Tag Archives: Brave

Children’s movies and Boys and Girls and Curly haired men who know how to kiss

Well, hello. This is going to be another one of those posts. You know the ones – where I talk about movies and then I talk a little about penises. And today, I’ll be talking about Disney movies. And if you’re like me and you take Dan Brown’s literature as gospel, the two subjects go exceedingly well together. Kind of like Hot Dog and mayonnaise.

Anyway, getting to the point, I finished reading The Beautiful and Damned recently. For those of you who are uncouth, uneducated, unworthy plebeians, that’s a book written by Scott F. Fitzgerald, who also wrote The Great Gatsby and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Although surely, none of you uneducated and so on people would deign to read my illustrious, erudite, culturally high-minded blog where I talk about penises, right? Go away now. Shoo. Chop Chop.

Like he says. Shoo, morons.
Like the tall guy says. Shoo, morons.

 

Anyway, it got me thinking about Disney. Mostly because I recently watched Tangled for the nth time and then watched Frozen. Which got me thinking about Brave. We all know where this is going now, don’t we? Hairstyles. Nope.

Anyway, The Beautiful and Damned is a story about two young people who fall in love and get married, and how their privilege damns them to a life of knowing their lack and their unhappiness. Because if they weren’t privileged, spoilt, without any responsibilities or vocation and so full of expectations about what life would be for them, they may not perhaps have been subject to the peculiar kind of unhappiness they got – the kind where the seemingly reasonable expectations of young people remain unsatisfied, and because those expectations meant so much, their hearts were made irreparably broken – by each other and by themselves.

One of the early reviews of the book I read talked about how the character of Gloria Gilbert is an “original”. The beautiful and callous Gloria is driven only by one thing – to enjoy herself. And she is the kind of character that knows that her life will be presented to her on a platter as long as she is beautiful. Her moments of solitude, her likes and dislikes, her ability to enchant with the most inane of subjects simply because of her manner, her open disdain for the people she wishes to despise, is all made hers because of the charm her beauty provides. As you may imagine, she is not a particularly likeable character, but not more so than Anthony Patch, her husband. He is a whole other collection of insecurities and neuroses that try to constantly hide behind the skirts of Gloria’s beauty and popularity.

About five years ago, I would have hated reading this book. Not only are the characters so useless, they have very few redeeming qualities and Fitzgerald doesn’t really try to be particularly kind to them (probably because he was quite sure everything would end badly – quite like it did for him and his Gloria-esque wife Zelda). Who ever thought jobless, self aware socialites during prohibition married to supposedly egoistic writers would end up in a mental institution. Such is life.

Now, as much as its difficult to read at times, its worth knowing all the pitfalls your previously magical marriage will succumb to if you don’t have some temerity, some *incomprehensible French phrase meaning confidence*, some Courage of your convictions. And some general lack of selfishness. Another reason to read/ enjoy – well, it’s Fitzgerald. I have a snoot not very well hidden in my not very deep depths.

ME: Sex joke.

me:

 

Though I admit there is a certain awfulness about characters like Gloria. Or for that matter (to bring this closer home for those who don’t give two micropenises about some obscure character from some book) characters like Betty Draper from Mad Men. They seem colorless and one dimensional and utterly childish when we see them. They seem to have finished with the business of life and striving once they get married. And seeing that image is not something a normal woman enjoys – because for most of us, it is our worst nightmare to become relegated to a corner of life after we find people we want to spend all of it with.

But at the same time, I hate it when en masse people hate on poor Betty Draper. Because she, like Gloria, is not simply a figment of someone’s imagination but a representation of what life meant to a lot of women at some point of time. And as much as we can find faults in them, it is equally important to remember how much they are a product of their times. Gender is a construct certainly, but so is every aspect of life inspired by and derived from gender. Betty Draper existed with her childishness and her marital woes, and she existed because someone taught her from a fairly early age about the way things are supposed to be. And then she learned from friends about the kind of husband one should have, and the kind of life that would be ideal, and the kind of children one should raise. And her friends probably knew because of her and their parents, and then, from Disney movies. Where the all suffering, cursed, single girl is taken away from her woeful life by the ever so democratic (democratic in that they’re poor, not in that they are less than the normal standard of beauty) love of their rich, princely, handsome future husbands.

