Feminist Disney, Lilo and Stitch: proof that Disney can get it right
Lilo and Stitch: proof that Disney can get it right

Lilo and Stich!  Is so good!  I forgot how good it was.   I think I can say in all fairness- and ruin the surprise for you- that it is the most feminist friendly Disney movie I have reviewed so far.  Three and a half stars out of four!   ***~ (see bottom for breakdown)



Personally Lilo and Stitch reminds me a lot of my sister.   She and her best friend loved this movie because they have had an Elvis obsession ever since me and Sister got an Elvis ken doll when we were little (lol she now has 3 or 4 Elvis kens).    So it was very strange but awesome that a character in a movie shared their love of that bygone legend.   

So anyhow.    This movie, in my opinion, did a lot of things right that their other movies did very wrong.   I thought it was a very good idea to set the movie in present day Hawaii, rather than historical.    If they had done this with Pocahontas (which would basically have made it an entirely different movie, I know), they would have avoided so many problems.   

From goHawaii.about.com: The Hawaii of “Lilo & Stitch” is not the Hawaii seen in most motion pictures. Lilo and her sister live in a small, rural town. Her sister is struggling to find and keep a job in Hawaii’s depressed economy, while still trying to satisfy the demands of the bureaucratic social worker. Many of the characters speak pidgin. The beach and ocean are means to escape after school, work or just a bad day. Tourists are a curiosity for Lilo, who takes their pictures and hangs the photographs on her bedroom wall. What you see in “Lilo & Stitch” is one of the most accurate portrayals of the real Hawaii.

What I also liked about this setup was that the movie showcased POC but that wasn’t the main point of the plot at all.    What I really don’t like about the really popular Disney movies- namely, the princess ones- is that white main characters are always (or almost always) set in a very generic Euro background and their personal issues are the main plot, while for POC they’re always put in very historical/cultural backgrounds.    It would be fine if it weren’t color coded, but the way they have it now seems to be like saying “POC can’t be main characters unless we use them to teach a history lesson or to educate people about another culture.    Because their personal lives aren’t important enough to be showcased on their own.”
So, yeah, I liked that about Lilo and Stitch.

What I also liked, as others have brought up, is that the body shapes and sizes are a bit more realistic/varied than in other Disney movies.    True, Nani is still a pretty slim woman, but her proportions are more realistic than a lot of the my-head-is-bigger-than-my-waist princesses, and she also has big thighs (it just makes me so happy to see this, I was always really embarrassed by my “big thighs” as a kid!).    Lilo, along with the other children in the movie, are great because many of them are a little “chubby” but it’s not seen as a bad thing, it’s just like, what children look like.


From Talkdisney.com: In its latest animated film, Lilo & Stitch, the girl protagonists possess body types more reflective of reality. Here, female images seem diametrically opposed to the Barbie doll-like Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas.

"A lot of women have complained over the years that there’s one type of girl you see in the Disney films," said Cindi Leive, editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine. "They have little hourglass shapes. A lot of moms worry that this might lead their daughters to idolize a very particular type of look and a particular kind of body."

"We have a lot of female characters in the film, predominantly [big sister] Nani, and we just wanted to make her look like a girl," said writer and co-director Chris Sanders. "We gave her more substantial legs and a real pelvis, sort of a more comfortable body. More ample."

Pug-nosed and chubby fingered, Lilo and Nani are still cartoons, but ones lovingly designed by Sanders, who also provides the voice of Stitch. Feeling that Hawaiian culture had been “treated rather lightly” by Hollywood, Sanders also sought out advisers to depict customs and characters with accuracy and respect.


….Sanders said the film’s variety of female body types represents a personal choice, and not an initiative within Disney itself.

Sanders clearly should be in charge of every Disney movie ever.   It made me sad to read that it was personal choice and not initiated by Disney, because they should be initiating that!   But their lack of desire to push for this was made clear by their return, after this movie, to the old standard, with characters like Rapunzel.  :/



She [Leive] added, “This heroine seems as if she is a little more realistic, and that can’t help but have a trickle-down effect to the girl who is sitting in the movie theater subconsciously comparing herself to what she sees on the screen.”



The one thing I wasn’t so sure about was the scene when Lilo indicates to Nani the photos of the fat tourists on her wall and says,
"My camera’s full again!   Aren’t they beautiful?”    And Nani looks at the wall and has this expression of, “Suuuure they are?”

On the one hand, I love that Lilo actually expresses, with no trace of irony, that she finds these people and their bodies beautiful.    Especially since she’s the protagonist and we side with her during much of the movie.    On the other hand, Nani’s expression, and just the way the scene is set up, makes me wonder if our reaction is supposed to be like, “Oh that silly Lilo, thinking those people are beautiful when they’re not!”   It was an interesting moment though either way and I’m glad the spoken message was positive.

Also great, from a feminist perspective, were the amount of women represented in the film.    The leader of the entire galaxy- female.    The main protagonist- female.    The person the protagonist interacts with the most- female.     A fair amount of generic background people- female.     It might not seem that impressive on the surface, but very few animated movies have even just equal representation of female voices, let alone more than half.    Usually you get the main protagonist, maybe an evil person, and then that’s it.    



I loved the realistic take on a “broken family” as I think they called it (but they most definitely were not broken!).    Not that there’s anything wrong with growing up within a traditional family structure, but I’m going to say that that family structure is by far over-representated in children’s films.   The relationship between the sisters was realistic- there was love and hate, unlike a lot of Disney family relationships that are cute but sort of generic-feel-the-love things where no one yells at each other or has arguments (Rapunzel and Tiana’s relationships with their parents sort of thing por ejemplo).    The social worker was an interesting touch, I don’t have enough experience with that to really know if it accurately captured the emotions and texture of that type of experience, but I like that they at least included it, and didn’t demonize anyone (the sister, the child, or the social worker) in the process.    And Nani’s job search: also a pretty realistic, if a bit sugar coated for the younger audience, portrayal of what average poeople have to go through.   Character development in general for this movie was great: even the “villains” of the movie were complicated individuals that weren’t 100% bad, but just having their own agendas and mistakes etc.



Going back to the family dynamic, I liked that Nani and David’s relationship was present but not center stage and it wasn’t painted as some dire thing where Nani had to either date him or life would fall apart (that tends to be the underlying impression I get from the princess movies!).    It was just very… cute.    I liked it.



Overall I found this movie just hilarious (“A planet called…Eaaarth”) and wonderful.   There are ways it could be made even more feminist friendly, I don’t doubt, but on the whole, I enjoyed it and thought it did a fairly decent job of being appropriate in many respects.

———————

Promotion/Equal Voice given to women: ****

Representation of Women present (are they more than typecasts of female stereotypes etc): ****

Racism/Classism: ****

LGBTQ representation: ** (it’s okay only because there really wasn’t any, that I noticed!  So only 2 stars for that)

Gender Binary adherence: ***~

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    I couldn’t have said it better myself! :D
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