Category Archives: the little mermaid

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

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.

Follow Animated on Twitter and Tumblr.

Cheers,

M&M

10 Animated Women That Inspire Us to Epicness: Mel Edition

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Since this month is Women’s History Month, I decided to take a trip through animated history and talk about some of the animated women who have inspired me over the years, and what it is that makes them truly amazing.

1. Kim Possible

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A cheerleader who saves the world? Whoever thought of Kim deserves all of the awards, because she is awesome and super fleshed out. We don’t often get heroines with realistic life skills, but Kim’s cheerleading and gymnastics background is part of why she’s so adept at the world-saving business.

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Selfless, bold and determined, Kim inspires us to take a stand and embrace what makes us unique. She also has an amazing sense of fashion, especially when it comes to saving the world, and having a heroine who doesn’t have to sacrifice her femininity to be perceived as tough is amazing.

2. Ginger Foutley

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I think Ginger Foutley is one of the most underrated ladies in animation. Ginger isn’t the typical protagonist: she’s an introvert and writer, which we don’t see too often, and uses her writing to both express herself and be creative. Two of the show’s best episodes (Hello Stranger, And She was Gone) hone in on Ginger’s writing, and how it ties into her personal life in a fantastic way.

Other reasons Ginger is awesome: she’s stubborn, endearing in how she handles the chaos life throws at her, and she cares deeply for her friends and family, even if they drive her crazy at times. Her growth throughout the series is fantastic, and she’s definitely a character I can go back to even now and still relate to, because she reminds me of a younger time in my life when I went through similar struggles. Basically, Ginger’s just awesome, and the grass really is greener for her, even if it takes her a while to realize that.

3. Katara

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Katara is a force to be reckoned with. You can’t knock her down, no matter how hard you try. She’s so many things rolled into one awesome person. She’s a healer, a motherly figure, a fighter, a teacher, a friend, a sister… She’s not only physically strong, she’s also emotionally strong; she’s the rock of the Aang Gaang, who holds everyone together when the going gets tough. She’s the one who keeps hope, no matter how grim and dark the circumstances. She sees the best in others, even when they can’t see it in themselves, and she won’t give up on the people who need her most, even if it puts herself at risk. Her compassion, empathy and fighter’s spirit make her an inspiration, and someone many people could learn from.

4. Princess Jasmine

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Like I’ve said before, Jasmine is one of the most underrated Disney princesses ever. She’s politically savvy, has a strong sense of self, is snarky and refuses to settle for jerks who only want her for her money. She has a great sense of adventure, isn’t afraid to rebel in order to find the freedom and agency she desires.

She’s someone who will only accept someone who respects her and treats her as an equal for a future husband. Anyone who would dare treat her like a prize to be won is not worth her time. She shows us that agency and equality are two important things for women to strive for, and that settling for someone who doesn’t appreciate your worth is ridiculous. Her relationship with Aladdin shows us that honesty and respect are the two foremost foundations of what a relationship should be, and her determination to decide her own future despite the rules that oppress her is super admirable. Remind me again why she’s so underrated? Because she really shouldn’t be.

5. Belle

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A princess who reads, dreams big and refuses to conform to society’s standards for her because she knows that she is worth so much more and deserves so much more = one amazing Disney princess.

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Belle is intelligent, kind-hearted, and doesn’t care what people think of her. No matter how many people in her small town scoff at her oddities, she really doesn’t care. She also refuses to let anyone harass her or push her around, as evidenced by her smoothness in evading Gaston’s advances, and her yelling at the Beast and calling him out on his jerky behavior. She’s just awesome, and I think if we were all a little more like Belle and followed our dreams, we’d certainly be happier. (Also a good thing to emulate from Belle: her book-buying habits. Or better yet, marry a prince and get your own personal library.)

6. Asami Sato

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Asami is a girly heiress who also happens to be a savvy businesswoman, a smart girl who loves flashy cars, and a fighter who’s handy with an electric glove against enemies. She is someone with integrity and lots of inner strength, who was strong enough to stand up against her father when his own integrity was lost, and who built up his company from the ground up after his imprisonment.

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She is also a rare representation of bisexuality in animation, which is really important. People of all orientations, races, genders, exc deserve to be shown, and Asami’s relationships with Mako and Korra are exactly that.

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Kudos to the creators for letting someone as amazing as Asami get some spotlight, and giving us a character who doesn’t have to sacrifice her femininity to be strong, who can  take the world by storm, and is just generally an awesome influence.

7. Ariel

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I know, this is like my third Disney princess on the list, but hey, I was a Disney kid. I grew up on Disney movies, and the Disney Renaissance was in its prime when I was little, so I had some amazing influences because of that. One of these is Ariel, who is one of the most proactive Disney princesses ever.

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She needs cool knickknacks for the grotto? Easy: she’ll go explore that sunken ship and take down any sharks that get in the way. She wants to explore the shores up above, so she goes up there herself and later makes a deal with a sea witch to find a more permanent place on land. The prince she likes is in danger? Ariel dives down without any hesitation and saves him from drowning, and then later saves him (again) from being forced into a marriage with an evil sea witch. This girl is a total determinator: nothing gets in her way, not even losing her voice. She never gives up, never lets anyone break her spirit, and fights for what she wants, no matter how hard it is to achieve. If you want something, make like Ariel and be proactive. Fight to achieve your dreams.

8. Cinderella

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Cinderella was my favorite princess when I was little, and inspired me a lot growing up. Her perseverance, strength, and strong sense of self-worth make her an amazing role model for young girls. She’s always putting other people before herself, so when she finally puts herself first, it’s such a wonderful thing to watch. She teaches us that while it’s good to be kind to others, we need to be kind and value ourselves as well. She also teaches us to never give up on our dreams, because if you believe and work hard, whatever you wish for will be.

9. The Totally Spies

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I can’t just pick one of them, so I’m doing all of them: the Totally Spies! I used to love this show so much, especially because it was nice to get three completely different girls who all kicked butt and saved the world on a daily basis. Plus, they used amazing girly gadgets, like laser lipsticks and weaponized hairdryers. A few examples:

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The best thing about the Totally Spies for me was that they all brought something different to the team, and always managed to save each other from trouble. Sam, Alex and Clover are all awesome in their own way, and each has their own strengths that make them an integral part of the team. Take one girl away, and something was lost from the team. How can you compete with that brand of awesome?