I personally did not grow up on Disney movies. Not because my parents were incredibly aware feminists, but because we never had a lot of TV experience, but I had read all the original fairy tales as a child. My father was against Barbies though this had a lot more to do with his communist anti-American ideas rather than feminist ones. By the time my sister and I had demanded Barbies (like all our friends had) for long enough to actually get one each, we were a little below ten and eight I think. I spent a couple of solid childhood years making my Barbie (Barbies in the plural once my sister dropped hers) fall in love with and then become girlfriends with imaginary Ken. They would go to college or have jobs and houses (that were largely imagined), but the plot of their lives generally involved men (Ken). And that’s not all. Imaginary Ken was a dick (albeit without an actual dick) who practically harassed Barbie in the name of romance before she fell for his rakish charms. I’m not entirely sure where I picked up that rhetoric from except for subversively problematic and sexual Bollywood romances. For a long time, I like many pre-pubescent and pubescent girls assumed that guys being dicks was a manifestation of affection, attraction and unconditional respect for us as human beings. Now of course I know that most guys are dicks to some girls because they have small penises which they feel will be compensated if they are huge cocks to us. Tis a scientifically verifiable truth.

Like this random asshole spreading his legs around like he’s evolution’s endgame. Pffft.

 

So if I hadn’t been taught from the very beginning that I should and could earn and live for myself, perhaps I would have been happy being blissfully ignorant as my handsome husband with the stolen identity cheated on me with an inordinate number of women. Or I may have spent my life being woefully sad as I waited for my husband to get his inheritance (Gloria).

When I went to law school/ college, I was introduced to some other Disney movies – Mulan and The Frog Princess. And I did not need the inspiration at the time but it was good to know Disney made movies where the girls had more to do than get cursed and passively wait around till some handsome chappie comes along and molests them as they sleep. This got even better when I saw Penelope which is a little known film with Cristina Ricci playing the titular character who is cursed by a witch to be born with a pig snout (and little piggy ears) till one of her own accepts her. So her parents keep her away from the rest of the world and try and make her the most “accomplished” young lady, so that eventually some blue blooded rich man would eventually agree to marry her for a phenomenal dowry. Towards the end of the movie, she is about to be married to said rich dude (who is disgusted by her but has to marry her because of some publicity reasons that are too complicated to explain here) when she runs away from the altar. Her mother follows her, begging her to go back so that she can become a “whole new you”. To which Penelope replies that she doesn’t want to be a whole new version and that likes herself the way she is, breaking the curse.

This was before Tangled or Frozen, and was such a beautiful surprise. And somewhere in the movie, Penelope runs away from home and spends a few weeks discovering herself and making friends on the sly. The first thing we see her do when she leaves her parents’ house after breaking the curse is get the job she wanted – as a school teacher teaching biology, largely horticulture and plant biology. Later she makes up with the guy she likes, but while that is certainly the most romantic bit of the movie, it is not the most important part, as elucidated by its conclusion. It’s about finding your strength and own way, overcoming insecurities and fears, finding ways to be happy in spite of or because of them.

Then there was Tangled where both Rapunzel and the hot-as-motherfucking-bananas Flynn Rider save each other time and time again. Not one of them is more responsible for the other. Pixar’s Brave is a story primarily about a mother and daughter who have different opinions of what life and duty should mean. Her mother tells her it is her duty to get married to one of the haggardly princes from neighboring clans, and Merida doesn’t want to get married. The story is about how she ends up getting her lesbian way without having all the super awesome men fight between themselves over her.

And recently I watched Frozen, admittedly because I initially thought that was the movie with the cute animated guy who looks like a white haired pixie (Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians, which is what I’ll be watching next). But I was not disappointed despite the palpable lack of said cute animated boy. Frozen is about two sisters who have to deal with the fact that one of them, Elsa, is a raging Ice Queen who accidentally turns her kingdom (yes, they’re royalty) into an freezing hell-ice-scape. Her sister Anna, having missed her older sibling because of the latter’s isolation while trying to control this admittedly problematic power follows her to try and convince her to come back and make things hot again.

Done and ...
Done and …
Done. Dayyym gurrll.
…Done. Dayyym gurrll.

 

Anna was the one who made her sister lose control of her powers by arguing with her when Elsa refused to give Anna permission to marry a guy she knew for less than a day.

What is amazing about this movie is not just that it is primarily about the two sisters and how they end up helping each other, but the men in it. The man Anna wants to marry turns out, after spending more than half the movie seeming rather perfect, to be only marrying Anna to gain power of the throne. Anna stops him from murdering her sister towards the end. Another significant character is that of the Duke of Weselton who tries to use the unfortunate forever-damned-to-winter state of the kingdom to change trade agreements to his country’s benefits. Both of these men are stopped by the sisters working together. On the other hand, Kristoff and Olaf, both of whom help and support and fight alongside the women to get things done receive just rewards not just in terms of “getting the girl” but in having their own independent aspirations fulfilled.

As Colin Stokes points out in this awesome video, children’s movies need to address concerns and quests for both boys and girls, with proper, characteristic role models for both boys and girls. He speaks to the fact that movies with primary male characters tend to go about their quests by themselves, or in each other’s company, but with very little involvement with girls. And in the same way, very rarely do Disney movies provide respectful, supportive male characters who succeed because of their ability to work with each other and with strong, independent women characters. In Tangled, Penelope, Brave and Frozen, not only do the women work (often with each other) to make their own lives and/ or their kingdoms a better place, but the men who join their “team” as Stokes puts it, end up having a better deal as well.

