Snowed in this weekend? Sick with whatever’s going around school/the office? Just received one of those miraculous days where you have nothing to do and nowhere to be? Unless you have a great book to curl up with (or, y’know, homework), sounds like you need something to marathon! Read more
For those not in the know, October 21, 2015 is a very special day in the history of film and pop culture – it’s the day Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive from 1985 in Back to the Future Part II!
In terms of technology, there are plenty of articles circling around on that topic, so I’m not going to touch it. But the future society presented in 2015, I think, could use some discussing.
That’s why I’m here. 🙂
The movie in question, Moana is described as such by Disney: “Moana introduces a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. She meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage.”
With the film set in the South Pacific, Moana is being touted as the first Polynesian princess. So, what does Lin-Manuel Miranda, a composer-lyricist of Puerto Rican descent, bring to this project?
You know, there’s a lyric in “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” that I’m surprised doesn’t get more attention.
While we could chalk it up to needing a word that rhymed with “believing,” to say her heart is “grieving” still seems a strong choice of words for Cinderella. But I think this says a lot more about her character and her story, than any of the pretty, sparkly, shallow merchandise can.
In the original animated film, Cinderella’s father dies when she’s very young, but old enough to remember him and be affected by his death. Instead of getting love and support from family members in the wake of all this, her stepmother takes control and turns Cinderella into a servant in her own household. Because this is all narrated at the very beginning of the film, we don’t get a strong idea of just how hurt she was when all this happened. But that doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there. While she is strong enough to keep her head up high in the face of her daily servitude, every now and then, her fears, her grief, and her frustration overcome her. But she has to keep it as contained as possible, because if she doesn’t her stepmother will only make things worse, even throw her out, with nowhere to go.
This is a girl with a lot of heart and courage. Perhaps I’m biased since Cinderella is my mom’s favorite Disney heroine, but I have a lot of respect for Cinderella as a character. But because she was in an animated film in 1950 with a very short running time, a lot of her story was diverted towards the comedy – the mice, the dated blowhard of a king, the put-upon duke. And that was fine for that time and type of film. But as times have changed, people have defined Cinderella by the shallowest details of her story.
But tonight, with the opening of Cinderella (2015), this beloved Disney character gets another chance to prove her worth, beyond the merchandising, beyond her original film. I was wary of this film when I first heard about it, mostly because I was coming off the heels of Maleficent – which, while elements of it worked very well, would have worked better if it wasn’t so deeply associated with an iconic Disney film. But where Maleficent twisted Sleeping Beauty around, Cinderella seems to be truly honoring the original while giving her and her story the depth it deserves – but will it truly go the distance?
They say “a dream is a wish your heart makes,” so here are my dreams for this epic film to fulfill:
1. Confronting the Stepmother (literally and symbolically)
Rags and riches are a huge part of this story, but it isn’t just about the transition from one to the other. The stepmother loves to hold Cinderella’s poverty and dependence over her head. She’s all about pretending to give Cinderella a fighting chance, while placing every obstacle imaginable in her way. In this way, she attempts to make Cinderella feel worthless, to ultimately give in to despair. Cinderella unfortunately never gets to directly confront the stepmother in the original – though I’m sure she got a real kick of pleasure from her stepmother’s face when she pulled out that other slipper. But we see from the trailers hints of a real confrontation scene in the new version, which I hope will be satisfying.
But I don’t want this just for the drama. Because by confronting the stepmother, she has to also confront how the prince and how society might view her if she takes her chance at happiness. Even now, there’s still a lot heaped on those who have fewer opportunities, especially women. That they are somehow less, even when they are kind and caring and intelligent hard workers. But Cinderella, by confronting this and still choosing to go for her dreams, would be making a mature decision to assert her right to dream, to attend the ball, to face the prince, even if the worst should happen. And to show the prince, confronted with the truth, choose to stand by her side proudly. Instead of dreamily glancing over the issues, I hope the film acknowledge the prejudices associated with rags and riches, and ultimately show that they are wrong and do not matter.
2. Make it clear why she had to stay in her stepmother’s care – and maybe the early days of that life.
Even with a potential confrontation, people may fault Cinderella for not fighting back sooner.
Said people forget about women’s history.
Because for all she went through under her stepmother’s roof, had she stepped out of line it could have been so much worse. In the original film, when an innocent mistake of Cinderella’s was mistaken as purposeful insolence, her workload was doubled. What would happen if she actually stepped out of line?
Possibly, she would have been kicked out of her own home. Think Miss Honey from Matilda without an education. Or worse yet, think of another poor French woman – Fantine from Les Miserables. Forced into prostitution, she took ill and died.
But just because she was forced to take her step family’s behavior, and decided to take it with a smile just to spite them, doesn’t mean it was always that way. Perhaps the film will give an opportunity to see her early days under her stepmother’s thumb and being willful, leading to serious consequences (so more along the lines of Jane Eyre).
3. Show her spirit!
She calls the clock an old killjoy. She scolds Lucifer and Bruno when they’ve been bad. When given the chance to go to the ball, her lack of wealth, of even a dress, does not dissuade Cinderella from trying to take the rare opportunity for freedom (not love, note). She sticks her chin in the air in front of the woman who can hurt her the most, and proclaims her right, by royal decree, to go to the ball. Basically, all of this and more please!
4. Have the fairy godmother’s appearance be connected to Cinderella’s mother.
In many of the older versions of the tale, the person or force who gives Cinderella the opportunity to escape her life is connected to her deceased mother. In some it even is her. Since trailers indicate that we do get to meet Cinderella’s mother, I would love to see that connection drawn, to show Ella her mother in some way is still there for her (I’m a sucker for a good mother-daughter story).