10. Jazz and Maddie Fenton

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Brilliant women are really underrated in fiction, and Jazz and Maddie Fenton are two super savvy, super smart ladies. Maddie is an inventor, whipping up amazing ghost-fighting tools every week, and Jazz is both book smart and a sneaky plotter, as evidenced by how she repeatedly tricks Vlad in Secret Weapons, and how long she manages to keep her knowledge of Danny’s secret a secret, even from him. Their brilliance results in lots of awesome moments in-series, and both inspire us to seek knowledge and put it to an epic use, such as ghost-hunting or plotting to take down evil antagonists.

Which animated girl inspires you the most and why? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. Have an epic Tuesday! (And happy St. Patrick’s Day as well!)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr.

Cheers,

M&M

Animated Love Songs (Part 2)

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Happy Valentine’s Day!! Whether you’re single or in a relationship or unsure where you stand with someone, today is a made up holiday where the greeting card business gets a well needed boost. Or it’s, like, a day to tell everyone you know how much you love them. Okay! Let’s continue with our Animated Love Songs meta.

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Love is an Open Door – Frozen (Mel)

Ooh, I’ve been excited to talk about this one.

I’ll admit it: I have a lot of gripes with Frozen. But I can’t deny that “Love is an Open Door” is handled brilliantly, mainly because it’s a song where you can go back and find subtle foreshadowing. There were a lot of complaints about Hans’ villainy coming out of left field, but if you reexamine, you can see the small seeds planted for his antagonistic role.

“Love is an Open Door” is mainly about Anna and Hans, who have always been shut out and ignored by their siblings, and how their love for one another is an open door that gives them new possibilities. But what they want out of their relationship is completely different.

So let’s take a look at motivations.

Anna: All my life has been a series of doors in my face,

And then suddenly I bump into you

Hans: Yeah! It’s like,

I’ve been searching my whole life to find my own place

frozen series of doors1frozen series of doors2

Anna has always felt like she was alone in life. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” really cements her loneliness and her desire to have someone to talk to. When Hans waltzes into her life, she’s found someone who she feels confident enough to talk to. Hans doesn’t shut her out the way Elsa does: instead, he listens sympathetically, and understands her struggles perfectly.

frozen find my own place

For a way, it’s similar for Hans, but let’s hone in on his word choice. He specifically mentions that he wants to find his own place – and he glances at Arendelle when he says this. He isn’t referencing Anna – he’s referencing her kingdom. That’s really important, considering that we find out later that he wanted to marry her so he could rule Arendelle. To Anna, he is referencing her, and that’s where the double meaning comes in.

Anna (and the audience, on first viewing) assumes that Hans is on the same page as her. But Hans has a completely different agenda, which makes “Love is an Open Door” a very unique love song. Does it follow the love song formula? Yes. But this is the first love song where one half of the party is being duplicitous and outright manipulating the other party.

Anna: But with you

Hans: But with you, I’ve found my place

Anna: I see your face

Both: And it’s nothing like I’ve ever known before

Love is an open door

Notice the way that Hans’ lyrics are focused on Arendelle, while Anna’s lyrics are focused on Hans? I bet you didn’t pick up on that on your first watch. Neither did I, until I watched Frozen again and little alarm bells went off in my head.

Our mental synchronization can have but one explanation:

You – and I –were just meant to be

frozen mental synch

Here’s where some irony slips in, because they’re not really as synchronized as they think. Or rather, Anna thinks they’re on the same page, but Hans knows they’re not.

Say goodbye (say goodbye)

To the pain of the past

We don’t have to feel it anymore

frozen love is an open door

Anna and Hans have obviously both had some turbulent/lonely childhoods. I mean, your brothers pretending you don’t exist? It could be a lie, considering Hans has lied about a lot, but if it’s the truth, it explains a lot about Hans’ motivations. Hans has never had a place to call his own. With twelve older brothers, being brother thirteen means you’re virtually destined for nothingness, and the second that he met Anna, he saw an opportunity to marry into something that could be his. Why didn’t he hone in on Elsa, the future queen? Well, he might’ve thought she was more unapproachable, and there was the fact that he met Anna first, and more importantly, genuinely seemed to like her.

Frozen is oddly conflicting about Hans and Anna’s relationship. They show us instances that indicate that Hans really does have feelings for Anna (like the scene when she runs off and he’s staring after her with that silly smile on his face), but then they refute it at the end. The creators didn’t really make up their minds on whether Hans actually had some shred of feelings for Anna, or whether she was just an easy target. I like to think it was a mix of both. Therefore, I think there is a bit of truth in Hans’ song: he does like Anna, but the chilling part of Hans is that he likes power more. And when he’s given the opportunity to take Arendelle for himself, he’s willing to let Anna die to make it happen.

frozen punch hans

One last thing I want to talk about before we move on is the end of the song, and the repetition of a certain lyric:

Love is an open door, love is an open door

Life can be so much more

With you (with you) with you

Love is an open door

The title of the song is dropped a lot during the song. So what does “love is an open door” really mean? Well, it was multiple meanings. For Anna, her love for Hans is an open door in opposition to all of the doors that have been shut on her in the past. It’s a chance to be with someone and have someone who trusts her and will stick by her no matter what.

For Hans, he sees Anna’s love for him as an open door to find his own place on the throne of Arendelle. Whether he has genuine feelings for her or not, being with her gives him a shot at being king, and finally having something that is solely his.

So is this a love song?

frozen IT'S TRUE LOVE

In a way, yes. But it’s so much more than that. And that’s why it remains my favorite song from Frozen.

 

Looking Through Your Eyes (Quest for Camelot)—Mic

Ugh, this song is so sweet. It’s basically all about how beautiful and perfect the world is when you’re in love.

Look at the sky tell me what do you see

Just close your eyes and describe it to me

The heavens are sparkling with starlight tonight

That’s what I see through your eyes

Firstly, Garrett is blind. So part of him is actually asking Kayley to describe it to him. But, Garrett is also a cynic and a loner, so he would never say the ‘heavens are sparkling with starlight.’

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Love has changed him, opened him up and it wasn’t something he was looking for. Kayley wasn’t looking for love either, since she was on a hero’s quest to save Camelot (and hopefully become a knight).

It’s out of our hands, we can’t stop what we have begun

And love just took me by surprise, looking through your eyes

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To continue the same thread:

I see a world we’re meant to see together

And it is so much more than I remember

More than I remember

More than I have known 

Love has changed the way they see their surroundings and even what they want out of life. Nothing matters unless they’re together (And suddenly I know why life is worthwhile).

Visually, the sequence is also important. Garrett is trusting Kayley to be his eyes, but it’s not all on his side. He also brings her into his world and shows her how he uses his walking stick as a weapon.There’s newfound trust between them.

