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Fear and Love at First Sight: An Examination of Disney Princesses and Their Princes

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Ariel and Eric are probably my Disney OTP (besides Esmeralda/Phoebus and Jane/Tarzan and Jasmine/Aladdin and Pocahontas/John Smith *cough*). I, and I’m sure many of you, have wanted to meet our Prince Charming with a perfect Love at First Sight moment we frequently associate with Disney. But I took a closer look at all the Princess/Prince meetings and um… well… I noticed a lot of trends that don’t really sit well with me. Let’s explore!

Pre-Renaissance Films
The Pre-Renaissance princess movies are Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. All three meetings are a very typical ‘love at first sight’  storybook scene. However, in the case of Snow White and Aurora, their prince appears out of nowhere, drawn by their voice and startling them. Snow White actually runs into her castle because she’s so scared, while Aurora pulls away. The meeting in Cinderella is less creepy since it happens at a party, where one would expect to meet new people.

Though Cinderella isn’t singing like the other two princesses are when they meet their princes, music is still an important element in their meeting. Cinderella is the first film where dancing is introduced as both an important storytelling and romantic element.

cinderella and her princey dancing

There is also a song, and though it is sung with the impression it is Cinderella and her prince, they’re not actually singing in the scene. Instead, their meeting has a narrator of sorts, the Duke. In contrast, Snow White and Aurora are both singing alone and then have a duet with the prince (Snow White’s doesn’t last very long though, since she runs off when the prince startles her).

Snow White and Sleeping Beauty have many elements of their meetings in common. Firstly, both princes are on horseback. Animals are involved in both, with Aurora dancing with her owl friend and her other critters watching. In Snow White, Snow is singing to the doves. While Cinderella has mice friends and they did take her to the ball, they’re not present in this scene.

The settings for all three meetings are also similar. Snow White and Cinderella both happen in a castle and while Sleeping Beauty happens in the woods, they both stare at the castle in the distance afterwards.

sleeping beauty cuddling

The audience knows that castle is Aurora’s home, where she should be. Where Philip will have to battle his way to her and free her from Maleficent so they can be reunited. Cinderella meets the prince in his castle, where she ultimately belongs because she’s so good. It’s her escape from her stepmother. And while Snow White runs from the prince into the castle, at the end she leaves with him.

Setting is a theme we’re going to see repeated as well as some other points I made above.

To recap the pre-Renaissance Love at First Sight moments: running away, music, instant attraction, and castles.

star wars uhh reaction

Renaissance Films
We skip ahead a bunch of years and come to The Little Mermaid. TLM is the first film where we have a sort of ‘two meetings’ thing happen (it’ll make sense as we go on).

The first difference, and my favorite, is what draws Ariel and Eric together. Where Prince Charming and Philip were drawn by the sound of a mysterious voice and that’s how they find their princess, Ariel goes to the surface simply because she wants to see the ship.

little mermaid we're out to discover Exactly, Scuttle.

Then, she notices the fireworks and her curiosity skyrockets. For the first time in Disney Princess History, neither of them were looking for/drawn to each other. However, the only piece of Ariel Eric has is her voice, thus the trend does live on. We’ll come back to this.

Music too is involved here, though neither of them is singing. Eric is playing a flute, while crewmembers dance and play instruments. Another common theme is the presence of animals: Max (Eric’s dog), and Scuttle. Scuttle also marks the first meeting where a princess has a friend present. Aurora is with her forest buddies, but they’re just passively watching everything happening. Scuttle is actively involved, talking with Ariel throughout. If only Ariel could have had another mermaid as a friend, or maybe even one of her sisters. (Princesses need friends, too!)

Ariel watches Eric, much like Philip and Charming watched Aurora and Snow. It’s love at first sight for her. However, I give her a pass because she actually sees Eric acting like a decent human being. She sees that he has the same lust for adventure she does (when Grimsby tries to tell him he needs to marry and he’s not having it), she sees that he’s humble (disgusted by the giant statue of himself), creative/artistic (the flute), AND is a total sweetheart when it comes to his dog. Please tell me who would not turn to mush at a real life Eric?

my body is ready reaction my body is ready hook reaction my body is ready copy reaction

Exactly. Boys and their dog get me every time. Philip and Charming just watched Aurora and Snow singing and talking to animals. Neither of those things seem very healthy.

But then, BOOM! Chaos. A storm! The ship EXPLODES! Ariel rescues Eric after witnessing him selflessly going back for his dog. Now she knows he’s courageous. When he wakes up on shore, Eric finally sees Ariel for the first time. She probably looked like an angel to him, with the sun hitting her the way it did and her perfect voice. Before they can talk, she’s startled by Max and Grimsby—just like the pre-Renaissance ladies running away.

little mermaid fuck mermaids reaction

The second time they meet is when Ariel has legs. They’re on the beach this time, with the castle in the distance. That is where Ariel is going to end up, visually illustrated as Eric offers her his support so she can walk with him. But the first time Ariel saw him, he was on a ship, perfectly straddling the line between their two worlds. They’re also on a beach, near the water, Ariel’s world, but firmly on land, Eric’s world. The castle visual remains in their first mutual meeting, while Ariel seeing him on a ship before is also significant.

The meeting is again facilitated by Max (animals shipping Disney couples since 1937!), who spooks Ariel onto the rock. Max is barking and unfamiliar and chasing her, so she’s rightfully a little scared.

And now here is the most important discovery I made: Every princess is scared during their so called “Love at First Sight” scenes. In Snow White a stranger pops out of nowhere and Snow literally runs away and barricades herself in her castle. This screams fear. Aurora is also scared, running and hiding behind a tree.In Cinderella, yes, it is definitely way less creepy and she does not present the same amount of fear. However, Charming approaches her from behind and she jumps when he touches her, hesitating before accepting. We can argue Cinderella is more shy and coy. If we had to pick one as the exception to the rule, I’d pick her.

cinderella and prince

Now Ariel is never fearful around Eric like Snow, Cinderella, and Aurora were. But when the ship begins to burn, she realizes there’s danger. And later, when Grimsby and Max arrive, she’s scared of them and also what would happen if they knew she was a mermaid. So far the princesses have either been scared of their suitors or there is an element of danger surrounding them. This theme is going to come up in every single movie.

this displeases me reaction

Their second meeting is kind of a twist on the “Love at First Sight” trope. Though Eric is clearly drawn to her, he’s disappointed when he thinks she’s not the girl that saved him and so he tries not to like her that way. Spoiler alert: he fails.

little mermaid prince-eric-laughing

Next we have Beauty and the Beast and I’m going to jump right into fear because um… Belle and the Beast do NOT have a love at first sight moment at all. Belle is terrified of the Beast. He’s holding her father captive, slithering around in the dark, and yelling and threatening her. He physically grabs her and throws her to the ground.

Like Ariel saving Eric during their meeting, Belle is also trying to save someone she loves: her father. A trend of heroism develops here and continues into the Renaissance era.

The setting here is also a castle and instead of animals, there are inanimate objects everywhere. Their gossip is an important aspect of the scene because they’re talking about needing Belle to save them as she’s trying to save her father. Ultimately, this castle needs her and she’s accepted in it in a way she never was in her small town. And then of course, it also becomes her home, too.

frozen me... feels reaction

This meeting is the first one when the prince isn’t immediately visible to the princess. Belle needs to tell the Beast to “come into the light.” This is something we’ll see repeated with Tangled. Also important to note, this is the first meeting with no music involved. The Beast isn’t drawn to Belle’s voice, nor is there a romantic song they sing together like in Snow White, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. Perhaps this is because Belle does not fall in love this version of the Beast. She only cares for him after he changes his attitude and stops acting like such a dickwad. That is when they have their duet.

