Tag Archives: disney

James Bowman reviews Disney’s “Frozen”, & its frozen ideology

Summary:  James Bowman reviews Disney’s Frozen, looking beneath the animation to show how it reflects the changing nature of women in America. That makes the film even more interesting — to people interesting in the New America rising on the ashes of the America-that-once-was. Better or worse? You decide.

 

Film review of Frozen:
“Frozen in Ideological Time “

By James Bowman.

American Spectator in the
issue of 14 February 2014.

Posted with his generous permission.

 

…The very concept of “seriousness” as applied to the arts hardly has any meaning now, ever since — as the Times’s film critic A.O. Scott announced nearly a decade ago — “children’s entertainment has become the cornerstone of the American movie industry, not only commercially, but artistically as well.”

But cartoons and the cartoon-like dominate to the extent that they do not only because so much of the movie audience today is made up of juveniles but also because they are the means of re-mythologizing the culture along progressivist lines with the help of the sort of fantasy known as ideology. Star Wars was a big part of that effort, of course, as was Star Trek.

Thirty years ago when I was a teacher, I once assigned a class to do a presentation on someone each pupil regarded as a hero. One boy gave his talk on Captain James T. Kirk. I made him go away and re-do it on someone real, as I thought he was mocking the assignment; but I wonder now if, even then, he simply had no better idea of heroism. Certainly you would be surprised nowadays if any child didn’t assume that what was wanted was an account of his favorite superhero. Real heroes, being no longer politically correct and gaining no advantage from their mere reality, can no longer compete with the fantastical kind.

The job that has been done on girls, while less well-recognized has been no less thorough than that which has been done on boys. Princesses are to girls what superheroes are to boys: objects of admiration not in spite of but because of their unreality. Recently Harrod’s teamed up with Disney to introduce a Disney-world-style “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique” to London — “a magical beauty salon,” according to Disney, “where any little girl can make her dream of becoming a princess come true.” That should tell you something about the Disney concept of truth. Tanya Gold of the London Sunday Times fulminated against the move as a politically retrograde step, but she must not have seen many Disney princesses of recent years. Now they don’t just look pretty until Prince Charming comes along. They’re more like “Princess” Leia of Star Wars, their faux-royalism mere camouflage as they doff their tiaras to lead the revolution.

The latest example comes with Frozen, which is similarly a tale of disenchantment masquerading as enchantment. Getting real would truly be a momentous step for Disney if real meant real, but of course it doesn’t; it means getting ideological.

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Warnings about the horrific effects of Disney’s Princesses on America’s girls

Summary: Feminists warn that Disney Princesses encourage America’s girls to become thin, passive, and submissive — and make them psychologically disturbed. They teach this to young girls. It’s delusional, and illustrates a serious problem.

Disney Princesses - original six

When researching the effects of feminism on society, I stumbled on this presentation by Jaden Maxwell and Cheyenne Taylor, seventh grade students at Mount Pleasant School: “Princesses as Role Models“. Its quality is far above anything I did at their age (they also won 2nd and 4th prize at the math fair). It illustrates one aspect of the education of modern American girls.

Princesses as Role models

Princesses as Role models

They say other ill effects of exposure to Disney princesses are “dependence and submissiveness”.

Impressively, the girls cite sources. The most significant is “Point: Fantasy Princess Role Models Teach Young Girls To Be Dependent And Submissive And Help To Foster An Unhealthy Body Image” by Micah Issitt (in Princesses As Role Models For Young Girls, 2014). Google revealed a large body of works exploring this theme. Sadly, dipping into this sea of feminist advocacy found little research supporting these claims.

That should not surprise anyone, for the concept appears quite daft. Snow White, the first Disney princess, hit the screens in 1937. The mass merchandising of the followed Andy Mooney’s (chairman of Disney’s Consumer Products division) genius invention of the “princess franchise” in January 2000. How has Disney changed America’s women during the past several generations?

American girls are often described as “princesses”, but not for those qualities. Rather, it describes the opposite: aggressive girls with high self-esteem (who are also privileged and materialistic). The earliest use I found of this was “Jewish American Princess“, which became popular after WWII — and was still popular when I was in college in the 1970s.

