Response to Sarah Turner

Sarah Turner’s article “Blackness, Bayous and Gumbo: Encoding and Decoding Race in a Colorblind World” analyzes the contrasting opinions regarding Tiana’s representation as a black woman in Disney’s 2009 film The Princess and the Frog.  Overall, I thought Turner’s paper was logical and rich in evidence and useful quotes from outside resources.  However, I had a bit of a hard time discerning what her own opinion on the subject was…

The main question was: Is Tiana a princess who “happens” to be black (speaking to the idea of colorblindness), or is she a black princess?  Turner references Jeff Kurtti, author of The Art of the Princess and the Frog, who says that Tiana “stands apart from other Disneys princesses not simply because of her race, but also because of her drive.  It’s ultimately more about who she is than what she is.”  While I agree that the story is mostly about Tiana’s own personal development and her desire to accomplish her goal, you can’t deny the impact that her upbringing had on her as a person.  I think that BECAUSE she was in a low-income black neighborhood without many opportunities to prosper, her parents instilled such a strong desire in Tiana to push through and rise above the struggle.  I think Kurtti is remiss in denying the important role Tiana’s home community played in who she became.

Turner accurately states that Disney faced a tough challenge in conveying Tiana’s blackness (appealing to “blacks and liberal whites”) while still using her to “engage a colorblind response to the film.”  It’s true; Disney can’t win.  There will always be critics on either side saying that Tiana is “too black” (that race shouldn’t play a role in the film) or that she’s “not black enough” (that the cultural and historical relevance of her race shouldn’t be ignored).  I applaud Disney for consulting leaders of the black community, such as the NAACP and Oprah Winfrey, in order to “get it right” and avoid any possible offense or inaccuracy in the film.

I disagree with Turner’s indirect suggestion to have set the film in modern day “Obamerica.”  Though she points to Disney’s 2007 movie Enchanted, which took place in modern New York City, blending animation with live action, to show the success of a modern setting in a Disney film, I think Enchanted is in its own category.  I think it was meant for older audiences who could understand the relevance of the struggles of a modern-day setting.  Setting Tiana’s story in 2009 would bring up modern political and race issues that would not be appropriate for a children’s movie.

On a slightly different note, I like Turner’s paragraph on female body portrayal in Disney films in general.  She brings up a great point when she contrasts Disney’s previous exotic, over-sexualized portrayal of multicultural princesses (Pocahontas, Ariel, Esmeralda, and Jasmine) with Tiana’s conservative yet pretty look.  I never even thought about how other princesses of color often appeared, bearing their midriffs or wearing off-the-shoulder clothing… But now that I look back on it, it was all definitely there.  I think Disney took a great step forward in eliminating this stereotypical association from Tiana’s character, and simply focusing on her individuality.

Lastly, I think Turner makes a very logical argument near the end of her paper when she talks about Disney’s new portrayal of color as “safe and sanitized” in order to appeal to both minority viewers as well as traditional white viewers who can still identify with “the middle ground [that the] characters occupy.”  She’s clever in being able to make this connection and understanding that Disney is simply adjusting to the evolving demographics of its audience.

In general, Turner’s paper made a lot of sense and also made for an interesting read.

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More of “Up”!

Some of these were just too good not to share… One of my new favorite movies!

adventure cone

The guilt for ever having put my dog in one of these </3

cute dug

Life goals 🙂                                                                 Unconditional love

met      side

That side eye game, though…

thanks thumbs up

Favorite scene ❤

Response to Kate Flynn

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kate Flynn’s article “Fat and the Land: Size Stereotyping in Pixar’s Up.”  While I occasionally agreed with some of the points she made, I thought the majority of her arguments were purely ridiculous.

Sometimes when you read an article, you can tell when the author starts to make increasingly absurd statements or assumptions; in my experience this usually happens nearing the end of the text.  However this time, on the very first page of her article, Flynn clarifies that she will “strategically” use the term “fat” to discuss Russell instead of “overweight” or “obese” because “‘fat’ shows potential as a neutral adjective, despite accumulated pejorative or shaming connotations.”

…..

Um, from what I’ve learned throughout the years, in the U.S. at least, “fat” is largely a negative adjective that is to be avoided in conversation.  So basically, a red warning flag shot up in my mind right at the beginning of her work.  I expected her arguments to get crazier and crazier, and I think it’s fair to say that I wasn’t let down.