All right, let’s head to our next film: Aladdin. Like our other princesses being scared, Jasmine is about to have her HAND CUT OFF. Yes, she’s terrified. Jasmine comes from a very clinical environment where all her needs are met. No one has ever raised a hand to her and here is this giant man with a knife and she has no idea why she’s in trouble. Cue: terror.

Also cue: ALADDIN!

I mentioned this theme of heroism in the Renaissance first meetings and here’s another one: Aladdin saving Jasmine. This first meeting builds on the one in TLM where Ariel sees Eric being a decent, normal dude. In Aladdin, he sees her giving an apple to a child (just like he did with bread!), so while he is clearly drawn by her looks (“Wow.”), there is something deeper there. The scene also establishes that he and Jasmine work well together to get out of a very bad situation. She questions him initially, but plays along right away. However, Aladdin saving Jasmine reverses the mini-trend of women saving men.

Like other meetings, animals are involved (Abu). There’s also a familiar shot of Aladdin watching Jasmine similar to Philip and Charming and yes, it’s cute, but it is also is a tad creepy.

aladdin watching jasmine

There is no song involved and here is where the trend of saving that big duet moment happens. Well, it technically started in Beauty and the Beast (Something There happens later), but it continues here, thus making it a trend. While the pre-Renaissance films where all “Love at First Sight” these later films added more obstacles to their love stories, so while there was instant attraction, they didn’t immediately act on it. The importance of voice dies out in Aladdin. While singing voices led men to women (Snow White, Aurora, Ariel) or there was singing during their meeting (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), that common thread is cut.

Aladdin and Jasmine meet in the marketplace. I like the symbolism here again as they’re between worlds. Like Eric was on a ship, a piece of land on water, in between, Jasmine and Aladdin are meeting in the middle, too. Jasmine has left the palace and is among common people, while Aladdin is in the “city” so to speak and later brings Jasmine to the outskirts, where he lives. And of course, they look at the palace, like Aurora and Philip. Aladdin longs to live there and with Jasmine at his side, not knowing she’s the princess, he will eventually.

aladdin

This leads to Pocahontas, where John Smith PULLS A GUN ON HER. Pocahontas is already wary (but curious) because John is a stranger and invader and now this. She doesn’t physically appear scared, she seems calm the entire time.

pocahontas in the mist

And even if she is not afraid of John Smith, neither were Ariel and Jasmine. They were scared because of what was happening around them and the element of danger. A gun pointed at you definitely qualifies as an element of danger present in a so called LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT meeting.

aladdin what

The mood changes quickly, though. After she runs off, like the pre-Renaissance princesses (and Ariel), a more traditional first meeting happens. The music and the flying leaves when their hands meet is more romantic and dreamy. That is the scene we see their attraction happen.

pocahontas holding hands

This meeting brings back a musical element since John was just singing Mine, Mine, Mine. There’s also animals present as Meeko and Flit watch. Pocahontas falls back on a lot of old tropes. However, in a move only Philip and Eric have made, John Smith asks for her name, which I am very proud of.

The setting here is the wilderness, something we haven’t seen since Sleeping Beauty. Pocahontas is not with her tribe or by Mother Willow, so she’s out on her own, kind of in her own space. And John Smith is new, so he has no place that’s familiar yet. In a way, they both meet in a strange land to signify the new world they’ll create together.

From there we move to Mulan. Like Beauty and the Beast and their decidedly not “Love at First Sight” meeting, the same applies here. And like Eric thinking the girl he met on the beach wasn’t his savior, Shang of course has no idea Mulan is about to blow his mind.

reaction giggling noise

There is a huge emphasis on names in this scene, something other meetings have lacked. Similar to how Jasmine and Ariel never feared Aladdin or Eric, Mulan isn’t afraid of Shang, but he is the authority figure and she’s clearly frazzled. However, the element of danger here is the fact that Mulan was just the target of a legit fight. The entire camp has been fighting with Mulan buried underneath them. Her meeting with Shang is also her first real test at being a man so she’s understandably nervous. Still, it fits an unnerving trend of princesses being afraid or under threat in their supposedly “Love at First Sight” moments.

Mushu is the animal present in the scene. Their setting is also out in nature, getting ready for war. I think this ties back into Mulan’s own personal story and I like that.

Modern Films
Now we hit the most recent princess films. Princess and the Frog obviously meets the animal trend since Naveen is a frog when they meet. Like TLM, though, they also have two meetings. There is a quick scene in the beginning when Naveen is playing music and trying to be charming, but Tiana is not having it. However, fear is back in their second meeting.

Tiana is startled because there’s a talking frog! And also, what was he doing on the balcony? He was just there, like the pre-Renaissance princes happened to be. In something we see continued in Tangled, Tiana physically assaults Naveen with books since she’s so scared. Naveen does apologize for scaring her, which is nice, but that’s probably because he needs her to kiss him.

Several new things continue to arise in this film. Tiana is concerned for her friend Lottie who is dancing with a fake prince Naveen. Of course, no other princess has needed to be concerned for their human friends since they never had one before (besides Pocahontas).

princess and the frog bestie hug

This is definitely not a “Love at First Sight” scene, but still, it’s the only one where they kiss as soon as they meet! Again, the plot hinges on Tiana kissing him so there’s a reason for it, but she did still kiss him. Like Ariel, Belle, and Aladdin, the thread of heroism returns since Tiana was trying to save Naveen. New and old elements combine in Princess and the Frog.

Our trip though Disney Princess History takes us to Tangled. I touched on it previously, but Rapunzel smacks Flynn with a frying pan since she’s so scared of the strange man that climbs into her room, a la Tiana. Flynn also shares some similarities with Naveen. Naveen is definitely more flirty (seriously go watch that scene over with this in mind), but Flynn tries to use his smolder.

tangled meeting

When it fails, he drops the act and just wants to get as far away from Rapunzel as possible.

Unlike any other scene, except maybe Mulan, their first meeting is more about Rapunzel proving herself to Gothel. After she hits him with the frying pan, cowers behind a mannequin, and checks him for sharp pointy teeth, she traps him in her closet to prove to Gothel she can take care of herself.

tangled pascal

In between she also tries on the tiara he stole and while it maybe seems familiar to her, it is quickly forgotten when Gothel returns. Later, after Flynn assures her he wants nothing to do with her hair, Rapunzel is confused. After all, Gothel swore her everyone would be out to get her. But like he also had normal teeth instead of terrifying ones, Flynn represents her freedom from Gothel. He guides her out of her isolation.

As discussed, like TLM there are two meetings. One where Rapunzel sees him (like Ariel watching the ship) and one where they actually talk for the first time. Tangled also draws other parallels to films like Beauty and the Beast. Rapunzel is first cloaked in darkness and steps into the light so Flynn can see her. While the Beast hid himself away because he believed himself hideous and unlovable, Rapunzel did it partly out of fear and suspicion.

As the pre-Renaissance films had an emphasis on music, a reprise of Rapunzel’s solo song follows their meeting and her subsequent leaving of the tower.

tangled now's when my life begins copy

And like the Renaissance films, their big duet comes later.

Their meeting is her tower because, as I said, Flynn represents the world and life Rapunzel can have. They leave together to see the lights.

reaction dead from the feels

Finally, this brings us to Frozen. Frozen has two meetings and while I considered if I had to include Anna meeting Hans since he’s not her true love, I rewatched the scene to see if it played with any tropes I’d already noticed or diverged from the usual meetings as a sign that Hans was not a good guy.