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Here in the night, I see the sun

Here in the dark, our two hearts are one 

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I’m reading Wuthering Heights right now (if you read my Oliver Twist & Company meta, you know I’m taking an Early Victorian Novels class) and Cathy and Heathcliff share a similar sentiment. They consider themselves one being and when Cathy dies, Heathcliff says something to the effect of, how can I live without my soul? That’s kind of the same sentiment here, though Kayley and Garrett are way healthier than Cathy and Heathcliff.

 

Bella Notte (Lady and the Tramp)—Mic

Bella Notte is Italian for “beautiful night.” This song basically backdrops the perfect first date and one of Disney’s most iconic scenes: the spaghetti kiss. It’s sung with a heavy Italian accent, at first, and plays up this very romantic vibe.

lady and the tramp kiss

Visually, the sequence is very simple. They have dinner together in an alley and don’t eat anything special: tomato sauce and meatballs is a straightforward dish. Anyone can make it. They don’t do anything particularly special. They walk around town, they go to the park, they’re just together. And it’s a beautiful night because they are together and they are in love.

lady and the tramp eye sex hehe

Side by side with your loved one,

You’ll find enchantment here.

The night will weave its magic spell,

When the one you love is near

lady and tramp pawprints

It’s not a beautiful night because it’s not raining or because it’s not too cold. It’s a beautiful night because Lady and Tramp are together.

Look at the skies, they have stars in their eyes

Skies don’t have eyes. It’s not about the sky.

lady and tramp stars in their eyes

It’s about Lady and Tramp and how totally mystified they are by other person (dog). It’s about how they feel about each other. It’s an allegory or something like that.

It’s not about the material things like a big fancy or dinner or a shiny car (doghouse). It’s about being with that other person (dog). That is what makes una bella notte.

Buongiorno! (Doggies did the deed.)

lady and the tramp day after

 

Kiss the Girl – The Little Mermaid (Mel)

“Kiss the Girl” is probably one of the most straightforward love songs Disney has: Sebastian wants Eric to go on and kiss the girl already.

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“Kiss the Girl” is sung by Sebastian, and the first verse is basically Sebastian summing up Eric’s thoughts on Ariel:

There, you see her, sitting there across the way

She don’t got a lot to say, but there’s something about her

And you don’t know why, but you’re dying to try

You wanna kiss the girl

It’s pretty obvious at this point in the movie that Eric is interested in Ariel. Her fascination with the world around her and her lively nature draws him in. Even without her voice, Ariel’s body language and expressions convey her feelings and thoughts quite well. And while it’s clear Eric doesn’t know everything about her, he knows enough to like her – and possibly want to kiss her.

Yes, you want her;

Look at her, you know you do

Possible she wants you too;

There is one way to ask her

Here’s where Sebastian nudges Eric, trying to get him to notice Ariel’s obvious interest in him – or rather, the way she plays with her hair and tries to avoid his gaze until she realizes he’s looking at her the way she’s been looking at him.

little mermaid kiss the girl

Eric, of course, drives us crazy by being uncertain and not ready to kiss Ariel, because he’s still hung up on the chick that saved him. Of course, if he knew that was Ariel, this would make things smoother, but then we wouldn’t have much of a plot, would we? So we have Sebastian to goad him into kissing Ariel, because of what he might lose out on if he doesn’t.

Ain’t it sad, ain’t it a shame?

Too bad; he gonna miss the girl

Boy you better do it soon; no time will be better

She don’t say a word, and she won’t say a word

Until you kiss the girl

Eric doesn’t realize it, but the nag for Ariel to get her kiss is so that she can stay on land permanently, thus why there’s such a rush for Eric to kiss her in the lyrics. Of course, Eric doesn’t pick up on this.

little mermaid kiss the girl paddling

The nagging aspect of the song actually kind of bothered me, because while I understood the purpose of the time limit in story, the pressure put on Eric to “kiss the girl” was a bit annoying.

While Eric and Ariel don’t get that kiss by the end of the song, thanks to Ursula’s interference, they do at the end of the movie. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for someone to get up the nerve to kiss the girl, as evidenced by Eric’s long wait, and that’s perfectly alright. It’s also okay for a woman to take the lead, but I digress. Eventually, he got to kiss the girl, and it was worth the wait that both of them endured.

 

Something There (Beauty and the Beast)—Mic

Something There is a really sweet song about discovering those first inklings of a crush. It’s the first time Belle and Beast really start to see each other for who they are and begin to like that person.

The music actually begins sometime before the first lyric is sung and it’s when Belle and Beast are finally eating together. They both make concessions and compromise. Beast eats with his mouth, but attempts to use a spoon. He’s really bad at it after so many years, but Belle sees his effort and proposes a new way.

beauty something there dishes

When they go outside to feed the birds and she sings:

There’s something sweet and almost kind

But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined

And now he’s dear and so unsure

beauty something there birds

She’s not just referring to him trying to feed the birds. She’s talking about what happened at dinner and what happened when he risked his life to save hers. It’s a combination of everything that has happened between them, building up to this awakening.

I wonder why I didn’t see it there before

Belle, dude, that’s because it was NOT there before. The beast had to learn. He was cursed because he was a vain brat. It’s not like he was kind before he was punished. So Beast has never actually known how to be “sweet” and “kind” or “dear.” His schemas are totally being rewritten by Belle.

And when we touched she didn’t shudder at my paw

No it can’t be, I’ll just ignore

But then she’s never looked at me that way before 

The beast was a jerk as a kid, but he also had it rough as a beast. He was feared, loathed. He also may not have been very friendly—we saw how he treated Maurice. We don’t how much was the beast assuming or how much was what he had learned. It certainly seems like he had negative experiences with people since he says to Belle’s father, “You’ve come to stare at the beast!” So when Belle comes, he’s not open to considering she may be different. He also doesn’t know how to break the curse. He has no real concept of love.

Belle touching his paw is important to him. It represents her not fearing his exterior, but let’s be real. She never did. Besides their first meeting, which, can you blame her? No one expects to see a walking, talking (yelling), horned animal thing. He had locked her father in a cell. He didn’t make a good first impression. The only time Belle feared him was when he yelled at her in the west wing. And he didn’t just yell. He popped out of the darkness and prowled around and then started breaking and throwing stuff.

Whatever the beast’s path is, it all plays into this now. He can’t even think that she may like him or feel the same way he does. Love is conditional for him. Love has to be beautiful. And he is not.

New and a bit alarming

Who’d have ever thought that this could be?

True that he’s no Prince Charming

But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see

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Belle kinda feels the same way he does. Well, they both feel exactly the same. They’re crushing and terrified. While Belle admits he’s not the typical romantic hero, Beast has no mention of Belle being the opposite of a princess. It contrasts with the way the town sees her as this outsider. She’s “peculiar” to them, but not to the Beast. Finally someone sees Belle the way she’s meant to be seen and he’s totally smitten by her.

