Author Archives: melwozniak

Manipulation and Morals: Danny and Vlad as Foils in Danny Phantom

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In literature, foiling what happens when a character contrasts another (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight an attribute that character shares. If you went through Danny Phantom, I’m sure you could find a lot of characters that foil one another, but there is none more poignant than the way that Vlad Masters foils Danny Phantom. Vlad foils Danny in two important ways: he highlights Danny’s manipulative streak, and Danny’s heroics/morals. Let’s dig into why that’s important.

We’ll start with a similarity both Danny and Vlad share: a manipulative streak.

Manipulation

“Using your opponent’s weaknesses against him – I am teaching you something after all.”

-Vlad Masters in Bitter Reunions

From his introduction, it’s clear that Vlad Masters is a chess master of epic proportions. Who else arranges a high school reunion so that he can win back the woman he feels was “stolen from him” and murder his best friend all in one go? He manipulates Danny on a regular basis – and from the start of the show, in fact. Remember those ecto-pusses that show up in the first few minutes of the pilot, when Danny’s father is talking to him and his friends about ghosts?

If you don’t, here’s a picture for clarification:

danny phantom the ectoplasm ghosts

What you might not remember is that Vlad sent those, to test Jack’s skills in ghost hunting – which led to him discovering Danny’s existence:

DANNY: Skulker? The ectopusses? I don’t understand!

VLAD: Of course not! You’re, what, fourteen? Too young to drive and not in college yet! I sent those ghosts, and others, to test your father’s skills. Imagine my surprise when I find *you*; the second ghost hybrid his foolishness created! (Bitter Reunions Transcript)

The dialogue implies that Vlad knew about Danny before he arrived at the manor, and there’s a familiarity in his dialogue when they first fight (“Danny Phantom, right?”) that suggests he has continued to send ghosts to test not Jack, but Danny. Considering this is 7 episodes in, a lot of Danny’s early ghost encounters are likely Vlad-generated, which means he’s been manipulating Danny since the beginning in a way. That’s creepy.

malfoy scream reaction

Vlad’s chess master antics continue throughout the show. He gives Valerie ghost-hunting gear in Shades of Gray as a means to cause Danny trouble – and later uses her to his advantage to get a hold of Danny’s DNA to clone him. In Maternal Instincts, he arranges a fake scientific convention, and then crashes Danny and Maddie’s plan, stranding them in the woods with him to get his hands on them. Reign Storm is essentially a master game of manipulation, where he uses both Valerie and Danny to manipulate his way out of the mess he’s made by angering the Ghost King – he gives Valerie a ring he stole so that she’ll be targeted instead of him, and ends up getting Danny to imprison the Ghost King for him. Danny almost loses his life in the process. There are probably like a million more examples I could give, but I think these two encompass how manipulative Vlad can be, and how he’s willing to use people and situations to get what he wants.

So you’re thinking: “Okay Mel, we get it, Vlad is a stinky manipulative cheesehead. But how does Danny fit into this? Isn’t he the hero?”

Well yes, Danny is the hero. But Danny is just as manipulative and underhanded as Vlad, and what’s telling is that Danny’s most manipulative moments come out when he’s in direct combat with Vlad. Vlad even comments on this on multiple occasions, such as this one:

danny phantom vlad points out their similiarities

Take Bitter Reunions, for example. Vlad has overshadowed Danny’s father, and later tries to kidnap Danny’s mother. Danny realizes that the only way he’s going to get Vlad to scram is to threaten something Vlad values, which leads to this lovely exchange:

DANNY: (as Jack) How’s it going, V-man?

VLAD: (mocking) Ooo, you overshadowed Jack. Ooh, I’m so scared. Now what’s next? A card trick?

DANNY: (as Jack) Listen to me. I swear I’ll walk out of my dad right now and expose us both, unless you agree to a truce.

VLAD: …You’re bluffing.

DANNY: (as Jack) No I’m not! My parents will accept me, no matter what. But if I expose *you*…Well, heh, what would my *mom* think of you?

Vlad makes a face at the thought of that. Danny sets Vlad down.

DANNY: (as Jack) You’ll be miserable and alone for the rest of your life, unless you call a truce.

VLAD: (amused) Using your opponents weaknesses against him. I am teaching you something after all. Very well. Truce. (Bitter Reunions Transcript)

This is especially wonderful because earlier in the scene, Vlad gives Danny the idea inadvertedly when he tells Danny that he would never expose him, because exposing Vlad would mean exposing Danny’s own powers. Danny challenges his assumptions with his ploy, and while he impresses Vlad (which I don’t think he intended to do), it shows Danny’s character. He’s being manipulative, but also honest. He knows that his parents would be more likely to accept him, because even though they’re a bit extreme, they love him unconditionally. He would reveal his existence to them in a second if it saved them from Vlad, because he knows it would be worth the risk. Danny’s trust in people is something that Vlad doesn’t share. That trust and faith in the people he cares about strengthens Danny and weakens Vlad.

Another great example (and one of my favorites) is in Maternal Instincts. Vlad spends a lot of this episode getting the upper hand: luring Danny and his mother right where he wants them, zapping Danny clear of his powers long enough to scare him and stop him from interfering in his plans, and seems to be (in his mind) nearing victory. However, Danny takes a lesson from Vlad.

Earlier in the episode, Vlad takes great pleasure in bragging about one of his inventions, the Plasmius Maximus, which can incapacitate ghost powers for about four hours at a time. He demonstrates by using it on Danny and then sending wild ghost creatures after him.

danny phantom vlad and plasmius maximus

Vlad brags a little too soon, because Danny proceeds to pull a similar ploy on him later on, with an invention of his mom’s called the Specter Deflector:

Danny: But first– [going to the clock, he pushes the hands so it looks like it’s 15 until 12:00, then approaches Vlad, still reading his book.] Hey, um, Uncle Vlad?

Vlad: Oh, please, Daniel, don’t try to butter me up. Especially with your powers shorted out [glancing at the clock] for another fifteen minutes. You’re barely a threat to me with them. Without them? [Laughs, then his eyes gleam red] Well I wouldn’t need fifteen seconds, would I?

Danny: [innocently] How can you say that? You think my mom made the decision to come back on her own? We’re a family. We both talked about it last night, and I want to stay here with you too.

Vlad: [Brightening, his eyes tearing up] Really? You don’t mean…

Danny: Yes, I do. Come on, give me a big hug, new Dad!

danny phantom danny's ploy 1danny phantom danny's ploy 2

[Vlad goes in for the hug, and Danny locks the Specter Deflector around his waist.]

danny phantom danny's ploy 3danny phantom danny's ploy 4

Vlad: [screaming] You little rat! You tricked me! You know what this will mean for you, don’t you?

danny phantom danny's ploy 5

Danny: [looking at his watch] Oh, yeah. [The clock goes to 12:00, and Danny transforms to ghost mode.] A much fairer fight! (Maternal Instinct Transcript)

By fiddling with the clock and lowering the time, Danny lowers Vlad’s defenses by letting him think his powers aren’t back yet, then preys on Vlad’s very personal motives by pretending to apologize and offering him exactly what he wants, only to proceed to incapacitate him in a way that allows Danny to overpower him and win the battle. How very Slytherin – or Vlad Masters, I suppose – of him.

But there’s something important to note. While Danny is manipulative, his reasons for being manipulative often have heroic intentions: in both of these cases, he’s trying to stop one of Vlad’s plans, and protect his family. His morality is very different from Vlad’s, which we’re going to explore next.

 

Morality

[Vlad wakes up. He sees Danny and Valerie both out cold. And his first thought?]

danny phantom vlad's priorities 1danny phantom vlad's priorities 2

Vlad: The ring! [Close-up on Valerie’s hand.] It’s gone! (Reign Storm Transcript)

 

Later on, shortly after above scene:

Danny: All of my enemies. Everything I thought I could handle, but couldn’t.

Tucker: Dude, you can’t blame yourself for this. It’s not your fault.

danny phantom danny's remorse

[Danny’s expression changes from worried and guilty to angry.]

Danny: Maybe not. But it is my responsibility. (Reign Storm Transcript)

danny phantom danny's hero momentdanny phantom danny's hero moment part 2

As evidenced in the quotes and images above, morality sets Danny and Vlad apart as two different very people. How and why they use their powers is very different.

Vlad uses his powers for personal gain: to achieve wealth, to achieve power, to try and murder his best friend so he can ‘take back’ the woman he loves…the list goes on and on. This is established early on in Bitter Reunions, when Jazz asks about his overzealous Packers styled manor:

JAZZ: I don’t understand. You have billions of dollars. Instead of buying this stuff, why don’t you just buy the team?

