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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

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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!

sleeping beautiy cake candles life copy

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.

sleeping-beauty-disneyscreencaps.com-6071sleeping-beauty-disneyscreencaps.com-6054

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.

little mermaid crying

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.

beauty anf the beast fangirling  copy

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.

pocahontas nakoma cheeringpocahontas and nakoma assessing men

pocahontas and nakoma 3

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.

pocahontas and nakoma 2pocahontas and nakoma 1

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.

pocahontas grandmother willow 3pocahontas grandmother willow 2

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.

mulan horse

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

princess and frog lottie and tiana

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.

princess and the frog

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.

prince and the frog lottie 1princess and the frog lottie 2

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

princess and frog lottie catches the bouquet

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.

tangled hug

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.

tangled gothel bitch 2tangled gothel bitch

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

tangled maximus horse

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.

brave bear mombrave that's my mother

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.

brave merida and mom

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

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

10 Animated Women That Inspire Us to Epicness: Mic Edition

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To piggyback on the theme Mel started this week, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite animated women. I hope these picks bring back some feels from the past. Let’s go!

Anastasia—Anastasia
Oh, Anastasia, how do I list all the ways I love you? I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how to even describe Anya. I loved the way she carried herself. I loved her rundown clothes, but she was never rundown, no matter what happened. She left the orphanage determined to uncover the mystery of her past and when the chance arose to take a risk and follow a leap of faith, she did.

I loved how she and Dimitri could take turns being the hero. Anastasia is a beautiful film that I will never forget. She got to have flaws and be biased and then have to overcome them to see the real person. She could be afraid and cry and then also be a badass that took out Rasputin.

The Powerpuff Girls—The Powerpuff Girls
This cartoon was one of my favorites. How perfect was it? Three amazing girls kicking ass with sugar, spice, and everything nice. Girls could be physically strong and also be feminine. Girls could be anything they wanted. Blossom was my favorite since she was the leader and I was obsessed with being the leader as a kid (yes, I was called bossy).

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3 guesses and the first two don’t count 🙂

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Everything that needs to be said about this show is right here.

Sabrina—Sabrina the Animated Series
I wanted to be Sabrina so much as a little girl. She had awesome hair, a great family, and magical powers! She was the coolest ever. Like the Powerpuff Girls, Sabrina was strong and also feminine, frequently sporting pink unabashedly.

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Reggie—Rocket Power
We’re gonna stick with TV shows a tad longer. Reggie was also one of my personal heroes. She was the only girl in a squad of boys and just as awesome as them. Her purple hair was just amazing. She was the oldest and the smartest and in control and cool. “It’s not worth winning if you have to cheat,” she once said. Reggie was spouting wisdom and being awesome on a surf board or rollerblades or skateboard with her sunglasses and baggy pants like a boss.

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Esmeralda—The Hunchback of Notre Dame
I feel like we’re following a trend of highlighting women that are both powerful, vulnerable, feminine, and flawed. Esmeralda, like the other women I’ve talked about, is brave and courageous and like Anya, initially lets her prejudice get the best of her. She also has to strip back the layers and look at people in new ways. But on the other hand, she also sees clearly that which others vilify.

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She misjudged Phoebus, the handsome man most people probably flocked to, but not Quasi, the different looking and mistreated boy. Her song God Help the Outcasts just tells you everything you need to know about.

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She cares for others above herself and she’s caught in a world that is supposed to be equal and claims it is, but isn’t. And she fights to make it a reality.

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Mulan—Mulan
As a comment pointed out on Mel’s post, Mulan deserves to be on this list. We adore Mulan here at Animated Meta and once I knew Mel left her off her list, I knew she would be on mine. I’ve talked about Mulan before and I could talk about her for all eternity. Just… perfect movie. Mulan is fierce. Mulan shares many qualities with all the women we’ve talked about. I just love that symbolism at the end of the film when she fights the leader of the Huns as a woman, with the fan, uses both her brains and her fighting skills and wins.

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Marina and Eris—Sinbad and the Legend of the Seven Seas
I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about the film Sinbad and the Legend of the Seven Seas. Now, Sinbad is very much about Sinbad and also his buddy Proteus. Proteus and Sinbad were friends, but their relationship suddenly ended when Marina arrived as Proteus’ betrothed. Sinbad took one look at her, fell in love, and fled to a life of piracy to avoid screwing anything up. Marina eventually ends up traveling with Sinbad to save Proteus’ life after Eris causes trouble. Everything make sense? I hope so.

So, Marina? Awesome.

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She’s this princess that, like most of our well-known Disney ladies, wants way more. Before I get into that, I just want to talk about her physically. She’s got short hair and wears pants. How awesome is that? I think basically every princess except like Snow White and Cinderella have had long, luscious locks. And pants on a female character? Like, that’s sadly pretty rare. So right away, Marina’s design pawns all, I think.

She holds her own against a crew of pirates and saves their butts numerous times.

She also gets them into some sticky situations, but she’s not dead weight on this mission. She also acts as Sinbad’s conscience, generally just being smart and amazing and telling him he’s being a cowardly asshole.

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On the flip side, we have Eris, the goddess of chaos and discord.

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I was thinking about my favorite female villains and knew I wanted one on this list. My first thought was Maleficent and she and Eris actually do have some stuff in common. They’re both evil just for the pleasure of it. Eris loves causing trouble. She’s just so wicked and voiced by Michelle Pfeiffer, so yeah, chills.

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I loved her design as a kid, her sleek, dark long hair. I loved how she could grow really tall and then be human size and she was so twisted.

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Just look at her movements, I can’t get enough of it. She’s so creepy.

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And really, I think the climax of Sinbad is like no other. Eris could not go down easy and she doesn’t. I don’t want to spoil because it’s just a great fun film and really should be seen by more people. Anyway, Sinbad loses, Eris wins and there’s actually a legit amount of time that passes where Sinbad tries to atone for what he’s done. What leads to Eris’ downfall is unexpected.

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Did I sell this movie enough for you?

A shout out to Dreamworks for giving us Fiona, Astrid, Chel and the great crop of different female characters we’ve gotten. Really, great work.

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Sarah—Liberty’s Kids

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Liberty’s Kids was the bomb! Sarah was my favorite because she was really the only woman on the show and had awesome hair (and I had a thing for animated hair, clearly). She went through such a great journey on the show, going from a firm English loyalist to supporting the plight of the colonists. She was such an amazing character, a woman with a voice, and the freedom to explore the world and be shaped by it. She was a reporter and always spoke her mind and was amazing.

Misty—Pokemon
Pokemon! Ah, my favorite. Misty, following another trend, was pretty much the one woman among a group of men and was fabulous. Between the original trio, each had a specialization and Misty’s was water pokemon.

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Like, she first saves Ash’s life and then follows him around demanding he fix her bike that his pokemon ruined. Misty is not here for your crap.

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And clearly she has a temper, as Mel put it to me, which may feed into the redhead stereotype if we want to look closely at that.

