, and generally well-crafted. One of the things I’ve noticed as I catch KP reruns over Christmas break is that it subverts gender roles in a really interesting way through its two central characters: Kim and Ron.

On another show, Ron would be the hero and Kim would be our damsel in distress, but here, a wonderful swap occurs: Kim is our heroine who saves the day, and Ron is her sidekick (and sometimes dude in distress). Kim and Ron are also fleshed out in a way that subverts stereotypes about masculinity and femininity, and makes them both very compelling characters.

So before we start, let’s tackle masculinity, femininity, and gender roles in general. What defines someone as masculine? What defines someone as feminine? And what are gender roles?

Masculinity, Femininity, and Gender Roles in General

Masculinity is traits and behaviors that we associate with men, while femininity is traits and behaviors we associate with women. Gender roles are the way men and women act in our society. They’re our expectations for men and women. They vary from place to place, but every society has them. They’re not always easy to spot, but once they’re pointed out, they’re glaringly obvious.

One example is the notion that women are nurturers and mothers, while men are providers and moneymakers. It’s wholly unfair considering many women work very hard to balance a career plus family life, and many fathers do, too. Another, smaller example would be colors. There’s often an association with girls wearing pink and boys wearing blue. A lot of gender roles place people in boxes, but a majority of people do not fit into those boxes, and when they stand out because of it, it disrupts the status quo.

One of the main things I want to cover today is how Kim and Ron don’t quite fit into the box of traits that go along with femininity and masculinity, and how their gender roles are often reversed throughout the show. So let’s start with the role reversal and work from there.

Kimberly Anne Possible: The Heroine

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Kim is really interesting because unlike a lot of female leads, Kim saves the world and doesn’t sacrifice her femininity to do it. Let’s face it: there aren’t a ton of badass feminine characters out there. When a female character kicks ass, she’s often written as more masculine and tends to reject her femininity. (Some prevelant examples of this would be Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones, Lizbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Katniss from The Hunger Games.)  This isn’t the case with Kim.

Like a lot of girls, Kim has traditionally feminine interests: she likes shopping, make-up, and dressing up/being fashionable (as evidenced by the vast wardrobe we’re subjected to throughout the show). She’s a cheerleader, and she’s damn proud of it.

Let’s take a second and talk about Kim’s cheerleading. One of the best things about this show is the fact that cheerleading isn’t disparaged. In fact, cheerleading is one of the reasons that Kim is so adept at her job.

kp cheersquad

According to the creators, they wanted Kim’s “[effectiveness] in the action world” to be realistic, so her strength lies in “gymnastics, cheerleading, physical activity, something that any kid, any girl, in the world could do” (Schooley & McCorkle). Her expertise in gymnastic, cheerleading and martial arts are all things that boost Kim’s credibility as a world-saving teenager.

Cheerleading and gymnastics are both things that would help Kim build strength and increase her agility, and martial arts would explain her hand to hand combat skills. Despite the lack of realism the show often illustrates, the creators paid a lot of attention to realism when it came to crafting Kim and her character, and it really shows.

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We’ve established now that Kim is feminine, and that she’s also a strong character. Now let’s take a look at some traits commonly associated with femininity, and see if they remotely match our little Kimmie Cub.

When I decided to talk about femininity and masculinity, I decided to do some research on common traits associated with both. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, I came up with a list of 9 words associated with femininity:

• emotional
• passive
• sensitive
• quiet
• graceful
• weak
• nurturing
• self-critical
• accepting (Parenthood)

Now, let’s take a look at Kim in terms of those nine words.

I think we can agree right off the bat that Kim is not weak or passive. Kim is an incredibly strong character, both mentally and physically. Weak isn’t a word in her vocabulary. And she’s definitely not passive: if she was, would she be out there saving the world? Would she be constantly fighting to balance school and work and extracurriculars, too? I think not.

Is Kim emotional? Definitely. Kim’s someone who doesn’t hide who she is. She’s very upfront about how she’s feeling, and she’s never been good at hiding her emotions, especially if she’s jealous or angry about something. She also finds it hard to keep her emotions in check at times, which ties in with the sensitivity. Sometimes, Kim can be a little… brash and blunt. Take a look at some of the fights she’s gotten in with Ron. Kim speaks without thinking, which can get her into trouble at times. I think Kim’s a very empathetic character, especially when it comes to saving the world and helping people out, but is she sensitive? Not really.

Quiet? Kim is the opposite of quiet. Kim is loud and bold and speaks her mind, and she doesn’t let anyone silence her. She calls out bullies who harass Ron. She calls out Bonnie for being rude. She calls out villains for their schemes…the list goes on and on. Kim is an extravert, and she’s definitely not a quiet one.

Accepting? I think so, but sometimes it’s something she struggles with, just like all of us. She gets jealous of people spending time with Ron, like when Ron starts hanging around Felix and Yori, because she’s not used to sharing her best friend. But aren’t we all a little jealous when our besties make new friends and suddenly we see them less and feel out of the loop when they make private jokes? So I think for the most part, Kim is very accepting, it just isn’t always easy for her to accept new people into her circle, especially if she’s not fond of them at the start.

Nurturing? I’m not really sure I’d consider Kim nurturing. There’s often this association with women as nurturers and mothers, but I don’t necessarily think this fits Kim. For one, she’s still in high school, so I really doubt she’s thinking about kids at this point. There’s also the fact that I’ve never really seen her as very motherly. She nags Ron at times about schoolwork, but we all nag our procrastinating friends to get their crap together. That doesn’t make us nurturing.

Graceful? Well, when you’re a cheerleader and a gymnast who saves the world, I think graceful is a very fitting description.

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Kim does some pretty intricate choreography for cheer practice, and she’s also pretty graceful on her missions as well. Well, as graceful as you can be on missions, when there are always things tripping you up.

Is she self-critical? Definitely. One of Kim’s most realistic issues is being self-critical. She wars with herself over things. She lets people get to her. Bonnie’s “dump Stoppable” speeches have affected her more than once in the past, and she often gets down on herself if she fails a mission or can’t accomplish something. But Kim is also a very confident character. She’s confident in herself, her abilities, and her appearance.

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It’s one of the traits I admire most about her. Everyone has bouts of self-doubt or criticalness, and Kim is no exception. She bounces right back from those though, and always manages to work past her inner critic to get done what she needs to get done, whether it’s saving the world or some smaller sitch.

Now that we’ve tackled Kim, let’s move onto the yin to her yang: Ron Stoppable.

 

Ron Stoppable: The Sidekick

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Ron is the Robin to Kim’s Batman. He’s her sidekick, and how many shows do we get with a male sidekick to a female heroine? Not many. So Ron is truly unique in that regard. Ron is also not traditionally masculine in the way that many male leads are.

First, let’s look at Ron’s interests: video games, arts and crafts (Camp Wannaweep, anyone?), cooking and food (he’s an exemplary chef and frequents Bueno Nacho), and television (some examples include American Star-Maker and Agony County). Ron’s always been a fun character to me, because his interests are varied. He loves playing video games, but he also loves cooking. He does arts and crafts. He’s interested in a variety of TV shows, just like most of us are. His hobbies may not be super masculine, but that’s what makes him great: he breaks out of the box of what society labels as masculine by having hobbies and traits that contradict that.

