sexta-feira, 11 de setembro de 2009

fallen princesses

There is no question that storytelling has an immense value for each society and that fairy-tales are a wonderful means of educating. They can be extremely subtle and tackle many important issues in a way that can be accessible to children, but that can also be understood on different, more complex levels by adults.

But story-telling is not stories being told. And fairy tales are not Disney World. Because ever since we were kids most of us have been immersed in a meaningless, consumer-driven world. We were being fed on prescribed dreams. And then the time comes when we have to let go, to stop dreaming, to wake up and be rational. Why, in the first place? It's easy to label today's youth as "disillusioned", but aren't we all part of this outcome?

Dina Goldstein manages to take those illusory fantasies of the childhood, and expose them by placing the flawless image of Disney princesses in the middle of (sobering and many times tough) reality.

From my point of view, fairy tales can be extremely inspiring. I don't think Dina Goldstein criticizes the content or concept of fairy-tales (in fact, many original Grimm and Andersen stories - e.g. "The Little Mermaid" - had quite dark themes) but rather the wrapping.

picture via likecool (also here: see the rest of the series)

7 comentários:

ecila disse...

Fantasy stories and classical fairy tales are part of us, the culture. The bad points in these story-telling is the fabrication of cliches, the reinforcement of division of the so-called classes, and genders. The good points are the transmission of values important to society, such as the distinction between good and bad.

I love the disney transformed Little Mermaid and Mulan. Disney shows quite often women as strong, and I like that :-) On the other hand Pixar almost doesn't show woman as main characthers, which I think it's a serious flaw.

jellyfish disse...

but Pixar is different in a way, because they usually animate objects (toys, cars, monsters, rats;-) and the themes are not about the "happily every after" least not in the typical: i am the pretty, brave, intelligent girl, who meets prince charming and will live happily ever after. dreams and fantasies should not be about this.

why disney and not miyazaki? have you seen "princess mononoke"? i guess she IS a princess, but not a disney princess! that movie is so educational, a bit dark but it has a great message (please watch this):

we need movies and cartoons to teach us what good and bad is, but also that good can turn bad and the other way around. that there is also a big grey area. and, of course movies that are so beautiful that they make us dream and not consume.

ecila disse...

Pixar use of objects is no excuse to not have female main characters (or do objects have to be male?),why are they different in a way? What is the excuse again (I didn't quite get it)? Just because they don't use the happy formula (they do of course, maybe they don't use the Disney or the fairy tales formula, but they use the happy formula, these are movies for children), what does that have to do with not using female main characters? They don't have to be princesses (they shouldn't if they are not based on classical fairytales and we are in XXI century). So, when a story is not about happy forever, princess meets prince, but about fantasy and dreams then it is excusable not to use female main characters??? I think that just makes it worse.

Why Disney and not Miyazaki? Indeed why not? Your post mentioned the little mermaid and the photo showed the disney version of snow white, that is the only reason :) I like Disney movies (not all of course). Definitely want to watch Princess Mononoke, thanks for the tip.

Certain fairy tales have grey areas and very dark ones, look at the stories from Countess Ségur, or brothers Grimm (includes snow white). They are very weird and at times creepy. I remember many children who were afraid while watching the Disney snow white, even though the animate version is much softer than the real story (but of course in visual terms they had to soften it otherwise it would look like a horror movie despite the happy ending).