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Misty also suffered from a lack of confidence in regard to her older sisters and feeling left out but their synchronized swimming group. But the show also had a nice arc for her where we saw her overcome that she felt more secure in her relationships with Ash and Brock and bonds with her sisters. And who can forget the epic ear pulling whenever Brock whenever he got all OMG I LURVE YOU about girls. Best ever.

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Spring Sprite—Fantasia 2000

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Perhaps an unconventional pick, but I could talk for hours about this film and the final selection, Firebird Suite, changed my life. I legit used to run around with a shawl as my wings to be the Spring Sprite and bring the forest back to life.

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I loved her because she was naive and vulnerable and became depressed when the volcano destroyed the forest,

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but then found the power to restore the beauty, to create life again. I loved her strength and her curiosity. She’s a bit like Ariel, now that I think about it. The way she goes to explore the volcano and awakens it.

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She shares that spirit, the excitement to discover something new. The Spring Sprite was so important to me on so many levels.

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Who are your favorite animated women? Do you agree with my list? Who would be on your list? What makes an animated woman “epic?” What qualities do you admire in a character?

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter.

Cheers,

M&M

Response: How Disney Stereotypes Hurt Men

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On Thursday, Laci Green and MTV put out a video called How Disney Stereotypes Hurt Men. Unsurprisingly Mel and I had a lot of thoughts and decided to write a response. Watch the video below and then read our thoughts on body type in animation, physically empowered women, the way masculinity is presented in the princes and villains, and men fighting over women.


Body Types in Animation

One of the biggest and most obvious gripes about animation is the way people are drawn. Laci points this out very aptly when she says all the men are drawn the same. They’re big, tall, muscular, and generally white, as the video says. This is true. Men are pressured the same way women are to look a certain way. Men are encouraged to be physically fit, have six packs, and be big strong men.

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However, women in animation are not drawn any better. Women often times have a tiny waist, a decent chest, and huge wide eyes. Hell, recent Disney films have faced criticism for having Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna drawn with the exact same face.

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This is a problem that goes both ways. Animated characters enforce gender stereotypes and uphold unattainable standards of beauty.

Disney and other animation houses need to recognize they are not drawing actual human beings. But this is also a problem that extends outside of animation to Hollywood and the media as a whole. Actors and actresses face extreme levels of pressure and then are ridiculed when they cave and get plastic surgery. It even extends to normal people that are not in the public eye. Eating disorders and low self-esteem are real life consequences that have wide reaching effects.

Now, Disney also draws its villains and heroes a certain way. While princes and princesses are both extraordinarily beautiful, Laci makes another point about men that are not everything a prince should be according to the standards of animation: “Men who aren’t tall and muscular are often portrayed as outcasts or subservient and weak.” I agree and disagree.

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Let me explain.

Men that do not look like a prince are treated differently, but the only one I can think of that is an outcast for it is Quasi in Hunchback. But the point of that film is that it is wrong to discriminate based on how people look. Frollo emotionally abuses Quasi and even tried to murder him as a baby. Quasi is the hero of the film despite not looking or being a prince and his film sends the message it is wrong to mistreat him because he looks different.

Another character that is an outcast in their film is Hercules. Hercules is super strong and tall and an awkward teenager. He hasn’t yet developed his muscles, which he does by training and actually working hard. But he does have this gifted insane amount of strength from childhood and is ostracized for it.

Often times, men that don’t fit the “big, tall, muscular” mold are actually villains. Look at Lawrence in Princess and the Frog. He wants power and is jealous of Naveen and so throws his lot in with Dr. Facilier. Lawrence, physically, is a short, plump, balding dude. He is one of the villains of the film. He’s not handsome in the conventional sense. The Huntsman in Snow White, who we are supposed to fear, is a big, also plump dude. He has a big nose and a scary, angry face. Smee, Hook’s right hand man, looks a lot like Lawrence. Cruella’s henchmen also have the big noses, while one is plump and short and the other skinny and tall. The Butler in Aristocats also doesn’t fit the prince mold. My point here is, these men don’t become outcasts. They are villains.

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An exception to this is Jasmine’s dad. He is drawn similarly to Lawrence (rather, Lawrence is drawn similar to him) and is kinda/sorta/not really a villain, but he is standing in the way of Jasmine being able to make her own choices. However, he is not the antagonist of the film and is ultimately a figure we sympathize with. He’s blinded by tradition and only wants Jasmine to be provided for once he dies. Jasmine could probably provide for herself quite fine, as could all women, if not held back by this archaic way of thinking. The sultan is a powerful figure though small in stature. He does not fit the prince mold, despite have been one before he became sultan.

Generally, though, beauty is equated with goodness, while villains are the opposite.

The same can be said for female villains. Ursula isn’t supermodel skinny and when she turns herself into Vanessa to tempt Eric, she has a totally different body type. Lady Medusa in The Rescuers has saggy boobs and buckteeth and looks certifiably insane. So do Cruella and Yzma. Disney is totally guilty of the way it draws its characters and the messages it sends. But this damage goes both ways.

Prince = “Savior”

As the video progresses, Laci tells us that princesses need saving and a prince has to be there do it. While this seems true at first glance, it’s not really so. The older films, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc are definitely guilty of this. But Disney has evolved from those films.

Let’s start with The Little Mermaid, the beginning of the Disney Renaissance. Ariel saves Eric from drowning the very first time they meet. He would have died during the storm. But Ariel was there and she grabbed him and carried him to safety. But it does not end there. When Ariel finds out Eric is about to marry Ursula in disguise, she jumps into action. Literally.

little mermaid dramatic entry 10 points reaction crack

She can’t swim and relies on her friends to save her. I love The Little Mermaid for this reason. Everyone depends on each other. Ariel saves Eric, Eric saves Ariel, Ariel saves Flounder (the shark sequence in the opening), Flounder and Sebastian save Ariel (Sebastian cuts the barrels loose and Flounder tows her), etc. No one is the hero all the time. Everyone needs help.

little mermaid i hope you appreciate what i go through for you

Anyway, back to Ariel saving Eric. She’s not about to let Eric get trapped in a fake marriage. Sebastian and Scuttle do a lot of the legwork for that scene, but Ariel’s presence matters, too. Saving does not always have to be literal. We’ll return to that notion later. Let’s stay with TLM a bit longer.

When Ursula captures Ariel and takes her home, Eric stops Ursula from hurting Ariel after Ariel protected her father. The Little Mermaid is very cyclical, as I mentioned, and it plays itself that way to the end of the film. Ariel evades Ursula in the whirlpool of doom and Eric is able to spear her with his ship. But the film does not end with Eric saving the day. The film ends when Ariel and her father finally find common ground. They reach an understanding. It’s not about Eric saving the day because everyone in The Little Mermaid has saved someone else at some point. It’s about Ariel—the little mermaid—and her relationship with her father. Triton gives Ariel legs and the Part of Your World reprise plays. Part of Your World was the moment the plot really kicked off, when we knew Ariel was going to go for what she wanted. She has her father’s blessing now; all is well between them. The final line of the film is “I love you, daddy,” emphasizing this.

little mermaid i love you, daddy

Another example where Disney bashes the notion of a prince having to save the day and the princess being useless is Mulan. To me, every female character in Disney is a princess. I know that’s technically untrue since Esmeralda’s not, etc, but to me they are. So I’m going to talk about Mulan now. Mulan, as I’ve talked about in other metas, is an amazing movie steeped in gender roles and seeks to overcome that beautifully.