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Review of “Inside Out”: fun for kids & disturbing fun for adults

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews Inside Out. Kids love its great story and fine graphics. Adults love it for more interesting and perhaps disturbing reasons. Read on to learn more.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Inside Out - Poster

Where Were Sullen, Bitter, Grumpy, and Cynical in Inside Out?

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
23 July 2015. Reposted with his generous permission.

Growing up, we ‘70s kids had 3 revolutionary social-emotional concepts rammed down our impressionable youthful minds by pop culture and the public school system (or both, in the case of Sesame Street and the multi-media, post-hippie, self-empowerment Free to Be You and Me):

  • Be yourself, no matter what other people think.
  • Nurture and maintain your Inner Child all your life.
  • Get in touch with your feelings.

(Tied for fourth place were “Don’t go in the water” and “May the Force be with you.”)

Those messages arrived in sharp, reactionary, post-‘60s contrast to the stoic American Pioneer culture of our parents and grandparents, whose hard-bitten mantras (at least in my rural Midwest) were more along the lines of Don’t stand out, Grow up and be responsible, Work hard, Bury your hardships (and a large number of your family members) and move on, and Keep your damn feelings to yourself. In fact, much of 20th-century literature, film, and television was a steady Modern, then Post-modern, effort to undermine exactly those repressed and repressive societal and emotional restraints.

All of which, in part, helps explain why adults (ranging from college kids to post-grad media hipsters to young parents of their own young children) have lost their damn minds this summer in over-the-top praise of Pixar’s (admittedly well-crafted and highly entertaining) animated feature Inside Out. Or, to put it less fairly, “Just what we need: Another kids film that makes adults bawl over a ‘lost’ youth they’ve never really grown out of. Don’t you have to fully leave childhood before you can miss it?”

Okay, I’m being overly snarky about Inside Out, so I want to be clear on two points: Yes, it’s a delightful film, and No, I’m certainly not saying we as a culture should go back to being stoic, emotionally closed-off lumps of repression. But I can’t help but feel that as a culture (and with all the sweeping hypocritical generalities that statement entails) our “embrace your emotions” pendulum may now have swung about as far to the touchy-feely left as it needs to, with poor Inside Out as Exhibit A.

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Tomorrowland: If You Don’t Like This Movie, You’ll Kill Our Future

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews Tomorrowland, Disney’s “ode to a pre-Vietnam, pre-Watergate, pre-counterculture past when the early ‘60s, Space Race, Camelot-fueled notion of tomorrow was still bright and gleaming, filled with shining spires and Jetson-styled flying cars and jet packs — it’s pure nostalgia for a lost future.” It’s only a lost future if we no longer believe it’s possible or no longer work to make it happen.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“We’ve been looking for someone like you for a very long time.”

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland: If You Don’t Like This Movie, You’ll Kill Our Future

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
2 June 2015. Reposted with his generous permission.

Disney’s Tomorrowland — directed by Brad Bird, written by Damon Lindelof, and starring George Clooney — is a plea for a New Frontier of imagination; for positivity in the face of seemingly overwhelming negativity, fear, and pessimism.

It is that rare giant, tent-pole summer blockbuster that asks — nay, begs — us to set aside the doom and gloom of disaster movies and Apocalyptic dystopias (darn you, Mad Max!) and be more creative and constructive humans. To turn away from fear and apathy, roll up our metaphorical (and literal) sleeves, and get to work envisioning and building the bright and shining jet-pack future we once dreamed of.

All of this nifty messaging is (barely) disguised as a young-adolescent action-adventure tale full of sci-fi flights of nostalgic retro-futurism fancy, noble scientific elegance, and can-do inventive spirit.

It’s packed into a two-hour-plus film chock full of “dazzling, entertaining fun and excitement,” complete with spectacular visuals, crackerjack action scenes, an antique steampunk rocket ship hidden in the Eiffel Tower, and George Clooney proving he can be effortlessly charming even when playing an (only on the outside!) embittered, curmudgeonly crank.

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Conflict in tomorrow’s offices: strong women clashing with each other

Summary: Three videos about Disney princesses show us the future of work in America, dominated by the clashing personalities of strong women.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

Disney Princesses

Imagine them fighting in your office.

 

As women move on top of men in America, conflict will increasingly take place between strong women, replacing the men-men and men-women clashes that dominate today’s work world (except in those fields already dominated by women). As women break free of the roles that govern their behavior, these conflicts might look strange to us — as will so many things coming soon.