I don’t really need inspiration from Disney movies anymore, but representation is incredibly important. And I’m glad that at least for a certain socio economic section of the population, not only are Disney movies more accessible, but that they are likely to inspire Barbie to take college seriously, get a Ph.D., have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and then work to improve herself or the world and do any number of things to make herself and other people happy.

Barbie shouldn’t have to live a complacent, sedentary life. That seven foot tall, blonde, double-breasted Amazon she male deserves more in life than just dong-less Ken.

Regards,

– Billy

P.S. – On a side note I have avoided mentioning the show I have been obsessing over recently out of respect for the topic at hand. Can you guess what it is? Can you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is kissing. I can do the hair thing. I have to get to work on perfecting the rest.
This is kissing. I can do the hair thing. I have to get to work on perfecting the rest.
He did it again!! With the neck and the scarf!!

 

Ok. Yeah. Sherlock. Yup.

– Billy

Magic, Making Out and Feminism

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m on my period. [Good beginning to blog post.] Maybe it’s that my dog is also on her period (she has it worse/ better. On the one hand she’s spotting all over the house. On the other, her dog brain don’t care, bitchaas). Perhaps it’s because it arrived after more than a month’s wait (such a wait is a gift whenever it comes). Maybe I really miss some parts of college life right now what with the group chat I have with my friends seemingly dying down a bit. It could be all of the above – why I watched Practical Magic and felt nearly sentimental.

For those with hanging genitals and/or no cable TV in the early 2000’s, Practical Magic is a movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock in it. They’re modern day witches coming from a long line of witches all of whom are rather kick-ass, give people chlamydia without any physical contact or even having chlamydia themselves, cast spells and nets and shit, and some of them fall in love sometimes. It’s also the movie because of which, no matter how old and wrinkly he gets, Aidan Quinn will always retain a sexual position in my mind – figuratively and literally. He’s the police chief guy in Elementary, for those of you sorry asses who don’t know. This is him.

 

Nice
Nice blue eyes but he’s a bit too normal and white for my taste under most circumstances. But man oh man was he good at slamming Sandra Bullock to the wall and making out with her. I got a tingle at that when I was 12 and I’m proud to say the tingle reaction is still strong for that scene. It tells me I haven’t lost my romantic streak.

 

This
This is a younger picture. You can sort of get what he had going for him back in the day.

 

Getting back on point, I always liked the movie. Because it had magic, pretty girls and that hot make-out session. But I watched it again, admittedly for the make-out, and I realized I like it now for additional reasons. Let’s discuss said reasons while also being feminist-y, shall we? In a fun, sexy way.

One of the new reasons to like the movie is the Bechdel test. It’s a simple three step method of identifying holistic portrayals of women in works of fiction. First, there has to be more than one named female character in the work; Second, they should at some point talk to each other; and third, they should talk to each other about something other than men. As a guy on TED put it, if someone outside of our planet tried to understand us based on our popular culture, they’d think this never happened. And surprisingly, Practical Magic passes the test quite well. And its surprising because most of the movies I like for things such as “magic”, “pretty girls” and “hot make out” usually don’t.

Which is really sad for people like me. I like girly shit like hot make-out sessions and pretty girls in movies. But for the most part while I watch movies in which they’re present in abundance, I can’t help but feel a wee bit cynical. I’m not saying I’d criticize an otherwise good movie for not passing the Bechdel test, but it’s a bit… disorienting, after you’re made aware of it the first time. You suddenly realize that you’ve very rarely seen a film which even touches upon the manner in which women think or talk, without making an utterly one dimensional, mildly misogynistic caricature out of you.

One way of putting this in perspective is with the example of Brave – which is a good movie for the most part, but not as fun(ny) as I was expecting from Pixar. One telling complaint from a viewer was that both the main characters were women and all the guys were sort of left on the sidelines and had very little to do with the plot. To which many a feminist/ woman calmly replied – “Welcome to our world, cuntface.”

I understand why this is a problem – there just aren’t enough women writers in the entertainment industries, and unfortunately this is a trend that seeps into even the newest and awesomest avenues of entertainment. The internet is barely becoming popular as a ripe field for sociological study, and usually I try to base arguments or ideas on (or off) books, movies or TV shows, or if none of them pay off, on news.

But YouTube is a new media and if there’s anything Lizzie Bennet and a recent not-more-campy-than-usual Law and Order episode I sat through proved anything, it’s that New Media cannot be ignored. Or at least it should not be if one wants to have one’s “finger on the pulse of our generation” … which let’s face it, all old people want that and Bob Dylan is one of the few references they’re likely to understand. If they don’t understand us, how could they distract us from the shit they’re up to? Wow. That was supposed to be funny but it came out in Britta Anarchist. Take that reference, old people. Ha!