Let’s take a look at some words typically associated with masculinity, according to Planned Parenthood:

• non-emotional
• aggressive
• tough-skinned
• competitive
• clumsy
• strong
• active
• self-confident
• rebellious (Parenthood)

The three that stuck out as truly Ron Stoppable-worthy to me were “competitive, active, and clumsy.” Part of the humor of Ron’s character is his clumsiness: he loses his pants, he trips over things, he bumbles his way through missions at times… but his clumsiness is also an advantage. How many times has Ron taken down some ‘take over the world’ invention simply by accidentally ripping off a piece of it, or bumping into the off switch, or some other Ron-worthy antic? Many times. Ron’s “essential Ronness” is one of the things that helps Kim out on her missions. In his own way, his clumsiness is one of his strengths.

Is Ron competitive? Heck yes. Just look at him playing video games. 😉

Is Ron active? In a way, yes. Ron’s actually a very lazy character at times. He procrastinates. He’d rather sit in front of the TV or play video games than write a paper.

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But if you think about the way he globetrots with Kim on her missions, he’s not really lazy. He’s actually pretty active to keep up with Kim the way that he does. He may not be as athletic as her, but he’s definitely part athlete. He was Middleton’s Mad Dog Mascot, after all, and that requires coordination and hard work. In season four, he becomes Middleton’s running back, thanks to all his mission experience. He also holds various jobs. He works at Bueno Nacho at one point (which is a great fit), and later works at Smarty Mart, where he excels working in retail. So yes, he’s active, just not always in an athletic way.

Now let’s tackle the other six, which don’t quite fit Ron as well.

Is Ron tough-skinned and non-emotional? Does he abide by conceal, don’t feel?

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No, not really. There’s plenty of times when Ron is disappointed or upset about things, and although he sometimes tries to bury his emotions, he’s always been more of a ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ kind of guy. He and Kim are both very emotional characters, and they sometimes clash over that. Ron gets his feelings hurt easily, especially around Kim, because home girl doesn’t always think before she speaks. I’ve always thought Ron being emotional made him very real: he doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not, and when he has in the past, it’s gone pretty horribly, because he feels awkward not being himself.

Is Ron aggressive? Not often. The only real times when we see Ron being aggressive are brought on by exceeding circumstances, such as when he finds out about Shego’s plot to break up their friendship in A Sitch in Time, or when his Mystical Monkey powers come out. There was also that brief stint as Zorpox the Conqueror, but that was Ron minus his good side, which… is pretty rare. So Ron’s not often aggressive, unless the circumstances push him over the edge.

Rebellious? Definitely not. The few times Ron has tried to be “a bad boy” or “rebellious,” it usually ends badly, because neither of those personas fit Ron whatsoever.

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Ron is a pretty sweet guy (despite bluntness and cluelessness that rival Ron Weasley), and he’s not really much of a rebel. That said, if he has to break some rules to save the world, he’ll do it. World saving comes before everything else.

And now we come to the last two traits: strength and self-confidence, which are the two things Ron struggles with most throughout the show. Ron is a character that isn’t physically strong in the way that Kim is. Kim is agile and graceful and can hold her own in a fight. Ron, on the other hand, tends to be a bit clumsy, and often spends more of a fight improvising and deflecting rather than engaging in hand to hand combat the way Kim does. However, despite that, he’s incredibly valuable on missions.

Like I mentioned earlier, his essential Ronness (his ability to be a spanner in the works, which basically means he causes mayhem and foils plots just by being his awesome self) is incredibly helpful to Kim. And although he’s often freaking out on missions, the fact that he engages on them week after week shows that he’s courageous enough to accomplish them. The proof lies in the show’s creators, who “tried to highlight from time to time in the show that even though Ron is not a great action hero the way Kim is an action heroine, he goes along and puts himself in this danger, so he’s still very courageous” (Schooley & McCorkle). In Kim and Ron, the show shows us two very different kinds of courage: the confident kind of courage is shown with Kim, who charges into a situation believing that they can handle it (“So not the drama”). The other kind of courage is shown by Ron, who isn’t always confident in himself and doesn’t always know what he’s doing, but he does it anyway, because he wants to do what’s right.

There’s also the fact that Ron himself has saved the world before. So Not the Drama is a great example of this. Ron is the one who uncovers Drakken’s plot. Ron is the one who steps in, gets Kim free, and knocks some sense into her when she’s tricked by Eric and feeling like there’s nothing else she can do to save the day. Ron’s strength is in his optimism: he motivates Kim, and he refuses to give up when it comes to things like saving the world, because he knows that that can do it.

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One of Ron’s main issues though is that while he’s confident in Kim’s ability to get things done, he often underestimates himself. We often deal with female characters that are self-conscious or lacking in self-confidence, but on the show, Kim is often the confident one, while Ron is the one struggling to be confident in himself and his own abilities. He worries that Kim will upgrade and move on from him, because he’s not popular the way that she is. He doesn’t always know what to do without her. He isn’t sure if she would like him, and so much of the struggle of So Not the Drama is Ron’s insecurity when it comes to his and Kim’s relationship: whether he wants to take the risk of telling her how he feels, even if it means losing out on their friendship. But one of the great things about the show is that Ron gains confidence in himself over time. He finds his strengths, and a lot of season four is about Ron coming into his own. Ron and Kim are equals: they both have their own strengths, and together, they make a great team. That’s also part of why they work so well as a couple: they balance each other out in a wonderful way.

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(And they’re super cute together as well.)

Without Ron, Kim wouldn’t be quite as successful at world saving and vice versa. Kim being the heroine while Ron is the sidekick is a great example of gender role subversion, and the fact that both have their strengthens and weaknesses makes them a great, fleshed-out duo. The creators set out to establish a show where “the girl is… the action lead and the guy is… funny”, and what that resulted in was a brilliant show that subverted gender stereotypes and showed us two fully-fleshed out teens, ready to take on the world (Schooley & McCorkle). As animation diversifies and we get more female-led creations, I hope to see more shows tackle gender roles, femininity and masculinity in a creative and clever way just as Kim Possible has. I guess we’ll see what lies ahead.

Who are your favorite animated heroines? What animated shows or movies do you guys love that toy around with gender roles? Let us know in the comments!

Animated Meta is on Twitter and Tumblr!

Have an excellent Tuesday!

Cheers,

M&M!

Works Cited
Parenthood, P. (n.d.). Gender & Gender Identity. Retrieved 12 21, 2014, from Planned Parenthood: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-info/sexual-orientation-gender/gender-gender-identity
Schooley, R., & McCorkle, M. (n.d.). “Kim Possible. She can do anything.” Retrieved from Televizion: http://www.br-online.de/jugend/izi/english/publication/televizion/21_2008_E/schooley_eng.pdf

Do Animated Movies Pass the Bechdel Test?

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It’s time to put animated films to the test and find out which ones pass the Bechdel Test!

The Bechdel test has three requirements:

  1. at least two named women in the film
  2. that talk to each other
  3. about something other than a man

Disney:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves:

There are two women, Snow White and the Evil Queen. They don’t talk until the very end of the film when the queen tricks our heroine into eating the fatal apple. The conversation, though, veers very closely towards what men want: “The little men are not here?” “Making pies? … It’s apple pies that make the men folks’ mouths water.”
So just barely, this one gets a yes.

