Did Cinderella Eat Your Daughter When You Weren’t Looking?

From Goodreads

Sigh, I need to be careful here, I know. I don’t have a daughter of my own nor will I have one any time soon. I only have my experience as a daughter myself, along with four years of women’s studies where I read books like this by the dozens – particularly ones that look at how fairy tale mythology operates in today’s culture. I wrote my thesis on that after all. It was even focused on Cinderella. My conclusions dealt with the idea that Cinderella is an ever-adaptable myth; whether you put her in science fiction or horror. She is also at her best when she is surrounded by strong support groups, often female, rather than isolated as she is often pictured. Even Disney’s Cinderella had her band of faithful animal friends to fall back on for a dress. So, I’d say I came to this particular examination of Cinderella and how she translates in the modern world “girlie culture” with a fairly solid background of knowledge.

In Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, I agree with the main thesis. I cannot argue against the fact that the way culture and society inundate girls from the second they leave the womb with conflicting messages of pink, princess, sex and more pink is a problem. However, that problem goes in both directions because don’t we inundate boys with black, blue and how to be a “real” man from the start as well? I’d say gender modeling hasn’t quite gotten to the equality stage we’d like and science, as Orenstein explains, may not ever let the sexes be entirely on the same footing because, like it or not, some of it is genetic. There are some things we do seem to be hardwired to do, to be. What made me anxious reading this book was how anxious that made Orenstein. Is it a bad thing if there are a few inherent differences? Shouldn’t we celebrate those as much as we do when we make a step forward in gender equality? Wouldn’t it be slightly boring if we were all the same?

I know, it bugs me that I was wondering that too. But Orenstein is anxious, worried, almost obsessed with the fact that she might be somehow either not raising her daughter anti-girlie or not raising her girlie enough. As I am not yet a parent, I have to ask – does everyone get this worried about this? As I thought about my own childhood, I tried to think about my parents and how they approached raising my sister and me, opposites from the day we were born. I come from a Disney family so the Disney Princesses were always there in some fashion. I had a Beauty and the Beast lunch box for years in elementary school, I saw all the movies when they came out, and we went to the parks all the time. I, however, wasn’t a kid when Disney Princesses was a brand, when parents spend fortunes to let their daughters go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, when it seems like a family vacation to Walt Disney World is now somehow ruined because the little princess doesn’t get to have breakfast at the Castle with Cinderella.

Personally, I loathed wearing dresses as a kid (still do), had more guy friends than girls (that changed when I got to high school), could play tackle football with the best of them and wanted to be smart, brainy Belle when I grew up. The fact that she was a princess somehow didn’t really seem to register. She liked to read, she spoke her mind and she wasn’t afraid of the Beast. Oh, and I hated the color pink. I have made my peace with it over the years but I’d still pick blue over it any day of the week. My sister? Adores dressing up, loves pink, can ride any horse you put her on and will give you an opinion of any college basketball team in the country on demand. Now, I’d need to ask but I don’t think Mom and Dad ever fretted over whether to buy me the Barbie house versus a book nor do I think they worried when Ally discovered horses, makeup or declared her wish to become a sports broadcaster. I think they were just always present; paying attention, supporting us and letting us find our own way whether that was by decking out in pink and frills or enjoying earth tones and hiking boots.

And that brings me to my biggest issue with this book – I don’t think Orenstein needs to be that worried. She is ever present in her daughter’s life, a little girl who seems to have a healthy curiosity, who enjoyed Disney Princesses until she graduated to Wonder Woman and who sounds, quite frankly, that she is more aware of women stereotypes than I am. This is a little girl who asks questions and who has a mother informed, interested and open enough to answer and then see what her daughter does. Culture and society are not going to change any time soon. We still see trends today that we’ve seen from the 1950s. At the same time, there are new trends, trends yet to show themselves and trends we haven’t even thought of yet. Yes, Cinderella is always going to be there, be she in Ashenputtel, Cendrillon or Cindy garb, but I think the best way to deal with her is head on and see what happens. I think we may find our daughters just might surprise us. Or, maybe I’ll go into spasms of worry the second I have a baby daughter of my own but I think having a little more faith in ourselves as caretakers and our daughters as bright, intelligent women with equally strong women ahead and behind them will be the best cure to Cinderella fever we’ll ever find.

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Some Thoughts on Princesses

And no, I’m not going all Kate Middleton on you at this late date. I was recently catching up on some Disney podcasts and the last episode of Mouse Lounge was focused on the Disney Princesses. It’s a fascinating topic to me because 1) I am a bonafide Disney geek and 2) I was a women’s studies student and a proud feminist to this day. I found myself defending my love of Disney often in my women’s studies classes.