VLAD: (irritated) Because the Packers are owned by the city of Green Bay and they won’t sell them to me! (Bitter Reunions Transcript)

He later straight up confirms this when he goes on his ‘join me’ rant to Danny, telling him how he has experience, and “the money and power attained through using those powers for personal gain.” Later on in the show, we discover that he’s overshadowed prominent businessmen to get them to sign over their companies to him, that he’s used his powers to commit robberies, and he even uses them in Eye For an Eye to overshadow his way to being mayor. Whenever we see Vlad using his powers, it’s for his own personal gain, or to further his motivations. Even when he’s on Danny’s side, like during their reluctant alliance in Reign Storm, it’s because he’s trying to save his own skin, and realizes siding with Danny is his best bet for success.

Danny’s motivations are very different. While Vlad’s are selfish and self-centered, Danny’s tend to be selfless. While he does have brief moments of selfishness – as most people do – Danny overall motivation is using his powers in order to help people. He wants to save the day. He stops ghosts from attacking his town time and time again, even though for a large chunk of the show, Amity Park as a whole seems to really hate Danny Phantom.

It’s worth noting that Danny could’ve easily been Vlad. They started out very similar: smart teenagers with a love for science, who have two fantastic best friends. The triad of Danny-Sam-Tucker and Vlad-Maddie-Jack is a great reflection of how once upon a time, Vlad was a bit like Danny. Danny could’ve easily resented his parents for his ghost powers, because it was their portal that caused it, much like the proto-portal caused Vlad’s powers back in the day. Vlad is a cautionary tale: he’s the path Danny very well could’ve taken, had things been different.

danny phantom vlad maddie jackdanny phantom danny sam tucker

However, whereas Vlad loses himself in resentment and his lust for power, Danny begins to become more moral and empowered as he learns to use his ghost side to help people and make a change. While Vlad isolates himself, Danny grows closer to Sam and Tucker, relying on them – and later Jazz –for help. Where Vlad sees people as pawns he can use and manipulate, Danny sees the people in his life as friends and allies. Vlad forces people into alliances under false circumstances, by lying to them and manipulating them (ex: Valerie, Dani). Danny helps people, like Wulf and later Dani, and gains their alliance because he helps them out of the tough situations they’re in. It’s a really great contrast, and Vlad’s villainous actions help to showcase Danny’s heroics and morality.

There’s actually a great visual example of this in Maternal Instincts: what I like to call ‘the mirror scene.’

Now, mirrors in media and literature tend to be very symbolic. They show us the truth. Often in supernatural shows, they show us the monster behind their façade. A great example of this is in The Little Mermaid, when Scuttle sees ‘Vanessa’ in the ship singing, and sees that her reflection is Ursula, revealing Ursula’s plan to pose as Vanessa and force Eric into marriage to ruin Ariel’s quest.

little mermaid vanessa is ursula

In Maternal Instincts, the mirror scene shows Danny and Vlad in both human and ghost forms. But we also get a sense of who they are deep down inside.

danny phantom mirror

The initial view in the mirror is Vlad, standing tall and confident, with a superior smirk on his face, with Danny behind him, curled into himself on the chair. It shows who they are at the start of the show. The Danny we get at the very start of the show isn’t confident in himself: he’s clumsy, struggling with his powers, and has a lot of self-esteem issues. The Vlad we get from the start is manipulative, cunning, and arrogant: all traits we can see in his appearance. He’s confident in his powers to the point of being egotistical about them.

Then the mirror flashes and we get a different scene: purple flames, from a fight. This Danny is confident, with his fists out, ready for a fight. In this scene, he’s our force of good, because he looks appalled at Vlad’s actions. This Vlad is more sinister – he’s taller, grins wickedly at his opponent, and is sure of his victory. I think it’s important that Vlad is the one looking in the mirror in this scene, because he’s seeing himself as victorious. He takes up the majority of the space in the image, while Danny is relegated to the background. It shows Vlad’s ego, and how his own self-interest is most important. Everything else comes second.

If Danny were the one looking in the mirror, I’m sure we’d get a very different image.

Vlad’s foiling of Danny accomplishes two things: he highlights his manipulative side, and contrasts Danny’s heroics and selflessness with his villainy and selfishness. The two different paths these characters take, despite how similar their origins are in some ways, is really quite interesting. Character makes all the difference here.

danny phantom danny verses vlad pic

Who are your favorite animated foils? Can you think of any other characters who foil each other in fascinating ways on Danny Phantom? Let us know in the comments.

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. Have a fantastic Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

 

Works Cited

Bitter Reunions Transcript. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2015, from Danny Phantom Wiki: http://dannyphantom.wikia.com/wiki/Bitter_Reunions/Transcript

Maternal Instinct Transcript. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2015, from Danny Phantom Wiki: http://dannyphantom.wikia.com/wiki/Maternal_Instinct/Transcript

Reign Storm Transcript. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2015, from Danny Phantom Wiki: http://dannyphantom.wikia.com/wiki/Reign_Storm/Transcript

The majority of my screencaps were from this wonderful site: http://dannyphantomscreencaps.weebly.com/

 

 

Anastasia Isn’t Disney: Why Everyone Thinks It Is

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For some reason, Anastasia has this weird reputation of being mistaken for a Disney movie, but it’s not.

anastasia NOT DISNEY

Anastasia was actually done by Fox Animation Studios, and was distributed by 20th Century Fox. So why is Anastasia always mistaken for Disney? Well, there are quite a few reasons, actually!

First of all, Anastasia is a Princess movie. Thematically, it’s set up a lot like the Disney Princess movies: Anastasia wants something (belonging), Anastasia meets a cool guy on her quest to find that thing, and Anastasia accomplishes her goal (finding a place where she belongs/finding her home) and gets the guy as well.

anastasia and grandmother

anastasia kiss

She also has a villain to deal with – Rasputin, who’s a total jerk and ups the ante on creepiness the way that villains like Jafar and Doctor Facilier have in Disney’s past. (We’re going to go more into specifics about that later, when we talk music.)

Secondly: at a glance, the animation styles are similar. Given that its directors (Don Bluth and Gary Goldman) were former Disney animators, this isn’t too surprising. In particular, Anastasia and Ariel look very similar to me design-wise.

anastasia vs. ariel

However, they’re not exactly the same. In movies like The Little Mermaid, Disney tends to exaggerate features (like Ariel’s big eyes and big lips), while Anastasia tries to stay on the more realistic size and downsizes features. Anastasia (and the rest of the cast) have smaller eyes, smaller mouths, and in general look more like people you would see in real life. I mean:

Ariel

little mermaid 6

little mermaid seahorse

Anastasia

anastasia

anastasia waltz

You can see the difference in their expressions, personalities, how they hold themselves…so while some details are similar, at a second glance it’s easier to tell how they stand apart.

Anastasia shares a lot of other traits with Disney movies, such as….

Opening narration:

A lot of the older Disney movies (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella) opened with a sort of prologue, where the narrator would tell a story and lead the viewer up to the present day. Anastasia did something very similar by having her grandmother narrate in the beginning. (Fun fact: the score playing during this scene is actually called Prologue, and since the actual opening I had posted seems to have disappeared, I’ll post the score for you guys to enjoy instead.)

(Another fun thing in the opening scene: Rasputin’s entrance is reminiscent of Maleficent: all the drama, all the magic, all the creepiness. Who did it better, guys?)

Opening scenery shots:

There’s a shot in Rumor in St. Petersburg that’s very reminiscent of Bells of Notre Dame from Hunchback of Notre Dame:

anastasia st. petersburg (Rumor in St. Petersburg)

hunchback bells of notre dame (Bells of Notre Dame)

Not exact, but pretty similar. And yet again, some animation similarities appear in how the buildings are rendered.

The father/daughter relationship:

Disney has a thing about father/daughter relationships: Ariel/Triton, Belle/Maurice, Jasmine/The Sultan… When a parent survives, it’s usually the father, and even if he doesn’t, he’s usually shown in the narrative before his death (ex: Cinderella, Frozen). And much like the Disney girls, Anastasia’s father/her relationship him with is emphasized early on. While the main family relationship we deal with is Anastasia and her grandmother, her father is shown pretty prominently.

We get them dancing at the beginning:

anastasia and dad 1 anastasia and dad 2

And we get a sad echo when Anya, still grasping at memories of the past, sees her father in he fantasy sequence during Once Upon a December:

anastasia and father

Yes, it’s not the main focus, but it’s a pretty important one. We don’t see that emphasis with Anastasia and her mom.

