My Least Favorite Trope (and this post will include spoilers for The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Western Civilization, and—cod help me—Bulletproof Monk*.) is the thing where there’s an awesome, smart, wonderful, powerful female character who by all rights ought to be the Chosen One and the hero of the movie, who is tasked with taking care of some generally ineffectual male character who is, for reasons of wish fulfillment, actually the person the film focuses on. She mentors him, she teaches him, and she inevitably becomes his girlfriend… and he gets the job she wanted: he gets to be the Chosen One even though she’s obviously far more qualified. And all he has to do to get it and deserve it is Man Up and Take Responsibility.
And that’s it. Every god-damned time. The mere fact of naming the films above and naming the trope gives away the entire plot and character arc of every single movie.
shout out to all the confused people who find their way to my inbox
This is definitely a more dense piece to wade through, but it certainly has interesting observations about the portrayal of masculinity in Pixar movies (and also contrasts a bit to Disney — even though they now own Pixar, the studios themselves are still distinct).
The films in Pixar’s collection show a patterned reliance on controlling images associated with the embodiment of masculinity that shores up the very systems of gender inequality the films are often lauded as challenging.
To be clear, I like these films – and clearly, many of them are a significant step in a new direction. Yet, we continue to implicitly exalt controlling images of masculine embodiment that reiterate gender relations between men and exaggerate gender dimorphism between men and women.
La Jaguarina: Queen of the Sword (1859 or 1864-?)
In April 1896, hardened military veteran US Sergeant Charles Walsh, in front of a crowd of 4,000 onlookers, turned tail and ran. Mere minutes earlier, during a round of equestrian fencing, he’d been hit so hard he’d been nearly knocked off his horse – so hard that his opponent’s sword was permanently bent backwards in a U shape. In response, Walsh did the honorable thing: jumped from his horse, claimed that the judge was cheating, and fled the scene, to the jeers of the massive crowd.
His opponent? A woman known as La Jaguarina, Queen of Swords – an undefeated sword master who later retired only because she ran out of people to fight. Had she born 25 years later, according to the US Fencing Fall of Fame, she might be recognized as “the world’s first great woman fencer.” This week we tell the tale of this largely-forgotten heroine.
I know I’ve posted about this website before, but the crossover appeal to what goes on here can not be understated! Definitely a blog worth following.
But Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase Manhattan Bank, an JPMorgan Chase are not powerful because they worked hard. The best illustration of this point comes through a historical analysis. How did the banking system in this country get started? How did the richest people in the richest country in the world get their money?
Banking got started in this country by investing in the Triangular Slave Trade. The reason historians call it Triangular Slave Trade is that Europeans went to Africa, enslaved the people, brought them to this part of the world, and sold the people for products like hemp, sugarcane, cotton, and then those products were sent to Europe. That is why there were three angles: Africa, the United States, and Europe. The banking system—Lloyd’s of London, Barclays Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo-invested in that process and that is how their hegemony was established. In the last five years, almost all the banks I just mentioned have reluctantly acknowledged that they became established through the institution of slavery and the slave trade. So we see many people today questioning the system considering this simple fact: ‘Because the banks got rich by exploiting my ancestors I don’t see why I should have to pay them anything. They owe me if anything. I don’t want their money, because there is no price tag that can be placed on the suffering.’
Ahjamu Umi, from a guest lecture on March 21, 2013 at Concordia University
See also: “Wachovia apologizes for slavery ties,” CNN Money, June 5, 2005 & “American finance grew on the backs of slaves,” Chicago Sun-Times, March 7, 2014.
For more reading on the origins of the present American banking system and its foundations in the Euro-American slave trade, check out Slavery and American Economic Development (2006) by Gavin Wright and Debt, investment, slaves: credit relations in East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, 1825-1885 (1995) by Richard Kilbourne.
Do you find Alice in Wonderland to be pro-feminist?
How exactly would you define pro-feminist??
I think it depends on that, and it’s why I prefer saying “feminist-friendly” — otherwise, simply having a female lead who talks and does things by herself often becomes this very watered down definition of what it means to be “pro-feminist”
I’m not really talking about that movie in particular, just saying
my little sister is auditioning for beauty and the beast jr and I showed her a picture of Toni Braxton as Belle and she goes "She's black?! So I can be Belle!!" and it was the most heartbreaking thing ever that she would think she can't be a lead just because of her race. Thought I'd share
(ignore the late night rant)
I guess as someone who tries to be a writer myself, it’s just frustrating when the backbone of someone’s “well people complain too much about these PoC stuff!” isn’t actual concern for the issue, but actually rooted in
“see I wrote this story about a magical native american/african princess/whatever, and I spent so much time researching it because I’m afraid people will complain, and it’s just not right that they’re so nit-picky…”
you don’t get to demand that! you don’t get to tell your audience how to read your piece. You will be so, so lucky if you ever command an audience large enough that you get substantial negative feedback. I try to get people to read my work for critique because it helps you grow as a writer, and it’s really hard to get people to commit to that. You’ve had to do a lot of research? Good. How is it a negative that you know better how to make a character authentic and not just a re-hashed stereotype?
