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On The Rampage: How Far Is Too Far?

3
Posted August 22, 2012 by Catherine in Ramp Specials
Aladdin

In a time when society as a whole is striving to be a tolerant and inclusive entity, there are fears that we’re about to topple into an era of PCdom gone mad. We’re lucky that we have the freedom to speak out against injustices – be it sexism, racism or general ignorance – and the internet has made this possible. It has given everyone a voice and every voice has buckets of opinions and sensitivities it wants to shout about. This is a good thing… to a certain extent.

I read an article on Hello Giggles the other day that analysed the progression of Disney princesses over the decades and how they’ve evolved from the mindless, simpering Snow White to the fiery kickass Merida of Disney Pixar’s latest release Brave.

I agreed with the author when she criticised earlier heroines. Snow White’s main aim was to marry a prince and clean a house and Cinderella wasn’t a whole lot better (although she did have a less irritating voice). They were fun films, but very few girls – from later generations at least – actually took inspiration from them.

The series of ‘modern’ princesses kicked off during the late eighties and was led by Ariel. Personally, I thought they were pretty decent. Sure, Ariel was a bit of a ditz, but she was adventurous, funny and ambitious. However the article’s author disagreed:

[Ariel] was no less dependent on the prince to save her tail than the princesses who came before her. She was as naive as Snow White when she accepted the poison apple from the Evil Queen by trusting the equally evil sea witch Ursula.

Next the author moves on to Belle – beautiful, smart, wonderful Belle – who she describes as being ‘of stronger character than past princesses, but she was weak enough to develop Stockholm Syndrome’. I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s good to know that anyone who develops that psychological disorder after being held captive and abused for a significant portion of their life was just ‘weak’.

The author’s analysis of Aladdin was what really got me though. She describes Jasmine as ‘suffering from an identity crisis’ and claims ‘she allowed herself to be taken in by Aladdin, who was essentially a conman’. A conman? Seriously? Okay, he was a thief, but he only stole what he needed to stay alive. He also fed starving children, managed to keep a pet monkey in good health and was selfless enough to free Genie. Oh yeah and the Cave of Wonders dubbed him the ‘Diamond in the Rough’.

At this stage, you’re probably thinking that I’m just really into Disney movies (which I am), but there is a point to all of this. It’s become so essential for people to have an opinion on everything that those opinions are forced. And as a cynical generation – because let’s face it, we are – seeing the good in things opens you up to be called naive and shallow, so these forced opinions must be of the negative variety.

No longer can we simply sit back and enjoy a light movie or TV show, we must analyse it, pick out its faults and shake them around for everyone to see. The author was so desperate to be seen as a liberal, critical thinker that she found STOCKHOLM SYNDROME in Beauty and the Beast. Not even bestiality, for Christ sake, but Stockholm Syndrome. Is nothing sacred?

There’s an oversensitivity in nearly everyone these days. So many people seem to comb through everything they encounter for any little thing they can jump on and say, ‘HA! Hate crime!’ But what’s even more frustrating is that there are very few well-informed articles written in these cases. Take our author for example, who dubs Beast as a ‘controlling, violent prince’. She appeared to have pulled this claim from the fact that he has bad temper and hasn’t actually analysed him as a whole. He was a spoiled prince turned into a monster, who had spent a long period of time hidden away in his castle and oh yeah, he was HALF ANIMAL. Animals aren’t exactly renowned for temper control. However, during the movie, characters are continuously pointing out that his temper is a flaw that he needs to control, which he finally does with Belle’s help and love. She is never an enabler and has very little time for his tantrums. The writers aren’t saying his behaviour is fine – they’ve made him a well-rounded character whose behaviour, while wrong, is understandable and he earns the title of ‘hero’ through his attempts to better himself.

Again, I am completely overanalysing what is essentially a children’s movie, but I’m trying to show that if you insist on doing it, at least be thorough and don’t just pick the teeny tiny piece that proves the argument you want to make.

There’s a time and a place for someone to stand up and say ‘This is sending the wrong message’ but pulling apart every thread of a movie to find something to back up your witch hunt is just plain wrong.

There has to be some element of slack cut for movies, books and TV shows. There’s the issue of historical accuracy in things like gender portrayals and also the issue of story progression. If Aladdin hadn’t turned himself into a fake prince, he wouldn’t have gotten near Jasmine and either the film would’ve ended there or we would’ve had to spend the remaining hour watching them both mope. So the writers made him lie about who he was and oh yeah, they taught us a valuable lesson about being true to yourself. BOOM!

Fights need to be picked in order for battles to be won. If so many petty arguments happen over ridiculous and honestly, non-existent issues, how are we supposed to highlight the issues that actually need to be dealt with? Fifty Shades of Grey for example. Now there’s something that is actually frighteningly flawed and needs every single copy to be burned before any more brains are turned to mush.

If a children’s movie isn’t telling viewers to do drugs and burn things and if overall, it’s sending out positive messages about being a good person, is it really necessary to kick up a fuss about some small flaws that a child will never be aware of? I think not.


About the Author

Catherine

Catherine often dreams about living in a tiny Parisian apartment and penning the next great novel of her generation until she remembers how impossible it is to get a decent cup of tea in France.

  • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

    That whole ‘Belle has Stockholm Syndrome’ argument drives me insane. It’s as if one particularly dim writer said it once and everyone fell in love with the psychological assessment angle and no one’s been able to put it down since. Belle doesn’t fall in love with her captor – in fact, it’s only after Beast releases her from her bond (which she offered in the damn first place) that she realises he’s an inherently decent person.

    But even that’s getting too deep into the whole thing. The point of this piece is that we’re so keen to pick everything down to the bone that we don’t even respect the storytelling parameters of traditional fairy tales.

    I don’t think our new-found desire to reduce everything to old reasons, rhythms and tropes is necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it’s potentially a great thing that we’re starting to examine why we look at things they way we do and where our old prejudices come from. But the tendency to over-analyse for the sake of having something to complain about just makes us look like joyless twonks. Analysing old Disney movies in the context of the time they were written is useful; it helps us understand what we used to be and it helps us figure out where we should be going. But pinpointing mental illnesses in beloved children’s characters or reducing a classic rags-to-riches story to the shenanigans of a nasty con artist? Oh, come ON.

    • Joe McManus

      Andy Warhol got it wrong: In the future everyone will be a critic for 15 minutes.

  • Sinéad

    I love Disney movies. I’m not so much a cartoon head – I think they in particular have had many ridiculous messages over the years – but I love The Mighty Ducks and Home Alone and even Richie Rich.

    I think there’s plenty to be said about meanings in film just as there is in books – cos that’s the nature of a story, you react to the feelings and actions portrayed – but I hate, proper hate, when people feel they have to come up with some ultimately wrong intellectual take on something which at it’s base level seeks to entertain. Talk about trying to get noticed on the internet. There’s so much sense in what you’ve said here. I wish people would just comment on these things with “for serio, get a life”.

    And if that writer wanted to go off on one about Disney, there’s a hefty amount of legitimate commentary due on their creepy corporation – leaders in facial recognition software and all sorts of terrifying things.

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