  • Pinocchio:

There’s only one woman in this film, the Blue Fairy.
So by default, no.

  • Dumbo:

There’s the crew of lady elephants that make fun of Dumbo and tell Jumbo (his mom) to unwrap him faster (when the stork brings him), but that’s not a conversation.
No

  • Bambi:

Devoid of two females that communicate.
No

  • Cinderella:

A lot of Cinderella’s interactions with her stepmother and stepsisters can’t count as conversations since she’s mostly being ordered around. But we do have one kind interaction between Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother, plus the stepsisters bickering about music class, dresses, and how much they despise Cinderella. Disney has their first film that earns it’s passing grade. Cinderella gets a lot of criticism for its love story, but it’s important to note that Cinderella just wants a night off, to go to a party. She didn’t ask to meet the prince and fall in love, that was just a perk.
YES!

  • Alice in Wonderland:

Alice doesn’t meet the Queen of Hearts until the end of the film, up until then everyone she met in Wonderland was male. When she meets the queen, their discussion consists mostly of Alice trying to keep her head.
Yes

  • Peter Pan:

Wendy is the main female in this film and though her relationship with Tinkerbelle is shrouded in jealousy, they do have an exchange briefly in the beginning of the film, though it is not a direct conversation. Tink says something in her language and Wendy responds, “I think she’s lovely.” They, however, are talking to each other through Peter, so I can’t consider this a conversation. Tiger Lily has maybe only one line of dialogue, when she says “No,” to Hook. The only named  female (cause we do have the mermaids) left is Mrs. Darling and she and Wendy have limited time together by nature of the story, but they talk in the beginning and again at the end.
So, kinda sorta, yes.

  • Lady and the Tramp:

Lady is surrounded by men: her two friends Trusty and Jock, Tramp, and Jim Dear. Lady eventually meets another female dog, Peg, but their conversation revolves around Tramp and his past lovers. Finally, there’s Si and Am, the Siamese cat twins and they have a song about ruining Lady’s life, but that’s not a conversation.
No

  • Sleeping Beauty:

Maleficent talks with the fairies—or more like mocks them towards the end. The fairies themselves talk a lot: for example, the argument they have over the color of Aurora’s dress, and their plans for Aurora’s surprise party. Aurora also talks to the fairies, but most of the time the fairies and Aurora spoke about the man she met in the woods and was forced to leave. If not for Maleficent and the fairies, this movie might not have passed.
Yes

  • 101 Dalmatians:

Praise Cruella De Vil! When the puppies are born, she talks with Anita and their Nanny about the states of the puppies and when she can buy them. She does take jabs at Roger, but that’s not the whole of their conversation. Anita and Nanny also mourn the loss of their adorable puppies. [Does Nanny technically constitute as a named character?] Regardless, we have Cruella and Anita discussing the dogs.
Yes

  • The Sword in the Stone:

I’ve never seen this movie from start to finish, but when I googled it, it came up as a fail.
No

  • The Jungle Book:

No females, except wolf mommy and the girl meant to lure Mowgli into manhood. Tsk, tsk.
No

  • The Aristocats:

We’ve got Duchess and one of her babies, Marie, that have no time to talk about men. They have way bigger things to worry about.
Yes

  • Robin Hood:

I don’t remember Maid Marian and her friend talking about anything besides Robin Hood, but the internet is telling me this is a pass. Anyone have a reason it is? Till then I’m marking it,
No

  • The Rescuers:

It’s been ages since I’ve seen this, but we have a female villain, female protagonist, and one of the Rescuers was female. There’s lots of female interaction going on here.
YES

  • The Fox and the Hound:

No two female characters.
No

  • The Black Cauldron:

Similar to a few other films, I haven’t seen this either and googled it. It got a yes.
Yes

  • Oliver and Company:

There is Jenny and Georgette, though they never speak to each other on account of one being human and the other a poodle.
No

  • The Little Mermaid:

Ariel and Ursula are the only female characters (besides Ariel’s sisters but they are not significant, sadly) and they don’t have an actual conversation. Ursula manipulates Ariel via song and Poor Unfortunate Souls is more about Ursula’s view of things than it is about Ariel’s love interest. Because of the lack of a real conversation, this fails.
No

  • Beauty and the Beast:

This is painful, but Belle only talks with Mrs. Potts and her closet about the Beast. Lumiere’s main squeeze informs Mrs. Potts that “There’s a girl in the castle!” but that’s not a real conversation. The only time Belle talks with Wardrobe about something other than the Beast is about what she’s going to wear and well… um… does Wardrobe count as a name? She never introduces herself that way and all the other main characters are not so obviously named after what object they are (Cogsworth, Lumiere, Chip, etc).
No

  • Aladdin:

Jasmine is the only female character.
No

aladdin done w your shit

  • The Lion King:

There’s a scene where Nala talks with her mom, briefly, but I don’t believe Nala’s mom has a name. Other than that, this a pretty male populated film.
No

  • Pocahontas:

Pocahontas and Nakoma mostly talk about men (“Your father’s back!,” “He is so handsome.”), but Pocahontas and Grandmother Willow talk about her dreams and her future.
Yes

  • Hunchback of Notre Dame:

Esmeralda and that one lone gargoyle are the only female characters and they never interact.
No

hunchback esmeralda

(Not impressed, Disney)

  • Hercules:

Meg, Hera, Hercules’ adopted mom, and the Muses are the female characters of this film and while the Muses sing, telling us the story, that is not a conversation. Meg does not speak to another woman, same goes for Hera and the human woman that adopts Hercules.
No

  • Mulan:

Mulan certainly has conversations with the female family members in her life. She also speaks to the matchmaker. Unfortunately, these conversations are either about marriage or about her father.
No

  • Tarzan:

Jane is the only human female character. Tarzan’s gorilla mom and his friend Terk are the only female gorillas we encounter and I believe their conversations revolve around Tarzan.
No

  • The Emperor’s New Groove:

Yzma goes to visit Patcha’s family in an attempt to gain information about our favorite llama. The conversation is all about stalling Yzma from going after them and earlier in the film, the kids want to know why their dad isn’t home yet.
No

  • Atlantis:

Abstained

  • Lilo & Stitch:

Our protagonists are two sisters and their conversations range in topics.
YES!

  • Treasure Planet:

No

  • Brother Bear:

Lacking female characters.
No

brother bear 1brother bear 2brother bear 3

(I know, right?)

  • The Princess and Frog:

I can’t recall if Tiana and Lottie discuss anything than kissing frogs and Lottie getting married, but Tiana and her mom talk about her dream of owning a restaurant.
Yes

  • Tangled:

Rapunzel and Mother Gothel’s manipulative relationship underpins this whole film.
Yes

tangled WHAT THE FUCK

(Rapunzel: We couldn’t get one other woman?)