You would be so lucky to have enough people caring about your work that they give you that feedback. Most people would just shrug that off and not read your work again. People who only scorn incredibly valuable reader criticism as “they’re being distracted from the other parts of my writing boohoo” don’t deserve those readers IMO
"It's like, they want PoC to be represented, but they also want that representation to be responsible and well-handled??? I guess there's just no pleasing SOME people."
not going to keep giving that person a platform by reblogging their blog, you can really find it if you want to, but if you begin your reply with,
"I mean they make characters with PoC, because people demand it, but then they get insulted for including PoC."
they make PoC characters “because people demand it”?
Like is the problem here that Disney is critiqued for the films they make and profit from?
Or is the problem that there are people who don’t even bat an eye at the grossness of film companies having to be forced to make PoC characters???
Like don’t you think that maybe weighs on people, that they have to constantly demand to be treated like people with valid identities and not diversity props? Just ol’ thoughts, and yeah, good luck with your African princess story, from the defensive angle of your reply I think you will need the luck possibly
I get why people want diversity in Disney, so do I. But I feel like part of why they avoid it is because if they just don't do diversity, all they get is "Why aren't there PoC?" When they do include PoC, it gets nitpicked. I've heard people complain about the smallest things in Princess and the Frog, including Tiana and her mother sitting on the back of the bus (even though that's historically accurate) - if people actually celebrated it, maybe they'd be more willing.
I don’t agree at all.
People spin a thousand potential stories about what Disney is “thinking” and most of it is conflicted. But honestly, people have always critiqued movies. All parts of movies. That’s why there are movie reviews in the paper, and it’s not always four stars perfect flick.
When all the critics blast a summer flick for not having enough character development, none of the movie executives throw up their hands and say, "that’s it! we tried to give you a handful of touching moments and you shit on them in your reviews, so now we’re never giving you that again." Like, we still have character development in films. People critiqued the fuck out of Twilight, I heard the vampire genre is still doing okay.
So IDK. While I sort of get what you’re saying, I also think you have to be honest with yourself, in that it’s really unlikely this is the legitimate motivating factor behind an exec’s decision. Probably 90% of internet critique goes under the radar, and what they do hear is usually legitimate concerns. Criticism of racism is not the reason racism perpetuates, which is essentially the core of your argument.
I mean I could point out here that 99% of Disney — both fans and the company — never give a shit about historical accuracy and the only time it really comes out is in arguments about why certain races are dramatically underrepresented? We’re allowed to set aside the reality that 99.9% of Europeans in the middle ages were poor peasants when we have fantasy movies set there constantly starring white people as royalty, but it’s harder for movies to make it to the box office in America and star black people without referencing segregation or slavery (not that these movies aren’t legit, but that isn’t the only story of black people in the U.S., or the world, etc.)
Asking someone to “settle” and “be content with what scraps we managed to throw you because you’re not really owed anything” is a racist tale as old as time, tbh
Your PoC-excluding setting is a Choice and you should Own It.
OK so a lot of people are rightfully criticizing recent movies like Brave and the Hobbit and the upcoming Snow Queen for having no or apparently no PoC characters in them.
The apologists will say that it’s “not realistic” because of the setting. We rightfully point out that A) that’s just not true, because there were PoC in those times and places and B) having things like magic and faeries and dragons in your stories, and then turning around and complaining that PoC would be “unrealistic,” is more than a little bit hypocritical.
But I think it really needs to be brought to the forefront for those “It’s not realistic because of the setting” people, that even if we granted their assertion for the sake of argument, it wouldn’t matter, because the setting wasn’t dictated to the movie makers (or original authors) from on high. The setting is a choice just like everything else in the narrative is someone’s conscious choice, and if someone chose a setting that (supposedly) excludes PoC, then that’s not an accident outside of their control, that is a thing that they actively did and they deserve criticism for that as well.
Hallo children of the tumbls… if any of you live in the Rochester (ny) area and would like to come to a house gathering of mine this next Friday, let me know. Could be fun! Seems strange to ask this stuff on Tumblr but I’ve met a couple friends this way.
If interested, contact the Facebook version of Feminist Disney and I’ll link you an invite. I won’t care if you change your mind about coming haha (everyone always seems worried about that)