Still from Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding Line. From Ranker

I never really overanalyzed though until a fellow WS student asked me a few questions about her senior project. She was looking at the Disney Princesses and their effect on young girls. This was just a few days after the first release of the Disney Wedding dress line and she hadn’t heard about that yet so I told her about that and didn’t think about it again until her presentation on her work in class. Her findings were telling if not unexpected – Disney Princesses could give girls the wrong impressions, and those imprssions fell all across the board: If I just wait, he’ll come rescue me (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella); If I change enough, he’ll fall in love with me (The Little Mermaid, might have an argument for Mulan here as well); If I just love him enough, he’ll change and be the man I need (Beauty and the Beast). I’m paraphrasing and certainly hoping I remember this well enough but you get the idea – the princesses are passive; beauty objects to which things happen but they themselves have no control over them. I remember listening and getting progressively more uncomfortable. Did I subconsciously take all that in? I was a kid long before the current Princess craze and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques but maybe, a part of me had taken that in anyway? The more I sat there in class, the more I thought back and wondered.

Ariel was technically my first princess. I vaguely recall seeing The Little Mermaid in the theater when it came out and I loved the music but the story was never my favorite. It was Belle and Beauty and the Beast that ruled my world. I had loved to read already; all I had to do was perfect walking and reading at the same time and I was set. However, I don’t recall pining for my prince. I wanted to go off and have an adventure sure – wander forests, ride in to the rescue in the end, marry the Beast for his library…sorry, off track. The thing is, I never saw Belle as someone who was fishing for a man; the fact she finds one in the end is just sort of a bonus. I think it helped that my dad focused me on how smart Belle was, on how much she liked to read, on how brave she was. He never pointed out that she got to wear a pretty dress and married a prince. It was sort of besides the point in my world. So, I spoke up in class. I don’t think my friend was surprised. I was the girl writing her thesis on Cinderella after all (for WS, I was more into looking at the sexual revolution of women in the 1890s-1920s, but I got Disney in on the English side. Poor Cindy, she needed someone to prove she was a bit more than a perfect shoe model). I talked about my Dad’s point of view and how he presented Belle to me. It was true, I was an odd kid but I was just as inclined to love princesses as anyone. I am a born hopeless romantic but for me, Belle was never just a princess, she was first and foremost her own woman, with or without a man in the picture. My class found this interesting and we ran off into the whole nature vs. nurture discussion. But I’ve never forgotten thinking about my relationships with the princesses.

Fast forward to today and Disney Princess culture is everywhere. Talk about a merchandising mint. But my approach to the princesses hasn’t changed. They have their place, most of them accurately reflect the idea of women in society for when they were created (let’s all have a field day approaching Sleeping Beauty with that in mind) which is why Belle reigned supreme for me even over the more overtly feminist princesses Jasmine and Mulan. Then came The Princess and the Frog.

I had totally gushed over her dress first

I discussed this briefly when I looked at Tangled; Tiana, the princess for my 20s. Hard-working, practical, secretly funny and a dreamer at heart though she tries to deny it, Tiana and Belle run neck in neck for my favorite princess award these days. “Almost There” is a song that gets me through the hardest days, the days when I forget I do have bigger goals, bigger dreams and if I just keep working for it, with a little dreaming for good measure, than I’m almost there for sure. Mouse Lounge focused on Tiana a lot and how she is a more “modern” princess and has the mentality to prove it and I had to laugh because the little girl they were discussing in the podcast still just loved the music, the colors, the adventure of Tiana’s story. She wasn’t thinking about how Tiana is a positive representation of women in animation but about how pretty her dress is in the end. Because, let’s face it, girls will be girls and even those of us who like to think we’re above that stood in line to gush over Princess Tiana’s dress at the Magic Kingdom.

The Princess culture is fascinating but ultimately, I think it is a combination of things that make some girls fall head long into it and others just enjoy the ride along the way. One thing is for sure, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon and I am sure to see many a little girl happily skipping up Main Street decked out as her favorite princess on her way to the Castle for breakfast with Cinderella during my trip in September. And honestly? I don’t see a thing wrong with that.

You’re Going Again?

I both love and loathe that question. I was trying to catch up on my Disney podcasts at work today. There is nothing better to listen to when you’re just checking, copying and pasting metadata for digital library records. So, during Lou Mongello‘s interview of Jeff Kurtti (I told you I was way behind), Mongello brought up the question that starts this blog. As someone who is counting the hours (literally) to her first Disney trip in two years, an impossibility long time for me to go between trips, I’ve recently been getting this question again.

My sister and I at Chef Mickey’s, Sept. 2009

I often preempt the question to be honest. Before they can even ask why I’m going again, I launch into all the new attractions and things I need to see, do and eat while I’m there – actual new things and then other things that I am going to do for the first time. Yes, I’ve been 12 times and still haven’t done everything yet. This trip coming up has lots of firsts since I’m going on my first Disney cruise ever this time around, finally getting to the Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian, and seeing Hallowishes from the Polynesian beach. But it’s not just the new things one goes back for. I truly feel like I am going home when I go to Walt Disney World. This is the place I grew up; the place I am completely myself – the happy-go-lucky, adventurous 8 year old I guard jealously most of the time gets free reign when I am in the kingdom of Disney in Florida.