What I found was this:

-the Hans/Anna meeting plays out very cutesy and storybook-like (what you’d expect of a “Love at First Sight” scene)

frozen gorgeous wait what

-danger is present since she gets HIT BY A HORSE and falls onto a boat that nearly topples into a lake

-prince on horseback trope reappears (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty)

-no visible castle but Anna’s status is immediately told + mentions of the coronation

This takes us to Anna meeting Kristoff. Now, Frozen bothered me since it hated on previous Disney love stories. You’d expect then that this meeting would be very different from the others. However, Anna has the same fear as the other meetings discussed. Kristoff is covered in snow, not clearly visible like the Beast, and she backs away from him.

frozen awkward

Like Tiana, she expresses concern over her friend/sister since she has a person she can do that for! While Tiana wanted to know who Lottie was dancing with if he was with her, Anna wanted to know what Kristoff knew about Elsa.

This scene is a contrast to the perfect meeting she has with Hans. While Hans is perfect and charming, Kristoff is gruff. He doesn’t make a good first impression on her or Oaken since he gets tossed out of the store. Similarly, Mulan makes a horrid first impression as the center of a fight and unable to pick a name for herself. It’s not a traditional “Love at First Sight” scene but we’ve already seen several of those (Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Frog).

It even has an animal involved since Kristoff needs to buy carrots for Sven and Sven is waiting for him right outside the shop. Clearly, Frozen’s “you can’t marry someone you just met” love story doesn’t really hold up when compared to other princess meetings.

Conclusion
Wow! That was a lot of films! Okay, so the trends that carried through all were DANGER! FEAR! (which is great… not) and the presence of animals. We’ve also seen the importance of music and setting. All the eras also had their own particular features like heroism and the removal of a song while couples met. In the more recent films we saw a lot of physical humor added, even in Frozen, where Kristoff is thrown from the shop and hits his head on the sign. But the eras also weaved in and out of each other with similar aspects reappearing like women running away or light vs dark.

Some stand out meetings, I think, are Tangled, where there’s less focus on them as a couple and more focus on Rapunzel beginning to realize some of the things Gothel had told her were wrong. I also loved how Ariel saw Eric for the first time and it was a total surprise since she was just excited about the fireworks. Still, she got to see several sides of him (his adorableness with his dog, his disgust at a statue in his honor) that told her something about who he was instead of the three previous couples before her where there was no depth to why they fancied each other.

Fun Facts:

-Sleeping Beauty is the first film where Aurora is actually like, “What the hell you’re a stranger!!” (Not really, but kinda.) Points for that!

-Snow is the only princess that actively wishes for love and then POOF: Prince.

-Cinderella is the first film there’s an iconic dance.

-Prince Philip is the first prince to ask his love for her NAME upon meeting her (though it happens after Once Upon a Dream). Eric asks Ariel for her name during their second meeting. I think it’s hilarious while the Prince in Cinderella is begging her to stay he never once asks for her name.

-Belle and Anna both have two suitors, one being the villain of their film. While Anna and Hans have a first meeting scene, Belle and Gaston do not since they already know each other.

-Snow White and Tiana are both wishing, one by a wishing well and the other on a star, when they meet their prince.

-The setting in Princess and the Frog is a mansion, instead of a castle. There is also a party like in Cinderella.


Which is your favorite True Love Meeting? What do you think of all these common threads? What are some other fun facts you noticed?

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. See you next week!

Cheers,

M&M

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

That’s What Friends Are For: Disney’s Abundance of Animal Friendships

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Last week Mel talked about a really important issue: the lack of female friendships in princess movies. As I was figuring out how to possibly match her level of awesomeness, I realized something. Princess films were lacking in friendships, but Animal movies weren’t!

Lady and the Tramp
Lady has two friends, Jock and Trusty, whom she consults with when Mrs. Darling gets pregnant and who come to comfort her after her escapade with Tramp. They look out for her, getting protective since they dislike Tramp, but realize he’s a decent enough dog and hatch a plan to save him. They also build Lady up, complimenting her collar and just being good friends to her.

lady and the tramp pushing jockTramps’ like, “Eww, friends.”

101 Dalmatians
We don’t really see Pongo and Perdita interacting with other dogs too much, but there is the impression that all dogs look out for each other when Pongo sends out his distress call and all the dogs pass it along. They meet with the Great Dane, who tells them where their puppies are and takes them some of the way, being super helpful and just really kind. Like, all law enforcement people should measure themselves against this animated dog. They meet up with a horse, cat, and dog that help them escape, just showing everyone in the animal world looks out for each other. While Pongo and Perdita don’t have ‘friends’ (though they do have Roger and Anita), they interact with a bunch of animals in a friendly manner.

The Jungle Book
Mowgli is friends with Baloo and Bagheera, the vultures (they even had a song about it!), and an adorable baby elephant. Jungle Book is an interesting example since it is one of the few Disney films without a love story (until that moment at the very end), so as a result, there’s all kinds of friendships and relationships to explore in order to carry the film.

jungle book mowgli baloo hugMowgli’s like, “I like friends!”

The Aristocats
Like 101 Dalmatians, these cats aren’t really interacting with other animals since they’re a tight family unit and are on a mission. However, also like 101, there’s an impression all cats look out for each other, as seen in Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood and Little John are famous, so of course their bond had to be a part of the film. And this song will get in your head and never leave. Sorry not sorry.

The Fox & The Hound
Um, the movie full of feels that we all avoid unless we seriously can’t help it. This one also has a song about friendship because the relationship between Todd and Copper is the heart of the story. Seriously. I’m gonna cry just thinking about it.

Oliver & Company
Oliver’s first friends are the company of Fagin’s gang, but he also befriends Jenny and even wins over her snobbish poodle, Georgette.

oliver and dodger sleep

The Lion King
Before Simba meets Timon and Pumba, he’s friends with Nala—who, yes, he falls madly in love with—and they had epic elephant graveyard adventures together. It’s Nala, his bestie for life, who helps convince him to go back to the Pride Lands and fight Scar.

lion king cutieslion hakuna matata 2 copy

Tarzan
Like Jungle Book, Tarzan was friends with Terk and Tantor. There were also lots of shots of baby gorillas playing together because apparently everyone has friends except princesses.

Brother Bear
This movie hinges on the friendship/brotherhood of Kenai and Koda, similar to The Fox and the Hound.

I’ve blocked Bambi and Dumbo from my mind, but I know Dumbo had a mouse and Bambi had Thumper and Flower.

What gives, Disney? Why do animals have friends but not princesses?????

I mean, it is great we have great examples of friendship in animal focused films and I’m not saying animals shouldn’t have friends. But do we accept this because we think of animals as living in a herd and being surrounded by their own kind? And do we not think of girls as having female friends because girls are pitted against each other and constantly overcoming internalized misogyny everyday?

Animal films also tend to have friendships featuring animals that are enemies in the wild: Simba, Timon and Pumba; Dumbo and his mouse; and Todd and Copper. The message here has to be that we can all get along and shouldn’t be put off by our differences. It’s great to see this message being sent subtly through animal friendships but it is time to be overt! Girls are regularly pitted against each other and taught to see other girls as competitors. Seeing great friendships that they can emulate is important.

Disney can clearly do an amazing job at showing positive friendships, as evidenced above and the few princess friendships we’ve seen, so why won’t they do it in more of their princess/female character driven films?

What do you think?

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M&M

Talking Animals, Class, and Rank

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Disney made a slew of animal centered films between the Pre-Renaissance Princesses Era and the Renaissance Era. All these movies, surprisingly, tackle similar issues of greed and class. Let’s take a closer look at these films and see what it has to say on the topic, how it says it, and why Disney chose animals as its messengers.

I was a little surprised to notice a whole crop of animal films all made relatively right after each other. Here’s a list:

  • Lady and the Tramp—1955
  • (Sleeping Beauty—1959)
  • 101 Dalmatians—1961
  • (The Sword in the Stone—1963)
  • The Jungle Book—1967
  • The Aristocats—1970
  • Robin Hood—1973
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh—1977
  • The Rescuers—1977
  • The Fox and the Hound—1981

Look at that! 30 years of animal centered tales with one only two human stories. With the exception of some of the latter films—Winnie the Pooh and The Fox and the Hound—all those films have subtle or overt themes of wealth and rank.