Mulan totally saves herself and all of China and also her boyfriend.

hercules like a boss reaction crack

After Mulan confronts the Huns and shoots her arrow into the mountains to create an avalanche, Shang gets caught in the disaster. Mulan saves him from going off a cliff all while injured, herself! At the end of the film, when she fights Shan-Yu, she fights him as a woman. The gender roles are even emphasized more when Mulan has her friends dress as women to break into the palace because they would not be seen as a legitimate threat that way. The guards instead were interested if they could get some action. Disney throws that right in our faces! Disney is straight up showing us the gender roles, that women are weak and submissive and men won’t take them seriously.

And then badass Mulan goes and fights the leader of the Huns. She’s not pretending to be a man. She’s wearing feminine clothes. She’s herself. She even uses a fan to defeat Shan-Yu, something seen in Asian culture as a feminine practice. Disney subverts every single gender role and challenges them in Mulan. Mulan wins. She beats him. And again, the focus of the film is not on the romance. Mulan goes home to see her family and her dad. She makes peace with them before she essentially gets Shang as a “prize.” Eric and Shang are just bonuses in Ariel and Mulan’s stories. The men don’t win anyone.

Tangled also has the princess saving the prince—err, Flynn. She heals him at the end of the film, even though he is the one that came to rescue her. She saves him, literally. But now I want to look at the ways Disney has their female heroes saving men in not so obvious ways. The best example of this is Pocahontas. John Smith is a pretty arrogant guy when he meets Pocahontas. And it is through her that he becomes a better person. She teaches him about the importance of the land and also that judging people and fearing them is wrong. She changes his total world view. Colors of the Wind is the turning point. She challenges his assumptions that the English way is the best one, the “civilized” way. She does not overtly go charging into battle wielding a weapon, but she saves him nonetheless. She left a mark on him.

i cant even talk about it reaction   i need a moment reaction right in the feels reaction

Okay, so we covered the fact that princesses frequently save their princesses and saving does not always have to be so black and white. I also want to talk about physically empowered women that Disney has given us. These ladies aren’t necessarily saving anyone, maybe they’re protecting themselves, just surviving, or playing.

Esmeralda is always the first person I think of because of her epic escape scene after she protects Quasi. She counts how many guards there are and does the amazing, “10 of you and only 1 of me. What’s a poor girl to do?” And then POOF, she is gone! But, wait, there she is! And now watch her outsmart all of you. Then she meets Phoebus officially in Notre Dame has no qualms about fighting her future hubby with a candlestick. She’s smart, she’s sassy, and she knows how to fight. Esmeralda is a boss, okay.

I think I’ve already covered how perfect Mulan and Ariel are.

Nala always pawns Simba in a fight.

Jasmine is a fast learner, jumping over rooftops like she’s been doing it her whole life.

frozen punch hans

Disney has plenty of physically empowered women. It’s not all about the prince saving the day. In fact, it hasn’t really been about the prince saving anyone since the early Disney films. In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast needs Belle to save him from his curse. Aladdin beats Jafar at the end of the film, but Jasmine’s words are “I choose you, Aladdin.”

Men Fighting for Women and Domineering, Masculine Men

Laci mentions at one point how many Disney movies have a battle between two guys, with the winner winning pride, respect and a woman. Now I can see where people would see male antagonist vs. male hero and think the fight is about a woman, but in most cases, it’s really not. Even in cases where we have a possessive villain (Gaston, Jafar) who wants the princess for himself, the fight itself is more about power than it is about the woman at hand. We do have one fight that’s sort of about a woman in Hercules, between Hercules and Hades, and Hercules does get pride/respect/becomes a god. HOWEVER, that means losing out on Meg, because he can’t be with her if he’s not mortal, and Hercules gives up that pride and power for a chance to be with the woman he loves. On the flip side, Aladdin believes he can’t be with Jasmine without wealth and status, but she doesn’t care about that and chooses him after he sets the genie free instead of wishing to be a prince again.

reaction feels  reaction feelsfeelsfeels

Disney proves to us time and time again that love is so much greater than status or power by showing us antagonists so consumed with getting that power and status that it destroys them. Gaston dies when he stabs the Beast after the Beast saves his life instead of just moving on with his life like a normal person. Jafar gets trapped in the lamp because he’s so obsessed with power that he doesn’t realize power always comes with a price. Hades underestimates Hercules’ strength and power, and more importantly, his love for Meg, which ends up screwing him over.

I also find the assumption that women are viewed as prizes to be won to be offensive, because they’re really not.

aladdin done w your shit reaction

A lot of these Disney movies are female-led, and if anything, the prince is their bonus prize achieved in the midst of their goal, mainly because princess/prince connect and share some commonality. (Ex: Aladdin and Jasmine, who both wish that the world would see them for who they really are, and feel trapped by everyone’s expectations and opinions.)

Jasmine actually has this really amazing quote that I love: “I am not a prize to be won.” These ladies do not put up with men who view them as prizes or commodities. Jasmine side-eyes Jafar and her rich suitors who are after the money/status that comes with marrying the Sultan’s daughter, and even side-eyes Aladdin for a while there when he’s pretending to be Prince Ali, because he’s acting like all of the idiots she’s dealt with before. It’s only when he shows her who he really is that she starts to respect him. Another great example: Belle and Gaston. Gaston is domineering and pushy and tries to harass Belle into dating him, because he feels as though he deserves her, and Belle rejects him time and time again, because his lack of respect for her and her boundaries means she has zero respect for him in return. She also doesn’t fall in love with the Beast until the Beast gets his shit together and starts treating her with the respect and kindness she deserves, and makes an effort to change his ways.

jerk's not my type reaction

At one point, Laci mentions that Disney tries to show us that “domination is central to being a real man” which I respectfully disagree with. Does Disney have men who are dominating and aggressive? Yes, they definitely do. But, those men are not the princes/heroes that the ladies in the Disney world fall for. In fact, the domineering aggressive dudes in Disney are often the antagonists. Radcliffe, Gaston, Jafar, Scar, Frollo: these are all dudes that feel entitled to women and power and status.

pocahontas radcliffe's strut

And these aggressive entitled dudes are the ones that end up alone, imprisoned or dead at the end. They’re not rewarded for being domineering or aggressive: they’re punished for it.

Meanwhile, most of our Disney heroes, the ones that end up with the girl at the end, are guys who are respectful toward women. They don’t treat women as prizes; they aren’t aggressive toward them or make them feel uncomfortable. They listen. They respect their feelings. They fight for them, and their women fight for them, and what we end up with are these wonderful, equal relationships that set a great example for women.

