Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Disney Defense: Cinderella

Hello! Sorry again for the late post; I've been traveling and spending time with my family, and for me, that takes priority.

But I'm about to get back to a regular schedule, so that's good. I thought that today I'd try to defend one of Disney's most blasted films: Cinderella.

Why? Because I feel like Disney's old movies are misinterpreted after so much time. Nowadays, the push is so strong to present what is typically considered a "strong female protagonist" and I think that too often the movies actually become less feminist, offering a semblance of it but perhaps not the real thing. Cinderella is, surprisingly, far more feminist in nature than remembered.

But wait! Isn't this the movie about a passive, helpless girl waiting for her prince to save her? Isn't that this story?

Actually, no. Not at all. If you watch the movie again, you may notice that the Prince does one thing that moves the plot forward: he goes looking for the girl he met at the ball. Even that could be considered a reactive move, acting only because of the actions of others.

Cinderella, on the other hand, the so-called passive princess, is anything but.

This girl gets up at the crack of dawn to get to work, seemingly running the household on her own. Sure, she sings about dreams coming true, but that's not where she leaves it. She acts on what she dreams, working hard day after day. She doesn't leave the oppressive situation she's in (and perhaps she can't), but neither does she succumb to it.

On watching the film again, I was surprised by how sarcastic and sassy this "passive" character can be. She was going to beat that cat with a broom!

So, the ball comes around. I'm no scholar in medieval politics and social events, but I'm guessing that a royal ball to which every eligible maiden in the kingdom is invited is not something that happens every Friday. This is likely a once-in-a-lifetime event, much like a total solar eclipse, and for once, Cinderella is invited. She can go, by royal decree.

Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's stepmother, can't disobey a royal decree. So she, intelligent, conniving villain that she is, does what she can to stop Cinderella from going to the ball: she sets terms she knows Cinderella can't meet. In order to go, Cinderella must finish all her chores and have a suitable dress. She then, with the stepsisters, load Cinderella with more chores than she can manage.

Two notes, here: One - evil as Lady Tremaine is, she's certainly a strong character. Strong characters don't have to always be good.

And two - The Prince is not mentioned by Cinderella at all to this point, not really. She's not hoping to meet him and marry him. She doesn't expect him to save her. She just wants to go to this ball.

Cinderella does everything she can to meet the terms. She works hard and she pulls out a dress to alter. These are not the actions of a passive, "oh, well," character. She needs help to succeed, but I'd like to mention that these mice and birds that help her do so because she showed them kindness first, saving them from traps and feeding them. This is tit-for-tat, payment in kind. Kindness is not passivity, here or anywhere.

And she succeeds! Her hard work pays off and she has a dress to wear and chores are finished. And then....

The stepfamily ruins everything.

Here, Cinderella has done everything she can. She worked hard, she did everything that was in her limited power, and nothing came of it. A ball, a big party, seems so silly a desire, but for this girl who lost her parents and must now slave at the mercy of an unkind stepmother and stepsisters, one night out on the town must have seemed like a reprieve well-deserved.

Here, she receives help again, from a powerful female character: the Fairy Godmother. This character is kind and very powerful, able to give Cinderella everything she needs to go to the ball. She doesn't set Cinderella there, though, and I find it interesting that she uses the fruits of Cinderella's labors to send her there: the pumpkin you know Lady Tremaine didn't grow, the rags of the dress Cinderella was planning to wear, and the mice, dog, and horse that she cared for.

Cinderella goes to the ball, aided, but of her own desires. She meets the prince and falls in love, but then leaves when she must. After that, we see no proof that she's sitting, waiting for him to find her. She goes back to work, keeping that memory in her heart.

Then, when she learns he's coming, she stops working. Lady Tremaine realizes who that mysterious girl from the ball is, and locks her in the tower. But does Cinderella wait and wish?

In the remake, sure, but in the old cartoon, never!

She gets help. She makes a plan to use Bruno, the dog, to scare off Lucifer, the cat. And then, when the slipper is broken and all hope seems lost, she pulls out the other slipper.

In this film, Cinderella is proactive, strong, and kind, and the passive waiter is nowhere to be found. The most I can do to call her weak is comment on her needing help, and I think the day we believe that it's weak to need help after you've done your best is the day that we've lost all compassion as a society.

I realize these Disney Defenses may not change anyone's mind about how they view these movies, but I think there's much more good to be found in these films than usually believed, and that if children like and want to watch them, it's important to see the good messages about working hard, being kind, and taking action to teach them, instead of letting the media preach only "be pretty." These old Disney movies are a lot deeper than we give them credit for, and the "Disney stereotype" of passive princesses is more fantasy than reality in many cases.

Here's hoping all your dreams come true!