The animal sidekick:

Because apparently princesses can’t have real flesh and blood friends, Anya has an animal sidekick like most of the Disney princesses. Hers is the absolutely adorable Pooka.

anastasia pooka

And much like Jafar, Rasputin has a sidekick in his weird albino bat, Bartok.

anastasia bartok would kick her

The music:

This is a big one, guys. Some of the music in Anastasia very clearly follows tropes that Disney’s music movie scheme often focuses on. Three in particular stand out: the “I Want” song, the “Villain” song, and the “Love Song.” I’ll go through them in order and explain why.

Journey to the Past = “I Want Song”

Journey to the Past is Anya’s “I Want” song. What does Anya want? She wants to belong, and find the family that she knows has always been out there. And just like most Disney “I Want” songs, Journey to the Past spells out her intentions around the second half:

Somewhere down this road, I know someone’s waiting

Years of dreams just can’t be wrong

Arms will open wide, I’ll be safe and wanted

Finally home where I belong

This is shown through the family Anya sees on her journey to St. Petersburg. The longing in her face is painful to see, but you can also see her resolve strengthen. That’s what she wants, and she’s determined to keep going and find it, no matter how wary she feels stepping off-course.

And of course, just like other Disney characters do, Anya gets what she wants in the end: her family, a sense of belonging, and something she didn’t expect to find – love. It’s pretty cool how that works out for characters, isn’t it?

In the Dark of the Night = “Villain Song”

In the Dark of the Night is one of those songs that doesn’t quite fit into Disney standards, because even though Disney has some pretty dark villains, Rasputin surpasses them all. There’s a whole section of the movie where the narration talks about how he GAVE UP HIS SOUL so he could murder the Romanovs, and you can see his flesh stripped away as he’s left a skeleton. That’s pretty dark. Even Facilier didn’t go quite that far.

There are some similarities to Disney villains of the past though. Like Ursula and Yzma, Rasputin gives us his backstory via song in the second verse:

I was once the most mystical man in all Russia

When the royals betrayed me, they made a mistake

My curse made each of them pay

But one little girl got away

Little Anya, beware, Rasputin’s awake!

Like Facilier, Rasputin has some “friends on the other side” to help him out, which leads into the next scene, when they attack the train that Anya, Dimitri and Vladimir are on.

And like Scar, Rasputin is really freaking dramatic.

bitch i'm fabulous reaction lion king

I mean come on, look at this montage, this is ridiculously dramatic. Everything Rasputin does is ridiculously dramatic. As creepy as he is, it’s hard to take him seriously at times because of the sheer drama that surrounds him. (Plus, he failtastically dies TWICE, which is pretty bad.)

Learn to Do It (Waltz Reprise) = “Love Song”

I talked about this back when Mic and I wrote about Animated Love songs, so I won’t spend too much time dwelling on this, but I want to point out that this is another one of those Disney touches that slides into the movie. I mean, we have Vlad, who’s kind of our Timon stand-in, singing about these two crazy kids in love, and him realizing that 1) this was never something he’d planned for, thus, 2) it’s completely going to change their group dynamic.

Unlike Timon, who takes a while to warm up to Nala, we can see that Vlad’s already warmed up to Anya based on this one great line:

She’s radiant, and confident, and born to take this chance

We know that Dimitri is head over heels into his “mark” based on how he looks at her, but now we can see Vlad’s affection shining through. It’s not something we see often in movies, and it’s kind of nice to see Vladimir care for Anya in a platonic way – like a father in law, perhaps. 😉

We’re more in Disney territory toward the end:

I taught her well, I planned it all, I just forgot…romance!

Vlad, how could you do this?

How will we get through this?

I never should have let them dance

Poor Vlad; he’s got some woes here. And like Timon, he’s not entirely happy about this change in course.

Another important thing in this scene is the dance. We get this a lot in Disney movies, where characters share a dance, and it shows the emotional growth between the two characters. Here, we see stubborn Anya allowing Dimitri to lead her. The fact that she trusts him enough to lead shows that she’s starting to care for him, and open up to him. Similarly, we see Dimitri being less reserve around Anya now. It’s really sweet all around.

Conclusion

While Anastasia is not Disney, its creators were likely influenced by their time working at Disney. However, Anastasia stands on its own as a firmly non-Disney film. So next time someone in your life says Anastasia is Disney, just remember what Anastasia herself says:

anastasia NOT DISNEY

 

Do you think Anastasia is similar to Disney’s other films? Who had a better dramatic entry: Maleficent or Rasputin? What do you guys love most about Anastasia? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. Have a smashing Saturday!

wild thornberries smashing ariel gif

Cheers,

M&M

 

Lion King and The Stages of Grief

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Disney has a lot of dead parents–as I’m sure you guys probably know–but most of their films don’t take time to deal with what the loss of a parent truly means to the protagonist. One of the few that does is The Lion King. While its portrayal isn’t perfection, Simba does go through the five main stages of grief after his father’s death. Today, I’m going to show the stages Simba cycles through while grieving his father, and how it affects him and his journey.

For clarification, the five stages of grief are:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

1. Denial

Denial essentially means denying that the death has occurred, or imagining another (happier) alternative. Death can be a really hard reality for people to accept at first, and Simba is no exception to this. When he finds Mufasa’s body in the aftermath of the stampede, he’s in shock. His eyes widen. He walks around Mufasa, taking in his closed eyes and lack of movement. This is when denial – stage 1 – sets in. Maybe he’s sleeping, Simba thinks. His eyes are closed. He’s lying down. Therefore, sleep is a better (less depressing) alternative. “Dad?” he asks. “Dad, come on, you gotta get up.”

lion king mufasa death 1

Despite his nudging and prodding, Mufasa doesn’t move, and when Simba runs to call for help – and gets no answer – his denial begins to fade. Maybe he’s not sleeping. Maybe his dad won’t wake up.

lion king mufasa death 2

But even though he’s realized his dad is dead, Simba wants to stay in denial a little longer. It’s understandable: he’s alone, he’s scared. There’s no one here to help him. He crawls under his dad’s am and closes his eyes, pretending for a few minutes that everything is okay.

lion king mufasa death 3

But it’s not.

lion king mufasa death 4

ugly sobbing reactionstar vs. evil sad face

Before we move onto stage 2, I want to talk about something important that shapes Simba’ perspective of his father’s death: guilt. Shortly after this horrible sad moment, Scar shows up and proceeds to blame Simba for Mufasa’s death. Which, okay, this is a horrible thing to do to a child. Simba’s shaken up, and traumatized, which isn’t surprising, considering he almost got run over in a stampede, and THEN found his father’s dead body. Now he has an adult figure he trusts – his UNCLE for that matter – telling him that the death is his fault:

“But the king is dead. If it weren’t for you, he’d still be alive.”

lion king mufasa death 5

Just look at this face. This is a horrible face of sadness and realization and pain. This is the opposite of denial. Simba is in a super fragile state here, guys. His denial stage has just ended, and now he’s forced to run for his life out of fear and guilt. It’s no wonder then that Simba hides from his former life, and doesn’t confront it – or his grief – until Nala appears. Which leads us to stage two: anger.

2. Anger

When Nala confronts Simba about his absence, we get into everything Simba has been denying for a huge chunk of his existence. With no reminders of his past – and his “Hakuna Matata” mantra to fall back on (“there ain’t no worries for the rest of your days”) – Simba has pushed away any thoughts/feelings about his father. Now, Nala’s presence forces him to deal with the grief and anger he’s been holding inside: anger about losing his father, and more importantly, anger toward himself, and how he blames himself for this.

I found how The Lion King deals with anger to be really interesting, because a lot of Simba’s anger is internalized. It’s been held back, festering into self-loathing and resentment. We see signs of it earlier, when Nala first appears and Simba is denying his role as king. Here, it resurfaces as Nala urges him to come home.

“I can’t go back,” Simba insists, because going back means facing his grief, and his guilt and anger over his dad’s death. But it’s not until Nala brings up that this is his responsibility (thus, he can’t avoid it any longer) that he really gets mad and goes on the defensive:

Simba: “Well what about you, you left?”

Nala: “I left to find help! And I found you. Don’t you understand? You’re our only hope.”

Simba: “Sorry.”

Now, what’s really great about this one line is how much Simba’s expression/emotions fluxuate before he says it. He looks down (angry and resentful) he rolls his eyes (frustration), and then he firmly averts his gaze. Anger as a stage of grief is a lot about frustration. It brings up questions like: “Why did this happen to me?” “Who’s at fault?” “Why did this happen?” These are things Simba has been trying to avoid dealing with, and now Nala telling him that his home has gotten even worse makes him angry and forces him to deal with the consequences of his actions.

And when Nala tells him she’s disappointed, Simba scowls and tells him that “[she’s] starting to act like his father.” Now we get to the real reason Simba is mad at Nala. It’s not about her – it’s about Mufasa. Mufasa is dead; he isn’t here for Simba to be angry with. So instead, he takes his anger at his father out on Nala, who at  moment reminds him of Mufasa, and is actually here for him to yell at.

