Does Disney Portray Their Female Characters In A Bad Way?

Disney is a large part of most people’s childhood. When you ask young people about their childhood memories, Disney will often be a part. It is something that everyone can relate to, no matter what class, area or background you are from – it is a universal subject. But what is the perception of Disney, and Disney females in particular, to the children watching their films? Are Disney changing with the times, and creating more feminist characters, especially among their females, or does Disney portray their female characters in a bad way?

If all of the Disney female characters were lined up together, it could be very hard to distinguish between them in terms of beauty. The tiny waists, the long flowing hair and the ‘come hither’ look are a trademark of the Disney Princess. Putting beauty aside, a main factor amongst these characters is that they mostly seem to be waiting for their Prince to turn up to save them from the problems in their lives, whether it be evil parents (or step-parents), loneliness or a boredom of being themselves.

Disney is slowly but surely advancing with the times, and their female characters are becoming more up-to-date. But, when looking at the female characters in Disney films through the years, was Disney representing their female characters in a negative way, or was Disney simply representing females as they were seen at the time?

Warning: Spoilers are contained below!

In the early Disney films, the female characters such as Snow White and Cinderella never appeared to make their own choices, and very often, the beauty of these characters led to their downfall through the jealousy of others. Cinderella is constantly relying on outside help in her situation, whether it is from the Fairy Godmother or the Grand Duke, as she seemingly cannot rescue herself. In some cases, these characters aspire to be the wife of a Prince who turns up on his horse to rescue them as they are staring out of the window, waiting for the sound of approaching hooves. What type of message is this sending out to the children watching these films?

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Belle from Beauty and the Beast is a character who ends up leaving her home, not because she wants to find true love, but instead to save her father’s life. Belle is ridiculed in the village she lives in for being more interested in books than the local men, and she falls in love with a Beast (who happens to be a Prince, bonus!) not because of his looks, but because of who he is. It is a shame that who he is includes verbally abusing Belle and holding her prisoner. Is it fair to say that Gaston, the villain of the film who tries to bully Belle into marrying him and the Beast are the same person? The only difference being that one is a Prince and the other is not, but both use violence and anger to get what they want from the lead female character. It cannot be denied that Belle is a strong female character, who does represent independence and who is sceptic to the idea of married life, but she stays with an abusive partner to try and change him; true love or Stockholm syndrome?

Mulan and Pocahontas can also be seen as strong female characters; Mulan joins the Army to protect her father, and Pocahontas tries to prevent a conflict from beginning. But ultimately, by the end of the film, both are defined by their relationship with a man. Unusually for Disney, Pocahontas does not end up with her man (not a Prince, but a Captain this time) and instead of following the path set out for her by her father and her community, she follows her own path which leaves her destiny up to her; she is not reliant on a male character. A definite step forward for feminism in Disney films.

The argument regarding The Little Mermaid and feminism is debatable, but the issue of a female giving up her voice, and therefore her identity, to get a man cannot surely be seen as fair? She then has to rely mostly on her looks alone to get her man. Many would argue that Ariel is in fact an independent character, and her song ‘Part of your World’ is her way of wanting to explore the world for herself. However, her sudden interest in Prince Eric cannot be ignored as perhaps the main reason that Ariel now wishes to become human.

Even in Mary Poppins, a live action Disney film, the suffragette mother has to find a woman to leave her children with whilst she is campaigning. Even the suffragettes have to find other women to look after their children whilst they’re campaigning for female equality and votes for women.

Merida from Brave is an excellent example of a new Disney character who defies the idea of finding a suitable marriage match, which her parents are pursuing, and is instead courageous and more interested in practising her archery skills than waiting for her true love to find her. Her character is a Princess, but she defies the typical Disney Princess ideal, and the fact that Disney has based a film on the relationship between a mother and daughter instead of a romantic relationship, can be seem as a different, but very modern and positive direction for Disney altogether.

The Director of Brave, Brenda Chapman, recently said how disappointed she was that Merida was re-designed before becoming the 11th official Princess at Walt Disney World, to make her waist smaller, her dress more sparkly and the removal of her trademark bow and arrow. Even after the film had been released, there was seen a need for the character to become more ‘sexy’, completely defying her character in the film. A step back for feminism and Disney females.

Disney have recently made a great leap forward with the amazingly successful Frozen, telling the story of two princess sisters and their relationship. Ultimately, it is their love for each other which saves the sisters from isolation and even death, and the idea of getting married to someone you have just met is ridiculed. In terms of representing female characters, Disney has made a huge leap forward with their female characters in Frozen.

It is not just the female Disney characters who face this gender characterisation. Indeed, many of the male Disney characters are described as ‘dashing’ (a word often used) and are either a Prince or in a position of power, such as a Captain. The male Disney characters are showing that love and a position of power are seemingly parallel.

There will be some people reading this and thinking that Disney can be interpreted completely differently, that they do their upmost to make female and male characters independent, and that I have simply taken this too seriously. I understand that Disney films are designed to be feel-good and teach children good morals, and I enjoy watching a Disney film as much as anybody. The fact that Disney are now representing more feminist characters in their films by not having the females rely on the male characters as much, or be waiting for marriage or to be rescued, can only be a good thing, and I hope Disney keep up this trend.