This series describes the changing gender roles that will reshape American society in the next 2 decades, changes already baked into our future.  To help us prepare, this post has 3 videos of the new world. As in so many things, Disney shows us the future. These are made in fun, but …

“Many a true word is spoken in jest.”
— Ancient wisdom, first seen in “The Cook’s Tale” in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

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Review of Avengers I: The Simple Summer Joys of ‘Hulk, Smash’

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews the first Avengers film, a timely flash-back that helps us put A2-Ultron in context. Unsurprisingly, much of this review applies just as well to Avengers-Ultron. Disney manufactures entertainment products to tight standards.   {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Avengers poster

The Avengers: The Simple Summer Joys of ‘Hulk, Smash’

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
4 May 2012. Reposted with his generous permission.

For decades now the Official Summer Movie Season has kicked off the first weekend of May with a big action movie, and eight out of the last ten of those have featured Marvel superheroes. Three of the last four have been parts of Marvel’s ambitious “Avengers Initiative” franchise in which 2008’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, 2010’s Iron Man 2, and last year’s Thor and Captain America laid the building blocks for the coming together of this weekend’s super-group geekgasm The Avengers. *

The Avengers must court a variety of patrons. To comic-book fans, it’s the fulfillment of decades of furtive wishing. To the rest of the movie-going public, it once again marks that heady, hyped, and welcome start of the Cineplex Summer. To Marvel Studios it is the payoff — and massive box-office payday — to a long, risky franchise gamble.

As if all that wasn’t enough for a perfect storm of pop-culture expectations, The Avengers is multiplied into stratospheric geekery by the adoration of dedicated Whedonites — those of us fans of the film’s director and writer Joss Whedon who worship every insightfully clever and achingly melancholic bit of genre genuflection penned by the self-deprecating Buffy/Angel/Firefly auteur.

The Avengers is nothing more — or less — than a superhero movie giant-ized to Team-Up size. It’s not a gritty reinvention or sub-textual exploration or masterpiece of the superhero genre. It’s big and shiny and full of lots of moving parts (including — be still my fan-boy heart — the Helicarrier and Quinjets!), not all of them meshing in perfect cinematic clockwork. In many ways it’s like any other of its ilk — all the familiar tropes and action beats are here. (My lord, I’d give up my Limited Edition Aquaman Under-Roos for a new action film that doesn’t feel compelled to have yet another pointless, mindless car chase.)

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Oz the Great and Powerful: a reminder that Mickey Mouse Owns Your Childhood

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews the latest revisit to Oz, as Hollywood continues not so much reinvent stories for each generation as strip-mine our cultural reserves. Modern marketing tools make quality unnecessary. “The House of Mouse learned long ago that it’s far too risky to try and give the people what they want … it’s much better off telling the people what they want and then selling it to them.”  Watch it to see in microcosm what our corporate machinery does to America.

Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful: Mickey Mouse Owns Your Childhood

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
26 March 2013. Reposted with his generous permission.

Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful is neither an unwatchable, awful film, nor is it anything that anyone not dragged to the theater by coat-tugging children has any need to see.

I’m not a hard-core fan of the original Victor Fleming/Judy Garland film (though I certainly don’t dislike or disparage it), and I’ve never read any of L. Frank Baum’s original Oz books. I’d guess devotees of the former will find this Oz prequel a mildly entertaining, harmless diversion, while those dedicated to Baum’s books will come away disgusted by the new film’s obvious efforts to spin literary delights into eye-popping lucre.

I’ve also had friends ask me if Oz is worth seeing from an aesthetic angle. They want to know if directer Sam Raimi — one-time genre daredevil turned blockbuster manager by the first Spider-Man franchise — has somehow managed to turn a movie created solely in the Disney Franchise Labs into something weird and wonderful, perhaps a phantasmagorical delight in the vein of Terry Gilliam. But of course he hasn’t.

Oz the Great and Powerful is Disney and producer Joe Roth’s blatant, “not even worth denying” attempt to replicate the billion-dollar worldwide box-office haul they scored with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland three springs ago, and just as Alice absorbed, assimilated, and co-opted whatever stylistic juice Burton still has left while amplifying the director’s laziest, sloppiest tendencies, so Oz uses Raimi.

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