The song then cuts to the observers:

And who’d have guessed they’d come together on their own?

It’s so peculiar.

Ah, there is that word again. Peculiar. Everything is peculiar if you don’t understand it.

Belle is peculiar because she does not fit into her society and the town shuns her for it. But one can never truly know someone, at least not by judging them and making assumptions. The town does that.

And if people are hard to understand, then love is even harder. Mrs. Potts and Lumiere and Cogsworth certainly can’t understand it. But they don’t have to. Only Belle and Beast do and it’s not peculiar to them. They never use that word.

 

Beauty and the Beast–Beauty and the Beast (Mel)

“Beauty and the Beast” (the song) touches on one of the oldest fictional clichés ever: the couple that starts out as adversaries, and then becomes something more. Mrs. Potts even spells out the trope for us at the start of the song:

Tale as old as time; true as it can be

Barely even friends, then somebody bends unexpectedly

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It sums up Belle and the Beast pretty well, doesn’t it? They started out as two people who could barely stand one another, and then somebody (in this case, the Beast) bends unexpectedly and surprises Belle.

Just a little change

Small, to say the least

Both a little scared

Neither one prepared

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast has gotten flack by critics for the Beast’s attitude, and that Belle ending up with him could be a result of Stockholm Syndrome (since she starts out as his prisoner). But what a lot of its contenders forget is that Belle doesn’t even like the Beast as a person. In fact, she detests him and calls him out on his bad attitude. And when she does that, guess what? He realizes she was right, and then promptly changes his ways and treats her with respect and dignity, something she never got from her last suitor, Gaston.

The change aspect is something that was originally touched on in “Something There” and then reappears again. It’s the Beast’s change in attitude that makes Belle reevaluate him as a person, and later as a romantic prospect. I also like the “both a little scared, neither one prepared” sentiment, because both the Beast and Belle aren’t quite sure of what to make of their feelings for one another, and like most people in love, they’re uncertain of whether they should make the first move, or how to even handle their feelings.

Ever just the same; ever a surprise

Ever as before, and ever just as sure

As the sun will rise

This was a weird verse for me at first until I broke it down and realized that it was Mrs. Potts touching on the cliché again. We’ve seen this story a lot of times (“ever just the same”; “ever as before”) but we’re still surprised that these couples make it at times (“ever a surprise”). Still, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when we realize that the couple is set up in such a way that it’s so obvious that they should be together.

It also relates to how the characters view the relationship. That last line – “ever just as sure as the sun will rise” – relates to the inevitability of Belle and the Beast’s relationship to the Beast’s staff. However, to Belle and the Beast, it’s a surprise to them, because they never expected to feel this way about one another.

Tale as old as time,

Tune as old as song,

Bittersweet and strange,

Finding you can change,

Learning you were wrong

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Those last three lines right there sum up the relationship flawlessly. “Finding you can change” clearly relates to the Beast, who hadn’t realized his capacity for change until he finally attempted it. “Learning you were wrong” relates to both sides of the couple; they carried a lot of assumptions about one another, and it was only by coming together and learning about each other that they grew past the assumptions and saw the person beneath them. Their relationship at this point has been bittersweet and strange, but now they’re at a point where they finally understand one another. They’re on the same page, and they’re even on the same pace, as evidenced by their flawless dancing.

Last week, I mentioned how important it was that Anya let Dimitri lead during the Waltz Reprise, and how their dancing in sync related to them as a couple. Here, a similar occurrence happens with Belle and the Beast. Dancing takes a lot of trust. Much like how stubborn Anya lets Dimitri take the reins, the stubborn Beast lets Belle take control during their dance.  This represents the way their relationship has balanced out. Both sides trust one another, and both aren’t afraid to let the other take control. How’s that for an epic romance?

 

Can You Feel The Love Tonight (The Lion King)—Mic

Can You Feel The Love Tonight might make history for having the most number of narrators in a single love song: four! We start with Timon, who is so mad Simba and Nala have found each other. To him, this union will destroy his boys club.

But then we switch to Nala and she is happy. She’s probably happy for the first time in a long time considering she’s been under Scar’s dictatorship and thought her best friend died. Her line about the world being in perfect harmony is so great since she is finally at peace after experiencing the instability in the Pride Lands.

Another narrator change occurs and we get Simba’s perspective. He’s happy to see her too, but also scared she won’t understand what happened. He, himself, doesn’t understand what happened, which is why he’s been hiding with Timon and Pumba. Nala knows right away something is up with him—

He’s holding back, he’s hiding

But what, I can’t decide

She doesn’t know exactly, but she knows something is off. “I can’t decide” implies she has some theories since he is her best friend. They really are in perfect harmony.

Once again, we swap narrators and this time it’s this overarching third person POV. Simba and Nala were physically apart during the start of the song, on different sides of the water.

lion king apart drinking

Then they’re playing together and running around. They are together, falling into their old rhythm.

lion king like old times

This POV is like a narration.

Can you feel the love tonight?

You needn’t look too far

Stealing through the night’s uncertainties

Love is where they are

Timon saw clearly (I can see what’s happening), but Nala and Simba were both kinda stumbling around (and they don’t have a clue), their past stopping them from moving forward. But once they do admit their feelings (Nala licking Simba), the third person narrator lets us know that, yeah, they’re in love, and nothing, not even their pasts or the troubles ahead, can stop them.

lion king nala licks simba

Then we have one last change, back to the beginning, bookending with Timon and Pumba. It’s kind of symbolic, since Simba fled and became complacent with Timon and Pumba and then had to find the courage to leave and go back. They mark the shift in Simba’s story. Timon and Pumba open and close this song and by the end, Timon has convinced his friend that Simba having a lady friend will tear them apart.

And if he falls in love tonight

It can be assumed

His carefree days with us are history

In short, our pal is doomed

lion king our pall is doomed

lion king our pall is doomed

Nala coming back does represent a change for Simba. But it doesn’t really have anything to do with love. Simba chooses to go back because Nala reminded him of who he’d left behind and also told him what had happened in his absence. His carefree days are over because he goes back to be king, not because Nala has come to crash the party. And their pal is not doomed, since Timon and Pumba go with him and end up living in the Pride Lands. Everyone ends up in perfect harmony.

 

Let Me Be Your Wings (Thumbelina)—Mic

Let me tell you how much I loved this song when I was a kid: too much. I think it was because I had a giant crush on Cornelius, but whatever.

Let me be your wings

Let me be your only love

Let me take you far beyond the stars

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Thumbelina is a story about fairies, so of course wings feature very heavily. Thumbelina is the size of a fairy, but she is not one. She has no wings. And she falls in love with the fairy prince.