Here are this week's debuts:

Middle Grade:
Jonathan Rosen - Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies (8/29)

Young Adult:
Rebecca Barrow - You Don't Know Me But I Know You (8/29)
Maggie Ann Martin - The Big F (8/29)
Gregory Katsoulis - All Rights Reserved (8/29)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Home Turf and Outer Space

Happy Eclipse Day!

Go get that Fire Nation!

I apologize for not posting last week. I was preparing to travel back to Pennsylvania for a couple weeks, and the preparations were more intense than I planned for. I also didn't have much to say, so I wasn't sure how to craft a post.

But I have a good one today, and a great one coming around the bend, so that's good!

Writing is going well. I'm a bit stalled on a WIP, since what I thought the book was when I started it may not be what it really is. I need to figure out if I want it to skew funny and ridiculous, or go more serious and realistic, or try to walk the fine line between the two. Personally, I think I'll be learning the highwire.

One fun story: I'm back in my home town with all these people who know me. They have bought Under Locker and Key and given it to their kids. So, when I went to church yesterday, a few people came up to ask me how the writing is going. That was cool, but the highlight was walking behind a group of boys and then hearing them whisper, "Under Locker and Key" and seeing them glance back at me.

I felt like a rock star. For just a few seconds.

Today I watched the eclipse. We didn't get totality out here, but I have eclipse glasses so I could see the 80% moon coverage. It was wild. The light got a touch dimmer (even though we didn't have totality) and the air got cooler. I also enjoyed seeing the spots of light under trees turn into crescents.

 I also thought it was neat that the whole country united in peering at the sky today. It reminded me of the movies about the Space Race and how everyone was excited to see the astronauts go up, enter orbit, go to the moon, etc. I love seeing the country excited and united in something so pure and good, like celebrating the moon passing in front of the sun.

I really like space and science. A few of my WIPs deal with science in some way. Maybe, one day, I'll write a story set in space. Maybe there'll be an eclipse.

I hope you all enjoyed the day! Here are last week's and this week's debuts:

Middle Grade:
Kristi Wientge - Karma Khullar's Mustache (8/15)
Darcey Rosenblatt - Lost Boys (8/22)
Melissa Roske - Kat Greene Comes Clean (8/22)

Young Adult:
Lana Popovic - Wicked Like a Wildfire (8/15)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Superhero Tropes

Happy Monday to you all!

In Provo, it's a little gray and dismal today, which means I'm writing and listening to Christmas music. Yes, I know it's August. No, I don't care. Listening to it now doesn't diminish my appreciation for it in December, and I think that any music that encourages joy and goodwill toward others is worth listening to any time of year.

Refraining from raining on my parade is appreciated.

So, this last Tuesday I visited Orem Library. It was great! I loved being there and talking to the kids. I love doing visits; it's one of my favorite perks of being a writer.

The other is writing about crazy bonkers ideas and the "research" that feeds said crazy bonkers ideas.

I have a new project. It's in very, very early stages (I'm drafting a first draft now) so I'm not going to go into too much detail. Suffice it to say, I dreamed (as in at night) up the plot so you know it's going to be strange, and it involves superheroes.

But not superpowers.

It's a weird one, but I'm having fun, and that's all that matters, right?

Anyway, writing a sort-of superhero story involves research. I love it when watching The Flash becomes research. I've also been training for this for years!

(Does this mean I should go see Spider-Man: Homecoming again? For research? I think it does!)

As I've been researching, I've noticed some interesting superhero tropes. We'll see if I play with any of them in my story or not, but either way, they're fun to notice. Educational, too. Like....

- So many characters have alliterative names. Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, etc.

- Many heroes are scientifically inclined.

- However, the scientifically-inclined heroes fight the villains by brute force.

- Villains, on the other hand, tend to fight using technology and science (what does this say about how we see scientific research, I wonder?).

- The mask and costume are typically spangly and brightly colored.

- Heroes are stronger when united.

 - Villains are stronger when alone, as teaming up tends to end in in-fighting and backstabbing.

- Even though heroes are stronger as a team, they tend to punch first, ask questions later, when dealing with conflict.

- Secrets. Secrets everywhere.

- No one (except Hawkeye) seems capable of holding down a spouse and kids.

 - Superpowers have associate powers no one talks about. Like superspeed and super-endurance, so the physical body doesn't tear apart (skin needs to be strong, too).

- Superheroes are overwhelmingly on the young side of the spectrum.

- Villains range in age.

- Girl heroes tend to wear their hair down.

I'm going to cap it here. If you were hoping for some deep, meaningful blog post today, sorry to disappoint. I'm just exploring, prewriting, and sharing the things I observed with you. Some of which don't make much sense to me. If I'm going to play soccer, go for a run, or enter a jujitsu tournament, I tie my hair back so it doesn't get in my way. Why don't superhero women do the same? I guess Wonder Woman does have that headband.

So that's good.

Here is this week's debut:

Young Adult:
Mary Taranta - Shimmer and Burn (8/8)