This is especially clear later, after Simba runs away. “You said you’d always be there for me,” he yells at the sky. “But you’re not.” Simba is angry that his father left him. And in that moment, his anger fades and we deal with stages 3 and 4: bargaining and depression.

3-4. Bargaining & Depression

Here, bargaining and depression go hand in hand. Once Simba’s shouting ends, he looks down and says, “It’s me. It’s my fault.” That’s his angst talking. He’s mourning his father. Sullenness and sadness are big parts of the depression stage, and Simba displays these in full here.

Rafaki kind of interrupts the depression stage with all of his cryptic yammering, and his insinuation that Mufasa is alive gets Simba moving again, and distracts him from stage 4. When he ends up by the water and looks down, you can see the tentative hope – and fear – that his father will be there. But all he sees is his own grief reflected back at him. He’s slipping back in that depression until Rafiki reminds him: “he lives in you.” And thus, Simba finally sees his father again.

I think this is actually one of the most beautiful moments in the movie. Earlier in the movie, Mufasa tells us that great kings look down on them from the stars. Now, we see Mufasa (a great king) looking down on his son.

lion king great kings

lion king remember who you are

Mufasa tells Simba to remember who he is: “You are my son, and the one true king.” He also reminds Simba that he is more than he has become. Now, if you take this from what Rafiki said, Mufasa is a part of Simba, so in this way, Simba carries a part of his father with him. Thus, he can talk to Mufasa, and here, Mufasa can talk back. It’s similar to how people can talk to their loved ones after they die, even if they’re not physically here to talk back. Believing in an afterlife means believing that life lives on after death, and that’s kind of what Rafiki is getting at. It’s not the same as them being here physically though, thus Simba’s panic when Mufasa leaves.

lion king please don't leave me

Simba isn’t ready. He doesn’t want to lose his father again. Here bargaining comes in – he’s pleading with his father to stay. But Mufasa doesn’t stay. And now, Simba needs to go off and do what needs to be done. That action leads into acceptance.

5. Acceptance

I think there are two big moments of acceptance in The Lion King. One is when Simba realizes the truth: that Scar killed his father.

lion king mufasa death

This allows Simba to let go of the anger and resentment he feels toward himself, and move on. A lot of what held Simba back from dealing well with his loss was the guilt he felt for his part in it. Until he let go of that, he couldn’t fully cope with. After he does – and after Scar isn’t terrorizing everyone – we get our second moment of acceptance at the end:

This is such a great scene. We get all this cool symbolism. There’s the rain extinguishing the fire and replenishing the land, which symbolizes rebirth. And there’s also Simba’s acceptance of his rightful place as king, and his father’s death. Acceptance is about embracing life, and the future, and moving on from the loss. Simba does exactly that when he climbs Pride Rock and gives that roar. “Remember,” we hear Mufasa say, but unlike before, he doesn’t appear. This goes with Rafiki’s statement that Mufasa lives in him. At the end, Simba accepts that his father will always be with him, both in spirit and in memory. We even get a glimpse of the future – and a refrain of “Circle of Life” – to show that life goes on. Thus, the cycle of grief is wrapped up nicely, and although Mufasa is gone, he will never be forgotten.

lion king rafiki hug

Do you think The Lion King tackled grief well? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. Have a great Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

 

What’s in a Title? Exploring Gender and Naming Trends of the Disney Princess Movies

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Something that’s always nagged at me is the swap to gender-neutral titles for the later Disney Princess movies. Before then, Disney has always taken pride in naming movies after protagonists, so what changed? Let’s take a trip through titling history and find out.

Thus far, there are twelve Disney Princess movies. They are (in order):

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
  2. Cinderella (1957)
  3. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  4. The Little Mermaid (1989)
  5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  6. Aladdin (1992)
  7. Pocahontas (1995)
  8. Mulan (1998)
  9. The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  10. Tangled (2010)
  11. Brave (2012)
  12. Frozen (2013)

Out of these, 7/12 either contain the princess’ name, or a title referring to her (ex: Sleeping Beauty, TLM). Two of these – Beauty and the Beast, and The Princess and Frog – involve a princess sharing a title with their love interest. There are a few reasons for this.

The majority of the Disney princess movies are named after the fairytale/legend they were inspired from. For example, Mulan comes from the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, while The Little Mermaid was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale The Little Mermaid. (Seeing the similarities here?) Since Disney takes a lot of inspiration from myths and fairytales, they also tend to use the titles (or similarly stylized titles) as well. Makes sense, right?

reaction yes

The movies are also often titled with a name/title related to the protagonist to show 1) who the story is about, and 2) that this is the heart of their journey. For example, to take an example from a non-Princess movie, Hercules is about Hercules trying to discover who he is, and find his place in life. Mulan is about Mulan, who doesn’t feel like she fits into the confines of her society and breaks free of them when she joins the army and finally uncovers her true self. That’s why for #6, Aladdin makes sense as a title despite Jasmine’s heavy involvement in the plot. While Aladdin and Jasmine both get a bulk of the movie’s POV, Aladdin is the one whose journey we follow most. His character arc (proving his worth and showing everyone that he’s more than their assumptions) drives most of the plot. Thus, he inches ahead of Jasmine just a bit, making him the protagonist (main character) and her the deuteragonist (the secondary protagonist/second most important character).

The titles are also common sense: in marketing, you want to have a title that stands out and makes sense for the story you’re presenting to an audience. By naming their movies after the tale that inspired their story, or naming them after the protagonist, Disney makes it easy for an audience to see who and what their story is going to be about. Example: look at the title of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: it’s pretty obvious that this movie is about Snow White and her seven dwarf friends. The Little Mermaid is about a mermaid. Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful girl and a beast… You get the picture.

The other three are our latest Disney Princess installments: Tangled, Brave, and Frozen. Notice the stark difference in titling between the early movies and 10-12. All three of these are one-word titles that detail actions or attributes rather than a name or specific tale. So what changed?

The simple answer: Disney wanted to appeal to boys.

The longer answer: The Princess and the Frog was the last movie with traditional Disney styling: it had 2D animation and the fairytale-based name. However, PatF was considered a failure by Disney, despite its success with critics, because it grossed less than many of the other movies that came out earlier in the Renaissance. Disney’s marketing believed that the word “princess” in the title was part of what caused the failure, because it labeled the movie as being for little girls specifically.

seriously? reaction

Now, let’s talk about this for a second. Why does the word “princess” = only girls want this? Unfortunately, that’s because of a little thing called gender roles, and the gender stereotypes that come with them.

According to Psychology Dictionary, gender roles arethe pattern of behavior, personality traits and attitudes defining masculinity or femininity in a certain culture.” A problem with gender roles is that they can often lead to gender stereotypes: pegging girls as one thing and boys as another when that isn’t always the case.

Some examples of this include: Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Girls are emotional, boys are stoic. Men are financial providers, women are caretakers of the home and kids. And, according to Disney, “princesses” are for girls.

Looking at it this way helps explain the title change: in trying to avoid losing out on a male audience, Disney does a 180 and decides to use more gender-neutral titles. It’s interesting to point out that before this, Disney hasn’t really focused specifically on appealing to a male audience with their princess movies. While they never used “princess” in their titles before now, that made sense considering they named their movies after the stories themselves. Most of their Disney Princess merchandise and advertising also relates directly to the Princesses themselves. (Our only exception would be Aladdin, because, as I said before, Aladdin is our main protagonist, so most of the promo would naturally focus more on him.) PatF happened to get unlucky, maybe because of “bad marketing” as Disney said, or maybe because Avatar opened just after it and swept the floor with every other movie out there. Whatever the reason, it led Disney to try something new, and this where the new titling began.