Passive Women/Gender Roles

Okay, so I love tearing apart gender roles as much as anyone, and while Disney does leave me unsatisfied in some regards, I really don’t think gender roles is a big issue for them. Passive/domesticated women and active/aggressive men are not how Disney relationships tend to balance out on-screen.

First of all, while I agree with Laci about the earlier Pre-Renaissance films (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), I strongly disagree that the women in the Renaissance era and beyond are portrayed as passive. They don’t need men to save them. They aren’t sitting around in their castle waiting for a man to pop up and complete them. No, these princesses are out following their dreams, and if they happen to find the man of their dreams along the way, awesome.

The Renaissance (and beyond) Princesses have way more to do.

Ariel seems to get the most flack, so I’ll start with her. Ariel is our first princess who is incredibly active and adventurous and progressive. She’s the one who sets the entire plot into motion. She saves Eric from drowning. She battles sharks. She’s the one who goes to Ursula for the deal so she can explore land (which she’s always wanted to do) and also meet Eric. Notice how Eric is the straw that broke the camel’s back here. Ariel always wanted to go to land. (Remember “Part of Your World?” That takes place before Ariel even meets Eric.) Even when Ariel’s voiceless on land, she’s still the one initiating the relationship. She doesn’t sit around and hope Eric realizes she’s awesome: she’s actively hanging out with Eric and uses her body language and personality to show him that she’s into him. Like Mic mentioned, we get this wonderful relationship balance between the two of them, where Eric saves Ariel in return. She saves him, he saves her – it’s all balanced out.

But it isn’t just Ariel. The Disney Princess films revolve around the princesses, and thus we get women who actively go out and pursue their dreams. Disney does explore gender roles, but does something truly revolutionary. It sets our heroines in a world with so many biases and expectations for them, and then they proceed to break through those roles and debunk them entirely. Mulan runs off to join the army to bring honor to her family and break free of the gender roles confining her. Belle wants much more than her provincial life and definitely doesn’t want to be “Madam Gaston, his little wife” so she rejects the expectations fostered on her and finds that adventure she was looking for.

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Pocahontas doesn’t settle for the smoothest course, and ends up uniting her tribe and the settlers. Tiana fights her way to her happy ending and her dream to open that restaurant, ignoring the naysayers. Jasmine says “screw the law” and finds the true love and the freedom she wanted with Aladdin, and then ends up getting her dad to nix the laws that restrain her, which gives her the agency she’s desired. Rapunzel is just awesome, and takes charge of her destiny when she makes that deal with Flynn, and grows into herself and sees the lights and finds a new dream in him.

Also, men aren’t always the ones chasing the women. Most of these women are chasing those guys right back.

little mermaid take your dreams into your own hands

There’s so much mutual attraction and respect built into Disney relationships, where both sides pursue each other and take things at their own pace. A lot of the relationships build up over time as the movie goes on, and the characters get to know one another. Respect and trust is fostered throughout, which leads to love.

As times change and grow, our heroines grow with them, and become more revolutionary and break through more and more gender walls. Even the men do this.

We often forget that in the majority of these Disney films, we have a female lead, and thus the prince/love interest supplements the movie. In the past, this meant we got love interests like Prince Charming and Snow White’s prince, who weren’t as developed and were more confined to gender roles. They didn’t get as much of a role in the movies: they just appeared to save the princess. But as time has gone by, Disney has built up the love interests, giving them their own character arcs and roles and strong personalities that contrast and blend with the princesses in a wonderful way that ends up resulting in some great, balanced relationships. We don’t just get a prince saving a princess. Both sides save each other and look out for each other, because they care for and respect one another. A great example of this would be Flynn and Rapunzel, who both share character arcs and have their own quests and goals. They each save one another from danger, and are assets to each other in a great way.

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I talked a lot about gender roles for guys already, but there are a few more things I want to add. The Disney guys don’t tend to conform to gender roles, unless they’re villains and represent a hyper masculinity that’s very harmful. Most of our Disney dudes are not aggressive or domineering, or even stoic and cold. In fact, we get as much emotional expression from the dudes as we do from the ladies, which is pretty equal and awesome to me. Guys in Disney movies are not afraid to talk about their feelings, or love, or admit if they messed up, or even cry and feel sad or angry. They don’t hold back their emotions, and when they do, or when they try and be something they’re not, it usually ends badly for them. Examples:

  • Hercules: No one likes me. I don’t think I belong here. Something is wrong with me. WHERE DO I BELONG?
  • Aladdin: I AM NOT A STREET RAT. I’m pretty awesome, just give me a chance. I want Jasmine to love me. She’s so pretty and smart. *makes heart eyes*
  • Beast: is just a mess, okay? He’s all NO ONE WILL LOVE ME. I AM DOOMED.
  • Tarzan: Who am I? Why do they look like me? Am I supposed to be like them? WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS?
  • Kuzco: HELP I’M A LLAMA! I don’t want to be a llama. Llamas are lame. I want to be a badass rich emperor dude.
  • Naveen: I NEED MONEYYYYYYY. And women. And my status. Oh, Tiana, hiii. I ‘m gonna make you dinner and gaze up at the stars with you.
  • Flynn: Be cool, dude. I’m actually a wounded orphan on the inside pretending to be a swashbuckling rogue. Let me tell Rapunzel my whole life story. *heart eyes*
  • Eric: I want to marry the girl of my dreams. It’ll hit me, LIKE LIGHTNING. Or my ship exploding and sending me straight into her arms. Let me just stare at the water all moody and play my flute until she shows up. WHAT IS LOVE? IT IS HER. Alas!
  • Phoebus: I love my horse. Like, I really love my horse. We have a bromance. Also, I’m a soldier that follows my heart, not orders. I won’t burn down innocent people’s homes.
  • Yao, Ling, Ping: WE WANT LOVE TO SUSTAIN US WHILE WE GO OFF TO WAR.

I also disagree that Disney men are portrayed as being dopey/incompetent, because our heroes are not, and our villains definitely are not (since most of them are creepily savvy). I think some of the older men in Disney (Maurice, the Sultan, Prince Charming’s dad) fall prey to this trope, mainly through how they’re viewed by other characters. Maurice is written off as a crackpot/crazy by half the town, when he’s actually a pretty brilliant guy despite his absent-minded nature. Charming’s dad and the Sultan are both a little childish and silly, but they prove that they’re worthy kings to lead their land, and have a good head on their shoulders. So I don’t think the dopey thing has much merit, to be honest. Even in the earlier films, most of the guys aren’t portrayed that way, and as time goes on, it comes up less and less.

Conclusion: For the Most Part, Disney Stereotypes Aren’t Affecting Men Adversely

While the physical appearance of both Disney princesses and princes is a negative issue that needs some reworking, since it sets up unrealistic body standards, for the most part, Disney Stereotypes don’t seem to be hurting men too badly. Disney breaks away from the typical norm of gender roles for men by having its male leads be open with their emotions and letting them break out of the typical “knight in shining armor” role.

