Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Coming Halloween '14: Laura as "Merida"

I really want to begin this blog by saying that I am the exception and not the rule to Disney Princess Culture. I feel the need to say this because I grew up with very little TV, was always the only kid in school without cable and consistently a little behind "the times" (pop culture wasn't important to my parents.)

However, though the latter is true - I did grow up with very little TV, no cable and behind "the times," I did NOT grow up without Disney. As I look at the list of Disney animated movies... clearly I grew up extremely Disney-a-fied. And now I'm thinking maybe I didn't watch TV because I was so busy watching Disney movies!

I think I can divide my Disney viewing into three stages: young childhood, older childhood and youth.

Young Childhood
The first movie I claim to have seen in a movie theatre was The Little Mermaid. And after that... I sang Ariel's song endlessly in my living room "ocean" with my legs put together pretending to be a mermaid.

After that, these next movies were rewound and played non-stop in my home when I was a child: Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, The Jungle Book, Lady & The Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, Cinderella and Dumbo.

Older Childhood
I have very fond memories of these Disney movies as a child but a little bit older: Snow White, The Lion King, Fantasia and A Bug's Life.

Youth +
As I got older, I made it to the movie theatre to see these movies: Finding Nemo, Up, Toy Story, Wall E and Ratatouille.

Wow - I am a little bit embarrassed that I even considered for a second that I could be an exception. I believe I am what Christensen would describe as "in denial" as the content of almost 20 Disney movies is stored in my brain and for sure had input in the realities I created in the world around me.

This is NOT me, but very similar
to a Christmas tree costume I had.
I don't remember fantasizing about being a princess but really only my parents can tell me that. I'm not sure why but I was never the type of girl to dress up as a princess for Halloween (I always preferred to be a Ninja Turtle, a felt Christmas tree or a bag of groceries). Maybe because I was a child in the 80s and it was much more complicated to be a princess for Halloween. You had to actually make the dress, etc and be recognizable as that princess. One couldn't go out to Walmart and pick up a complete costume already made, my mom made all my Halloween costumes (and they were awesome!) So I guess in that way I feel like I was the exception to Disney, but I for sure belted out tunes in my living room right along with the soundtracks to said Disney movies.

I also think that I didn't see myself as a princess because my life was so different from the princess life portrayed in the movies. Princesses might have seemed like a dainty unattainable foreign world. Sometimes even the lives of my friends seemed foreign to me, so the pristine princess world was especially out-there. My house had a wood stove that I had to load with wood, no modern heating, no cable, I had to help my dad plant vegetables in the spring and summer and we had a clothes dryer that we didn't use because we hung our clothes on a clothes line practically year-round, etc. I had a great childhood, but clearly it paralleled very little of the lives in the princess world. Maybe that is also why I feel like an exception and not a rule of Disney.

Probably - I am just in denial.

In regards to Disney today - I have been totally impressed by the Disney of today. In fact, today when Frozen ended I said out loud, "Disney is not like I remember it to be!"

Brave connected to me more than any other Disney movie in history because it closely relates to my experiences of being a girl, my mother-daughter & also my father-daughter relationship. Because I found so many parallels, I enjoyed the movie very much. It challenged my memories of princess culture, but in a refreshing way.

From my perspective as a young girl, I could see how if I had watched this in my childhood it would have easily been a favorite. For one, I had (and still have) wild hair. I liked that part most about Merida. I don't think I've ever been able to say that I physically connected to a Disney princess. Also, my sister and I were children of outdoor adventure - my parents tell me very funny stories of us making bows & arrows out of sticks and running around the yard. This theme is often absent from other Disney movies that portray princesses as home bound, delicate and pristine.

I think any young girl can relate to the "coming of age" lessons learned by Merida in regards to her mother. Every teenage girl is annoyed by her mother until one day, she realizes that her mother is really there to help and just a person underneath it all. This is a lesson that Merida learns and I enjoyed watching. In fact... what other Disney movie emphasizes the mother-daughter relationship in this way? I can't think of any.

Finally, I really liked the Merida-father dynamic because it reminded me a lot of my father and I. Having 2 girls, my father often acted much like Merida's father - big and burly, but a teddy bear underneath it all. Everything my father did with my sister and I, he also would have done with sons. Meaning that my sister and I did many activities that were not typically considered "girly" and this is why I really connected to the relationship they shared. The scene I particularly liked was the one when the suitors were doing archery to compete for Merida's hand and she & her father are making fun of them in a silly way. I think they say something like, "Maybe he couldn't see because his flowing hair got in the way?!?!?," etc. I could see my father and I joking about something like that. Again, I cannot think of a Disney movie that spends much time developing the relationship between the princess and her father. Often times the focus is mainly on how the princess gets the man.

Overall, my perspective of Disney has changed in the past few days. First, I've always known to take Disney stories with a grain of salt. I don't know where I learned it from and I probably didn't learn it early enough. But I feel comfortable saying I don't think it made me self-conscious of my physical appearance though I'm sure it has constructed many parts of my image about my place & duties in the world. I've been impressed by the shift that Disney has made in the current story lines of Brave and Frozen. This is a welcome shift. Today, if I were to choose a Disney princess costume from Walmart - I'd definitely choose Merida's costume and then go on an adventure :)

No comments:

Post a Comment