Everyday I’ll take you higher

and I’ll never let you fall

Wings are safety, security. They are a means of travel and protection and all that stuff. Cornelius, le fairy prince, wants to be that for her. He is also literally talking about being her wings since he carries her everywhere during this sequence, or takes her for a joyride on his bumblebee.

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But his words are deeper than that.

Leave behind the world you know

for another world of wondrous things

We’ll see the universe and dance on Saturns’s rings

Fly with me and I will be your wings

Leave behind being on your own, be with me. Come into the world of love, cheesy as that sounds. But all these love songs are about how love changes you or how love binds two people into one, or love is scary and thrilling. Cornelius is asking Thumbelina and promising to be everything for her. He will protect her and he will build her up and they will go on adventures together.

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Heaven isn’t too far.

Heaven is where you are,

Stay with me and let me be your wings 

Like Through Your Eyes, Bella Notte, Love, Can You Feel The Love Tonight, and many others, happiness and completeness only comes with the other person. Love is overpowering and encompassing and the music of animation takes that all and wraps into pretty music that we know every lyric to.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

What is your favorite love song? Who is your OTP? What is your favorite romantic moment in Disney/non-Disney movies? SWOON BELOW!

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Cheers,

M&M

Ariel Triumphant: How Disney Made a Grim Tale Empowering

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little mermaid atlantica

The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite Disney movies, because while it gets a lot of backlash for being “anti-feminist” and Ariel being a bad role model, neither of those things are true. 

As an English major, I love analyzing literature, and as an animation lover, I love tackling animated metas, so I decided to combine the best of both worlds this week. I’ll be talking about Disney’s translation of The Little Mermaid from the Hans Christian Anderson tale (the one most of us think of as the “original”). Disney both takes inspiration from the tale and simultaneously dismantles its destructive messages to make it an empowering story. Hans Christian Anderson’s little mermaid meets a grim end, but Disney’s little mermaid ends triumphant.

Let’s start with the two major influences Disney took from the tale: the setting, and the general plotline.

(Note: because typing out full names is a pain for long metas like this, I’m going to refer to Hans Christian Anderson as HCA for the duration of the Meta.)

Look at This Stuff, Isn’t It Neat? (How Hans Christian Anderson Influenced the Movie’s Aesthetic)

One of the few things Disney does take away from HCA’s tale is the setting. Rereading the fairy tale made me realize that a lot of the scenery in the movie is loosely based off of HCA’s imaginings of Ariel’s world.

His description of Ursula’s lair: “All the trees and bushes were polyps, half animals and half plants. They looked like hundred-headed snakes growing out of the earth; all the branches were long slimy arm with supple worm-like fingers, and…they were constantly on the move” (Anderson 225).

little mermaid polyps

(Eerie, isn’t it?)

There’s also the description of the Prince’s castle that we get later. It’s not exact, but certain phrases definitely fit: there are “great flights of marble stairs; one of these led straight into the sea,” “splendid gilt domes curved above the roof,” and “tall windows,” among other traits (Anderson 223). Now, let’s take a look at Eric’s castle:

 

little mermaid eric's castle

But the setting wasn’t the only element of the tale that Disney was influenced by. They also stick to a surprising amount of the plot.

It Goes Like This: How Closely Disney Stuck to the Plot

Okay, so I’m going to give you a sequence of events:

Once upon a time, there was a little mermaid. She lived under the sea with her sisters and her widowed father, but she longed to see the human world. She was fascinated by humans and their world; she even collected treasures from above, including a marble statue of a handsome prince. When the little mermaid took a chance and went up to land, she observed a ship and watched the people aboard in awe, including a prince who she was very fond of. But then a storm came, throwing the prince overboard, and the little mermaid swooped in to save him. He didn’t know that he saved her. Her wanting gets the better of her, and she makes a deal with a sea witch go to on land, but gives up her voice as the price. Her obstacles include a time limit to win his love and a princess that the prince mistakes for the girl who saved him.

Sound familiar? Well, that’s actually what happens in both HCA’s tale and Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Granted, some details are changed and toned down, but in general, the plot leading up to this point stays the same. It’s where the plot diverges that the story changes.

In HCA’s tale, the prince winds up marrying a human princess, unaware of who his true savor was. The unnamed little mermaid is left devastated. Failing to marry the prince means she will dissolve into sea foam and as per her agreement with the sea witch. The mermaid tries to enjoy her last day as a human (and alive),  despite her heartbreak. But then her sisters appear with a knife they got from the sea witch, and offer her a choice: either she can die at dawn, or she can kill the prince with the dagger and regain her mermaid form to survive. The little mermaid chooses to sacrifice herself to save the prince, and dissolves into foam. But that’s not the end: she becomes a sprite and she can get that immortal soul she wants… if she does 300 years of good deeds. Oh, and it might not even be that “soon,” because there are hindrances along the way.

little mermaid awkward reaction

If Disney had gone with an ending like that, there would’ve been lots of traumatized and angry children. Their ending – with Ariel winning the prince back, taking Ursula down and permanently getting to stay on land where she belongs – is happier, and more importantly, more empowering. Let’s tackle how Disney dismantled the tale in order to create a happier and more empowering tale for Ariel.

Essential Cuts

HCA’s version of The Little Mermaid has extremely religious undertones, and since Disney doesn’t tend to tackle religion very often, they decided to remove those elements. Part of Ariel’s desire to become human stems from her desire to have an immortal soul. Why does she care about that?

Well… apparently mermaids don’t have an immortal soul… because… they just don’t? HCA never really explains this.

There’s this very weird bias against mermaids in the story where everything kind of just sucks for them. First, mermaids can’t cry: “She would have cried, only a mermaid hasn’t any tears, and so she suffers all the more” (Anderson 220). (Why? We don’t know.) Second, they don’t have immortal souls. Sure, they live longer than the average human (they have about a 300 year life span) but… they also dissolve into sea foam when they die and that’s it, game over. Which is super depressing.

Naturally, Disney decided not to tackle that depressing angle. Instead of their little mermaid fretting about an immortal soul, Ariel’s desire to be on earth is related to her adventurous spirit and her intrigue of the world above her. She wants to explore the world up above and be part of the human world, because she’s fascinated by them. Because her father regards humans as a taboo, she naturally is more interested, and his destruction of her treasures pushes her over the edge.

The writers also changed up Ariel’s goal. HCA’s tale is very specific about how Ariel needs to marry Eric in order to stay human. She has to: “win the Prince’s love, so that he forgets father and mother for [her] and always has [her] in his thoughts, and let the priest join [their] hands together to be man and wife” (Anderson 226).