They also portray more domineering, aggressive men as a negative thing, as most of these men in Disney movies happen to be the antagonists. Disney stereotypes don’t seem to hurt women too badly either: instead of the more passive damsels of the past, Disney’s female leads are active, determined, and generally awesome role models. They initiate their plots and don’t wait around for a guy to save them; they save themselves. They don’t put up with men who don’t respect them or treat them like trophies.

The relationships they end up in are equally balanced and filled with respect and love on both sides of the equation. While Disney fails in some aspects, it definitely does not in regards to gender roles and its portrayal of their later princesses and princes. Instead, Disney challenges gender roles and allows both its female and male characters to break free from them in a way that is wonderfully creative and sets a great example for children.

Do do you think Disney Stereotypes hurt men? Are Disney princesses just damsels in distress that need men to come save them? Do you think body images in animation is a problem?

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Cheers,

M&M

The Music of: Mulan

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The last time I talked about Mulan, it was in the context of my People of Color in Animation meta. Today I went to delve into Mulan a bit more and shift the focus to its amazing music. The music of Mulan exemplifies the gender roles and key conflicts of the film. And it’s freaking awesome, okay? I know every lyric.

Honor to us All

This song is so disturbing, I can’t even. Okay, so this is the film’s big opening number and the gender roles are out of control. We all know how this sequence goes, Mulan shows up late and there’s an amusing make-over scene and she gets a cricket and then the women parade to the matchmaker and all hell breaks loose.

The second verse of this song is where I want to start:

We’ll have you washed and dried
Primped and polished
till you glow with pride
Trust me recipe for instant bride
You’ll bring honor to us all

Lets start with what is supposed to give women pride: their looks. As the sequence shows us, Mulan’s face is powdered, her lips painted red, her waist squeezed and that’s really all she’s there for. But more so, she should not feel proud of her looks to boost her self-confidence, but rather so she can snatch up a man and become a wife. Instant bride is what’s promised to the prettiest woman. She’s nothing more than a pretty trophy for the man.

Boys will gladly go to war for you
With good fortune
And a great hairdo
You’ll bring honor to us all

These lines continue to put the emphasis on the physical. Boys will only go to war for you if you make them weak in the knees with your pretty physique. Never mind having ideas and opinions or a kind heart. None of those are valuable.

However, I do love that the writing in that verse kind of foreshadows A Girl Worth Fighting For and the even more pressing gender roles there, but that is songs away, so back to Honor.

So much is placed on the woman to be beautiful and bring honor to her family. The fate of the family rests on her shoulders and at first glance it doesn’t seem like she’s being asked to do anything strenuous or hard. But so much pressure is heaped upon women to look a certain way and meet man-made standards. The phrase “Beauty is pain?” Um, yeah, it is.

Next, the song fleshes out that there is a bit more than beauty to go along with striking a good match:

Men want girls with good taste
Calm
Obedient
Who work fast-paced
With good breeding
And a tiny waist
You’ll bring honor to us all

“Tiny waist” ties right back into beauty and is so damaging to a girl’s sense of worth and esteem, but we get the words calm, obedient, good work ethic, and breeding. Lets break each of those down.

Reading between the lines, calm probably means a woman is not allowed to challenge her husband. She cannot have differing opinions and she definitely can’t voice them. She can’t raise her voice for any reason, she can’t be angry, she can’t be sad, she must always be calm and collected. Obedient for sure relates to her having the opinions. She must listen to her husband at all times. It’s like she has no free will. “Work fast-paced” to get all cooking, cleaning, and childcare duties done in a timely fashion. Oh, man, good breeding just gets me, though. Wrap that all up and women exist to be pretty, clean the house, cook, reproduce, and not have one original thought.

Gender roles are bad enough today and we’re already better off compared to our ancestors and even other parts of the world. But this idea, especially the pretty facet, resonates so strongly even today.

We all must serve our Emperor
Who guards us from the Huns
A man by bearing arms
A girl by bearing sons

This is just great, though. I never noticed this part as a kid. It’s sung really high and in the background of Mulan racing to join the others, so my attention was always elsewhere. Even if I had noticed, though, the gravity wouldn’t have registered for me. But man, this just makes everything so clear. Mulan has one role and it is to have a son that can go off to war and protect his country and then he needs to marry a beautiful woman who can bear more sons and the cycle goes on and on. There are gender roles for both sexes: men must be warriors and women must be reproductively fit. But that’s SUCH a double standard because reproduction is literally 50/50 and yet women were mostly the ones who got all the shit if a couple had a difficulty conceiving. This was because the science wasn’t really understood but it doesn’t change the fact that women were made scapegoats the moment the opportunity presented itself.

When we’re through
You can’t fail
Like a lotus blossom
Soft and pale
How could any fellow
Say “No Sale”
You’ll bring honor to us all

Here’s another verse I never understood as a kid. No sale. NO SALE.

Women were reduced to a commodity. Something men could buy—like they were looking for the newest car model. No one was buying cars in Mulan’s time, but that’s essentially it. You want a car that works fast paced, one that is obedient (ie the radio works, windshield wipers turn on when you turn them on), a sexy car.

And finally, finally, we hear from our heroine:

Ancestors
Hear my plea
Help me not to make a
fool of me
And to not uproot
my family tree
Keep my father standing tall

Mulan’s focus is on pleasing her family. She plays her part because she loves them and she’s so scared of disappointing/failing them. All she wants is for this day to not end horribly. Spoiler alert: it does.

Scarier than the undertaker
We are meeting our matchmaker
Destiny
Guard our girls
And our future
as it fast unfurls
Please look kindly on
these cultured pearls
Each a perfect porcelain doll

As we reach the end of the song, Honor to Us All finally uses the word it has artfully avoided until now: doll.

Ibsen’s play “A Doll’s House” is all about a woman trapped in a marriage that adheres to strict gender roles. She is treated like a doll and their home is her her husband’s doll house where he gets to manipulate every scenario. Mulan and all women of this time were treated no better than dolls. They were expected to have no minds and be pretty accessories that bore children and nothing else. But this is not the story we watch. Instead, Mulan bucks against these gender roles. She has nothing against marriage and neither do I or Disney. What Disney seeks to show us how wrong GENDER ROLES are. This is not about marriage. Marriage is fantastic when done out of love and by two willing parties. But Honor to Us All is not about a woman meeting her soul mate. It is about her conforming to a patriarchy and submitting. Mulan does not submit.

Reflection

This song is so amazing and totally flies in the face of Honor and all its harsh gender roles. This song is Mulan’s response, Mulan’s inner conflict. She is torn between what everyone expects her to be and who she is and who she wants to be.

I will never pass for a perfect bride, or a perfect daughter.
Can it be,
I’m not meant to play this part?