Will people stop asking me this question? No, not any time soon. For some people, they don’t get it and that’s OK. Every one has their favorite vacation spot for one reason or another, Walt Disney World is mine and I get to see it again in 81 days, 3 hours and 4 minutes!

Happy Friday

Sigh, I am often thwarted by the blog gods. I wanted to share just the audio file of my own personal theme song with you all but I had to resort to a YouTube video for lack of an alternative. Next goal, to learn how to stream a song so I can share here!

This song has been a personal theme song since I first saw it in the theater back in 2009. It seems I am always just one step away from being where I want to be. I am told this is the fun that is your professional career in your 20s so I am trying to handle it with as much grace as I can manage. But it isn’t easy. It’s hard and I am working as best I can to keep reaching for my next goals.

So, for your Friday enjoyment and maybe, a little inspiration, here is “Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog.

Now for something different

I realize I am a bit book-heavy on this blog. I haven’t even talked about movies in depth in awhile. Mostly because, other than seeing Tron: Legacy while I was home, I haven’t seen a new movie in awhile. I’ve been digging into TV shows. I got Castle for Christmas, Veronica Mars on my Netflix instant watch list and have been watching movies I got for Christmas (Sherlock Holmes, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) which I’ve actually already seen and love hence why I was gifted them.

But I wanted to take a minute to share a hobby with you all. I collect pins. And not just any pins. Disney pins, specifically the pins that you can find in abundance in the parks and have been able to since the pin trading hook was introduced back during Walt Disney World’s Millennium Celebration. Mom and Dad brought my sister and I back identical lanyards with identical pins (sisters – you have to make sure it doesn’t look like you are favoring one). The lanyards had a pin for each park: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and the Animal Kingdom. Honestly, I thought it was cool but wasn’t too into them. Until I went down myself. There were pins for everything! Parks, hotels, rides, characters, movies…the list goes on and on. I was hooked.

But, well, I liked to collect them. The idea was you were supposed to trade them. This baffled me. I bought a pin that I liked, with my money. I wasn’t going to trade it! Trading was an odd concept to me anyway. My sticker collection was carefully curated and organized. It was to be looked at, not traded people. Sheesh. My pin collection has developed the same way. I have careful chosen and picked most of the pins I’ve personally bought. My parents and sister have continued over the years to get pins for me every time they go down to the World, much more often than I get there anymore. Often, I send them looking for a pin pertaining to a certain character or movie. I can hear their curses from here. It seems I very often send them on a wild goose chase…

Don’t ask for a favorite. Writing this, I took down each lanyard for pictures (until I realized hanging, I could get better shots)and remembered some hard earned pins and even ones that hark back to a Walt Disney World that no longer exists. One of my first pins is the Earful Tower emblazoned with Disney-MGM Studios.  My Dixie Landings pin was one of the first I ever personally bought; the resort is now called Port Orleans Riverside.

I have a Belle pin that came from Europe; my parents couldn’t find one in the States at the time.  I have pins with my favorite characters (Belle, Stitch, Chip and Dale, Tinkerbell, Figment), my favorite rides (Big Thunder Mountain, Mission: Space, Soarin’). I like the quirky ones too. I have a Mickey wearing a Mickey poncho, a pin with Stitch hanging from the chandelier as Beast and Belle glare up at him, and a Mickey emulating Gene Kelly in Singin’ In The Rain. I always make a point to pick up the latest conservation one at Animal Kingdom, usually with Jiminy Cricket. Special events are marked with a pin: My one and only times attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, taking the Backstage Magic tour, finally going to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. I have pins from my favorite countries in Epcot and new movies on their opening days. One pin even has a picture of me from my trip in the fall of 2002, Senior Year with the Mouse as me and my friend called it. I even have the set of pins you had to pre-order Up to get. I may have pre-ordered the movie just for the pins…

Perhaps more than pictures, my pin collection marks my trips to my home away from home these days. It is a unique collection and I always look forward to growing it. But if you’re looking for a trade, look somewhere else!

A Tangled Review

Image from onlinemovieshut.com

I love when a new Disney movie comes out. I watch every trailer, every clip, read every blog. I know more half the backstory of the movie long before I ever see it. I have mentioned on this blog that I wasn’t as excited for Tangled as I was for The Princess and the Frog. I think deep down I will always adore hand-drawn animation best. I love its feel, its ambiance. There is something about the opening scene of a well made hand-drawn animated film that makes me feel like I’m eight years old again. There is a softness to hand-drawn animation that computer animation has never been able to quite emulate exactly. Pixar gets close; Tangled may even get a little closer if I’m being honest, but it is still missing that magic I associate with the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast, the drama of the fight scene in The Lion King or even the magic Disney animators recaptured with The Princess and the Frog in the bayou scenes especially.