Also young children are not suited to watch all the animations that we adults find interesting exactly for their grey complex areas (good turning bad is not always suitable for young children, those grey zones have to be adapted to children's mind).
I myself am guilty of loving animations who are meant for young children* exactly for they clear inner goodness and happy endings, it smells of innocence :)

*(of course I also love adult animations)

jellyfish disse...

about pixar: well, maybe i haven't watched enough pixar movies, i think i understand what you mean: even though they are a robot or a car or a monster they still have male attributes. yes you are right, somehow i did not even realize that!

about alternatives: not just miyazaki, I love don bluth's "the land before time" and my favourite: "all dogs go to heaven", as well. (even though he went to a funny heaven - which is acceptable for children- i cried a lot, because the girl had to let him part)

i agree that children love to dream, and they should dream! these dreams can be nurtured by books, stories, fairy-tales or animation and film. and the more daring, the more the boundaries of their fantasy worlds are challenged. so i am not against any of these. in fact, i think it is a great way of "giving them wings" AND educating about life, initiation, loss, search etc. And here I also agree on the "innocence" aspect you have mentioned.

i also agree that, if adapted for television and have children as an audience, they have to be made more softer. for example, i adore disney's pinocchio, as it teaches many great lessons and is also a masterpiece from a productional point of view. here as well, the selfish, sadistic puppet-boy of collodi is much softer and less somber in disney. but here i can entirely support it!

my actual 2 critique points to the whole thing were:
no1: consumerism!
the way our consumer-driven society wraps it all up, the way the original stories are changed by disney and the toy industry, is not ok (in my view). because their goal is to make kids want more, to make girls to be pretty like those princesses, to expect things that are not real (prince charming, duh!), to make them buy and wear nice clothes and buy those make-up sparkle barbie kits etc.

no2: the "happily ever after" syndrome refers to the fact that most of us grow up with a terribly wrong view on life (of course, it's not cartoons alone, it's the society as a whole that is to be blamed). and the most painful part comes when one suddenly has to let go, when one is confronted with the roughness of life. and many fail and then we wonder!?

before cartoons (ok, i won't just charge disney, cartoons in general) there was story-telling. that was my actual point.

jellyfish disse...

ok, ok! i admit! i love the happy endings, too. but i liked dina's critique, too.

P.S.: and of course everyone should watch "Spirited Away" to me that is the perfect children's animation.

ecila disse...

jellyfish, concerning pixar it is not only male attributes, these characters are in fact male and not female. Maybe they think that a female car has to wear makeup even if it is a car?!? he he, (more or less) just jocking.

A little apart from this but not so much, how are cartoonists representing females? One day I would like to see a female cartoon character like Ant-Z or Wall-E (hmm...what's the chance that they look so similar also in writing?). You know, someone normal, with insecurities, rather ugly (or at least not handsome), a bit existentialist, even silly, ending up with the good-looking-smart-strong male. Female characters are rather limited. Or sweet/naive/funny or strong/smart. But always beautiful, always! Is this the reality? No. Why aren't women portrayed in all their diversity, just like men. Why aren't women/men looked at as persons, all just human beings different in their personalities and entitled to them? Why is it that, in general, only male characters become attractive solely by their personality?

More questions: would this change if there were more female cartoonists? Or would they do the same because they were born into it (our society patterns and media) and cannot clearly see/understand what is at stake?

In fact I am just throwing questions to the air (that's how we say it in portuguese), they are not meant for discussion, because most of them have no answers ;-)

I completely agree with your two critic-points-to-the-whole-thing!
no1: consumerism!
no2: the "happily ever after" syndrome.
and I would just add one more (as I said in the first comment)
no3: the fabrication of cliches, the reinforcement of division between the so-called classes, and genders - which I find very serious and source of many social and relational problems in our society.

I also love disney Pinocchio, love it :)

jellyfish disse...

i love your " a little apart..." paragraph! it is so true!

and i agree with no 3!!!

regarding the question of female cartoonists: i don't think it will change, because, like you said, they might be themselves already too far identified with this patterns. but i also think there is another reason: (here we are again at consumerism) they have to produce what is consumed. consumed are goods that are in demand. and who decides what is in demand? the ones producing. it's a self- preserving and spiraling selection process.

if i were a cartoonist (even if i had big dreams and wanted to change the industry) i would give them all the princesses they would want, as long as i had my books/films sold. it is a sad world, we live in. and here we are back at how reality is not a fairy-tale. reality is about tomorrow's piece of bread.