I’m going to go through each of the three movies in order and talk about titles, marketing, and why it’s important to note Disney’s approach to each of the movies. All three of these could have had more traditional movie names, but Disney (and Pixar, in the case of Brave) decided to avoid that. So let’s start with Brave.

pixar_brave_2012-wide

As some of you may know, there was a point in time when Brave was going to be called The Bow and the Bear instead.

bear-and-the-bow-preview

However, while some believe this was the initial title, Brave’s producer, Katherine Sarafian, admits that Brave was always the initial title, although they did consider The Bow and the Bear for a while:

Right, first off the title from the very beginning was BRAVE, so BEAR AND THE BOW was actually a later detour and then we came back to BRAVE. (x)

So why Brave? Mic pointed out to me that before Brave, Pixar hadn’t done a female-led movie, so I think that’s part of the name divergence from traditional princess titles. But in a way, Brave’s title tries back to tradition. Unlike Tangled and Frozen, which are more abstract, Brave is a trait, and one that’s at the heart of Merida’s journey. Much like Mulan, Merida’s journey is all about being brave enough to step out of the confines of the role she’s been placed in and change her fate. Early teasers for the movie illustrate this well with her father’s monologue, in which he talks about bravery:

Now, the advertising for Brave is really interesting, because this is where you can see the start of Operation Appeal to Boys. There’s lots of action: darkened forests with dramatic music, Merida on her horse riding quickly through the woods, the scene at the end with the bear and Merida aiming an arrow at it…

brave merida notching arrow

Merida’s face is also concealed for a large chunk of the teaser, which I found interesting. Did the advertisers want to focus less on her gender in fear it would turn away boys?

brave i cant even brave reaction

The later trailers showcase Merida better, but don’t focus much on Merida and her mother’s bond (although it does show them bickering quite a bit):

While this could be in order to avoid showing the twist (which was also part of the reason The Bow and the Bear was nixed as a title option), one might wonder if the mother/daughter bond, a highly important part of the plot, is ignored for fear it wouldn’t appeal to boys. While Brave had some great promos, ignoring Eleanor and Merida’s relationship loses out on a potential alternative way to draw in more viewers. Instead, the relationship comes as a pleasant surprise to those who weren’t expecting it, but is also frustrating at the same time because it gets no promotion.

brave bear mombrave that's my mother

brave merida and mom

There is some good in Brave’s promotion though. I like that the promo doesn’t classify bravery as a gendered trait (the use of “we” throughout the trailer). Brave is about a girl being brave, and the trailers showcase that. To this regard, Pixar does a better job at following Disney Princess tradition than Disney does in their next two Princess movies.

Next up: Tangled, where things get really sticky.

tangled-poster-0

Tangled went through quite a few title changes, as well as a ton of creative changes. (The concept was a lot different, and more of a spiritual successor to Enchanted, with two teenagers traveling to a fairytale world as a sort of reverse to Giselle winding up in the real world. Very, very different from the actual movie we got. Sounds cool though.)

Originally, Tangled was supposed to be called Rapunzel Unbraided, which 1) is a really awesome title, and 2) actually tells a lot more about Rapunzel’s journey. Much like Quasimodo, Rapunzel’s story is all about stepping out of her comfort zone, leaving behind the known safety of her tower and venturing out into the unknown to discover the world and see the lights. For this reason, Rapunzel Unbraided would’ve been so much more of a fitting title than Tangled.

rapunzel unbraided

(Note how different the writing is from how Tangled is written. It’s more glittery and “princess-y” – those elements are removed from the final logo to make it appear more “gender-neutral.”)

The styling was also incredibly different. While there was CGI involved, it was more 2D-based, and meant to look like traditional oil paintings in motion. This can be seen in the animation of Rapunzel’s hair for the title sequence, and in early test footage:

rapunzel unbraided hair flowing 1 rapunzel unbraided hair flowing 2

My reaction upon seeing this was:

this is the best reaction

totally awesome starkid reaction

Promptly followed by disappointment that Disney didn’t go in this direction.

stewart reaction why not just pull out my heart

Because Disney did not go in this cool innovative direction. Instead, we got the CGI style that they then uncreatively reused for Frozen.

come on reaction gif

not impressed reaction

:,( As someone who loves animation, this wounds me. Let me grieve what could’ve been.

waiting reaction

ugly sobbing reaction

Next up was the title change to Rapunzel.

rapunzel title

Not too drastic of a change title-wise; it relates back to the actual fairytale it was inspired by, it’s simple and to the point…so why did they change it? WHY MESS WITH PERFECTION?

It all leads back to Disney’s attempt to appeal to boys. In Disney’s mind, by changing the title to Tangled, it presents a more gender-neutral title. However, it actually ends up relating more to Flynn than it does Rapunzel, since he gets “tangled up” in Rapunzel’s plot. (One of the promos actually has a line that says “it takes two to get tangled,” which proves this point.) The promotion for the movie is also heavily focused on Flynn, making him out as the protagonist and Rapunzel as the Jasmine to his Aladdin, which is definitely not the case in the movie. The promo though, would like you to believe otherwise:

The focus on Flynn and his thieving antics/adventuring are yet another tactic to appeal to boys, and one that, like Brave, leaves out essential plot points like the fact that Rapunzel drives the majority of the movie with her journey. It also leaves out Rapunzel and Mother Gothel’s bond, which is hugely importantly to the plot. Again, we have a relationship between two women not shown to “appeal to boys” and it’s very unsettling. It devalues both women’s bonds and our lead woman herself, who doesn’t show up until halfway through the promo.

u serious right now? reaction

It also paints Rapunzel’s character as more of a tough girl/badass, and lacks the nuiance of who she really is as a character. It’s quite frustrating, but since we still have one last movie to cover, I’ll move on. (And express my frustration via gif.)

quinn's disdain reaction gif

Okay, onto Frozen!

disney frozen pic

Frozen was originally supposed to be The Snow Queen, since it was based off the fairytale of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson. The direction was a bit different initially, where Elsa was the antagonist rather than Hans. (As seen in early character sketches.

Disney's__The_Snow_Queen_

Thus, the title suggests an Elsa-heavy movie, considering well, she’s the Snow Queen.

seems legit reaction

Obviously over time, the direction changed, and Elsa became more sympathetic in nature. The title also changed to Frozen, which is kind of boring, but also like Brave makes sense in a way, considering how central Elsa and her powers are to the plot. Despite Anna being our protagonist, Elsa’s character arc has more depth and more of an impact on the plot, so the title being more related to her makes a lot of sense. What doesn’t make sense is the promotion.

The teaser for Frozen contains neither of the female leads and instead focuses on Olaf and Sven.

frozen wait what

That’s right! It focuses on a snowman and a reindeer, both of whom are minor characters. This is so insultingly “let’s avoid mentioning the women” that it makes me angry.

the lord is testing me reaction

It gets worse. The official promo is so insulting in so many ways that it makes me angry.

First, while the trailer focuses on Anna, Kristoff, Hans and Olaf, there’s a certain important character who is extremely neglected: Elsa. Like I said earlier, Elsa is our second protagonist, and drives quite a bit of the plot. But you wouldn’t know that, based on the five seconds we see her. She’s barely even in the trailer, even though she plays a huge part in the movie. It’s ridiculous.

rude copy reaction

Anna and Elsa’s relationship is also noticeably absent. For a movie that prides itself on being built on a sisterly bond, we really don’t see any of that promoted in the trailer. The only indication we get that Elsa and Anna are even related is when Anna says “that’s no a blizzard, that’s my sister!”

tmz 7 reaction

Just like Merida and her mother, and Rapunzel and Mother Gothel, Elsa and Anna’s relationship gets absolutely no focus whatsoever. Again, this gives me uncomfortable vibes that it was excluded in order to appeal more to boys.

Speaking of boys…we get a lot of focus on Kristoff, Hans and Olaf, especially in what I like to call “the most offensive trailer montage ever.”

frozen who 1

frozen who 2

frozen who 3

frozen who 4

frozen who 5

rejection reaction

This is such a messy promotional moment. First of all, these three guys are focused on before we even focus on Anna, which is insulting considering she is our protagonist – not Kristoff, not Hans, not Olaf, but ANNA.

Second, calling Anna “no man” is incredibly offensive. By having a category of guys/men and then saying “no man” Anna is being Othered based on her gender, which is really gross.

This whole promo is just not great. It’s misleading, focuses more on the guys in the movie than it does the two main characters, and worse, it has weird sexist undercurrents. By trying to appeal to boys, the advertising shuns girls and worse, Others them. We as a society already have a huge problem with women not being valued and viewed as unimportant, and the dismissive early promotion for Frozen does exactly that. What makes this sadder is that The Snow Queen (the original fairytale) has a lot of crucial female characters. Seeing only two women in the cast – and worse, undermining them and their roles – is spitting on the original tale in an awful way.

star vs. evil sad face

Conclusion

A title says a lot about a story. For Disney, their drastic 180 in titling shows their attempt to hook a male audience by hiding crucial female relationships as well as their female characters. Disney’s titles used to have merit and tell a lot about the story. Now, they feel flat and lack depth. Disney’s next princess movie is Moana. Since the title is reminiscent of older (/more awesome) titles like Pocahontas and Mulan, this could be a sign that they will 180 back and show more respect to their female audience. However, Disney has a lot to prove, and considering how poor their previous promotions have been, I won’t get my hopes up just yet. We’ll have to wait and see what the future brings, and hope it’s a lot less rage-inducing.

What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments!

Animated Meta can be followed on Twitter and Tumblr. Have a great weekend!