Part. Gender role. She knows she doesn’t get a choice in what she does with the rest of her life, but she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to do it. She is a daughter and she’s supposed to become a bride and Mulan feels like she’s already failing one and she’ll most probably fail the next one.

Now I see, that if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart.
Who is that girl I see, staring straight, back at me?
Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?

She’s so disappointed in herself. All she wanted was to please her family, even if it meant not being true to herself, and she failed. This song is for anyone that as ever felt alone and like they could not be their true selves.

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

This song is beautiful. It is an anthem against gender roles, about looking in the mirror and seeing yourself and being happy. It is Mulan’s I Want song because she wants to make her family proud, she doesn’t know how. She wants to be herself, she just doesn’t know how. This is Mulan’s quest, her character arc, and it comes full circle (a really great message by Disney, really, to fight for your right to be yourself).

I’ll Make a Man Out of You

The epic training montage! Obligatory, really. But, okay, here we go!

Did they send me daughters
When I asked for sons?

Right away, it values men over women. Worse, it uses “daughters” as an insult. It’s akin to saying, “Crying like a girl,” “Running like a girl,” and all the other phrases that make being a girl an insult.

But you can bet
Before we’re through
Mister, I’ll make a man
out of you

That implies that already physically men are not, in fact, real men. And that baffles me so much. It’s still a thing we say today: Be a man, grow some balls, man up, don’t be a pussy, etc. Let me tell you something world, if you have a penis, you are already a man. This, of course, does not go for people with male body parts that do not identify as male. But for people that have a penis and identify as male, they don’t need to BE a man, because they ARE men.

I’m never gonna catch
my breath
Say goodbye to those
who knew me
Boy, was I a fool in school
for cutting gym

I really liked how we saw guys struggling with the training, too, and not just Mulan. It really shows that they’re not training to be MEN, they’re training to be SOLDIERS—something not inherently masculine, though it is treated that way.

(To Be a man)
We must be swift as
the coursing river
(Be a man)
With all the force
of a great typhoon
( To Be a man)
With all the strength
of a raging fire
Mysterious as the
dark side of the moon

Just like we saw what makes a good wife, we also see what makes a man. I like that we get both sides of the gender roles. Most of them all relate to how to be a good fighter: fast, strong, more strength, and someone mysterious. Looking at the war aspect of Mulan, it could mean someone that can be stealthy and covert, maybe even go behind enemy lines if need be. But you could also look at it in the context of “being a man” (whatever that means) and how men are typically encouraged to keep their emotions bottled up.

The lyrics kind of repeat here, once Mulan gets sent home but then stays and triumphs. Once again, a song deeply rooted in gender roles, something Mulan excels so well at portraying.

A Girl Worth Fighting For

And here we have our final song.

I love that Mulan’s music has embraced the world-building aspect of the story, setting the society’s values in black and white. There is no love song because it would alter the tone of the music. If anything it could have had a Reflection reprise to show the growth achieved by the time we reach the end. Nevertheless, we journey forth.

I want her paler than the
moon with eyes that
shine like stars
My girl will marvel at
my strength, adore my
battle scars
I couldn’t care less what she’ll
wear or what she looks like
It all depends on what
she cooks like
Beef, pork, chicken

So: beauty, obedient, and work fast-paced. Three different guys with three different wants. When Mulan suggests an intelligent woman, the guys scoff. These are the three male characters we’re supposed to like, Mulan’s friends! And they’re just as ignorant. Everyone in Mulan is flawed and it’s great. We all know, of course, that they help her in the end, before even her lover boy Shang does. But right now they too fall prey to the harsh restrictions of their culture.

But even the title has interesting implications because it defines who is WORTH fighting for. Not every life apparently matters. Not every girl is worth fantasizing about:

Our aching feet aren’t
easy to ignore
Hey, think of instead
A girl worth fighting for

&

You can guess what we
have missed the most
Since we went off to war
What do we want?
A girl worth fighting for

And that girl is, of course, one who is pretty, etc, etc.

But when we come home
in victory they’ll line up
at the door
What do we want?
A girl worth fighting for

This final stanza plays to both gender roles. Men must be macho and warriors because it is the only way a woman will want him. And women, well, women are supposed to just want men. Their whole lives revolve around marriage. She is there to please the man. She needs to be WORTH the man’s attention by powdering her face and watching her weight and keeping her lips shut.

Conclusion

I never actually realized the weight the songs in Mulan carry. Breaking them down and examining the lyrics was really an eye opening experience for me. Mulan was a brave film that had A LOT of barriers to tackle. What we got, of course, was an amazing film. This is straying away from the music, but I love how Mulan didn’t want to bend to her gender role, but then had to completely reject her femininity to masquerade as a boy and in the end, saves China as a woman. She uses her brains and a fan, the first something a woman was not encouraged to use, and second, a fan, something more traditionally associated with women. Mulan celebrates feminism and being one’s true self. It rejects gender roles. The music of Mulan is a vital piece of the film.

Have a Happy Sunday, guys! Sorry this one’s up late a day late. You can follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter.

Cheers!

M&M

Disney Villain Songs: Part Two

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Welcome back to the Disney Villain Songs Meta. We tackled five songs last week and this time we have four more, plus some other films to discuss.

Last week I told you that Villain Songs didn’t really become a thing until the Renaissance era films, when the storytelling took a shift. The post-Renaissance films have been an odd mix. Some of them sway more Renaissance, while others lean back to more traditional Disney films, where the villain is a deeper theme.

After Pocahontas in 1995, we got The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Lilo & Stitch, The Princess & The Frog, Tangled, and Frozen. Out of those films only Hunchback, Emperor, Frog, and Tangled have Villain Songs.

Hades is definitely a villain of Hercules, constantly trying to keep the son of Zeus from regaining his god status. But the true villain of the film is Hercules’ isolation. He grows up believing he’s a human, where his extreme strength distances him from everyone—dude, he’s like the original Elsa!

hercules alone no one can hurt you

Meg is, too!

When he finds out who he is, that’s when things begin to change and he wants to regain his place among the gods, where he thinks he will belong. The immediate threat to this plan is Hades, so he becomes the physical villain. It’s not until Hercules rescues Meg from the underworld that he truly wins and becomes a hero and realizes he belongs with her and with his friends.

hercules punch hades

You can’t give isolation a song (though Frozen certainly tried, I guess).

Hercules’ need to belong is what is given a song. He gets an I Want song! “Sometimes I feel like I really don’t belong here, like I’m supposed to be someplace else,” he says, just before the song begins. This is the true threat to him. It makes him leave home (“You’re the greatest parents anyone can have, but I gotta know.”) And once he thinks knows where he belongs, he succeeds. He trains and he beats every monster Hades throws at him, trying to fulfill his role as a god. But when Meg gets hurt and is ripped away from him, he knows he belongs with her. That is when he really wins and even attains the status he was looking for.

