Save a Damsel in Distress

“Why does every princess need to have a prince? It’s the same old story but I’m just not convinced. Why keep on assuming men will save the day? I can be the hero and do it in my own way”

I got these lines from a parody of Disney’s Frozen. It speaks so much on how I feel towards the stereotype given to female protagonists in film, TV, music, cartoons and other forms of entertainment. What bothers me is that most of the time these platforms target young girls. I am a big fan of  arts and entertainment but wouldn’t it be nice if  ‘entertainment value’  speak for both entertainment and value? Pop songs are most of the time love songs and hyper-sexualized. Disney history has been creating female protagonists who have passive roles. I believe in Cinderella’s song: “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” My problem is that Cinderella did not have a big ambition. To marry a prince is a dream but not a real goal that can be cultivated by talent and hard work. I just want to hear stories  that empower girls to make use of their own ability without giving up who they are. Though I do not disregard that finding the right man and following your dreams have some value in life, message of celebrating individuality, independence, and family should be given of greater emphasis. These themes reflect what we need in our society.

Frozen

Disney Frozen Elsa
photo source: http://www.hdwallpapers.in/walls/frozen_elsa-wide.jpg

I’m glad that we now have female characters in fiction and entertainment who represent real girls. Disney reinvents  their female characters that fit to our generation. And I’ll never get tired of using Frozen as an example. I love this animated film not only for the songs, and the feel-good Disney vibes, but also of its practical values.

In a world where fashion models are being looked up by most young girls, we need female characters who have flaws. Isn’t it frustrating to observe lot of fashion models trying to perfect their posture, and struggling refinement and glamour? Good thing, Anna of Frozen is clumsy, bubbly, playful. In comparison with classic Disney princesses whose happiness depend on a prince, Elsa strives to be on her own and be herself. Neither Elsa nor Anna is demure or soft-spoken.  Hence, (I appeal), let the girls be themselves, and blossom in their own pace and in their own way.

Also, how many animated films tell a story about sisters? This theme resonates to most of us, and that true love is nothing fancy or out of reach. True love is a hard concept to teach if it is defined by what most movies tell us. As corny as this may sound, but true love should be basic. I have a lot of sisters and we most probably have siblings or members of the family who have been with us since birth. Frozen has made the concept of true love more accessible to everyone.

elphaba
Photo Source: Broadway.com

Wicked
Another good example of a female fictional character is Elphaba from the musical play and novel, Wicked. When I was a small girl, I dreamed of becoming a princess. But lately I wanted to be a witch. I am a fan of Wicked. I have their songs in my play list, read the novel, watch the play on web and on real life. I like Wicked because it celebrates individuality. In reality, sometimes we are defined by our color, and other exterior features. Elphaba, the wicked witch of the West is not a typical protagonist of the story. From the title itself, she is  known wicked. She represents the minority. She goes for the unpopular belief of fighting the rights of the Animals. Alas, a female character has emerged from the male-dominated world, witchcraft. ( There seems to be a bias towards wizards and bias against witch. Major characters as witches are villains while the boy with a broomstick is adorable and not necessarily wicked). Like Frozen, the set of characters in the play are female-dominated.

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I am hoping for more films, plays, cartoons and stories  that feature women as heroes. Just like Frozen and Wicked, I hope they reach mainstream success so that more girls will receive the message of empowerment.

The best way to save a damsel in distress is  not to call for a prince but the best way is to teach her to save herself from distress. Show her true colors and be her own happiness machine. Let the storm range on and let her defy gravity. Let it go!

Watch and Be Brave

Walt Disney Brave Merida
photo source: dailyrecord.co.uk

*uber late post

Three words to describe Disney’s animated film, Brave:

Cute

Funny

Touching

One word to describe:

Brave

The title itself describes on how the latest animated film of Disney deviates from classic Disney films. Disney innovates not only its technology, but also its characters and stories. Brave shows that Disney broadens the audience’s view of character roles.  Merida, the female protagonist, is not vulnerable like Snow White, not helpless like Princess Aurora, not graceful like Princess Jasmine, not too kind and submissive like Cinderella. Merida, is not only aggressive, strong, and willful but she is also a problem-solver and independent and that makes her different from Ariel and Belle.

The film breaks away from conventions that we usually see in other fairy tale films of Disney. There is a witch but there is no clear villain. There is no true love’s kiss. There is no handsome prince to save a meek princess. The film centers on Merida alone.  She created her own problem but eventually learned to find her way out.

In comparison with our favorite princesses who end up tying a knot with their love interest, Merida fights for independence unlike other princesses. Female independence is not a common theme in animated films. Ariel fought for her dream to be Part of that World but it wasn’t exactly independence. She left her ocean family to be with her dream man. Note that she lost her identity by trading her fins with feet. On the other hand, Merida voices out her desire to follow her heart,  to  find love in the right time which unfortunately her mother could not agree. Merida’s fulfillment does not rely on the arms of a man but basically, she pleads for freewill.

The princess does not wear fancy glass slippers nor walk like Kate Middleton. She lets her hair dance with the wind. She moves like Rapunzel of Tangled and perhaps Tiger of Winnie the Pooh, playful and bouncing all the time. She runs swiftly, climbs the hills, laughs hard.

If you try to look for underlying theme of Brave, there is a question of women empowerment. In a poor mindset, women are oppressed when men oppress them. In the film, a woman is oppressed by another woman. It was not a male figure who was trying to cage Merida. The prince and her father seemed to be negotiable.  In the beginning, the mother  controlled the life of her daughter by arranging her daughter’s marriage and by teaching her the basics of being a princess. Another thought to ponder; “If a woman says she believes in welfare of  her fellow women, if a woman wants to preach women empowerment, but hinders the growth of another woman’s personhood or curtails her right, can we say it is not women empowerment at all?”

Female audience find it funny that the male characters are portrayed weak. In archery, Merida excelled among her suitors. With the relationship of the king and wife, the wife appeared more dominant strict, stern, and decisive.

Like all Disney movies, it has a happy ending. But unlike other happy endings, it concludes with  a familial bond which all ages can relate upon. Merida gets what she wants without dishonoring her parents.  The film conveys a message that one’s family is  as important as one’s freedom. Children should learn  fairy tales don’t have to end with royal weddings.