If she doesn’t, she’ll die and dissolve into sea foam without that immortal soul. No pressure, Ariel!

Disney, on the other hand, makes things a little simpler: in order to stay human, Ariel needs to kiss Eric before the sun sets on the third day of her humanity in order to stay human. If not, her fins will reappear and Ursula will own her soul. Grim outlook? Yes. But it’s much less morbid than the fate awaiting HCA’s little mermaid.

Besides cutting religious aspects, Disney also spends more time developing different aspects of the story, including Prince Eric’s role in the plot, and Ariel’s encounters with Ursula and Triton. Ariel is also more empowered as a main character, and both she and Eric fight for the happy ending she deserves.

Ursula: From Neutral Force to Manipulative Sea Witch

The sea witch in HCA’s tale is pretty much a straightforward neutral force. She’s upfront about how toxic the deal the little mermaid is taking: “How stupid of you! Still, you shall have your way, and it’ll bring you misfortune” (Anderson 226).

But neutral forces don’t create much tension, so Disney went a more antagonistic route with their sea witch, Ursula – and it resulted in one of the best female villains Disney has ever created.

Unlike HCA’s sea witch, Ursula is more manipulative in her approach. Her lackeys hone in on Ariel just after Triton destroys her treasures and she’s at her lowest point, and Ursula goes in for the kill with her sales pitch/villain song, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” While Ursula doesn’t exactly lie, she isn’t truthful about her intentions to Ariel. She pretends to be benevolent and helpful, while she’s really screwing Ariel over in the worst possible way. And when Ariel’s plan to win over Eric begins working, well, of course, Ursula can’t have that.

Enter “Vanessa,” the princess with Ariel’s beautiful voice, who swoops in and hypnotizes Eric. Like the prince in HCA’s tale, Eric mistakes her for the girl who saved him, and falls right into her clutches. But unlike the princess, who was an innocent third party, this princess is Ursula, who is anything but innocent. It’s only Ariel’s intervention that saves Eric from Ursula’s manipulations and together, the two of them are forced to stop her and save Ariel’s father.

Ariel’s father is another point I wanted to tackle, because man is his role so much better in the movie.

Triton and Ariel: A Father-Daughter Bond Explored

little mermaid i love you, daddy

Ariel and Triton’s bond in The Little Mermaid is one of my absolute favorite things in The Little Mermaid. They fight, they don’t understand each other, but deep down, they love each other. That’s true familial love right there.

Triton gets a brief mention at the start of HCA’s tale and then never really comes into play again. In the movie though, Triton has a much bigger role. He’s the one who inadvertedly encourages Ariel’s love of the human world, partly by making one of the biggest mistakes a parent can make when trying to ward a child away: telling them not to explore it.

Ariel doesn’t listen to him, and instead of maybe explaining his aversion to the human world, Triton blows up at her for not listening him, ending his tantrum by destroying her collection. Ariel is crushed, and his betrayal sends her into Ursula’s grasps.

Triton is so remorseful over this that he turns himself over to Ursula and takes Ariel’s place in the deal to save her from a lifetime of servitude under Ursula. In return, Ariel saves him from Ursula’s grasp with the help of Eric, and Triton comes to an important realization as he sees Ariel watch Eric on land: maybe humans aren’t as terrible as he thought. And maybe his daughter knows what she wants on land.
His granting Ariel her legs again, even though he knows she’ll be far away from him on land, shows how far Triton has come as a character. And Ariel and Triton’s relationship has come far as well: at her wedding, they have Triton’s blessing, and we get that adorable heartwarming moment when Ariel hugs her father and whispers “I love you, daddy.”

Triton’s not the only one who’s given more depth, however: the little mermaid’s prince gets some depth as well, and it adds some wonderful dimension to the plot.

Prince Eric Gains a Personality

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In HCA’s The Little Mermaid, the Prince is…well, kind of a total jerk. He’s very condescending to the little mermaid. He talks down to her like she’s a child: “my dear mute foundling with the speaking eyes” (Anderson 229) and also leads her on, even though he knows he won’t marry her. He’s not a wonderful character, and we start to wonder what on earth the little mermaid sees in him as the story goes on, especially once he abandons her for a princess.

That’s not the case with Prince Eric. Eric, unlike the prince in the fairytale, actually has a decent personality. He’s kind, loyal, funny, compassionate, and very empathetic. He’s adventurous: he wouldn’t explore the open seas if he wasn’t. He has hobbies: he’s an accomplished mariner and plays an instrument. He has a pet dog that he adores. And most importantly of all, he deeply cares for Ariel. From the moment he first sees her, he’s intrigued by her, and as he gets to know her more, he falls deeper and deeper in love with her. In fact, before Ursula arrives to ruin matters, he’s decided to give up on the mysterious girl with the beautiful voice, because he can’t live waiting for a dream girl to appear forever.

little mermaid ariel, you're the one

There’s also a nice dual strength to their relationship: while Ariel fights for Eric and saves his life, Eric fights for Ariel as well. He rows off to find Ariel after Ursula snatches her, declaring that “[he] lost her once; [he’s] not going to lose her again.” He’s the one who delivers the final blow on Ursula, saving Ariel from her. This equality is what makes their relationship so strong, and why ultimately they get their happy ending: because they both fought for it.

Ariel Empowered: A Triumphant End for The Little Mermaid

little mermaid fabulous fabulous reaction

Disney’s many changes to the movie give depth to the story, but also give Ariel empowerment. The little mermaid in the story is sad and silent, always thinking and moping. She’s not a very proactive main character at times. Ariel, on the other hand, is extremely proactive. Ariel sets the entire plot into motion. She’s the one who saves Eric. She’s the one who goes to Ursula to make the deal. She stops Ursula from entrapping Eric. And she’s the one who takes it upon herself to stop Ursula once the deal backfires.

Unlike the little mermaid in the tale, who is very somber and introverted, Ariel is expressive and extroverted. Even without her voice, she uses her words and her body language to communicate with Eric and win him over. Her lack of a voice isn’t a hindrance: instead, she works around it and not only gets her voice back, but also wins her happy ending. The Little Mermaid ends with Ariel triumphant, happy on land with Prince Eric. The girl who wanted to explore up above so badly has finally gotten her chance to stand on land, and better yet, she has Eric as well. Bonus.

While HCA’s story is dark and depressing, Ariel’s story is heartwarming and triumphant. Disney’s changes truly transform what could’ve been a somber story into an empowering tale of a woman who decides that she wants more, and then goes out and gets what she wants. What’s more triumphant than that?

What do you guys think? Did Disney do a good job of empowering Ariel and giving the tale a brighter spin? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. I hope you all have a fantastic Tuesday!