  • Wreck it Ralph:

Yes

  • Frozen:

Anna and Elsa don’t talk much, being separated for most of the film, but when they do it’s not always about Elsa telling Anna not to marry Hans. They talk about familial love and Anna tries to encourage Elsa to come home.
Yes

  • Big Hero 6:

I haven’t seen this yet and I’m seeing yeses and noes online, so this will be an abstained for now.
Abstained

Total: 37
Pass: 15
Fail: 20
Abstained: 2

It’s interesting to note how many films pass because of mainly MC/Villain interaction. Percentage that pass for this reason: 53% (Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Tangled, Cinderella, The Rescuers, Sleeping Beauty, & 101 Dalmatians)


Dreamworks:

  • The Prince of Egypt:

While getting points for diversity and having some impressive ladies, there are no actual conversations between them that don’t revolve around a man. There is a song, but that is not a conversation.
No

  • The Road to El Dorado:

Chel is the only female character.
No

  • Shrek:

Fiona is the only female character, besides a dragon.
No

  • Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron:

Rain is the only named female character.
No

  • Madagascar:

Gloria is the only named female character.
No

  • Kung Fu Panda:

Tigress and Viper are two named female characters, but one brief exchange does not count as a conversation.
No

  • How to Train Your Dragon:

Astrid and Ruffnutt are two amazing female characters. They don’t talk much, but there are blips of back and forth between them.
Yes

  • Rise of the Guardians:

Tooth is the only female character of merit.
No

  • The Croods:

Haven’t seen this, but the internet says pass, though just marginally.
Yes

  • Mr. Peabody and Mr. Sherman:

Haven’t seen this and the internet scathes it.
No

  • Turbo:

Haven’t seen this. Just barely passes according to the internet.
Yes

  • Flushed Away:

Internet says no.
No

  • Bee Movie:

Internet says no.
No

 (Author’s Note: Yo Dreamworks is doing soooooo bad!)

  • Over the Hedge:

Internet says no.
No

Total: 14
Pass: 3
Fail: 11

crying breakddown snow white do you feel the judgement have i been put on this earth to suffer ron kp kim possible


Pixar:

  • Toy Story:

No

  • A Bug’s Life:

Yes

  • Toy Story 2:

No

  • Monsters Inc.:

No

  • Finding Nemo:

No

  • The Incredibles:

Mrs. Incredible frequently tells Violet she’s in control and talks to the babysitter. However, the only time she has a real discussion of merit with another female character, it was with Edna and mostly over what her husband’s been up to. It passes on the strength of the family dynamic.
Yes

  • Cars:

No

  • Ratatouille:

No

  • Wall-E:

No

  • Up:

No

  • Toy Story 3:

Yes

  • Cars 2:

No

  • Brave:

YES

  • Monsters University:

No

tumblr_mo538kD3Jv1rdbd0qo2_250tumblr_mo538kD3Jv1rdbd0qo4_250

Man, Pixar, why. Why is there no place for women in your world?

Gifstrip’s post notes that Pixar has created some fantastic ladies, but there are far fewer female characters than male ones and these women don’t tend to have meaningful interactions with other women. Dory seems to be the only female fish in the ocean in Finding Nemo, while Bo Peep—Toy Story’s sole female toy—is cut from the second film with a single line of dialogue. Considering half of the population is female, why can’t Pixar populate its worlds with a bit more equality? [x]


Non-Disney/Dreamworks:

  • Anastasia:

Anastasia and her grandmother talk about their family.
Yes

  • Ice Age:

Not a single female character.
No

  • Rio:

Anne Hathaway is the only female character, besides Blue’s owner.
No

  • Epic:

Queen Beyonce talks to MK briefly about the importance of protecting the pod. There’s also the young girl that adores Queen Beyonce and tells her mother she wants to be her (spoiler alert: she does!).
Yes

(skip to :50)

  • Despicable Me:

Yes, our three children long for a family.
Yes

  • Quest for Camelot:

Kaylee and her mother are the only female characters and thankfully they talk to each other.
Yes

  • The Swan Princess:

Odette and Derek’s mother are the only female characters, besides Rothbart’s lackey, but neither of them speaks to each other.
No

Total: 7
Pass: 4
Fail: 3


The Bechdel Test is the not a perfect test, but it gives you an idea how what kind of roles are out there for women. It’s startling to see that a multitude of films don’t even have more than one female character! That’s just not an accurate representation of the world.

The Bechdel Test is also not an accurate representation of how feminist a film is, because films like Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, and Shrek do not pass the test.

Beauty features an MC that knows who she is and is unafraid to be that person. She loves books and she loves her father, characteristics that make her seem alien to the town. She refuses to marry a shallow and egotistical man that sees her as nothing more than a prize. She can see past an ugly exterior and even an ugly interior if that person is willing to change.

Mulan features a female warrior, but she ultimately defeats Shan-Yu not as a woman pretending to be a man, but as a woman. She uses her intelligence, fighting skills, and a traditionally feminine fan to save the day. The majority of her conversations with her family are around her father or about getting married. For this reason, Mulan does not pass, but it should not be looked down upon for this failing.

In Shrek we meet princess Fiona, a character that completely subverts the common princess mold we’ve seen. She’s pretty and dreaming of her happy ending, but she can’t sing, is a fighter, and ends the movie as an ogre.

Side note: It is 2014. There is one kind of feminism. The kind that wants equality for the sexes. Nothing else. First wave of feminism, second, etc they are all relative to the time period they were in. Today, for us, we’re in 2014 and feminism has one, simple definition: social, political, and economic equality between the sexes.
This site is not here to debate the meaning of feminism. This site operates with the above meaning of feminism.

What do you think? Do you agree with our ratings?

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter & Tumblr!

Cheers,
-M&M!

Disney Princess “I Want” Songs: Part 2

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Welcome back to part 2 of my Disney Princess I Want Songs meta! (Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already.) Today, we’re tackling the rest of the Renaissance era princesses (Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan), and then we’re onto the Post-Renaissance (Tiana, Rapunzel and Anna). So let’s get started!

Jasmine: Jasmine’s Song…Uh…About That…

aladdin jasmine
Okay, so Jasmine is a weird case, because she doesn’t quite have an “I Want” song. In the Broadway musical, she has this gorgeous song called “These Palace Walls” that sums up her wants so well, but this is Animated Meta and we’re talking about the animated movies, so that’s off limits.

So sadly, Jasmine has no I Want Song. But she does have an I Got What I Wanted song. Confused? Let me explain.

Despite not having an I Want Song, there is a nice little scene between Jasmine and the Sultan where she tells us exactly what she wants out of life. The Sulan wants her to marry, and reminds her that there’s three days until her next birthday, by which time she needs to announce a suitor. Jasmine’s not thrilled with that.

“I hate being forced into this,” she says firmly, and then: “If I do marry, I want it to be for love.”

aladdin i want it to be for love

The Sultan’s also worried about her being alone. He wants her to be “taken care of,” but Jasmine points out that she’s never had a chance to take care of herself, and it’s clear that she resents the fact that she’s been so sheltered all these years. (“I’ve never had any real friends…I’ve never even been outside the palace walls!”)

Here, we have Jasmine’s core want laid out: she wants more independence. Because her father has tried to protect her, Jasmine has never really been given the chance to decide anything for herself. She’s never been able to go out beyond the palaces walls and see the kingdom. She hasn’t made any real friends (well, any human friends; she has Raja). And she doesn’t want to marry just because some law tells her to. Like many of us, she wants to find someone she loves and settle down with them. And she wants to do that on her own time, not on some insane three day time limit. So obviously, she’s not super happy with her dad.

aladdin done w your shit

And that’s where “A Whole New World” comes in.

aladdin a whole new world

Unlike most of the princesses, Jasmine’s song is an I Got What I Wanted song. By this time, she’s achieved many of her core wants. She snuck out of the palace and got to see outside the palace walls. She met a cute guy (Aladdin) who she connected with in a way that she hasn’t with the suitors her father threw her way. And of course, in “A Whole New World,” we have Aladdin offering her something else she wants: a chance to see the world.