Lady and the Tramp
Even the title is laced with that theme of class. While ‘tramp’ is not a title, ‘lady’ certainly is. However, the word ‘tramp’ carries enough weight that you know something negative is being expressed.

It’s the story of two dogs from differing class status. It’s amazing how even the design of the dogs shows this. Lady’s droopy ears appears more like curly hair than fur. She has a shine to her, while Tramp has grey fur and the hair around his mouth looks a little scraggly. Lady also has a fancy collar, almost like jewelry. The design of these dogs effortlessly conveys that there is a difference between them.

lady and the tramp 2 Those could totally be pig tails 😉

lady and the tramp relaxing Lady actually sparkles in comparison to him.

Setting wise, Lady’s home is huge. I think it has a Victorian mansion feel, but I’m not an architecture buff. Compare that lavish setting to Tramp’s rail yard:

lady and the tramp house vs lady and the tramp rail yard

A note about the animation, look at even the difference in the brightness of the colors.

Lady has free reign of the house: from a puppy she climbed upstairs and settled herself right on that big comfy bed.

lady and the tramp bby on bed cute

Tramp, on the total flip side, sleeps outside, near the trains. His morning routine is shown in contrast to Lady’s. While she runs outside and gets the paper (and chases birds, how idyllic), only to be rewarded by Jim Dear with coffee and a donut, Tramp has to bath himself where he can and beg for food.

lady and the tramp lady's comfy bedlady and the tramp tramp's log home

lady and the tramp morning 1lady and the tramp morning 1.2

She has love and he’s alone and excuse me while I:

it hurts so much reaction

Later, when Tramp wanders into Lady’s posh neighborhood, he calls it, “Snob hill.” That’s one of the biggest details that always sticks out to me. Not only are they of different ranks, but there is conflict between them. There is dislike, maybe jealousy, probably gross assumptions on both sides. Tramp finds the fences around trees absurd and expects there to be a lid on every trash can. He refers to them as “the leash and collar set” and assumes they’re total bores.

lady and the tramp fence on every tree Look at the fences 😉 Tramp disapproves.

Lady’s friends Trusty and Jock definitely have prejudices against Tramp simply because he doesn’t come from a well off family like them. Jock calls him a “mongrel,” partly because he doesn’t like Tramp scaring Lady, but also just out of initial dislike. Their parting words, though, have to be the best.

“The name’s Jock.”
“Okay, Jock.”
“Heather Lad O’ Glencairn to you!”

lady and the tramp angry jock

Like Jock has an actual title and Tramp is so beneath him!

But let’s move onto the actual relationship that develops between Lady and Tramp. The love to end all loves! Not really. Kinda. Anyway!

“What are you doing on this side of the tracks?” If any (all) of you were like, “Mic, you’re taking this way too seriously,” Tramp actually admits there is a class difference. SO HA!

victory screech reaction

Besides Jock, Trusty, and Lady, there are two other characters that symbolize the upper class: the Siamese Cats. I don’t want to say too much about them because they are a pretty racist interpretation, but they do relate in terms of class.The Siamese Cats are our example of the upper class that live up to Tramp’s assumptions. Lady is the heroine, we root for her. She’s good and kind and we watch her learn about babies and step out of her comfort zone. She’s the one mistreated by Aunt Sarah. Lady is not the definition of “Snob Hill.”

lady and the tramp status

She definitely cares about her appearance and the fact that she has a collar values a lot to her. But she’s not shallow; there’s more to her.

lady and the tramp morning birdslady and the tramp newspaper morning

She’s open to Tramp’s pessimistic view of babies when she first meets him, she accepts his help getting the muzzle off, and she falls in love with him. So we need characters that uphold Tramp’s worldview and thus we have the Siamese Cats.

The differences between classes are also seen outside Lady and Tramp’s relationship. One of the biggest threats is being caught by the dog snatcher and sent to the pound. Who is at risk for being sent to jail? Unlicensed dogs, aka lower class dogs. We can easily relate this to being homeless or living in poverty since any “money” one had would go to securing food and shelter, not buying a collar.

lady and the tramp hiding from snatcher

“The pressure’s really on, signs all over town.” Tramp’s words imply that this has been building for awhile and now things have really gotten out of control. The order also comes from City Council, which is similar to situations we’ve seen all over history. The government mistreating poorer classes instead of finding ways to help them. Yes, I am seriously seeing a movie about adorable dogs as having immense symbolism. Just go with it. Tramp also does not reach “Snob Hill” until he runs from the dog snatcher. The dog snatcher was not putting up signs in the wealthy area of town.

When Lady is caught without a collar, we finally see the situation at the pound. It turns out to be a kill shelter (which, oh my gosh, dark much, Disney?), but that also tells us how different classes are treated. Lady receives special treatment—the dog snatcher takes pity on her because she doesn’t appear like a street dog. He finds her owner right away. The other dogs are not so lucky and even appear to be wearing jail suits.

lady and the tramp jail

After Tramp gets sent to the pound by Aunt Sarah, the dog snatcher says they’d been looking for “this one” for months, which confirms what I said above about it seeming like unleashed dogs were being targeted for awhile now. The fact that Aunt Sarah, the dog snatcher, Jock, and the Darlings immediately assume Tramp was attacking a baby, that there was no other explanation, further proves how the upper class looks down on the lower class.

lady and the tramp evil rat EVIL RAT! RUN!

But when Jock finds out the truth, he is ashamed and says, “I misjudged him… badly.” He’s not just talking about assuming the worst of Tramp in this moment. He’s referring to the first meeting and everything after.

There’s also meaning in having Tramp referred to as “this one.” Tony gave Tramp a name–Butch–because he values Tramp. But the dog snatcher does not. I believe he calls Lady “pretty” when she’s in the pound, proving his bias against wealthy vs poor. The names we choose to call people (dogs, whatever) says a lot about a person.

But by the end, Tramp and Lady are together and happy with a litter of puppies. Tramp gets a collar, joining Lady’s class. I found it interesting that many early novels followed this idea of a courtship plot, that eventually ended in marriage and some social mobility (one person entering another class through marriage). That is essentially what happens here.

lady and the tramp end family 1

Tramp and Lady fall in love, get together, and Tramp moves into a new class. He’s accepted by Lady’s family and Jock and Trusty. He’s no longer under threat from the dog snatcher.

lady and the tramp end collar

Lady and the Tramp is a really interesting film since it delves into these issues. There’s prejudice and class differences and puppy love. Was that a pun? I don’t know.

that's not funny reaction Tough crowd.

Class/Wealth in Other Films
My original plan was to talk about how each movie displayed class/rank/greed. Maybe I’ll come back to it at another point and go more in depth for certain movies. But I think just by looking at them, you can see for yourself.

101 Dalmatians is more about greed than class. Cruella lets her desire for a fur coat get the better of her, stealing puppies to get what she wanted. Maybe there’s something to say about class, since she despises Roger and makes fun of his music while thinking herself so refined.

The Jungle Book is all about class/rank since we have man vs animal and also hierarchy in the jungle. The animals fear Shere Khan. I’m not actually sure where King Louie stands in relation to everyone—it’s been awhile, I need to watch the movie again. The animals are initially reluctant to accept Mowgli because he’s human; they don’t trust him. Purely because of his class (or species… whatever).

The Aristocats is also about greed, especially because of the evil butler dude that wants to inherit money he doesn’t even deserve. BUT, look at that title! It’s a direct pun on aristocrats, which, um, is a term used in relation to class and wealth. Even the name Duchess, as our mommy cat is called, relates to class. It’s an interesting parallel to Lady, who is also named a title while Tramp and Thomas O’Malley the Alley Cat are just names that convey something about the character. Subtle, you are not, Disney.