Flynn effectively establishes a connection between body weight and incompetence.  She states that the film basically treats fat as a source of comedy as well as a sign of “ill-suitedness” to the outdoors.  She uses Russell’s failure to pitch his tent correctly and navigate through the wilderness without a GPS as testaments to the idea that his body weight is the reason for his inability to do things properly.  Did she even think about the fact that maybe Russell is just a clumsy eight-year-old?  He’s a kid, kids don’t do things perfectly, in fact, it’s expected for them to have difficulty with certain things that may seem like common sense to adults.  That’s why they’re still training, learning, and growing.  Also, by stating that Up treats fat as a source of comedy, isn’t Flynn essentially reducing Russell’s persona to merely “fat”?  The movie focuses on Russell’s silly personality and his childish thoughts/actions as a source of comedy; I don’t recall a single scene, funny nor serious, paying obvious attention to Russell’s body weight.  Personally, I didn’t see him as “the fat boy”, I saw Russell as a cute, funny kid.  But Flynn goes on to compare Russell to a spherical BALLOON.  It seems to me as if Flynn is shining much more light on Russell’s body shape, and in a negative light, if I might add, than Pixar ever portrays it in the film.

Flynn then moves on to discuss the connection between “fat” and the land.  I do agree with her argument that Paradise Falls inspired a sense of national American identity.  The 1930’s film the movie shows eight-year-old Carl watching at the beginning presents Venezuela as some far away wild land, just waiting to be discovered (Charles Muntz to the rescue).  Even Ellie describes South America in awe as being “like America… but South.”  The cinema portrayal of Paradise Falls is very “American”, boasting a typical transatlantic narrator’s voice, a typical waterfall scene of might (apparently similar to representations of Yosemite and Yellowstone Park), and of course who could forget the American explorer “uncovering” the wonders of the world.  I don’t particularly take offense to this portrayal of Latin America, though, since that was to be expected in Carl’s 1930’s childhood world of strong American pride.  The author starts to lose me, however, when she compares the land to “the racial other, the untamed woman (with waterfalls suggesting female genitalia), and the savage child.”  No idea how any of those comparisons make sense… And then she talks about Paradise Falls as a religious place, where the storminess and mountainous landscape are evidence of God’s power and sources of inspiration and awe in Christians.  This somehow makes sense to Flynn simply because Carl is apparently Puritan.  I still don’t see the connection.  I DO, however, understand when she draws the conclusion that Carl’s escape to “the lost world of Paradise Falls” is an escape from “the pettiness of existence”, from the annoying aspects of the modern world he feels a stranger to.

Lastly, Flynn brings her argument to a close with the topic that every critic of Disney ends with, whether it ties to their thesis or not — the Patriarchy.  I honestly don’t even know how she fit this in to her paper at all.  She suddenly criticizes Carl for “fulfilling his role of patriarch that fits his religious and national identity”, solely because he finally agrees to become Dug’s “master.”  Seriously?  Because he opens his heart and takes Dug in as family, Carl advances the Patriarchy?  Dug is a dog.  Dogs have owners.  I don’t think anyone could get any more ridiculous than this…

Either way, no matter how crazy I think (or know) Kate Flynn is, I found her article amusing.  It was interesting to see where she went with her arguments, almost like a guessing game…

Live Response to “The Lion King”

Though I’m aware of how unpopular my opinion is on The Lion King, I’m standing by it and I’m just going to say that I wasn’t that impressed.  It wasn’t a BAD movie, per say, but for some reason, it didn’t do much for me.  I’m guessing I had a similar reaction to the movie when I saw it as a child, since I didn’t really remember anything about it when I saw it again for the first time in years just a few weeks ago…  Although I didn’t particularly enjoy it, there were still a number of things I found interesting to point out from my notes.

Scar is definitely a typical Disney villain.  He fits the role so well — misunderstood, darker characterization, sassy, selfish… I mean, he kills his own brother to be king and manipulates Simba (a CHILD), putting him in danger and later making him feel guilty about his own father’s death in which he was not responsible for.  Side note, Mufasa’s death was the best part of the movie, in my opinion.  Yes, it’s terrible, and I definitely cried for a bit and had to pause the movie.  But for me, the last interaction between father and son was the most realistic representation of raw emotion in the entire film.  I feel like the rest of the movie as a whole was pretty corny, personally.  An adult Simba “sees” his father in the sky and tells him about his fear to return to the Pride Lands because that means he will have to “face his past.”  I understand the connection to Hamlet, with King Hamlet telling Prince Hamlet to avenge his death and restore the kingdom and all, but I just couldn’t emotionally connect with the moment.

I think part of the problem is that I couldn’t really connect with Simba, either.  As a young lion cub, he acted like a cocky little brat who knew that he would one day be king.  It’s refreshing to see him turn humble as he spends time away from the Pride Lands with Timon and Pumbaa.  However, I could still never relate to even the adult Simba.  I did, however, like the “Can You Feel The Love” sequence with Nala; I thought that was super sweet.

When it comes down to it, Timon and Pumbaa were what kept my attention.  While immature, their humor was actually funny to me at times and kept things interesting.