“I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid,” he promises her: “No one to tell us no or where to go, or say we’re only dreaming.”

aladdin flower

Which is exactly what Jasmine wants: Aladdin gives her the independence she craves, because he understands her desires? She wants to see the world? Well, he’ll hop in his carpet and show her. And Jasmine appreciates that:

Unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings,
Soaring, tumbling, free-wheeling, through an endless diamond sky
A whole new world, a hundred thousand things to see,
I’m like a shooting star; I’ve come so far
I can’t go back to where I used to be

Aladdin opens up a whole new world of possibilities for Jasmine. He opens up opportunities and choices that she never thought possible, and in the end, he’s what inspires her to reach for what she wants. And in turn, she helps him achieve what he wants as well. Now that’s what I call an equal partnership.

Pocahontas: Just Around the Riverbend

pocahontas riverbend rainbow

I already talked a lot about “Just Around the Riverbend” in my Pocahontas and Spirituality post a few weeks back, so some of this might seem repetitive. But here we go anyway:

Pocahontas’ want is actually kind of vague, to be honest. What she wants is “something more.” She actually isn’t sure what specifically she wants, but she knows that the path her father has put her on isn’t what she wants, and that she could aspire to so much more:

Can I ignore that sound of distant drumming
For a handsome sturdy husband who builds handsome, sturdy walls
And never dreams that something might be coming
Just around the river bend?

“Just Around the Riverbend” is all about internal conflict. Pocahontas is deciding whether she’d rather choose the smoothest course or find out what’s waiting for her just around the river bend. Like Grandmother Willow tells her, the right path is not always the easiest one, so it makes sense that Pocahontas would antagonize over whether it’s better to follow the path she knows or take a risk and travel down one less known.

pocahontas kocoum riverbend
But Pocahontas has always been an adventurer, and she’s never been one to ignore her heart, so when she picks the rougher path at the end of the song, we know she’s on the right track. And sure enough, choosing to follow her heart and find what’s around the river bend leads Pocahontas to John Smith. Although their tale ends bittersweet, Pocahontas doesn’t regret the path she chose, because in listening to her heart and taking the path less traveled, she brings together her tribe and the settlers, and finally comes into herself as the future leader she is destined to be.

pocahontas choosing another course

Mulan: Reflection

mulan

Ah, Fa Mulan. I love Mulan so much, guys. I could ramble about her forever. But I’ll just stick to this gorgeous I Want song of hers. Unlike many of our princesses, Mulan isn’t seeking adventure or romance: she’s seeking acceptance from the people she loves. “Reflection” is all about identity and acceptance. Mulan wants her family to accept her for who she is inside, and wars with the fact that who she is goes at odds with what society (and her family) expect from her:

Now I see that if I were truly to be myself,
I would break my family’s heart

Mulan is not ladylike or elegant, and that’s what messes with her chances with the Matchmaker.

It also makes her feel inadequate, because the role society puts on her demands that she be one way, while she is another. She tries to hide it, but can’t, and it tears her apart:

Somehow, I cannot hide who I am, though I’ve tried
When will my reflection show who I am inside?

mulan reflection

The animation sequence that goes with “Reflection” is so brilliant, because we see Mulan dismantling parts of her appearance (removing the make-up, taking her hair out of its bun). She’s at war with who she is, and she’s uncomfortable with whom she is as well. You can see it in the way that she stares at her reflection, and how she tugs at her hair nervously when she sits by the tree at the end of the song.

mulan reflection end

In the end, Mulan does get to show who she is inside. Her inner warrior comes out when she takes her father’s place, and she shows her family – as well as all of China – just who she is inside. And best of all, she gets the acceptance she wanted all along. Pretty happy ending, in my opinion. (Plus, she gets Shang, who’s pretty awesome as well.)

Okay, onto the post-Renaissance!

Post-Renaissance Princesses
For the purpose of this post, the Post-Renaissance princesses are the one who came after the glorious Disney Renaissance. So here, three princesses apply: Tiana, Rapunzel, and Anna. (Remember: no Elsa, because she’s a queen. ;))

So let’s get this Post-Renaissance party started by talking about Tiana and her want.

Tiana: Almost There

princess and the frog almost there

Similar to Jasmine, Tiana’s “I Want” song is a strange case, because while it is what she wants, she’s also very close to achieving it, so it’s almost an “I’ve Almost Achieved my Want” song. (Which I guess is why it’s called “Almost There.”)

One of the things I love about Tiana is that like Cinderella, Tiana has a strong work ethic. She believes in her dreams, but knows that she can only make them come true if she works at them. Tiana isn’t royalty: she doesn’t have the world on a platter the way some of our princesses do. But she’s determined to work hard and be ambitious and reach for what she wants: that restaurant in New Orleans. Out of anyone, Tiana’s dreams are the most clear-cut, and thus, in order to make them harder to achieve, the movie throws her life off course. The men she wanted the shop from refuse to let her get it. She gets turned into a frog for the majority of the movie. And by the end, she’s almost lost hope of every becoming normal again.

But Tiana gets there. She gets the shop, she winds up with the romance that will make her mother happy (I want some grandkids!), and as we catch a glimpse of her in her shop at the end, we know she’s finally there. Mission accomplished, all through hard work and dedication.

Rapunzel: When Will My Life Begin?

tangled rapunzel
Okay, so I’ll admit it: I love this song so much. As much as I will forever be sad that Disney seems to be straying away from 2D animation with their Princess movies, Tangled is really a glorious movie. And Rapunzel’s I Want Song, “When Will My Life Begin?” is sweet and wonderful.

Rapunzel’s want is easy to decipher: like so many Disney princesses before her, Rapunzel wants to know when her life will begin: aka, when will she finally get out of this tower and get to see something new? Now, unlike many of our lonely bored princesses, Rapunzel’s actually invented some great ways to distract herself. She knits, she bakes, she makes pottery, she paints…the girl has many hobbies, and I think she’s actually got the most hobbies of any princess ever. But alas, hobbies cannot stop a girl from wondering what’s outside when you’re stuck living in a tower with only a verbally abusive mother to keep you company, so Rapunzel wonders about what’s out there. Unlike most of the princesses, who have less specific wants, Rapunzel’s got one thing in particular she wants to see:

And tomorrow night, the lights will appear
Just like they do, on my birthday every year
What is it like out there where they glow?

Rapunzel wants to see the lights and find out what all the fuss is about. And guess what? She does, thanks to Flynn. Interestingly enough, once Rapunzel sees the lights, she has a second Want appear: Flynn. One of the things I found really cool about Tangled was that the characters have multiple Wants. Wants change as they’re achieved, or as the characters grow and realize what they wanted are different than they first thought. And I think that’s very true to life, isn’t it? As we achieve goals, we want new things. Lucky for Rapunzel, she gets both wants achieved, and better yet, she finds the family she never knew was out there, waiting for her. Wants fulfilled, bonus achieved. Happily ever after.

tangled hug

Anna: For the First Time in Forever

frozen blank anna copy

Okay, so I’ll admit it, I’m not a huge fan of Frozen. But Anna’s I Want song is clearly defined in a great way, and Anna is my spirit animal, so I’m happy to talk about her.