Robin Hood might as well have my theme tattooed on its forehead. It’s all about someone stealing from the rich to feed the poor. CLASS, CLASS, CLASS. No explanations needed. I do wonder why Disney chose to adapt this story by using animals, though. Was it just to continue with their theme of animal movies?

So Winnie the Pooh totally has nothing to do with the theme (as far as I know?), but I included it because it was an animal film.

The Rescuers I’m fuzzy on, but I remember Madame Medusa trying to steal diamonds or something.

The Fox and The Hound is another animal movie and I think this is where Disney kinda strayed away from the class theme. Winnie the Pooh didn’t have those themes present, The Rescuers did, but wasn’t as steeped in it, though it was also an animal film. Fox and the Hound definitely had undertones of discrimination based on species (class, if you REALLY want to try to make an argument for it), but wasn’t really about rank and wealth. And alas, the talking animal movie trend was put to rest.

I think it’s really interesting this trend developed. Did Disney find it easier to explore these themes using animals as stand ins for humans? Can animals get away with more than humans? Was Disney able to discuss these themes in more subtle ways by going this route?

Can you see themes of class/wealth in these movies? What do you think? Do you have a favorite film of the Talking Animals Era?

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Cheers,
M&M

Mother Doesn’t Know Best: Exploring Mother Gothel and Rapunzel’s Relationship

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Last week, my family and I watched Into the Woods. The story between the Witch and Rapunzel got me thinking about Tangled, and the relationship between Mother Gothel and Rapunzel. We at Animated Meta have wanted to write about their relationship dynamic for some time now, so when better than the present? Today, we’ll be tackling the dynamic between Mother Gothel and Rapunzel, the abuse involved, and how Rapunzel breaks free of the cycle.

A lot of people forget that abuse isn’t always physical. In the case of the relationship between Mother Gothel and Rapunzel, most of the abuse is psychological, and has damaging effects on Rapunzel. Psychological abuse – or emotional abuse, as it’s sometimes called – can include:

  • Ignoring
  • Rejecting
  • Isolating
  • Exploiting or corrupting
  • Verbally abusing
  • Terrorizing
  • Neglecting the child (American Humane Society)

Now, not all of these necessarily apply to every case, but a lot of these most definitely apply to how Mother Gothel treats Rapunzel.

Exploiting or corrupting

As defined by the American Humane Association, this applies when “a child is taught, encouraged or forced to develop inappropriate or illegal behaviors.” I’m not sure if this definition applies precisely to the situation, but the term exploitation definitely does.

The whole reason Mother Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel at the start of the movie is to exploit her. If she wanted a child to raise, she could have adopted one. But she kidnaps Rapunzel because Rapunzel has something that she needs: magic. She wants Rapunzel for the magic that her hair provides, because that magic can keep her young and prolong her life. She uses Rapunzel as a tool to extend her lifespan beyond natural means, and threatens Rapunzel once Rapunzel won’t willingly use her magic to help her. That’s exploitation to a T.

tangled reaction WHAT THE FUCK

Ignoring and neglecting

Ignoring and neglecting aren’t touched on as much in the movie, but Mother Gothel does go off on little journeys, while leaving Rapunzel to her own devices. She ignores Rapunzel’s desires (like leaving the tower) and writes them off as ridiculous. Example: “You want to go outside? Oh why, Rapunzel?”

She also abandons Rapunzel after Rapunzel stands up to her, telling her not to come crying to her when Flynn breaks her heart. Love is supposed to be unconditional, but Mother Gothel’s love has conditions, and when they’re not followed, Rapunzel is shut off from her love. That’s terrible parenting and unfair to the child.

Isolating

One of the most common tactics of an abuser is isolation, and that’s exactly what Mother Gothel does to Rapunzel. She raises Rapunzel away in a tower far from any civilization, and keeps her confined by fear. When Tangled begins, Rapunzel is about sixteen. That’s an insanely long time to be isolated, on your own, with only one person (and a chameleon) for companionship. Naturally, Rapunzel has started to go stir-crazy by the start of the movie. There’s only so much one person can do in a confined space because they start to feel entrapped. “When Will My Life Begin?” is about Rapunzel’s desire for adventure, but it’s also about her feelings of isolation and how she feels trapped, as evidenced by the end of the song:

Tomorrow night, lights will appear

Just like they do on my birthday each year

What is it like out there where they glow?

Now that I’m older,

Mother might just

Let me go

The wistful sadness in her voice at the end shows how big of a desire this is for Rapunzel, and how often it’s rejected by her mother. She hopes her mother will let her leave, but knows she probably won’t. And sure enough, instead of letting her go, Mother Gothel tries to terrify her away from the outside world by telling her that “it’s a scary world out there” and highlighting the more negative aspects of the world outside in “Mother Knows Best:”

It’s a scary world out there

Ruffians, thugs

Poison ivy, quicksand

Cannibals and snakes, the plague

tangled pascal

It’s telling too that Mother Gothel isolates Rapunzel while the song is going on. She closes the window and plunges the room into darkness, forcing Rapunzel to rely on her in order to find her way and using Rapunzel’s fear in order to coax her into staying with her. That’s some hardcore isolation tactics, ones that make it clear why Rapunzel takes as long as she does to leave the tower. Who wouldn’t be scared shitless by all of those dramatics?

tangled fear

Verbally abusing and rejecting

These two go hand-in-hand, so I decided to put them together. Rejecting is an “active refusal to respond to a child’s needs”; verbally abusing involves “belittling, shaming, ridiculing, or verbally threatening the child” (American Humane Association). Mother Gothel does all four of these things in spades.

tangled gothel bitch 2

Belittling: Whenever Mother Gothel talks to Rapunzel, she uses a patronizing tone, like she’s a small child, even though Rapunzel’s a teenager. She calls her “fragile as a flower, still a little sapling, just a sprout” and uses nicknames like pet, darling, and dear, which come off as condescending. She also mocks her newfound growth in the “Mother Knows Best Reprise:”

Rapunzel knows best

Rapunzel’s so mature now

Such a clever grown-up miss

Also, the phrase “mother knows best” is patronizing in itself. It implies that Rapunzel’s opinions and feelings don’t hold merit, because Mother Gothel’s are superior.

tangled gothel bitch

Shaming: Mother Gothel shames Rapunzel into staying in the tower. “Mother Knows Best” is a great example because while she preys on Rapunzel’s fears, she also manipulates her using their bond as mother and daughter:

Go ahead, get trampled by a rhino

Go ahead, get mugged and left for dead

Me, I’m just your mother, what do I know?

I only bathed and changed and nursed you

Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it

Let me die alone here, be my guest

We know Mother Gothel doesn’t really feel this way, so her words are purely for Rapunzel’s benefit, in order to shame her and make her feel guilt for wanting to leave her alone in the tower. It’s shameful behavior.

Ridiculing:

This is one of the biggest issues highlighted in the movie. The way Mother Gothel speaks to Rapunzel, and the way that she uses her insecurities against her, is so cruel. She preys on Rapunzel’s appearance, calling her chubby and sloppy. She jabs at her personality, calling her ditzy, gullible, naïve, immature. She tells her that the world outside will “eat her alive” and that it’s a “cruel dark place” but the truth is that Mother Gothel is all of these things. She is the monster eating Rapunzel’s spirit alive, and the tower is a cruel dark place she cannot escape.