In Mulan, the physical villain is the army of Huns and their leader. But really, Mulan is about gender roles and what a woman should and shouldn’t do.

mulan reflection

The Huns are always the background threat, driving the plot. Mulan’s storyline is deeper, its villains a society, a way of thinking. Even when Mulan saves the day and is confronted the emperor, she is afraid of his reaction, expecting to be berated for her heroism. I mean, and her destruction of the palace, but details.

mulan fuck you mulan reaction

When Mulan is the sole person that knows the Huns were not defeated, she is scoffed at because she brings the news as a woman. The antagonist of Mulan was never solely the Huns and that is why there is no Villain song.

Tarzan! I love the music in this film so much. I used to play Son of Man on repeat for hours. I loved the growing up montage; it amused me to no end. There’s no Villain Song here since it’s kind of a re-vamp of The Jungle Book. Both films are about boys that grew up away from humanity and are more comfortable with animals. While Mowgli had little interest in man, Tarzan is fascinated with the strangers that look like him.

tarzan man

I’m not sure what I’d call the villain of this film. Kerchak is an obstacle to Tarzan. Clayton is definitely a piece of work and his hunting of the gorillas is horrible. The message is, of course, pro-nature, but I think there’s also something to be said about the notion of home. Once Tarzan learns he’s human and there’s a whole world out there he should be in, he thinks he should leave the jungle. He’s in love, so that also plays a part in his decision. But as Jane finds out, home does not have to be what society expects. Home can be the jungle. I don’t know that I’d call Tarzan a film about finding the strength to be yourself and be open to change, but it certainly plays itself that way.

tarzan and jane swinging

Lilo & Stitch, precious film that it is, is not a musical, though it has some lovely songs in it. So there’s no Villain Song here because of its structure. But if it was a musical, it could easily devote a comedic song to Jumba and Pleakley attempting to catch Stitch. However, as you’re probably tired of hearing, the deeper villain here ties very closely into Tarzan. Stitch finds a home on earth with Lilo. Lilo also aligns very much with Hercules, struggling to figure out where she belongs, feeling isolated from the other girls in her hula class. Nani and Lilo are also grieving for their parents and trying to find a way to relate to each other.

lilo and stich hands

There’s so much more at play beneath the surface of silly alien hunting.

Frozen is erm… we all know Frozen is really about isolation and fear and not loving yourself. I don’t need to spell that out for you. Hence, Hans and his treachery don’t get a song. As Mel eloquently put it to me once, Let it Go is an odd Villain/Empowerment Song.

frozen strugglebus reaction

It speaks to Elsa’s fears and seeks to overcome them, but it really doesn’t since she’s still not in control of her powers. If everything was solved then, we wouldn’t have a movie. Frozen is hard for me to talk about because as I was watching it the first time, I adored it. But the more I think about it, there are things that don’t quite work, didn’t need to be there, etc. Hans is one of them. But the deeper themes of Frozen do not need to be contested and thus, there is no true Villain Song.

Now, onto the films that DO have Villain Songs!

Hellfire

Mel already did an analysis of Hellfire when she wrote about Hunchback and Religion. Let’s switch gears and look at it through the lens of villainy. It’s similar to Gaston, where Frollo sees himself as having done no wrong. Like Ursula did in Poor Unfortunate Souls, he tries to present himself as a saint.

Beata Maria
You know I am a righteous man
Of my virtue I am justly proud

Sorry, Frollo. You are not a righteous dude. And you should not be proud.

peter pan no me gusta reaction

You know I’m so much purer than
The common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd

You’re also not in a place to be insulting people.

Hellfire is Frollo’s confession. He’s torn between his… urges for Esmeralda (I could not say “feelings” because that feels too innocent) and the strict doctrine of his religion. He tries to justify his actions, his burning of Paris to apprehend her. Villains hardly ever see themselves as in the wrong, a case made clear here.

hunchback me or the fire

Frollo has a lot of internal conflict to deal with, perhaps more so than any other Disney villain. His journey is as complex as a hero’s. His beliefs are challenged and instead of shedding his ignorance and hatred, he does not. If Frollo had, he could have easily become the protagonist of this film. Hunchback could have been about a man finding mercy within himself, about seeing how his negative interpretation of religion led to so many horrible crimes. Two roads were set before Frollo in a way no other villain has gotten. Frollo chose wrong.

Like fire
Hellfire
This fire in my skin
This burning
Desire
Is turning me to sin
It’s not my fault

Frollo cannot accept blame or responsibility. If he admits he wants Esmeralda, a sinner, then what does that make him? He is no longer a righteous man (he never was, but whatever). So it becomes Esmeralda’s crime. She is the villain. She IS the devil, tempting him.

hunchback frollo witchcraft

Protect me, Maria
Don’t let this siren cast her spell
Don’t let her fire sear my flesh and bone
Destroy Esmeralda
And let her taste the fires of hell
Or else let her be mine and mine alone
Hellfire
Dark fire
Now gypsy, it’s your turn
Choose me or
Your pyre
Be mine or you will burn

Frollo turns to his beliefs for strength. He also turns to them for justification of what he’s about to do.

hunchback hellfire, dark fire

Hellfire is so interesting because it again questions sexism by placing the responsibility on the woman. If a man wants a woman, she has no choice. And if she tempts him, that’s her fault, too. It also represents a deep-rooted inner conflict none of the villains ever had to contend with. Frollo here is clearly torn between what he wants to do. He’s in distress, a quality we’ve never witnessed before. His inner conflict makes him so compelling to watch.

Snuff out the Light

I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you didn’t know The Emperor’s New Groove had a Villain Song in it. That’s because it was deleted and what a mistake! I know why they did—the song is so freakishly amazing and deep it would change the tone of the film. The Emperor’s New Groove is not deep. Snuff out the Light is. I wanted to include this deleted song in the meta because it is wonderful and it’s my meta, so I can.

follow your dreams reactiong

Yzma wants power, like Scar and many villains before her. Unlike most villains, though, Yzma is old, a fact Kuzco can never forget. It seems to diminish her in his eyes. His voiceover when the audience meets her is, “This is Yzma… living proof that dinosaurs once roamed the earth.” Later: “Wow, look at these wrinkles. What is holding this woman together?”
Oh, and here’s the best. When he fires her:

Yzma: But your highness, I have been nothing if not loyal to the empire for many, many years.
Kuzco: Hey everybody hits their stride. You just hit yours fifty years ago.

really?

Kuzco is vain (remember when he had potential wives line up for him?) and Yzma is old and not pretty, so she has to go. Ageism at its finest, folks! Sure, she wasn’t doing a good job, evidenced by her having zero compassion for the peasant that comes to lament about the lack of food, but that is not why she was fired.

With that in mind, lets turn to Snuff out the Light. Listen HERE.

When a woman acquires a certain age
And the men who adored you no longer swoon
It pays to avoid the sunlit days
And live by the light of the kindly moon
But the moon grows old
Just like us all
And her beautiful years are done
So now she prays through endless days
To take her revenge on the sun

This is a song about beauty, the importance of looks, and revenge.