Now, Anna’s an interesting case, because she technically has two I Want songs: “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “For the First Time in Forever”. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is set up as her past Want: it’s all about her desire to reconnect with Elsa. Anna doesn’t understand why her big sister has abandoned her, and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is spent with Anna outside Elsa’s door at varying times of her life, trying to get her sister to come play with her. Obviously, we the viewer understand why Elsa doesn’t want to hang out with Anna, but Anna doesn’t. Her pleas to Elsa go from peppy to semi-hopeful to that final resigned lines of the song, where it’s clear she’s on her last limb with Elsa:

We only have each other,

It’s just you and me

What are we going to do?

Do you want to build a snowman?

frozen do you wanna build a snowman gif

When that fails, and Elsa still doesn’t open the door, Anna’s priorities change. Understandably, after years and years of trying to connect with her, Anna is done trying. And so, her wants change. That’s where “For the First Time in Forever” comes in.

frozen for the first time in forever gif

In “For the First Time in Forever”, Anna’s wants are set up easily. She’s pretty blunt about her wants (a nice change from some off the vaguer I Want songs), and what she wants is this:

For the first time in forever, there’ll be magic, there’ll be fun
For the first time in forever, I could be noticed by someone
And I know it is totally crazy to dream I’d find romance
But for the first time in forever, at least I’ve got a chance

Does she get all of these things? Yes, but not exactly the way she expected.

When Hans appears at the end of “For the First Time in Forever,” we fully expect him to fulfill Anna’s expectations. After all, they have their Meet Cute moment (when she stumbles into the boat and he saves her from going overboard), and she gets flustered, and he’s smiling, and cuteness ensues. Then he reappears at the ball, they share their cute little duet (“Love is an Open Door”, which becomes a lot less cute when you realize that Hans is really a scheming schemer), and he proposes. They share a magical night, he notices her, they have fun together…everything Anna wanted fulfilled in a flash, right?

frozen gorgeous wait what

Not quite. See, Hans ends up being evil, which means that Anna got out of meeting him is kind of a lie. He uses her feelings for him and her desire to be noticed against her to manipulate her, so that he can rule Arendelle. Not exactly the romance a girl desires.

However, there is one bright side to all of this: Anna does get what she wanted, from the other people in her life. She gets some magic (in the form of Elsa’s cool ice magic). She gets noticed by two very important people: her sister, who she’s wanted to rekindle a bond with forever (ties back to the song title nicely, huh?) and Kristoff, who winds up giving her the romance she wanted. She also has some fun on her journey. Granted, there are snow monsters and accidental ice shards in her heart and feels, but some of it is fun. (Especially the parts that involve Olaf.)

So in the end, Anna gets what she wanted. She gets the magic, she gets noticed, she gets the romance, and she has some fun. The ending of the movie is a great example of this, when we see her, Elsa and everyone else in the town ice-skating. Finally, Anna’s gotten a chance to live the life she always wanted, and better yet, the people who truly love and care about her are by her side.
I’d say that’s a happy-ever-after for her.

Notes: I had a lot of fun writing this post! Mic and I are actually considering tackling some of the other types of Disney songs at a later point. What do you guys think? Would you like to hear more about the music? Let us know in the comments!

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Have a great Tuesday!
Cheers,
-M&M

Buzz Lightyear and Freud’s Defense Mechanisms: Denial

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Buzz Lightyear is a character from the 1995 film Toy Story by Pixar Animation Studios. Upon first viewing, his character seems nothing more than an amusing space ranger that threatens Woody’s status as Andy’s favorite toy. But with further investigation, it becomes apparent that the funny little space ranger is more than he seems.

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Sigmund Freud would describe Buzz as someone using a defense mechanism to the extreme, leading to a maladjusted personality. Yes, we’re about to get psychological here. All for fun, of course.

Defense mechanisms help people cope. They don’t change our reality, rather they distort our perception of it (Carducci, 2009). Sigmund Freud pioneered the idea of defense mechanisms in his psychodynamic theory of personality (Carducci, 2009). No matter how many times Buzz is told he’s a toy and not a space ranger and even given concrete evidence of this (ie, his laser not working), he hangs onto this belief that he is, in fact, a space ranger and needs to get home to defeat the Evil Emperor Zerg.

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Freud would say that Buzz is in denial. And Buzz’s denial is prevalent throughout most of the story. It is his mind’s way of reducing anxiety to keep him in balance.

When he arrives in Andy’s bedroom, his first lines are, “Buzz Lightyear to Star Command, come in Star Command. Star Command, come in, do you read me? Why don’t they answer?” With a single line, the magnitude of Buzz’s denial is obvious. Then he notices his “space ship” has been wrecked (which is what happens when kids rip open the box that holds their new toy captive). Buzz is in physical distress and records a mission log saying he was run off route on his way to sector twelve. Sector twelve is now Andy’s bedroom and Buzz claims that the impact awoke him from hyper sleep. He looks at his gamma gauge, which is actually a sticker, searching for information about the air quality. He goes through all the motions of what an actual space ranger has been trained to do.

Upon meeting Woody, Buzz jumps into defense mode.

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He uses his laser, which is actually a red light that does nothing (but would probably amuse children). The laser is useless and Buzz seems indifferent to this, denying it. Instead, he turns to focus on repairing his ship’s turbo boosters. He wants to know if we, “still use fossil fuels or have [we] discovered crystallic fusion?”

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Woody, flummoxed, has no chance to respond as the rest of the toys appear and Buzz again shifts into Scary Space Ranger Mode. He relies on his laser for the hundredth time, but upon confirmation from Woody that the new arrivals are safe, allows them to come closer. He allows them, as if he’s the one in charge. The brave, commanding space ranger immediately takes control of the situation and is already ordering people around. The denial feeds his image of being a powerful space ranger, giving him confidence.

When asked where he’s from, there’s a joke about all toys being produced overseas, but Buzz doesn’t understand. He says that he’s stationed up in the gamma quadrant of sector four. The other toys embrace being a toy, but not Buzz. The denial allows him to be bigger than them.

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The toys then proceed to fawn over Buzz’s gadgets and Buzz cautions them about the power of his oh, so dangerous laser. When Woody calls him a toy, Buzz responds with the most telling line: “I think the word you’re searching for is space ranger.”

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Buzz’s denial knows no bounds. He’s surrounded by a toy dinosaur, a Mr. Potato Head, and a cowboy doll in a child’s bedroom, but he holds onto his belief of being a great space ranger. Buzz refutes being made of plastic and is insulted at the insinuation he can’t fly, because he’s a toy.

With Buzz’s arrival the dynamic in the room changes. Woody, who was once Andy’s favorite toy, is now second best to Buzz Lightyear, the brave space ranger.