There’s a great symbolic moment, when Rapunzel is lighting her way with the candles, and Mother Gothel comes up right behind her and snuffs out each light. It symbolizes the way that Mother Gothel’s harsh words smother Rapunzel’s light and spirit, feeding into her lack of confidence about both herself and the world outside her tower.

tangled candle symbolism

However, she can’t suppress Rapunzel’s spirit forever, as seen in the Mother Knows Best Reprise, when Rapunzel takes a stand and refuses to let her mother continue belittling and ridiculing her. It’s also important to note why the change is so drastic. There are a few reasons. First, from “Mother Knows Best” to the reprise, Rapunzel has had time in the outside world. She’s discovered that it’s not really as cruel or dark as she was told, and she also grows into herself as a person. Second, Rapunzel gets some human interaction, and experiences a much healthier relationship experience with Eugene.

tangled picture bbys

it's kind of cute castle reaction

While Eugene is a thief, he’s also someone who’s open with Rapunzel. He doesn’t belittle her or ridicule her. He respects her feelings and her dreams. He is someone she can trust, and her being able to open up and trust someone who isn’t using her as a fountain of youth is a really liberating experience for her. Eugene feels the same way, accepting her trust and bestowing his in return, as seen below. This is important because Rapunzel finally has a two way relationship, where both parties care.

tangled truthtangled truth 2

Rapunzel is beginning to distinguish healthy relationships vs. unhealthy ones, and encountering Mother Gothel after spending time with Eugene shows her the truth: mother doesn’t know best.

The most telling aspect of Rapunzel’s spirit coming out is when Mother Gothel attempts to tell her that mother knows best, and Rapunzel cuts her off before she can even finish with a firm “no!” That’s huge for Rapunzel, who was always unwilling to stand her ground against her in the past. Before, she had reservations, but would eventually fold. Now, Rapunzel knows better, and she won’t let Mother Gothel manipulate or ridicule her any longer.

standing ovation reaction

Verbally threatening: While Mother Gothel ridicules Rapunzel, she doesn’t outright threaten her until later on in the movie. However, there is a veiled threat in “Mother Knows Best” that I didn’t catch at first:

When it’s too late, you’ll see, just wait

It’s subtle, but definitely a threat. Mother Gothel doesn’t get more overt until later, when her control over Rapunzel begins slipping away, and then she decides to escalate matters by threatening Flynn’s life so that Rapunzel will leave with her, which ties into…

Terrorizing

Terrorizing involves fear and creating an environment that terrifies the child, which Gothel does earlier on in the movie when she tries to make Rapunzel scared of the world outside of her tower. But terrorizing can also mean “placing the child or the child’s loved one in a dangerous or chaotic situation.” How does that tie into the plot? Well, it describes the end of the movie, where Mother Gothel threatens Eugene’s safety and stabs him to hurt Rapunzel and also shatter her spirit, so that Rapunzel will go with her.

tangled you were my new dream

Rapunzel agrees if she allows her to heal Flynn before she leaves, essentially playing into Mother Gothel’s manipulations. Eugene cutting Rapunzel’s hair breaks her free of Gothel’s control, because now Gothel has no leverage over her, and also no way to continue healing herself. The cycle of terror ends with her death, and once Flynn is healed, Rapunzel has a chance at a new start and healthier relationships with her parents and Eugene.

tangled hug

Work Cited:

American Humane Association. (n.d.). Emotional Abuse. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from American Humane Association: http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/emotional-abuse.html

Do you think Tangled did a good job at portraying psychological abuse? What do you think of Mother Gothel and Rapunzel’s relationship? Let us know in the comments!

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Cheers,

M&M

 

Animation’s Feminist Anthems: A List

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Hi, I’m Michella and I AM A FEMINIST! Pleased to meet you. Below, find a list of animated songs and reasons why I think they are badass feminist anthems that celebrate women and their agency, challenge gender roles, and are inspirational. And please don’t be scared off by the term “feminist.” We don’t bite and we’re all about accepting everyone and not judging and just living in groovy harmony and respect. Doesn’t that sound fun?

Like Other Girls—Mulan 2

This song is all about Mei, Su, and Ting-Ting feeling trapped in their roles and responsibilities and wanting just a little bit of freedom, like other girls have. It was the first song that popped into my head when I thought of this list because of how much these ladies admire other women. They’re not jealous or bitter, they just long. And what are they longing for? To play and climb trees, slouch, eat cake, be free to make choices, dance, no tight shoes! Yes, they want love, and that gets a line, but the repeated mantra is “no hands folded perfectly,” “no pinchy shoes,” “just to be free like other girls get to be.” It’s such a sweet, beautiful song that also challenges gender roles.

Who usually gets to play outside, get dirty, “be crazy?” Well… boys. Boys are expected to play sports and be physically active (though the song equates it to being a girl’s activity, which is great!). Girls are usually delicate and taught manners. Mei, Su, and Ting-Ting have to be elegant, use their fans, and are escorted everywhere, like they aren’t strong enough to walk on their own. In my Victorian Lit class we talked about how writers like Dickens and Thackery never have female characters that “walk.” They “trip” or “glide/float.” Breaking that down, trip: immature, young, clumsy, incapable, needing protection. Glide/float: angelic, not real, unearthly, perfect, elegant. Women can never just be normal people that “walk.”

One other point about this song, I love how “Like Other Girls” is a GOOD thing. “You don’t want to be that girl,” is oftentimes an insult. Being compared to other women isn’t a good thing in our society. To stay on the subject of literature, many times we see dialogue that says, “You’re not like other women.” Meaning, you’re not clingy or needy or “insert stereotype here.” Women are pitted against each other! But no. This song takes that and spins it in a positive light.

Belle (reprise)—Beauty and the Beast

We all know this song. I love the fury in Belle’s voice when she begins the song and then it turns to a desire. So this song made my list for a couple reasons.

The first might be the simplest: Belle rejects marriage in favor of adventure. Now, marriage is definitely its own adventure. But Belle is, what? 18? Belle wants to live. We know she loves to read and her favorite book (the one she reads in the opening song) has “far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells” and a sweeping love story (“Here’s where she meets Prince Charming, but she won’t discover that it’s him till chapter three”). Belle is not against love. Her song explicitly states it would be nice “to have someone understand.” Whether that’s in the form of romance or friendship, who knows, but she wants it in the context of an adventure. Not Gaston, who prizes her for her looks and is shallow. They have nothing in common. They would never be happy together, especially living in that small-minded town.

The second is that Belle also rejects the expectations of her society. The song ends with, “I want so much more than they’ve got planned.” They is not just Gaston. They is everyone. They is the pressure, the expectation, the town. They is anyone that tells Belle she is supposed to be this kind of person. And sadly, the entire opening song established there are a lot of people that have their own ideas about who Belle should be. This is a great song because Belle sometimes internalizes. She’s always kind, she said hello to everyone while they gossiped about her, but here is really the first time we see her stand up for who she wants to be, even if it is just to herself. It is hard to admit what you want. It is scary when there are a lot of people that are going to try to talk you out of it. And I think Belle is a great amazing feminist for that.

For a Moment—The Little Mermaid 2

I was hesitant to include this song even though it jumped out at me. As I thought about it, I realized I wanted to include it because it’s basically the only mother/daughter song Disney has ever produced. I also just love Ariel, Eric, and Melody to bits and we’ve talked about Part of Your World so much.

Even though this is a mother/daughter duet, our babies are apart from each other. Sad face. It’s very angsty. Ariel is so desperate to make amends and Melody is finally so happy, but also sad she can’t share that with her mom. Their relationship is really the heart of the movie since Ariel keeps this secret about Melody’s heritage and this song is where we get to dig into all those complicated emotions. A lot of times mom/daughter relationships are portrayed by the media as super close or the opposite. There is no middle ground, and like what I brought up with Dickens and Thackery, women aren’t allowed to be human. They don’t get to go through a full range of emotions compared to their male characters. And frequently, they don’t have complex stories and conflicts with other women. Many times their plot revolves around a man. For a Moment is a song about how two women are feeling.