In similar fashion to Villain Songs before, Snuff out the Light provides backstory.

When I was a girl at my daddy’s side
Papa, the royal mortician
Revealed to me in secret signs
The mark of a magician

Yzma’s father was an intelligent man and she learned from him. She prided herself on her knowledge, seeking to one day discover a way to stay young and pretty.

I studied well I learnt the trade
I thought my looks would never fade
If I could find that recipe
To give eternal youth to me

It was always my ambition
To use Papa’s tuition
And gain some small remission
From the vagaries of time

But clearly that has failed her now. She never found it and Kuzco fired her because she reached “a certain age.” She is no longer adored. Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, a woman’s role is again questioned. Is her worth defined by her beauty?

little mermaid the human world is a mess

I’ve really stopped at nothing
Murder, treachery, and lying
Whatever it takes to keep my looks
You really can’t blame a girl for trying

To Yzma, it is. Beauty is everything. I love how Disney always presents these false, negative, and pervasive ideas of womanhood to us in a Villain Song. Ursula thinks it, and as we’ll see, Mother Gothel thinks it. Gaston certainly cares about beauty, it’s the main reason he fixated on Belle (“The most beautiful girl in town! That makes her the best.”). The Evil Queen is obsessed with being the fairest of them all and once a mirror tells her that someone else is the fairest in the land, she flies into a jealous rage.

This song also touches on something I mentioned in Hellfire. Villains don’t see themselves as such. They’re not self-aware. Yzma is very self-aware here. She admits that she’s murdered and lied, so she can’t go back now. She’s in too deep and does not see a way out. That’s such an interesting facet of her character that’s lost by cutting this song.

Friends on the Other Side

This song from The Princess and the Frog reminds me most of Poor Unfortunate Souls. It’s manipulative, meant to coax someone into doing exactly what Dr. Facilier wants.

On you little man, I don’t want to waste much time
You been pushed around all your life
You been pushed around by your mother and your sister and your brother.
And if you was married…
You’d be pushed around by your wife
But in your future, the you I see
Is exactly the man you always wanted to be!

Just like Ariel was putty in Ursula’s hands, Lawrence can’t resist. It’s also interesting to see Lawrence be the one to fall for it since he was staunchly against Naveen going for a reading. Whereas, in The Little Mermaid, Ariel was fully intending to get help from Ursula from the start.

Perhaps one reason The Princess & The Frog isn’t quite as loved is because it feels too safe. We’ve already seen this ploy before. Every previous song has changed the game in some way. Ursula’s was the first, Gaston’s introduced victim-blaming, Jafar’s was a victory song, Scar’s was a plotting song, Ratcliffe’s set up the eventual conflict of the film and featured a cameo by someone considered a hero, Frollo’s was just fucked up, and Yzma’s calls out ageism and those obsessed with beauty. Friends on the Other Side is an intimidation song.

princess and the frog reaction i will end you

Sit down at my table
Put your minds at ease
If you relax it will enable me to do anything I please
I can read your future
I can change it ’round some, too
I’ll look deep into your heart and soul
(you do have a soul, don’t you, Lawrence?)
Make your wildest dreams come true!

I got voodoo
I got hoodoo
I got things I ain’t even tried!
And I got friends on the other side

Massive Ursula vibes, okay! This is basically the male Poor Unfortunate Souls.

And I fortunately know a little magic
It’s a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don’t laugh
I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, lonely, and depressed pathetic

Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
That one wants to get the girl
And do I help them?
Yes, indeed

Dr. Facilier and Ursula both prattling about their magic? Check.
Dr. Facilier and Ursula both talking up their skills? Check.
Dr. Facilier and Ursula both promising to help? Check.

little mermaid ursula lips

Both villains are trying to coerce someone into doing something. They both follow the same structure and involve a transformation, coincidentally. If you’ve noticed Villain Songs have not followed this pattern. They usually involve the villain alone or with their minions lamenting some crime that has been done to them. As a result, Friends on the Other Side is stale and not as memorable as its predecessors.

Mother Knows Best

Finally we come to the last Villain Song. I’m kinda sad, guys. Lets meta the shit out of it.

This song also has lots in common with Poor Unfortunate Souls. It’s a manipulation and an intimidation song, but it stands apart simply because of who the characters are. We have our first abusive parent relationship here. There’s a history between these characters that hasn’t been seen since Frollo and Quasi (the parent/child relationship except the “parent” totally lied to them their whole lives and is not their real parent).

The manipulation tactic here is different, too. Where Ursula and Dr. Facilier both talked up themselves, Mother Gothel talks down to Rapunzel.

Look at you, as fragile as a flower
Still a little sapling, just a sprout
You know why we stay up in this tower
(I know but)
That’s right, to keep you safe and sound, dear

She makes Rapunzel fear her own supposed inability.

tangled fear

She makes Rapunzel feel vulnerable, like she needs Mother Gothel for her own protection.

Mother’s right here
Mother will protect you

Mother is the source of all your problems—I mean—

She uses her position of authority over Rapunzel. There’s an imbalance in the power dynamic between them. Gothel, as the parent, should be seen as a source of love and protection, and she abuses that. Rapunzel trusts her. And like all parent relationships, sometimes guilt is an easy tactic to use to discourage an action:

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

She talks down to Rapunzel and then also uses a guilt trip. I think we know who deserves an award for Mum of the Year.

tangled gothel

Where Pocahontas made a daring move and included John Smith in Ratcliffe’s song, Tangled goes ahead and gives Mother Knows Best a reprise! TWO VILLAIN SONGS PEOPLE. TWO. IT ONLY TOOK 9 MOVIES TO DO IT.

Gothel tries to use the same tactics here:

This is why you never should have left
Dear, this whole romance that you’ve invented
Just proves you’re too naive to be here

Again she tries to make Rapunzel doubt herself and talks down to her. But when Rapunzel recoils, she drops the charade.

Oh, I see;
Rapunzel knows best,
Rapunzel’s so mature now,
Such a clever grown-up miss

If we saw her as patronizing before, man, that’s nothing on how she acts now. Her demeanor is haughty, and she’s done talking sweet. She pats her on the head like a pet, spins her around harshly, snaps at her, invades her personal space. The mothering pretense is gone, and now Mother Gothel is just angry that she’s lost control of Rapunzel.

If he’s lying
Don’t come crying
Mother knows best…

Deep down, Gothel is not a mother. She’s not equipped to raise a child, shown here when Rapunzel takes her first steps into independence. Like Gaston, she sees Rapunzel as on object she can possess.

mine reaction

Conclusion

Over the last two posts we’ve looked at a myriad of films. I loved looking at each song and seeing how the Villain Song grew and changed. Even the nature of villains, really, evolved with every film. There were lots of similarities between them, common elements that Disney holds onto, which is why these songs have become classics.

What’s your favorite Disney villain? Do you have a favorite Villain Song? What do you think about villains being people vs ideas? Do you think one is stronger than the other?

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Cheers,
-M&M!