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Buzz spends his free time repairing his ship and exercising, as space rangers have diligent fitness routines. When Woody flips out on Buzz and tells him to stop putting up the space ranger act, Buzz responds with, “Are you saying you want to lodge a complaint with Star Command?” When defense mechanisms are used to the extreme, a person does not even realizing what they’re doing (Carducci, 2009) and Buzz seems to have no clue. The magnitude of his denial is obvious when Woody opens Buzz’s space helmet. Instead of taking a breath, he panics, falls to the floor like he’s suffocating. In actuality, he’s just being overdramatic about the whole thing. He even dry heaves before murmuring, “The air isn’t… toxic?” Then: “How dare you open a space ranger’s helmet on an uncharted planet.” An uncharted planet! The denial is so strong! “My eye balls could have been sucked from their sockets.” Then he closes his helmet. This is in an effort to maintain his denial and emphasize the divide between them; he’s not like them and the helmet helps protect him. The helmet is a physical reminder that they are toys and he is a space ranger.

Interestingly enough, it’s never mentioned how Buzz views Andy playing with him. The only time he acknowledges Andy around the toys is when Andy writes his name on the bottom of Buzz’s space boots. Even then he describes Andy as, “Your chief,” not “Our chief.” Does Andy waving Buzz around the room, imagining games for him where he saves the day, have no affect on him? While his flying demonstration miraculously worked out:

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The amount of times Buzz has attempted to attack someone with his laser only to have nothing happen, doesn’t deter him. It’s almost as if he can’t even see the laser not having its desired affect. “Melt him with your scary laser,” Woody mocks, pushing the button. “Be careful with that! It’s extremely dangerous.” No, it isn’t. But Buzz refuses to see it. Just like he doesn’t appear to even register Andy treating him as a toy.

When Woody and Buzz end up stranded at a gas station, Andy having driven off with his mother, Woody is paranoid about being a lost toy. He needs to find a way to get home, but Buzz has other priorities. In his intense denial, Buzz believes that his arch nemesis Zerg has a weapon posed to destroy the entire universe and blames Woody for “delaying his rendezvous with Star Command,” so he can deliver the information. This being the same Star Command that hasn’t answered him since his crash landing. In his hysteria, Woody launches into a tirade about Buzz being a toy.

Nothing fazes Buzz: “You are a sad, strange little man. And you have my pity.” The denial, the fantasy he’s conjured up protects him from having to accept the truth. And maybe the concept of being a lost toy is too much to handle; Buzz has to believe in Zerg’s plan to destroy the world so he can focus on that instead. This is the first time Buzz has mentioned Zerg and a weapon, so this intense denial must have been brought on by the extremity of their situation.

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(Yes, I’m fully aware this is a different Pixar film.)

He’s no longer in Andy’s bedroom, fretting about getting his space ship repaired. Now he’s in real danger of being lost in a world he’s tried to push aside for so long, so there needs to be a more pressing matter like the universe being destroyed. On their journey to find Andy, he refers to things like the front seat of a car as the cockpit and automatic doors as an air lock, keeping everything in space man terms.

Eventually, Buzz stumbles upon a commercial of the Buzz Lightyear action figure toy that he is. He tries to deny it once more, attempting to fly out of a window, but as he is a toy, he is unsuccessful and loses an arm in the process.

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He can no longer deny the reality that he is a toy. Buzz had derived all his self worth and confidence from being a space ranger and when that fantasy and denial is broken, he needs to adjust to his new understanding of life.

However, that’s easier said than done. Before Buzz can make peace with this, he now denies being Buzz Lightyear fully and is:

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The denial is strong with this one.

With the line, “Years of academy training wasted,” it is clear Buzz still has some ways to go. But, this is the turning point for him and Buzz is finally able to come to terms with who he is, finding peace with being Andy’s toy and Woody’s best buddy to infinity and beyond.

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Bibliography
Carducci, B.J. (2009). The psychology of personality: Viewpoints, research, and applications (2nd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell.
Bonnie, E., Catmull, E., Guggenheim, G., & Jobs, S. (Producers), & Lasseter, J. (Director). (1995). Toy Story [Motion picture]. United States of America: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures


Talk to us below! Do you think Buzz is in denial? Who is your favorite Toy Story character?

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Cheers!
-M&M

Disney Princess “I Want” Songs: Part 1

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Today, I’m talking about one of the fun aspects of the Disney Princess movies: the music. More specifically, I’m going to talk about each princess’s “I Want” song. That means that this post (and next Tuesday’s; I’ll explain in a moment) are going to be about what exactly an “I Want” song is, what the common trends are among them, and then I’m going to analyze those songs.

I’ve wanted to do this for a really, really long time, so I’m super excited to get started. But first, a few notes. I composed my Disney Princess list based on Disney’s considerations of what a Disney princess is, so that means Mulan, who technically isn’t royalty, makes it onto the list, while Eilonwy, Nala, Kiara, and others, who could be considered princesses in their own right, are not on the list. Maybe I’ll come back to them at some point later on.

Since there are 11 princesses with “I Want” songs, I’m going to be splitting this post right down the middle. Sorry guys; you’ll get the other half next Tuesday. I could do all 11 at once, but honestly, the word count would be really, really huge, and our eyes would all burn trying to read it, so it’s better to split it somewhere in the middle and save us both the pain. (Plus, it gives you something to anticipate! And isn’t that fun?)

I know that Merida counts as a Disney princess, but Merida is also a unique circumstance because she was created by Pixar, and does not have an “I Want” song in the tradition of the other princesses. She has an “I Want” speech, as my lovely blogging partner Mic pointed out, but that is not a song, so alas, she is not on the list. I also did not include Elsa on the list, because Elsa is a queen, and she’s also not a primary protagonist in the way that Anna is.

What On Earth is an “I Want” Song?
So what is an “I Want” song? If you’ve seen a Disney movie before, you’ve most likely heard one. According to TV Tropes, the purpose of the ‘I Want’ song is to “[establish] the character of the protagonist and their one burning desire that will motivate their actions from here on” (“I Want” Song). Basically, it tells you what on earth the character wants, and tells us a little something about the character as well. And since this is Disney and the majority of these movies end happily, the protagonist gets exactly what they wanted in the end.

A non-princess example: in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which I just talked about recently), Quasimodo’s “I Want” song would be Out There. His want is to just have one day out in the open, just like everyone else. And what do you know? He gets that at the end of the movie, after some mishaps. 😉
So now that you know what the song is, you probably want to know why I chose this topic. Well, because 1) I love Disney music so much, and 2) because the last time I was on a Disney listening spree, I noticed patterns between all of the “I Want” songs.

The Top Three Wants
After a lot of listening, I’ve discovered a pattern…or rather, a few patterns. In general, there are three top wants that Disney characters tend to have:

1) Adventure
2) Acceptance
3) Love

Now, those all seem like pretty common wants, yes? That’s because they’re core human wants. Some of us long for adventure in the great wide somewhere, like Belle and Ariel. Some of us long for people to accept who we are deep down inside, like Mulan. And some of us have that deep-seated longing for love, like Snow White and Aurora.

Today, I’m only talking about five princesses to start with, which means we’ll get through the pre-Renaissance (the start of the princesses) and begin digging into the Disney Renaissance (which contains some of my absolute favorite Disney movies). And where better to start than the beginning of the princesses?