5. A glimpse at Cinderella’s dreams.
Cinderella never discusses her specific dreams in the original film because, like wishes, if she told them they would not come true. Plus, I think she wants something that is all her own. It worked for the original film because by having the dreams be vague, people could project their own dreams on the song and character.
Bur now, I think showing that maybe Cinderella had specific dreams – perhaps to escape servitude, or serve in another house as servant, live abroad – would help the audience understand the stakes of going to the ball for her, what she wants from life.
That’s all for this week! Sorry for the late post. See you Tuesday!
The annual Oscars have come and gone, and this year I actually saw more than a few of the nominees (probably because I wasn’t, y’know, studying my butt off as was the norm up until now).
There were a lot of really great moments at Sunday night’s ceremony. But of course, grabbing attention from the get go is important, and what would a Neil Patrick Harris-hosted event be without a dynamite opening number?
Penned by the composer and lyricist of Frozen, I found the song very intriguing given the cultural environment that surrounded this year’s Oscars. I won’t go into detail on all that, as there are others who have stated it better and more passionately than I could.
And also, it is interesting to reflect on the song after having seen the whole ceremony, because so many of this year’s acceptance speeches ended up talking about films as representative of issues that wouldn’t otherwise be talked about. That films even have a responsibility to be socially aware and advocate on behalf of others, and to do it right. And on many levels, I so agree with all of that! All kinds of storytelling invite us to empathize with people in situations unfamiliar to us, and that is part of what makes them so important.
But… what about when we realize that a story we love is problematic?
Author’s note: So, this isn’t a typical post for me. But it’s been one of those weeks where I’ve been thinking a lot about something, and the thoughts get so jumbled up in my head that I need to write about it to resolve it. I hope you get something out of this personal reflection of mine, and promise next week I’ll get back to my more typical posts. Thanks!
Dear Snow White,
I wish I could say you weren’t my favorite as a kid. That I was way more into Belle or Jasmine or Mulan.
But, let’s be honest – I had your doll, I had your dwarves, I dressed up as you for Halloween three times. You were my girl.
Snowed in (as much of the East Coast will be when this post goes up)? Sick with whatever’s going around school/the office? Just received one of those miraculous days where you have nothing to do and nowhere to be? Unless you have a great book to curl up with (or, y’know, homework), sounds like you need something to marathon! Read more
Last week, we started exploring the similarities between Marvel’s Peggy Carter and Doctor Who‘s Sarah Jane Smith, in terms of their roles as supporting and leading ladies.
This week, I’d like to continue this exploration by going into what makes these characters tick. What is it that we love about these characters so much? I confess, it is hard to put into words (and even harder to find evidence in video or gif form). But finally, I think these words best sum it up:
Maria, there are two types of people in the world. Those who panic, and then there’s us. – Sarah Jane Smith, “Invasion of the Bane.”
And then there’s Peggy Carter and Sarah Jane Smith. Bold and intrepid, they face danger unflinchingly, doing what must be done to save others. Where others may panic, they stay calm and figure a way of the situation. This, ultimately, is what makes them valuable both as supporting characters and as leads.
So yes – I, like many others last week, have jumped on the Agent Carter bandwagon. Captain America: The First Avenger, I’m not ashamed to admit, is my favorite film of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (though Avengers and the first Iron Man are very close seconds). But, much as I love Steve Rogers (and I do, I really do), his leading lady Peggy Carter is a big part of why I loved that film.Though I don’t like that Peggy is the only substantive female role in the film, I can overlook that due to the depth of the role she is given.
Agent Peggy Carter is a direct, no nonsense, unflinching woman in a man’s job, who constantly proves she is just as, if not more, capable. Rising from her mere love interest status in the comics, Peggy’s character stood out so much to fans and to creators that she has not only appeared in a number of Marvel companion works, but is now the center of her own mini-spinoff.
Which is so awesome! She is so far the only female character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have her perspective as the central narrative**. Steve Rogers might be Peggy’s inspiration and the story’s jumping-off point, but Agent Carter truly is Peggy’s story.
Y’know who’s another awesome female character who went from a supporting role to starring in her own series?
Sarah Jane Smith is acknowledged by much of the Doctor Who fandom to be the most iconic and beloved of the Doctor’s companions (friends who travel with him through time and space, for all you non-Whovians out there). A strong-willed feminist journalist, she appeared on the long-running series from 1973-1976, and was intended to break from the typical female companion of the time, who often screamed at the sight of danger. Though she still acted as the Watson to the Doctor’s Sherlock, she was confident and courageous, and often held her own in bad situations. After leaving the show, she reappeared in an anniversary episode or two, but not much that furthered her story…
…That is until 2006, when the character was brought back for an episode of the rebooted Doctor Who (as the showrunner had been a fan of her character as a child). Viewers appreciated her reappearance so much that she was soon given a spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which was aimed towards a slightly younger audience.
In her spinoff, Sarah Jane becomes the leader of a group of children, using brains instead of brawn to deal with alien threats. Is it childish? A little. There are less developed stories, some gross-out jokes, hammy aliens. But Sarah Jane kept it grounded, always making the stories believable, and causing a new generation of children to fall in love with her.
Just what is special about these two ladies that caused them to break out from supporting roles to lead their own stories? Perhaps in seeing what they have in common, we can pinpoint that touch of star quality. Though their stories are rather different, we can see a number of parallels in their personalities, initial roles, and later development. Here is part one of our exploration into these two characters.
(SPOILERS for both Captain America films, Agent Carter 1×01-1×02, Doctor Who, and Sarah Jane Adventures)