Cheers,

M&M

 

Work Cited

Anderson, Hans Christian. “The Little Mermaid.” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999. 216-32. Print.

 

Disney Villain Songs: Part One

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Not too long ago, Mel did an amazing series where she analyzed Disney Princess “I Want” songs. Let’s start 2015 by spotlighting the villains we love to hate and hate to love.

Disney is most famous for their animated musicals and fairy tales, but the Villain Song only really came to fruition with Disney’s Renaissance and the creation of The Little Mermaid. Think about it, Snow White had an I Want song, but The Evil Queen didn’t. Cinderella had an I Want song, but The Evil Stepmother (Lady Tremaine) didn’t. Disney villains got much more fleshed out with every movie—including their names (come on, Evil Queen? Were they even trying?).

kiss the girl shrug

I don’t know either, Ariel.

Many Disney movies don’t have clean cut villains like The Evil Queen, but even she represents something deeper. The Evil Queen is symbolic of jealousy, while other films like the Jungle Book are about the danger man poses to animals and nature. The Aristocats is more so about what greed can drive someone to do. How do you give that a song? The nature of how Disney tells their stories has changed, with the Renaissance films focusing more on individual characters and growth. By that logic, the villains needed to evolve to cause a threat to the main character. The villains had to become less abstract.

Pre-Renaissance Songs

There are two slight exceptions to this pre-Renaissance rule, however. Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians both feature Disney villains in the pre-Renaissance era that have songs sung ABOUT them.

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Peter Pan has A Pirate’s Life and The Elegant Captain Hook, which are kind of one song, but whatever. Hook has his own boy band singing his praise and it totally works since all the Lost Boys, John, and Michael are ready to sign up to a life of piracy in seconds. Hook himself only gets about a chorus where he threatens everyone’s life:

A special offer today I’ll tell you what I’ll do
All those who sign without delay will get a free tattoo
Why it’s like money in the bank
Come on, join up and I’ll be frank
Unless you do, you’ll walk the plank
The choice is up to you

Definitely villain song material—and I’ve never seen one done so elegantly. This is the first Disney film where the antagonist sings and it’s typical MUAHAHA villainy.

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Similar to Hook, except she doesn’t sing at all because who has time for that, Cruella De Vil has a song about her in 101 Dalmatians. The song heralds her arrival and tells the audience how we’re supposed to feel about her. I mean, “devil woman,” and “if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will,” speak for themselves.

Cruella is also framed in the doorway very creepily and Roger’s ominous tone continue to lead the audience. It’s not like Cruella makes a much better first impression when we finally meet her, blowing smoke everywhere, searching like a madwoman for the puppies, her holier than thou attitude.

101 blast this pen101 this wretched pen

Once she leaves, the song continues and Roger has many more insults to spew, which the audience is probably agreeing with at this point.

Now, onto the Disney Renaissance, which gave us music and dastardly foes!

frozen blank anna copy

Poor Unfortunate Souls

Ursula’s song in The Little Mermaid gives us so much to think about. First we get a little of her backstory:

…in the past I’ve been a nasty
They weren’t kidding when they called me, well, a witch

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Ursula tries to paint herself as a saint now. She uses magic (“a talent [she’s] always possessed”) to help the “miserable, lonely, and depressed.” Of course she can’t hide her true nature and whispers to her cronies that she finds her clients “pathetic.” Or she finds exploiting Ariel too easy it’s just pathetic. I love double meanings.

pathetic copy

She’s manipulating Ariel with a false version of herself, claiming she helps so many people and makes their lives better. She’s promising Ariel the same thing.

The next facet of the song is men’s views of women, something we’ve covered briefly in our other Little Mermaid meta.

You’ll have your looks, your pretty face.
And don’t underestimate the importance of body language, ha!

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The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yes on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle prattle for?
Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who’s withdrawn
It’s she who holds her tongue who get’s a man

Today, this is vastly considered an outdated, wrong opinion to have. But it is so ingrained in our society that some people don’t even realize they still have these views. Women are encouraged to have a career, to use their voice, but women still earn less than a man, they do not hold as many positions of leadership, and many times their ideas are not taken seriously until a male colleague suggests it.

A woman’s looks are still very important, too. There are unrealistic standards women are expected to live up to. Everyone knows how the media warps and twists things, but what about women in power? There are countless articles about what Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, the Duchess of Cambridge are wearing, their make-up, or their hair instead of what these women are actually doing. Even when a woman uses her voice and has power, she is brought down by the media and reduced to her looks.

To have a Disney song tackle this issue and use it as a “scare tactic” essentially from Ursula to Ariel gives the song a great, complex layer. She’s basically saying, “You’re worried you won’t have your voice? Don’t worry, I’m actually doing you a favor by taking it. He won’t want it.” Poor Unfortunate Souls is a twisty-turny, manipulative song and is a fantastic start to the inception of Villain Songs!

my body is ready

Gaston

What could be more vain and villainous than to name a song about yourself?

hercules like a boss

Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, this song also sheds some light onto Gaston for us. We learn he’s always been obsessed with his looks (“when I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs”), he’s always had gross macho tastes (“I use antlers in all of my decorating”), and he loves to spit (“I’m especially good at expectorating!”).

But really, this song shows us how Gaston feels entitled to Belle, how he sees her as property he should be able to own because he wants her and it doesn’t matter how she feels.

Who does she think she is?
That girl has tangled with the wrong man.
No one says ‘no’ to Gaston
Dismissed! Rejected!
Publicly humiliated! Why, it’s more than I can bear

First, you tangled with her, dude. Belle did not want to tangle with you and made that very clear. Second, man has some deep entitlement issues. Third, his pride was wounded when Belle rejected him in front of everyone, so that’s really what he’s most angry about. He never cared about Belle. He cared about the image she was: the pretty girl in town. She was an enigma to everyone. No one quite knew what to make of her. By claiming her, Gaston would have won the prize, essentially.

This song is representative of larger issues that plague us today, like when young athletes do not get properly punished for raping girls. The media laments their promising career, caring nothing about the victim. This song is the entire town coming together to make Gaston feel better, to tell him how much they all adore him and how perfect he is. Gaston hasn’t done anything wrong in this song.

Gaston did not rape Belle, but the scene where he proposes in her home certainly has elements of rape culture in them. He goes to her home. He pushes himself through the doorway when everything about Belle is radiating “I do not want you here.” And Belle has that right. She can not want to be around someone. She can not want them inside her home. A woman does not have to verbally say “no”— her body language can convey that, the tone of her voice, even. And Belle conveys that she is in a situation she does not want to be in.

beauty and the beast do not want

A sampling of the things he says in that scene: “There’s not a girl in town who wouldn’t love to be in your shoes.” And: “This is the day your dreams come true.”