Pre-Renaissance Princesses
If you want to be technical, the pre-renaissance era at Disney is considered 1977-1988, which is way after all three of these movies were released. But I’ve always considered these pre-Renaissance because they take place before the Disney Renaissance, and thus are the beginning of Disney’s animated history. These all came out at least 50 years ago: Snow White came out in 1937, Cinderella came out more than a dozen years later in 1950, and Sleeping Beauty came out just before the 60s in 1959. Thus, these three often come off as the most dated to us, because they come from a very different time in history, with a very different set of values. However, I think the “I Want” songs still carry a lot of desires that we have today.

So let’s start with the original Disney Princess: the lovely Snow White.

Snow White: I’m Wishing

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Snow White’s “I Want” song is the pretty (if slightly piercing) “I’m Wishing.” Snow’s song is sweet, simple, and to the point: she wants someone to love, and she wants him to love her too. She dreams of him complimenting her as well, which makes sense, since she and the Evil Queen obviously doesn’t see eye to eye. From what little we can infer, it’s obvious Snow doesn’t have much of a social life early on in the movie.

So does Snow get her wish? Well, the second her song ends, the prince shows up, with his own song to sing for her (“One Song”) and then it seems like our lovebirds are all set. However, it takes a little longer than that for Snow and him to find one another again, especially since Snow’s busy hiding from the Evil Queen for the majority of the movie. However, in the end, her prince wakes her with true love’s kiss, and together they ride off to the castle. So it looks like that wishing well did Snow White some good after all.

 

Cinderella: A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

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Okay, I’ll admit it: as a little girl, Cinderella was my absolute favorite Disney princess, so nostalgia clouds me whenever I think about this glorious movie. Even without my nostalgia lens though, her song is probably the best Pre-Renaissance princess song. “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” is pretty and hopeful, and I love it so much.

While Cinderella’s song doesn’t specifically say what she wants, I think it’s pretty obvious that Cinderella’s major want is to get out of her situation, mainly. She does her work without complaint, but it’s clear she would really rather be elsewhere – and who wouldn’t want to be elsewhere if they were her? All she does all day is work. She barely has time for anything else. She cleans, cooks, takes care of the animals…the works, basically. She doesn’t even have time to make her own dress for the ball; the mice have to do it for her, because she’s drowning in chores. And when Cinderella gets that magical night out, she paves the way to getting exactly what she wants. She meets the prince, has a romantic night with him, the shoe fits when he finds her, and happily ever after ensues. Another princess want achieved.

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Aurora: I Wonder

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Similar to Snow’s short song, Aurora has a tiny song of her own. It’s one I think we often forget about, since “Once Upon a Dream” is the more celebrated Sleeping Beauty song, but her “I Want” song, “I Wonder,” is very pretty and heartfelt. Just look at these pretty lyrics:

I wonder, I wonder
If my heart keeps singing
Will my song go winging
To someone who’ll find me
And bring back a love song to me?

Can’t you feel the longing? Like Snow, Aurora wants somebody to love. She wants someone to sing a love song to her, and viola, in the next scene, Prince Phillip appears, and they have that adorable romantic moment when they sing “Once Upon a Dream”.

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In a twist of irony, Aurora is horrified when she later finds out she’s betrothed (not realizing it’s to Phillip, of course) and she’s sad, because she’s worried she’ll lose out on a chance at love with him.

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But despite the mishaps and problems along the way, at the end of the day, Prince Phillip’s the one to wake her with his kiss, and Aurora gets her wish: her prince to sing love songs with forevermore.
One more princess wish accomplished.

 

Disney Renaissance Princesses
Ah, the Disney Renaissance: a time of glory, gorgeous movies, and the best musical numbers in history (in my opinion, anyway). The Disney Renaissance Princesses are some of my absolute favorites, and I’m really excited to talk about them and their songs. For now though, I’ll be handling two of them: Ariel and Belle. You’ll have to come back for the rest next Tuesday. 😉

 

Ariel: Part of Your World

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Okay, Part of Your World might actually be my favorite “I Want” song of them all. Ariel gets so much undeserving flack, which she shouldn’t, but you can’t deny that her song is amazing.

Ariel’s song is all about adventure; she’s the first adventurous princess, actually, and in “Part of Your World”, she talks about her desire to travel to the human world and explore. People tend to misconstrue Ariel’s desire to go on land as being about Eric, but if you look at the song, it’s really not. It’s about her wanting to experience the things others don’t, and get the freedom she feels she’s lacking under the sea.

The proof is in the lyrics:
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world

What would I give if I could live out of these waters?
What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand?

Ariel’s all about adventure and exploring. Love only factors into her deal to stay human, and what’s so awesome to me about Ariel’s tale is that she gets all three of the core wants I mentioned:
1) She gets the adventure she craves on Earth.
2) She gets love in the form of Eric.
3) She gains acceptance from her father, and they finally learn to understand each other a little more.
For that reason, Ariel is probably one of the luckier Disney princesses endings-wise. She gets everything she wanted and more. Pretty awesome, huh?

Finally (for now, anyway), let’s move onto the Disney Princess that is pretty much me: Belle.

 

Belle: Belle (Reprise)

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Belle’s case is really interesting when it comes to her “I Want” song. Unlike most of the princesses, Belle’s “I Want” song is actually a reprise. When you look at the songs, you would think that “Belle” would be her song, considering that it’s her name and all. But in an interesting twist, “Belle,” while it is about our heroine, is actually about how everyone else views Belle and what they want. We get a little bit of Belle in the song, and we get a hint of her wants (“There must be more than this provincial life!”). However, we don’t really dig deep into that. “Belle” is mostly spent with the townspeople musing about Belle’s strangeness, and Gaston musing about how he wants to marry Belle.

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And as we find out in the “Belle Reprise”, Belle is not too keen on Gaston’s plans for the future:
“Madame Gaston!”
Can’t you just see it?
“Madame Gaston!”
His “little wife”
No sir! Not me!
I guarantee it
I want much more than this provincial life

Here we bridge into the unique musical twist that Beauty and the Beast provides: Belle’s song is actually the “Belle Reprise.” That’s right, Belle’s “I Want” song is the reprise of the song all about her. Pretty cool twist, huh? And what does Belle want? Well, we find out, when she mentions that awesome line that defines pretty much every Disney Renaissance Princess:

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere,
I want much more than I can bear

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Belle wants adventure. She wants to see the world and get out of the tiny, judgmental little town she lives in. She wants much more than anyone in this town has planned for her, because she knows that she’s worth more. And although she doesn’t get it in the way she expected, Belle gets that adventure when she goes to find her father and meets the Beast. She also finds unexpected love with him.

Alas, unlike Ariel, Belle doesn’t get acceptance from the town, but honestly, she doesn’t really need it. Plus, she has it from the people who really matter: her father, the Beast, and her new friends. She’s also got a handsome prince, the adventure she wanted, and a pretty sweet library. I’d be cool with that deal too if I was her.

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Sources:
“I Want” Song. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from TV Tropes: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IWantSong
Disney Lyrics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from ST Lyrics: http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/d/disney6472.html

Alright, next week we’ll talk about the rest of the Renaissance Princesses and talk the Post-Renaissance Princesses as well! I’m curious to know: who is your favorite Disney princess, and what is your favorite “I Want” song? Let us know in the comments!

Have a happy Tuesday!

Cheers,
-M&M