Cheers,

M&M

 

Works Cited

Pam. (n.d.). What is Gender Role? Retrieved May 29, 2015, from Psychology Dictionary: http://psychologydictionary.org/gender-role/

Sarafian, K. (2012, April 13). Exclusive: Katherine Sarafian, Producer of Pixar’s ‘Brave,’ Talks Director Controversy, Pixar’s Reaction to the Chilly ‘Cars 2′ Reception And More. Retrieved May 29, 2015, from SlashFilm: http://www.slashfilm.com/film-interview-katherine-sarafian-producer-pixars-brave-talks-controversy-marketing-cars-2-reactions/

 

 

 

Let It Go: Empowering or Villainous?

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Let It Go is one of the more interesting Frozen songs, because while it was originally conceived as a villain song, it ended up with an empowering edge and became a power anthem to a lot of its audience. So which is it: villain song or empowerment anthem? I say both. Why? Let’s dig into the lyrics and find out.

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,

Not a footprint to be seen

A kingdom of isolation

And it looks like I’m the queen

As Mic once said, one of Frozen’s themes is about isolation, but I’m going to go deeper and say that it’s more than that: it’s isolation and fear vs. community and love. In my Children’s Lit class, my professor went into literary themes and talked about how adolescent boy leads often deal with isolation and standing alone as themes, while adolescent girl leads often deal with community, and their bonds with friends/family. For example, Hatchet has a male main character stranded in the wilderness who needs to learn how to survive on his own (isolation/standing alone). Meanwhile, Walk Two Moons has a female main character who goes on a road trip with her grandparents in search of her mother (community/family-oriented). Looking at it that way actually makes Frozen intriguing, because they deal with both isolation and community. Anna is the one seeking community; she wants a closer relationship with Elsa. Elsa goes against the literary norm and is the one seeking isolation. At the start of this song, she finds her “kingdom of isolation” far from the rest of Arendelle.

The imagery at the start of “Let It Go” really plays into the feeling of isolation: we pan in on a lonely cliff, with no one for miles around it, and Elsa trudging through the snow by her lonesome. The melody is soft, almost mournful. Being isolated is not a fun thing, guys.

The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside

Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried

frozen elsa fretting

Here we get to delve into Elsa’s true issue: her powers, and how she’s been holding them back for so long. At this point in the movie, we’ve seen Elsa struggling to keep her powers in check in different way: wearing her gloves to center herself, staying away from Anna so she doesn’t hurt her again, staying up in the palace so she can avoid any triggers. That hasn’t really worked out, but here, Elsa has found somewhere that her powers can roam free, and the outside terrain reflects how she feels inside.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see

Be the good girl you always have to be

Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know

frozen elsa is a deer in headlights

Well now they know

Society is really weird about emotions, so I feel like this is a verse that a lot of people can relate to. Women are often criticized for being overemotional or too clinical and “icy” while guys are told to be stoic and hold their emotions in. Elsa has done both of these things: her icy reputation comes from her holding her emotions in deep in order to keep her powers in check. “Be the good girl you always have to be” is really interesting, because it speaks to the high standards Elsa is held to: she needs to be good, to maintain her reputation as a queen, and because women are held to high standards in society, especially women in places of power.

However, everything she’s been holding back is already known, so all of her concealing is kind of moot at this point. Thus, we get to the chorus (aka that part that gets stuck in everyone’s heads):

Let it go, let it go; can’t hold it back anymore

frozen let it go

frozen let it go 2

Let it go, let it go; turn away and slam the door

I don’t care what they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on;

The cold never bothered me anyway

Let’s talk about what “let it go” means, because that can be a good thing, and a bad thing. On the positive end, “let it go” can mean letting go of negative influences in your life, like people who don’t have your best interests at heart, or things that don’t make you happy. It means you can “turn away and slam the door” on the people who talk crap about you and move on from them. Example: if Gaston had let go of his vendetta against the Beast, he might have survived the battle at the end of Beauty and the Beast. Instead, he literally lost his grip.

beauty gaston falls

On the more negative end: Let it go” can tie back to isolation, though. Someone can let go of positive elements in their life as well, like family. Here, Elsa is letting go of the people in her life by isolating herself up on the mountaintop, and leaving her sister behind. Isolation is a solution for Elsa in the moment, but it’s a Band-Aid fix; it’s only temporarily going to work out. (We see that later on, when Anna comes looking for Elsa.)

The last two lines are interesting, because while the chorus initially feels like a power anthem, it takes a darker town at the end.

“Let the storm rage on” means that Elsa doesn’t care about stopping the chaos she’s caused; she’ll let it keep going for as long as she wants. And “the cold never bothered me anyway”…

There’s a very selfish feeling to the phrase, because Elsa is putting herself above other people’s needs. It’s good that she’s expressing herself, and not letting people hold her back from that, but it’s bad that she doesn’t care about the welfare of all of the people freezing in Arendelle. It’s also weirdly out of place, because Anna’s appearance later on implies that Elsa had no idea this was even happening. Still, her lines suggest that even if it did, she wouldn’t care, which is pretty callous.

It’s lines like these that call into question the morality involved in “Let It Go,” because while it did become a power anthem, elements of when it was a villain song remain. It has the dramatic flair of one, and certain lines and phrases (like “let the storm rage on”) set up Elsa as an antagonistic figure. This is why I classify it as both: it has villainous origins, but is empowering anyway.

(Side note: Mic suggested that “the cold never bothered me anyway” could relate to Elsa’s perception of her powers, and how they never bothered her until she was taught to fear them, which I thought was an interesting take. Who’s right here, guys? Are we both right?)

Moving on:

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small

And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all

Away from Arendelle, Elsa has some perspective. Here, where she can express herself freely, her fears aren’t there to bother her, and she can truly dig into her powers without worrying that she’ll harm someone.

It’s time to see what I can do,

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

“I’m free” = being free from society’s expectations, as well as her fears and worries. There’s more gray mortality on display (“no right, no wrong, no rules for me”), but there’s also a giddy sense of adventure as she crafts ice bridges and climbs them, lets snowflakes swirl form her fingertips, forms snowmen.

Elsa hasn’t really been a child, not in the sense that most kids were. The second she hurt her sister and the trolls/her parents made her nervous about her powers, her innocence faded and she’s been locked in a constant struggle to keep everything together.

frozen elsa's innocence ends

Out here, none of that matters, and she can embrace her childish side again with no consequences. I mean, look at the glee on her face!

frozen lil elsa

frozen wheeeee

I am one with the wind and sky

I love this line, because it brings me back to Pocahontas and Colors of the Wind. It gives the song a more spiritual side, letting Elsa be in touch with the world around her and the power inside of her. Elsa has never felt secure in who she is, but for a brief moment, she feels at peace. She is one with her power.

You’ll never see me cry

Great line, because it shows that Elsa has made progress, but she’s still bottling herself up in a way, and that’s something it takes the rest of the movie for her to deal with.

Here I stand, and here I’ll stay

Let the storm rage on

And more isolation! This song is a goldmine for isolation and angst. Even with the empowering melody, there are a lot of lines that are really painful and harsh, like this one. Elsa is at peace with herself and her power, yes, but she’s also alone. She’s still holding herself back from the world and her sister.

My power flurries through the air into the ground

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

First, there are a lot of ice puns (“flurries”, “frozen fractals”, “icy blast”). Second: this is the first time we see Elsa use her power to construct something without fear or anguish. She’s crafting a structure with her power, pushing ice up and out of the earth, letting it spiral into a fortress. She’s creating herself a new home.

I’m never going back; the past is in the past

When Mic did her villain songs meta, she made this really interesting point about how a lot of Disney villains have a point of no return, where they feel they cannot go back, and solidify themselves as an antagonistic force. Here, “I’m never going back” serves to do exactly that. If this were still a villain song, this would be the moment that Elsa sets herself against her sister and cannot be saved. However, because this is a movie built on sisterly love, it doesn’t quite work out that way.

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn

frozen  copy

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand, in the light of day

This is such a weird stanza for me, because parts of this feel very heroic. There’s a lot of imagery with light, with rising and being triumphant. But it can be read in a darker way. “That perfect girl is gone” sounds like Elsa shedding her label and making something new of herself, which could be a bad thing or a good thing, really. This song is so confused about what it wants to be.

frozen strugglebus reaction

The ending (“let the storm rage on / the cold never bothered me anyway”) doesn’t help clear things up much better either.

frozen cold never bothered me anyway

In the end, I think “Let it Go” has strong lyrics, a very catchy melody, and a lot of conflicting elements buried within it. While it might’ve been nice to see the creators ease out some of the villainous edges to make this more of a triumphant hero taking a stand, it’s also nice to see a character steeped in a darker morality, with the potential to be good or evil. Elsa can either give into fear or embrace love, and in the end, she does the latter and allows her power to truly flourish.

frozen hug

What do you guys think of Let It Go? Would you have liked to see Elsa as more of an antagonistic force? Let us know in the comments.