Now that I have waxed poetic about hand-drawn animation, let’s get down to brass tacks. I really didn’t love Tangled as much as The Princess and the Frog. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was funny, clever, with excellent storytelling and just beautiful to watch. The color palette for the film alone was delicious. But, and this is what usually makes or breaks a movie for me, I just didn’t love Rapunzel. I mean, I did love her but not the way I loved Tiana. I watched The Princess and the Frog and found a character I wanted to be more like, who sang a song I adopted as my theme song for my current mid-20s life, a character who immediately became a friend I needed to have in my life. Rapunzel had to grow on me and she did, by the end of the film, she was like girls I knew back in high school. I’ve had friends like her: flaky, fun-loving, slightly spastic at times, willing to take risks and see where life takes them. They are friends I adore and yet they exasperate me, tire me out now. It’s a stage we should have grown out of. And for that, I have to give major props to the storytellers who created an incredibly realistic 18 year old girl. And because of that, I think Rapunzel made me feel old at first. As she grows throughout the film, I came to like her a lot better and recognize the journey the story was taking the character on. But Tiana still wins in my book. I really do think this has to do with my age and where I am in my life. Rapunzel is the dramatic, exasperating teenager on her first adventure; Tiana has been around longer, realized that life isn’t going to be handed to her on a silver platter, that she needs to calm down and get to work.

Which brings me to issue number 2 – in a sense, Tangled and The Princess and the Frog are the same story. The heroine on a journey to learn more bout herself and reach a goal; the hero who has to learn to love someone more than he loves himself; the selfish villain who needs something only the heroine or hero can give him. It’s the same story arc, just wrapped in the fabric of a different fairy tale. Now, as someone who has studied fairy tales, and before you all cry fowl, yes, most fairy tales have similar plot arcs but I guess maybe I was just expecting someone more, something new.  Which I will obviously be getting since Disney has said they are moving away from fairy tales for their animated movie plots for now. While I am not exactly happy about that at all, I do need to ask why they thought making two such similar fairy tale movies in a row was a good idea. There are other fairy tale plot arcs. I mean look at the order of the original Disney classics: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi. The next princess movie after Snow White? Cinderella in 1950, 13 years later. All I’m saying is maybe spreading the princess love out more instead of eliminating it all together is a better idea.

However, moving back to the Tangled discussion. And this last issue might really bring out the pitchforks…I didn’t care for the songs. I know right? I am the girl who buys Disney film soundtracks the second she leaves the theater usually and has them memorized about a day later but this one didn’t have me running to iTunes nor do I think I will be unless on second watching they grow on me. It wasn’t Menken’s score; that as always was impeccable. It was the song lyrics themselves that jarred me out of the story a bit. I especially found Rapunzel’s “When Will My Life Begin” a bit over the top and really didn’t hold a candle to a heroine’s anthem like “Almost There.” That song disappointed and the rest of the movie had to win me back. While I enjoyed “I See the Light,” I still am comparing it to the Golden Age songs and finding it lacking.  That said, the songs did fit into the story well and always moved the story forward or told us more about a character so they served purpose (which was not always the case in The Princess and the Frog I will readily admit).

Oh dear, my three issues seem a bit much. It was not that I didn’t love Tangled or that I won’t buy it the week it comes out on Blu-Ray. I will and I will thoroughly enjoy watching it and laughing at the excellent writing again. And it is, without a doubt, another step in the right direction for Walt Disney Animation Studios. It just didn’t thrill me the way The Princess and the Frog did which means audiences everywhere will adore it a lot more than that film probably (I’m not usually that well in-tune with what audiences will like). I think there was just something in The Princess and the Frog that spoke to me, caught me at the right time in the right place that Tangled just didn’t get close to and this is why we have favorite movies and songs. I will always say Belle is my favorite princess but she was also the princess of my childhood. Tiana is the princess of my 20s. I think Rapunzel just came a little too late for me to connect with and that is just fine. Please go and see if she’s your princess. You won’t be disappointed along the way.

Couple of Things

There will not be much blogging this next week or so. Tomorrow, I have a work event that goes all hours for the next three days then Sunday I need to do a massive clean of my apartment and car because my parents are coming to visit for a week. So I will be super busy though hopefully collecting blog ideas to share when I get back.

For now, enjoy the full-length trailer of Tangled, Walt Disney Animation’s next film release. I am not as excited for this one as I was for The Princess and the Frog but still, it looks like a continuation in the right direction for my favorite company.

http://o.aolcdn.com/videoplayer/AOL_PlayerLoader.swf