ME: Stop pussyfooting. Get to the point.

Right. For the most part, I love the kind of stuff Youtube provides me with – vlogbrothers, Hoezay, ZeFrank, TheViralFever, Daily Grace, ComedyOneNetwork, Lizzie Bennet, Laci Green…. largely men. As John Green pointed out, mostly due to safety concerns and the general assholery of people on the internet, very few content creators, even on YouTube are women. Because no woman wants to be stalked (or worse) and then have to listen to people say, “See? if you hadn’t coveted and hogged all that attention on the internet, this wouldn’t have happened.” Which of course means that the content on the internet, like in Hollywood and Bollywood is largely made from the male perspective with very few relatable female characters or interactions. Which is fine, but as I said, a bit disorienting…. refer to the Brave thing.

Take for example one of the latest Viral Fever videos. I love those guys. And I don’t think sexist or misogynists at all (though from a meta comedy perspective it would be hilarious if they were) but the one about Men Who Understand Women sort of made me feel weird. For the same reason that Pyaar ka Punchnama made me want to reach into someone’s body and tug out their pancreas. Why were the girls universally illogical, irrational and manipulative? And why were the guys illogical, irrational, pathetic, desperate and unable to see the basic lack of maturity and various other flaws in these women?

I know the biggest defense guys have for this is “You’re only angry cause they’re going for the hot girls.” To which women like me, heterosexual with a ranging-on-voyeuristic appreciation for women, would say, “I will cunt-punt you, motherfucker. We don’t like it cause not only are you going for these idiots, we hate that they’re always given the character of idiots in movies just because they’re hot. A lot of smoking hot women don’t make me want to throw up. I would pay to watch men go for either of the women in Practical Magic, or for Kristen Wiig, or for either of the women in In Her Shoes, or for the women from Friends (at least they’re not one dimensional), or for Annie from Community, or for Elliot from Scrubs, or for Tina Fey in everything, or for Ann from Parks and Recreation, all of whom are very conventionally hot people….. excuse me while I go watch some man on woman porn.”

This particular ViralFever episode was really not bad. The above ire was actually directed at that turd-testicle of a movie – Pyaar ka Punchnama – I say it like Malfoy says Mudblood. The ViralFever skit was funny in parts. And I have no problems with men not understanding women and making a skit about that. I just need a little diversity in the type of women they talk about. It’s early days yet and they’ll probably (hopefully) be good at that. Or I’ll be left trying to make a show about women not understanding men when they say things like, “ey babe, I love you” half a week after having met us.

At a personal level, Practical Magic reminded me of college, especially the Midnight Margarita scene where they all dance around the table, laughing about men, magic and being labeled (mostly as witches, but also as sluts and cat-killers, etc.). It made me think of the time we threw a nineties themed party for a friend and danced to such classics as Hit Me Baby One More Time and Rock DJ. Also, did the ball-dance with imaginary partner around the pool table to Pehla Nasha, the whole motherfucking song, because what else do you do when Pehla Nasha plays? Also belted out Kiss From a Rose, I Want it That Way and Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha.

It also reminded me of the times we got together, with or without alcohol and told each other about our problems, fears, jokes, dirty thoughts and other such things. On one occasion on a train to Goa we made up a whole rap song with background vocals and human beat-box. It was called “Slut-Bag Ho”. It was a post-modern, feminist re-telling of Roxanne. Or it could have just been the product of a raging endorphin and adrenalin high.

So I guess it’s a bit sad that while normal, smart, pseudo-intellectual men have Dil Chahta Hai and Boston Legal and any number of other shit with which to reminisce about good times with, we normal, smart, pseudo-intellectual women have to scrounge till we find a few things which make us nostalgic. For people in Yotube and other internet or independent arenas who want to know how normal, flawed, smart women interact with each other, here are a few references – Leslie and Ann from Parks and Recreation, the girls in Girls to some extent, the sisters in In Her Shoes, the women in Community to some extent…. The fact that I’m finding it hard to come up with more pop culture references should really speak to this.

Oh well, off to watch some TV. We finally got Comedy Central.

All of this is obviously not as important as the fact that we may have a genocide assistant/instigator as our Big Cheese in the not so distant future. And as that whole situation plays out, I may write about something related to it, but right now, this is what I’m talking about. It has to be at least as logically relevant as lingerie mannequins that cause rape, right? And I know that was last week’s media talking point, but I don’t care. Fuck you.

Also, have started on my first John Green novel – Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Then there’ll probably be a Terry Pratchett followed by The Fault in Our Stars. Wish me luck.

 

–          Billy