Animated Meta can be followed on both our Twitter and our Tumblr. Have a nice Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

Princesses Need Friends Too: The Problematic Lack of Positive Female Interactions (and Friends) in Disney Princess Movies

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Disney only has two sets of female friendship in the Disney princess movies. I repeat: only two sets of female friends. That’s really, really bad. Come to think of it, Disney Princess movies in general are lacking in positive female interactions. Either we get a lack of women present, or their relationships are antagonistic in nature. There are a few proud exceptions, but not many.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick trip through the halls of Disney Princess history and explore the nature of female relationships.

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

The only two women in this movie are Snow White and her stepmother, the Evil Queen. And Snow White’s stepmother spends the majority of the movie trying to kill her because of her beauty, which doesn’t make for a healthy relationship. It’s interesting that the only two women we have in this film have an antagonistic relationship relating to beauty and power; it says a lot about women in society, who are often set up as competitors rather than coworkers. It’s a no for Snow.

mary margaret says no

Cinderella

Good news: Cinderella has a stepmother and stepsisters, which is a step up from Snow White. Bad news: her stepmother is the worst, and her stepsisters aren’t much better.

cinderella and stepmother

Instead of being treated like family, Cinderella is made into a servant by her stepfamily and constantly put down/ridiculed by them. There’s another antagonistic set-up here, with Cinderella’s stepsisters seeking marriage to the prince, and Cinderella inadvertedly coming into competition with them when she meets Prince Charming and falls for him.

There are also a few female mice, but Cinderella doesn’t seem particularly close to them. 😦 So no.

Sleeping Beauty

Our first sign of positive interaction: Sleeping Beauty gives us Briar Rose (aka Aurora) and the three fairies that raise her in seclusion to protect her from Maleficent. While the fairies tend to be a little oblivious, they mean well, and they take good care of Briar Rose. From the few interactions we see of theirs, it’s evident they care a lot about her, and want her to be happy. The surprise party for her birthday is a great example. Despite their no magic rule, they’re willing to go around it to make her present and her cake the absolute best. Nothing but the best for their Briar Rose!

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They also play a key role in getting Prince Phillip free and giving him the tools he needs to defeat Maleficent, so that they can save Aurora. And then there’s that sweet scene when they tuck Aurora in under the sleeping curse, much like a parent tucking their child in.

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While Aurora doesn’t have female friends, since she’s secluded in the woods, the fairies are maternal figures to her, so I’m going to fill this one under “sort of.” It could be better, but it’s progress.

The Little Mermaid

Ariel falls into the start of the “daughters with missing mothers and great relationships with their fathers” trend. Guys, I think Ariel’s relationship with Triton is awesome. And I think it’s important that Disney conveys so many great father-daughter relationships in their films. However, the lack of mother figures is really depressing, and I think it’s sad that like in most of the Disney princess movies, Ariel has a mother who isn’t around. It’s also sad that Ariel is one of seven sisters, and barely even interacts with her sisters throughout the movie. A woman she does interact with a lot is Ursula, the female antagonist, who spends the movie plotting against Ariel, steals her voice, and attempts to sabotage her relationship with Eric. No for Ariel.

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Beauty and the Beast

B&TB doesn’t have a lot of women. The three most prominent ladies in Belle’s village are a set of blonde triplets who aren’t displayed in the best light. They fawn over Gaston and basically exist to be his fangirls.

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In the castle, we have Belle’s wardrobe, who is nice, and we have Mrs. Potts, who is awesome, but she doesn’t interact with either of them a lot. So no.

Aladdin

Jasmine is our only prominent female character, which is really sad, because I would’ve loved if Jasmine had a friend. Poor girl is lonely in that castle with only her tiger to keep her company. Nope.

aladdin done w your shit

Pocahontas

YES. Pocahontas is one of our few Disney princesses with a female best friend, who happens to be awesome. Nakoma and Pocahontas’ friendship is fantastic. They squabble like sisters, gossip about everything (including cute boys), and just hang out like most girls do.

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Out of the two, Nakoma is the more level-headed and reasonable one, who tries to keep Pocahontas from doing anything too insane. But she’s also loyal, and tries to trust her friend’s judgment, even when she’s a bit unsure of Pocahontas sneaking around with John Smith.

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And while Pocahontas’ mother isn’t around, she does have a grandmother figure around in Grandmother Willow. She’s the one that Pocahontas goes to when she’s in need of guidance, a good listening ear, or just for comfort in times of strife. While Grandmother Willow never tells her what she should doing, she instead teaches Pocahontas to trust her intuition and follow her heart, allowing her to become a stronger leader and have more faith in herself and her decisions.

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Mulan

Mulan has won the parental lottery, guys, because she not only has a father and a mother, but she also has a grandmother! Sadly, like a lot of the princesses, Mulan’s bond with her father gets more focus than her bonds with her mother and grandmother. Mulan also doesn’t have any female friends, although in her case, it’s slightly more forgivable considering she’s posing as a man in the army and ends up surrounded by dudes. So no, but one that’s slightly more forgivable than other films due to the circumstances involved.

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The Princess and the Frog

Heck yes. This movie is the jackpot of female relationships in my opinion. There is this really awesome close-knit relationship between Tiana and her mother. There’s a years-long friendship between Charlotte and Tiana. There’s even a powerful woman named Mama Odie who assists our heroine on her adventure. But since Mama Odie is more supernatural assistance than friend, I’m going to focus on Tiana and her mom, and Charlotte and Tiana.

Tiana and her mom are awesome and close. We don’t get to see a lot of their interactions, but we get a nice glimpse of them when we see little Tiana, and we get a great scene where Tiana shows her mom the restaurant she wants to lease, which leads into “Almost There.” Unfortunately, after that, we don’t get much interaction from them, since Tiana is a frog for a majority of the movie.

Tiana/Charlotte we do get a lot of. We get a glimpse of little Tiana and little Lottie at the beginning of the movie, showing how long they’ve been friends, and they’re still close when we see them again.

princess and the frog ickle besties

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Despite differing social class and race, Tiana and Lottie have a really strong friendship. Lottie knows Tiana well enough to know she can’t give her bestie any handouts, so she does things like hiring Tiana’s catering services so she can pay her and give her the remaining funds she needs to achieve her dream. She also lends Tiana a new outfit when hers gets ruined at the party, which is total best friend behavior.

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Lottie also cares a lot about Tiana and her happiness. Like Tiana has her restaurant dream, Lottie’s dream is to be a princess. (Which I’m pretty sure a lot of us dreamed of, once upon a time.) When Naveen and Tiana fall in love while they’re stuck as frogs, Lottie offers to kiss him and forgo her dream of marrying into royalty, because she can see how much the two of them care for each other and there’s no way she’s getting in the way of that.

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These two are fantastic. The whole movie could’ve just been about them being awesome and I would’ve been content.

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Tangled

Tangled has Rapunzel, Mother Gothel, and Rapunzel’s mother. Rapunzel doesn’t get a ton of time with her mother, but we see her with baby Rapunzel at the start, we see her and her husband’s grief after losing their daughter, and we see her at the end when she reunites with Rapunzel. It’s sad we don’t get a ton to go on, but the end of the movie establishes what should be the start of a prosperous mother-daughter relationship, so at least that’s something.

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Mother Gothel and Rapunzel have a painfully abusive relationship. Mother Gothel berates and terrifies Rapunzel into submission to break her spirit and keep her in the tower. She wants Rapunzel to be dependent on her, so that she can harass the power of her hair and stay alive. Not exactly a healthy relationship.

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She may have a budding relationship forming with her mother, but sadly, Rapunzel doesn’t really have any female friends. Boo.

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Brave

I haven’t seen all of Brave, but I do know one thing: Merida, like Tiana, has a close relationship with her mother, and their bond is a big part of the movie’s plot.

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Merida’s mother and Merida don’t always see eye to eye: they have different goals and outlooks, and Merida doesn’t always live up to her mother’s expectations, thus, they butt heads a lot. But Merida cares deeply for her mother, and vice versa. Merida’s accidental wish – and her attempt to undo it – bring mother and daughter closer together as the movie goes on.

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I think this is probably the biggest mother-daughter focus we get out of any of the Disney Princess movies, which is pretty awesome because the bulk of Disney Princess relationships tend to be between fathers/daughters, or a princess and their significant other.

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While we do get a mother-daughter relationship, Merida doesn’t have any female friends though, which is sad. Maybe we can get one in a sequel? 😉

Frozen

And finally, we have Frozen. Frozen is kind of a weird one, because the only two prominent women in the movie are the leads, Anna and Elsa. Anna and Elsa sisters, who used to share a close bond that Anna is hoping to rekindle, despite Elsa’s avoidance of her. However, Frozen doesn’t do a great job of displaying their relationship.