Basically: “I am God’s gift to women, worship me.”

He’s literally forcing himself on her even as she’s trying to say no. She is pressed against the door and ducking away from him as he tries to kiss her. That is forcing himself on her. This scene directly leads to the angst ridden Gaston we meet during his Villain Song moment. He feels unjustly rejected.

Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, the song gives some insight into our villains and also looks at what men expect from women. In Ursula’s case, the woman was supposed to be pretty and quiet and not cause trouble. For Gaston, women should be mindless and worship him. They cannot say no.

Prince Ali (reprise)

Jafar’s villain song in Aladdin doesn’t come until the end of story when he thinks he’s won. It’s very different from the other two because it is a victory song. It has its roots in Hook singing about threatening children since here, Jafar is carrying out his master plan in song. Man, what a great evil laugh.

Jafar blows Aladdin’s masquerade and banishes him. He’s got control of the genie; Jasmine and the sultan are powerless. This song vastly differs in tone from the other two. Ursula is trying to get her plan in motion and succeeds by the end of the song. Gaston is in a “Woe Is Me” mood and in the man-dumps. Not Jafar. No way, this guy is winning. And he’s insulting people:

His personality flaws,
give me adequate cause
to send him packing on a one-way trip

aladdin and jafar slap

If personality flaws are all we need, I think there’s a lovely trip waiting for Jafar, too.

Jafar’s villain song is really short, but it changes the game for all villain songs that follow.

Be Prepared

Scar is plotting in The Lion King. He’s got big plans to murder his brother and take over as king. This song combines all the elements we’ve seen in the previous ones: bit of backstory, thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread, and insults galore.

bitch i'm fabulous

We all joke about Scar and “what was Scar’s name before he got the scar?” But the truth is, we don’t know much about Mufasa and Scar. We know they’re brothers and Mufasa was older so he became king. We know Scar resents this. We can infer that maybe Scar didn’t get enough love as a cub. One of the final lines in the song is “Be king undisputed, respected, saluted, and seen for the wonder I am.” From this, I’m guessing our speculation is true. Scar was always seen as second to Mufasa, a fast he’s always resented.

oh, goody

Like Ursula, Scar is still figuring out how to put his plans into motion. His previous attempts at assassinating his brother have failed. Like Gaston, he puts himself above everyone, including the hyenas that are trying to help him take power. And like Jafar, he’s got plenty of insults to go around. And by the end of the song, he’s reveling in his sure to come victory.

This particular villain’s song treads the darker side of an I Want song. Scar wants power, in fact, he deserves power (“justice deliciously squared”). While Ursula wants Ariel’s voice, and Gaston wants Belle, and Jafar doesn’t want anything because he’s already winning, those songs all have a bit of other meanings buried beneath them. Whereas, Be Prepared, is really Scar’s I Want song, and This is How I’m Gonna Get it And It’s Gonna Be Amazing song.

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Mine, Mine, Mine

Ratcliffe’s song in Pocahontas is really interesting. I think Pocahontas is one of Disney’s most underrated films and I have no idea why because it is AMAZING. There are a lot of layers to it.

The gold of Cortes
The jewels of Pizarro
Will seem like mere trinkets
By this time tomorrow
The gold we find here
Will dwarf them by far
Oh, with all ya got in ya, boys
Dig up Virginia, boys

This is essentially the conflict between the English settlers and the Native Americans. Ratcliffe and his men expect to become rich, richer than Cortes and his successful expeditions (ie: rape and genocide and disease). The stories of wealth from the New World are what they’re chasing. Ratcliffe doesn’t care about preserving the land or the homes of the people that already live there. From the first verse of this song, we know that Ratcliffe expects nothing less than vast riches. This villain song sets up the rest of the film. If Ratcliffe doesn’t find the gold, then he’s going to assume the Natives have hoarded it all for themselves and thus we have conflict.

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“Dig up Virginia, boys” is such a chilling line to me. It shows zero compassion. It reduces the Powhatan tribe to nothing, basically. They do not matter. And land is nothing more than a commodity.

Next, in a familiar trend, Ratcliffe’s song gives us a peek into his backstory, too.

My rivals back home
It’s not that I’m bitter
But think how they’ll squirm
When they see how I glitter!
The ladies at court
Will be all a-twitter

Ratcliffe wants fame and fortune, but he also wants to be better than his rivals. We don’t know much more than this, but it shows us he’s trying to prove himself. He’s competitive. He wants a story to beat Cortes’. He probably wants other people to eventually sing about finding more gold than him—but of course that’ll never happen because Virginia is the richest of them all.

Make the mounds big, boys
I’d help you to dig, boys
But I’ve got this crick in me spine

This provides another look into Ratcliffe. He expects the gold will earn him favor with the king (“My dear friend King Jimmy will probably build me a shrine” and “The king will reward me, he’ll knight me, no lord me”), but he also already treats himself as a king. He orders his sailors around, he has them do all the digging. They do the work and he gets the reward.

Keep on working, lads
Don’t be shirking, lads
Mine, boys, mind
Mine ME that gold
Beautiful gold

I love that part, where all the pretense is gone. The “I have a bad back” is transparent enough, but for a moment Ratcliffe is totally consumed by his want/greed that he can’t even remember to try and mask his villainy.

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But in a very different move, this song also features John Smith, the central male character of the film and also the love interest. He partly shares Ratcliffe’s views in that he sees the land as something he can take and “claim,” in his own words. He’s misguided like Ratcliffe, but he’s not there for the gold. He’s there for “adventure,” and to find “danger.” John Smith’s character arc entwines itself with Ratcliffe and then they run parallel to each other, both Englishmen going on separate journeys. They both traveled to Virginia because of land and they both share this song. Smith distances himself from the other settlers both visually (to the audience) and emotionally (he can’t see what Ratcliffe is doing, the destruction is not real to him) by not being part of the digging party. He’s already gone off to explore the new land.

It was an interesting and bold move to craft the song this way. This is the first villain song to include a non-villain character in it. Pocahontas is one of those films that has so many deeper meanings and Ratcliffe and Smith are both complex characters that prove this.

Conclusion

Next week I’ll tackle the deleted song from The Emperor’s New Grooze, Snuff out the Light. We’ll also wrap up with the final Villain Songs: Hellfire, Friends on the Other Side, and Mother Knows Best. I’ll also discuss the films Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and Frozen by exploring why these films lack Villain Songs.

Happy 2015! Sending wicked vibes your way for a good one.
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What do you think of the Disney Villain Songs? Do you have a favorite?

Cheers!
-M&M