Here Ariel is remorseful for her mistake, but determined to find her daughter, and make things right. Right before the song, she makes the choice to leave Eric, to do this on her own (or, separate, since Eric is still looking, too). Melody is just Ms. Happiness with her new fins. She stumbles a bit, getting situated, but for the most part, she’s a natural (which makes sense since she’s half mermaid!). The only disappointing part is that she can’t share this with her mom. She doesn’t think her mom will understand (“wish my mother could hear it” meaning she doesn’t and never will). But to juxtapose that, Ariel and Melody both use “song of the sea”/”sea is my song” which shows you just how in synch they are. They’re mother and daughter, after all! They both love the sea. Ariel may have chosen land, but that scene where she dips her feet in the water and her face is filled with an ache to return just tells you all you need to know.

On a totally non-girl power point: The visuals also kill me because Melody is just exploring and Ariel is retracing all her steps, hitting all those nostalgia buttons as we see the grotto and the rock bench from Under the Sea with grownup Ariel.

I Won’t Say I’m in Love—Hercules

So, like the Belle (reprise) I’m not picking this song because Meg rejects marriage. Feminism is not about rejecting marriage or looking down on housewives. I chose this song because Meg is so hurt. Meg is guarded because of her past, Meg is wary, Meg is so so so scared. I love that Disney gave us Meg because she’s someone trapped in a bad situation because of her choices and past trauma from a relationship. Sadly, most of us are scarred. We’re damaged. We don’t come with bows on us, unharmed. Meg represents that.

Furthermore, Meg is given the opportunity to be affected by her trauma. A lot of times women are discouraged from talking about their pasts—such as coming forward with sexual abuse claims years later. Or women are “overemotional.” If you’re not “better” within someone else’s expected timeframe, then you’re making too big a deal out of it.

Not Meg. Meg is not okay from her past relationship. She’s given the chance to argue with herself, to want something, but be afraid she wants it. She’s not one dimensional precisely for this reason. There are layers to Meg. At first she appears like a flirt, but that’s just a mask. This song is where Meg tries to lie to herself, to keep the mask on, but in the end Meg realizes that’s not possible. Like Belle, she admits what she wants to herself, which is the first step to going after it in reality.

And who is encouraging her to take a chance? The muses! Coincidentally, all women. More women cheering women on and supporting each other. What is more feminist than that? (Hint: The answer is nothing.)

Almost There—Princess and the Frog

Ah, this song! Such a great anthem. Tiana is filled with such a drive. She has this amazing goal and isn’t going to let anything get in her way. Tiana definitely had some things to learn, like being single-minded isn’t the way to go about being happy. But, taking this song out of the context of the movie, it’s a song about achieving your dream, something that is self-fulfilling. It has nothing to do with another person. It’s something Tiana is doing for herself. This is what I love most about Almost There.

It might be the first animated song where women are encouraged to be savvy business ladies. It’s okay to want a career. It’s a self-esteem booster, it just makes you feel good when you’re doing something you love and you do it well. Many times women are expected to be “humble” and “modest” and confidence can be misconstrued as cockiness or arrogance. But why shouldn’t we take pleasure from doing a good job?

Like some of the other songs, Almost There mentions expectations (“people down here think I’m crazy, but I don’t care”), because those pesky buggers are everywhere, sadly.

Let it Go—Frozen

Okay, everyone has heralded Let it Go as an anthem since it came out. It’s Elsa finally being true to herself, being brave, and loving that person. Let’s zero in on a very specific lyric: 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. Wow, that’s a lot!

First, women are supposed to put on a mask in public. Like Meg hides from her trauma with a flirty persona, women should put on a good face. Smile. Be cordial. Be demure.  This goes right into “be the good girl” while boys will be boys. This is every gender role the previous songs have battled with. Su, Mei, and Ting-Ting want to climb trees and scrape their knees, but that’s for boys (even though the song presents it as something women can do, which is great!). Belle is expected to marry Gaston. Elsa shouldn’t be overemotional, she should keep her mouth shut and smile. Whereas boys can be hyperactive and do whatever they want because they’re boys and boys just have all these impulses that can’t be controlled. This way of thinking continues into adolescent and adulthood and is what makes rape culture so rife.

Next, we have “conceal, don’t feel,” which is actually really interesting and twisty. So we have this stereotype that girls want to talk about their feelings all the time, that girls cry, and so on. But, women are ridiculed when they do just that. “Cry like a girl” is an insult. I hate to keep using the “overemotional” card or the “needy, clingy” label, but that’s just the way it is. Women are expected to do these things, but if they do, they are scorned for it (because: good!). And maybe they don’t even do it in excess, but there’s such a low tolerance for women expressing themselves at all.

On the flip side, to keep talking about gender roles, boys are definitely taught the same thing. Boys aren’t supposed to have a soft side. They’re masculine! Strong! Testosterone! And boys are also made fun of if they don’t conform to this expectation. Many times, men also aren’t allowed to go through the full spectrum of emotions. This is wrong. This is just as wrong as the insane stereotypes surrounding women, even though we do not talk about this as much.

Let it Go has an important message and for obvious reasons, definitely is a feminist anthem.

I Whistle A Happy Tune–The King and I

I think this one is a lesser-known animated movie and I actually had forgotten about it till recently myself. I want to end on this note because this song is all about overcoming fear and that’s a great message to end on.

I think it also, sadly, feeds on the “conceal don’t feel” aspect of Let it Go and gender roles because some of the lyrics are: I strike a careless pose and whistle a happy tune and no one ever knows I’m afraid. At first glance it’s all about putting on that mask, of women not being able to express their feelings. But, as the song goes on, the meaning is that if you trick yourself into feeling brave, you may be as brave as you make believe you are.

So: things are scary. People get scared. But we are in control of how that fear affects us. Anna’s method, as she teaches her son in this song, is to whistle a happy tune “and the happiness in the tune convinces [him] that [he’s] not afraid.” Maybe she should teach him that it’s okay to be afraid and talk about his feelings, but it’s also important that we don’t let fear paralyze us. But, Anna doesn’t tell her son NOT to be afraid. She doesn’t tell him men are brave, that men don’t get scared. Instead of pushing that fear aside or pretending it doesn’t exist, she encourages him to feel it, and then essentially, fake it till he makes it.

Anna puts us in control of our fear. And isn’t that what fear is? We’re not in control in fearful situations. So whistling is a way of taking back the power.

I also wanted to end with this song since it puts a woman in a position of authority. She’s the leader, people are listening to what she has to say. And I can’t think of many animated songs where a woman is the head of a group. Women frequently have solos, but many times a male leads a group number. Look at: I’ll Make a Man Out of You (Shang), Be Our Guest (Lumiere), Kiss the Girl (Sebastian), and Topsy Turvy (Clopin). I do think He’s a Tramp from Lady and the Tramp and Dig a Little Deeper from Princess and the Frog are good examples of female led group numbers in addition to this, though even He’s a Tramp isn’t very groupish, but I’ll count it.

Conclusion

I just wanted to make a list of songs that celebrated girl power and wax poetically about them. Ta!

What’s your feminist anthem? How do you feel about these songs? GIVE ME ALL YOUR OPINIONS.

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Cheers,

M&M

Examining Fixer-Upper’s Flaws

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Frozen has always been a mixed bag for me. There are some parts of the movie that I really love and others that are problematic and needed some work. The one that bothers me the most is the trolls, and their song, “Fixer-Upper.”

“Fixer-Upper” is a song that tries to come off as being about love and acceptance, but instead introduces some really uncomfortable messages that didn’t jive with me: 1) the way that the song ignores the agency of both Anna and Kristoff, and 2) the message that love can fix people.

Ignoring Anna and Kristoff’s Agency

The problem with the trolls is the way that they ignore the agency of characters, and this is clearest in “Fixer-Upper” when we see the way they entirely dismiss Anna’s feelings. I mean, look at the opening lines of the song:

What’s the issue, dear?

Why are you holding back from such a man?