Random thought: the Hyennas were all voiced by Latino and Black voice actors, and had silly outcast personalities.  Zazu, on the other hand, is something like the king’s attendant/advisor and sounds British.  He has pretty dry humor, is very dutiful, and plays by the rules.  Seems like there’s somewhat of a presence of stereotypes… Not sure if they’re quite offensive or not, but it’s something to be noted.   Could be interesting to look into…

Overall, I didn’t really like The Lion King, but there IS a lot to work with in terms of character analysis/development.

Live-Response to “Up”

I saw Up for the first time about a week ago, and absolutely adored it.  There wasn’t a second that I looked away out of boredom.  I was hesitant that I would like it, but as soon as the movie opened with Carl and Ellie’s budding friendship-turned-romance, I knew it was going to be a quality movie for people of all ages.  For me, Up is essentially a story of transition between different stages in life.  We begin with Carl’s childhood, then we see his adulthood alongside Ellie progress, and after, how he becomes a grumpy and alone old man after the loss of his true love.  I never thought animated movies could be so moving.  I was emotional throughout the entire feature clip of Carl’s life, and got SUPER emotional especially as he and Ellie grew older together, when you could that see she was starting to have trouble climbing up their favorite hill, and of course when she passes away, leaving Carl with her treasured Adventure Book.  It was clear to see that she gave him life, and that without her, he was merely surviving, not truly living.

Back to Carl as a kid, he believed SO much in his hero, Charles Muntz.  I just knew something had to go wrong, it was so easy to sense.  Nearing the end of the movie when Charles’ true characteristics reveal themselves, we learn that sometimes you get let down by either events or even people you look up to.  Expectations are not always reality.

Alongside this already heavy lesson are even more serious adult issues such as infertility, death, divorce, parental neglect, inability to pay for things or to go on the adventure you always wanted to go on… I was surprised to find so many sad themes in an animated film, but they brought the movie to life for me.  As an adult, it made it so much easier for me to connect with the characters and feel REAL feelings of sympathy for them.  I think Pixar did an incredible job incorporating these experiences and lessons into the movie in such a way as to connect with all audiences (and not scare younger viewers).

I was amazed at how serious yet witty and funny Up was, sometimes all in the same time span.  One minute I was feeling sad for Russell who was talking about the neglect he bore from his absent father, the next I was totally laughing at the talking dogs’ voices (how old am I???).

Though the flying house was 100% unrealistic, I felt the significance of such an occurrence.  It was Carl’s ultimate escape plan from society (from the nursing home, from corporate greed, etc.), and it was his last chance to finally bring Ellie to her lifelong dream of Paradise Falls.  On his way to the faraway land, when Carl faces a harsh storm, he desperately clings onto the items from his past.  It was clear that he just couldn’t let go of these reminders of his memories.  In the end, though, Carl learns to move on from his past and leaves his house at Paradise Falls.   In realizing that he didn’t let Ellie down like he thought he did for so many years, Carl opens his heart up to happiness and to the idea of a family again.  He “adopts” Russell (in essence, becomes the father – or grandfather – he always wanted to be but never was), takes in Dug, and helps free Kevin.  The movie ends with Carl taking Ellie’s advice and starting his own adventure.  (sheds small tear)

I’m so happy that I finally got to see what all the rave was about with Up.  There were so many lessons and emotions to be taken away from it.  It has definitely earned a spot on my top movies list!

New Play in Town!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is coming to Papermill Playhouse, about 15 minutes away from where I live!  As a kid I did a lot of musical theatre and often went to the Papermill Playhouse to see the newest shows.  I always thought of it as a small, local theatre, so it’s super cool to see that The New York Times did a review on its latest production that’s receiving a lot of positive attention.  Apparently tons of people are raving about the expanded musical score as well as the impressive stage set.  According to critic Charles Isherwood, the play “[bridges] the gap between… Hugo’s darkly thundering melodramatics and the smiley-faced warmth of a Disney cartoon” — a tricky undertaking, indeed.  Papermill’s take of the story includes much more developed adult themes than the Disney movie, but still incorporates some of the lighthearted scenes of comic relief.

As a HUGE fan of Victor Hugo, I will definitely buy a ticket to see Hunchback when I’m home for the summer!

hunch

Bambi, Re-made

I wouldn’t call myself a huge SNL fan, but from time to time my friends send me some funny clips of their favorite sketches.  After watching the latest one my friend sent me, I looked over at the que of suggested videos and “Bambi” immediately caught my attention.  I knew exactly where they’d be going with this, following the recent releases and announcements of multiple darker, re-made live-action movies by Disney (Cinderella, Maleficent, Beauty and the Beast…).  Of course, it’s no surprise that SNL jumped right in on the bandwagon, and made a sketch of Disney’s “next film,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Bambi alongside his fellow Fast and Furious actors in an intense, action-filled movie.

While I’m not a fan of action movies, either, I did find myself giggling from time to time during the segment because, let’s face it, it’s Dwayne Johnson in deer ears and a painted nose!

bambi smile group