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Elsa and Anna are separated for a majority of the movie, and while they connect a little at the palace after Elsa’s coronation, they’re quickly separated afterwards, and only interact for a short time before Elsa’s powers freeze Anna’s heart and Anna and Kristoff are forced to flee. Next interaction: Anna steps in just in time to stop Hans from cutting down Elsa. Her act of true love both saves Elsa and defrosts her own heart, which is a nice twist.

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I think Frozen is a draw for me. Elsa and Anna are close, and I enjoy the bond between them. It would’ve been nice though to see their bond better fleshed out, and see more women in the movie in general.

 

Conclusion (Aka, Why Is This So Important, Mel?)

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Much like the Bechdel test, checklisting whether a movie contain female friendships or not doesn’t mean that it is a failure. However, it’s telling that there are only two prominent female friendships, and three strong mother-daughter bonds, within 12 Disney princess movies. Why are father-daughter bonds and romantic bonds prioritized over female friendships and mother/daughter bonds? Why are so many of the female interactions in Disney films negative and antagonistic in nature? In a society where women are torn down, pitted against each other, and strive to be “one of the boys”, positive female interactions in Disney movies, especially Disney princess movies, might promote stronger female relationships in everyday life for young girls and women. (It would also be good for boys as well, and it’d be nice to see more parents take an initiative to be more gender-neutral, but that’s another post in itself.)

Do you think Disney movies need more positive female interactions? What are your favorite Disney bonds? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. Have a happy Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

ATLA and How Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Represent Aang, Katara and Sokka

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Ethos, pathos and logos are three different types of appeals used to persuade an audience during a speech or argument. They also represent the three leads of Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang, Katara, and Sokka. But how does each character’s representation of the modes of persuasion affect them, and how does this affect their group dynamic? Let’s find out.

WARNING: Spoilers for the entire series are spread throughout this post. 

Aang = Ethos

Ethos is an appeal to character and/or ethics. It’s about likability and morality, things Aang has in spades. First of all, Aang is adorable and lovable. I mean just look at that face:

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Secondly, as a pacifist, Aang has a very strong code of ethics, and uses it in everyday life. His morality plays a big role in the Gaang’s adventures, since his quest to stop the war and defeat the Fire Lord is the driving force behind the show. Because of who he is as a character, his ethics often come in direct conflict with the world around him. One great example is when he saves Zuko at the end of season 1, during Siege of the North: Part 2, because he knows it isn’t right to leave him out in the cold, even though he and Zuko are enemies, and Sokka doesn’t quite support his decision:

Aang: “Wait, we can’t just leave him here.”

Sokka: “Sure we can. Let’s go.”

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Aang: “No. If we leave him here, he’ll die.”

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Unfortunately, that same strong code of ethics causes him problems, because it makes him rigid and unwilling to compromise his beliefs. This often conflicts with other members of the Gaang, whose character and code of ethics  differs from his own. In war, tough decisions need to be mad, and Aang has trouble with those, especially the possibility of killing the fire lord (which is tackled in The Phoenix King):

Aang: “Fire Lord Ozai is a horrible person, and the world would probably be better off without him, but there’s got to be another way.”

and later:

Aang: “This goes against everything I learned from the monks. I can’t just go around wiping out people I don’t like.”

Aang feels uncomfortable compromising his pacifist nature and killing the fire lord, even if he is a menace that might need to be killed.

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While he ends up being able to take down the Fire Lord without killing him in the end, it took a lot of soul-searching and research in order to find a way. By the end of the series, Aang learns a lot about morality, and that even though he’s been able to work with his ethics beforehand, it’s not always going to work out that way. But he’ll certainly try.

Katara = Pathos

atla katara will never turn her back on people who need her

Pathos is an emotional appeal to an audience. How does this apply to Katara?

Well, Katara is a very emotionally-driven character. She loves and cares deeply about other people, especially the ones she loves. The Hundred Year War had a huge impact on Katara’s life: the Fire Nation disseminated her culture, killed her mother, and inadvertently took away her father as well, since he fought in the war after losing their mother. Where this might have shattered some, it strengthens Katara and her resolve to help others that the war has affected. The Greek word pathos actually has a dual meaning: “experience” and “suffering,” which applies to Katara well. She’s suffered a lot because of the war, so she better than anyone knows how to rouse sympathy and impact an audience.

Where Aang uses character in his arguments, Katara uses emotion. She’s the one who gives hopeful speeches and empowers those who have been oppressed to stand up for themselves and fight back against the people who have held them down. A great example of this is her speech during Imprisoned (starts at 11:57, ends around 12:48):

Just look at all the emphasis on emotional appeal in this speech!:  “It is your courage they should truly fear! Because it runs deeper than any mine you’ve been forced to dig, any ocean that keeps you far from home! It is the strength of your hearts that make you who you are. Hearts that will remain unbroken when all rock and stone has eroded away.”

Katara appeals to the eartbenders with emotion in two ways: 1) by reminding them of their courage, and their inner strength, and 2) reminding them of what they should fight for: home, family, and their freedom.

While her speech initially doesn’t go over as well as she expects, it ends up having an effect later on, and allows the earthbenders to take back the power from their capturers and break free.

Of course, being driven by emotion isn’t always a good thing. For Katara, it means that when someone hurts her or betrays her, she can be unforgiving and unrelenting against them. She doesn’t forgive easily, and people who have left her – like her father – or hurt her – like Jet, and later Zuko, does – she finds it hard to forgive them and see past what they have done to her.

Example 1: Katara doesn’t believe in Zuko’s redemption arc, because he betrayed them in the past. For Katara, trust is a big thing, and she finds it hard to look past her emotions and realize that Zuko is making an effort to change.

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Example #2: Katara bottles up her feelings about her father leaving her and Sokka during the war, which leads to an explosive confrontation later on:

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It takes her time to move past the hurt she feels, and sometimes she lets it boil and simmer rather than facing her feelings and dealing with them. One of the most important parts of her character arc is learning to forgive, and learning not to hold onto anger and resentment. With her father, talking it out helps. With Zuko, it takes an adventure that teaches her they’re not so different after all, and that he really has changed into someone she – and the rest of the Gaang – can trust.

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Sokka = Logos

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Logos is a logical appeal. It means using facts, analogies and evidence to prove a claim to an audience. How does this apply to Sokka?

Sokka is a logic-driven character. He reasons through things. He’s the one who’s always telling Katara and Aang to think things through when they’re about to do something reckless. As he puts it, he is “the plan guy” of the group. While he’s a warrior, he is also brilliant and the group’s schemer. Whether intricate or on the spot, his ideas and instincts often help the Gaang accomplish things they wouldn’t otherwise. This is the guy who realizes that the best way to break the two groups trying to take them down in The Waterbending Scroll is to turn them against each other by offering Aang as incentive, then escaping in the ensuing fight over him. That’s a pretty clever on the spot plan to make.

One of Sokka’s best example of logos is when he reasons out a plan to protect the Northern Air Temple from Fire Nation troops. He commissions weapons to use in the attack, and since it’s an Air Temple, why not use gliders/balloons to dispense them. He also craftily solves how to control the hot air balloons:

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The answer? A literal lid. “A lid is actually the answer. If you control the hot air, you control the war balloon,” he reasons. Very savvy. He also has a great impulsive idea during the attack.

Earlier in the episode, he and another character – the Mechanist – discover an egg-like odor by the temple and realize it’s natural gas. That comes into play later, when they end up throwing their engine into the source of the gas to defend against attackers, as seen here:

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The main problem with Sokka being logic-driven is that sometimes, it backfires, because he often relies more on his own knowledge and instincts, rather than those of others. Example from Warriors of Kyoshi: Sokka doesn’t believe that the Kyoshi Warrior are efficient warriors, because he doesn’t believe women can fight as well as men can. He ends up underestimating them and being horribly wrong because of it.

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(As you can see, it ends badly.)

But when Sokka’s pride is wounded, he’s willing to admit his mistakes, and more importantly, learn from them to avoid them in the future, as evidenced by his apology to Suki:

Sokka: “I would be honored if you would teach me.”

Suki: “Even if I’m a girl?”

Sokka: “I’m sorry if I insulted you earlier. I was … wrong.”

He’s smart enough to admit he messed up and that he wants to learn from her. Intelligence is good, but respecting other people’s intelligence and input is important as well, and Sokka learns that there’s always more he can be learning as the show goes on.

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Do you think Aang, Katara and Sokka fit the ideals of ethos, pathos and logos? What another animated characters do you think display these traits? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. Screencaps came from AvatarSpirit.net. Have a wonderful Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M