The language here is just…ugh. First of all, the dear comes off as patronizing in this context. Second, there’s this very uncomfortable sense of shaming. “Why are you” is combative; it suggests that fault lies with Anna, and that she’s wrong for not being with Kristoff. The way that the trolls shame her for that is so rude and disrespectful that I can’t even deal.

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(I’m Misty in this gif basically.)

The trend of ignoring Anna’s agency continues when Kristoff tells the trolls that Anna is engaged.

So she’s a bit of a fixer-upper

That’s a minor thing

Her quote ‘engagement’ is a flex arrangement

And by the way, I don’t see no ring

The term “fixer-upper” used for Anna suggests that her engagement with Hans is something that can easily be fixed. They disregard the validity of the relationship with excuses (“her quote ‘engagement’ is a flex arrangement” and “I don’t see no ring”) and in doing so, completely disregard Anna’s choices and agency. They’re basically saying: Anna’s decision holds no merit, because we say it doesn’t. They’re taking away from the merit of her decision and writing it off. We live in a society where women and their choices are written off so often that seeing this happen in context of the movie was super uncomfortable in a bad way.

And then this happens:

So she’s a bit of a fixer-upper,

Her brain’s a bit betwixt

Get the fiancé out of the way

And the whole thing will be fixed!

frozen wait what

Side note for those of you who went “huh” at the word betwixt, like I did: betwixt means “between” so the trolls are likely referencing the love triangle between Hans, Anna and Kristoff (and Anna’s feelings for both guys) here.

This is a lot like the above stanza, where the trolls are disregarding the feelings of all three members of the love triangle. They’re dismissing Anna’s feelings. Calling her “betwixt” is like calling her “confused” which is super insulting in my opinion, because they’re saying she can’t trust her own feelings, so they should make a decision for her. Again, that disregard for Anna’s agency.

They’re disregarding Hans entirely: they’re willing to kill him or at the very least, get him “out of the way” in order to make Kristoff/Anna happen. Now keep in mind, the viewer doesn’t know that Hans is evil at this point. Neither do the trolls. For all we know, the trolls are going to take out some innocent guy just to make their shipping dreams a reality. That’s totally messed up.

And they’re also disregarding Kristoff’s feelings as well. Kristoff is clearly uncomfortable during the song, and the trolls repeatedly ignore that.

frozen kristoff side-eyeing the trollsfrozen kristoff is like whattt

When the trolls first try and set Kristoff and Anna up, Kristoff interrupts and says:

“Can we please just stop talking about this? We’ve got a real, actual problem here.”

Kristoff is worried about Anna’s condition, obviously, but I think he’s also uncomfortable with his family trying to set him up with Anna when Anna is engaged to someone else. Kristoff’s regard for Anna’s feelings is in direct contrast to the trolls. While they don’t care what Anna wants, Kristoff cares greatly about what Anna wants and how Anna feels. He may have scoffed at Anna’s engagement at first, but it’s clear as the movie goes on that he cares greatly about how Anna feels and respects her feelings. Does he like her? Yes. But Kristoff is a great representation of how someone should handle a person they like having feelings for someone else: instead of whining or trying to get Anna to pick him, Kristoff respects Anna’s feelings and her relationship with Hans. He stands firm when the trolls keep pushing:

“Enough! She’s engaged to someone else, okay?”

Even with his feelings for Anna, he respects her relationship enough to defend it to his family when they keep pushing and harassing them. And later, he takes Anna back to the castle to Hans when she needs her act of true love, because he wants her to be happy. He respects her. I know I’ve said this word a lot, guys, but respect is really important. And the trolls completely disrespect Kristoff as well as Anna by ignoring their feelings about the matter.

frozen ropes

There’s also the fact that they keep headlining Kristoff’s flaws, which while I understood they were trying to be upfront about him and mortifying in the way that family sometimes is, rubbed me the wrong way, because they treat his flaws as something to be fixed.

And that’s the ultimate problem with this song. “Fixer-Upper” promotes an incredibly unhealthy message: fixing people’s flaws with love.

Love Can Fix People? False.

Repeatedly, the trolls tell us that love can be used to fix a person. They reference it in terms of Kristoff’s flaws (“you can fix this fix-upper up with a little bit of love”) and they reference it again in terms of love in general (“the only fixer-upper that can fix a fixer-upper is true love”). This aggravates me.

Sending a message that love can fix people is horribly irresponsible. Think of how many people stay in bad relationships because they think that they can fix the other person. How often does that logic fail? A lot. Not everyone can be fixed with love, and it shouldn’t be someone’s responsibility to stay with someone else in order to fix them. Saying that love = fixing is putting the responsibility of fixing a person on someone else, when the only person who can fix you is you.

I’ve seen it suggested that the stanza about how “people make bad choices if they’re mad or stressed or scared” is about Elsa, and relates to Anna’s solution to helping Elsa, but this bothers me as well. It’s not Anna’s responsibility to “fix” Elsa. Only Elsa can control her powers and overcome her anxiety, and that weight shouldn’t be put on Anna. Neither should Anna “fix” Kristoff. 1) Kristoff doesn’t really need to be fixed (because he’s awesome). 2) Even if he did, that’s not Anna’s responsibility. Anna is with Hans at this point of the movie, and she loves him. She isn’t going to ditch him just because the trolls want her to date Kristoff and fix his flaws.

“But what about when the trolls say that people don’t really change, Mel? Doesn’t that mean that they don’t want Anna to change Kristoff in any way?”

Not exactly. Let’s take a look at the stanza, shall we?

We’re not saying you can change him,

‘Cause people don’t really change

We’re only saying that love’s a force

That’s powerful and strange

People make bad choices

If they’re mad or scared or stressed

This might be a good message if the trolls hadn’t spent the entirety of the song before this entirely contradicting it. The fact that the trolls spend stanzas before this criticizing Kristoff’s flaws and telling Anna that she can fix him up negates all of this. And yes, people make bad choices. That’s a good point, and points to Elsa and how a lot of her bad choices came from a place of fear. However, the two lines after this are entirely unforgivable.

Throw a little love their way

And you’ll bring out their best

frozen throw a little love their wayfrozen and you'll bring out their best

I can see what the movie’s trying to do here. The story is trying to tie in that “love > fear” theme. But instead, the movie sends the message that love will fix people, because it will bring out their best. Now, if this was true, do we really think that we would have had Hans leave Anna for dead? If love supposedly brings out the best in people, wouldn’t Anna loving Hans have been enough to overcome whatever evil tendencies he had?

Now, as a counter-argument, you could say that Anna and Hans weren’t in love (since they’d just met like a day ago so it’s probably a crush more than anything else), but what about Anna and Kristoff? They’ve only known each other for about the same time as Anna and Hans, so that doesn’t exactly make them in love either. And what about familial love? Elsa and Anna have known each other their whole lives, and Anna’s love for Elsa hasn’t really fixed Elsa at this point. Neither did the love Elsa’s parents had for her. So how does this love force work? Do two people have to be in love to fix each other? Does it have to be romantic in nature? Does it need to involve sacrifice, like Anna’s act of true love at the end of the movie?

The trolls say that “love’s a force that’s powerful and strange” but how is love supposed to fix someone? They repeatedly insist that Anna can use love to fix Kristoff’s flaws (and hint to the viewer that Anna’s love can fix Elsa) but never back this up with any concrete evidence, making it an unsubstantiated claim.

frozen strugglebus

Love doesn’t always change people, and love is not a fix-all. Throwing love someone’s way to bring out their best, or staying with someone to fix them, isn’t always going to do that. It’s irresponsible for Disney to suggest otherwise.

While “Fixer-Upper” had a positive motive, its underlying messages undermine it by being uncomfortable and unhealthy. It also leaves us with a question: is love really a fix-all? The reality is that no, it’s not.

What do you guys think of “Fixer-Upper” and its messages? Let us know in the comments!

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Cheers,

M&M