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Review: ‘White Reindeer’

In 2011 director Zach Clark began a Kickstarter campaign to finance his fourth feature film. Within 52 days, the campaign reached its goal of $33,500, and White Reindeer was born.

Written, directed and produced by Clark, White Reindeer tells the story of Suzanne Barrington, an estate agent living in Washington with her husband. As Christmas is approaching, Suzanne arrives home one evening to find her husband brutally murdered, and her life turned upside down. Suzanne faces more heartache when she discovers a secret about her husband’s life that he had kept hidden.

The format that many Christmas films follow, showing misery turning into happiness through the joy of Christmas, is not the message of White Reindeer. In fact, it is the opposite, with Suzanne’s misery coming out at Christmas, her favourite time of the year. White Reindeer is very much a non-traditional Christmas film.

Although it has a relatively short run time of 82 minutes, the many extended scenes of Suzanne simply crying or staring across the room can make the film feel like it lasted a lot longer. Indeed, it may seem that White Reindeer doesn’t have much to offer in the way of drama or plot, but it certainly does contain one factor which can be underrated in film nowadays: originality.

Although White Reindeer is a film about a woman coming to terms with her grief, there are several humorous moments within this dark comedy, perfectly coupled with the emotions of Suzanne being shown throughout. Even though we are seeing the grief from Suzanne’s point of view, it is very often in the film that the viewer feels like they are watching Suzanne trying to cope with her grief from a distance. We are close to the character, yet we can’t always tell what she is feeling. The journey of grief that Suzanne takes is interwoven with a range of interesting characters from strippers to wife swappers.

Anna Margaret Hollyman holds the film almost completely on her own as the grieving Suzanne, and enjoyably, the film resists an ending in keeping with standard Christmas fare. White Reindeer is perfect viewing for anyone seeking out an original dark comedy this festive season.

White Reindeer will be released on DVD on 24th November 2014.

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First ‘Cinderella’ trailer from Disney arrives in style

The first full length trailer for Disney’s upcoming live-action version of Cinderella has finally hit the web.

The trailer, at just less than 3 minutes long, shows us a range of characters, and many similarities to the animated version of Cinderella from Disney in 1950.

Downton Abbey actress Lily James stars in the lead role as Cinderella, whilst Game of Thrones actor Richard Madden plays Prince Charming.

In the trailer, we also see Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother and Hayley Atwell as Cinderella’s mother.

Directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, the screenplay has been written by Chris Weitz and Aline Brosh McKenna.

The supporting cast includes Sir Derek Jacobi as The King, Stellan Skarsgård as the Grand Duke and Ben Chaplin as Cinderella’s father.

Cinderella is one of several remakes currently taking place at Disney, with live-action versions of The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast and Dumbo also in production.

In addition, Disney are also making a sequel to 2010s Alice in Wonderland from Tim Burton, and recently released Maleficent with Angelina Jolie, telling the story of Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent went on to become the second highest grossing film of 2014. With their success so far, it seems that Disney can only move steadily forward with their upcoming live-action remakes.

Cinderella will be released on 3rd April 2015 in the UK.

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Happy Birthday, Richard Burton!

The actor would have been 89 years old today.

Happy Birthday to Richard Burton!

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New ‘Paddington’ trailer arrives with a voice

The international trailer for Paddington has arrived this week, and for the first time, gives us the voice of Paddington Bear from actor Ben Whishaw.

The live action film, from the children’s books by Michael Bond, tells the story of a Peruvian Bear who arrives at Paddington station, with a love for marmalade.

After being taken in by Mr. and Mrs. Brown, played by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins, and given the name Paddington, he must avoid the clutches of an evil taxidermist, played by Nicole Kidman.

Paddington also stars Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters and the current Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, in supporting roles.

Colin Firth was originally cast to provide the voice of Paddington Bear, but after it was decided that his voice didn’t match the role, he was replaced by Ben Whishaw.

Paddington has been written and directed by Paul King, currently known for his TV work, including directing the BBC comedy series The Mighty Boosh and Come Fly With Me.

The producer, David Heyman, also served as producer on all eight films in the Harry Potter series.

Paddington, distributed by StudioCanal, will be released on 28th November 2014 in the UK.

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“Let Me Tell You About Winds”

Katharine and László are sitting together in the car, seemingly alone in the world, far away from anyone else.

Katharine trails her fingers along the glass window, as the wind howls outside.

“Let me tell you about winds.” László says.

As he continues to talk, with his right arm resting behind her head, she occasionally turns towards him, without making eye contact. She smiles, and turns back to look out of the window.

She raises her hand towards her forehead, resting it gently beside her golden hair. Still smiling, she turns her head towards him again.

László gently raises his arm at the elbow, and delicately trails his fingers along the side of her golden hair, ever so carefully sweeping it back above her ear. Slowly she lowers her hand, and her smile fades.

Katharine’s breathing becomes deeper. László has never touched her before, and her heart is beating faster and faster by the second.

She raises her arm, and once more she trails her finger along the window as he strokes her hair; his fingers barley touching her.

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‘Dad’s Army’ feature film cast announced

With the news that a film based on the classic BBC sitcom Dad’s Army is being made, the question of casting has become the centre of attention.

With the cast list finally announced, it appears that the Dad’s Army film will feature a host of well known British actors and actresses.

The BBC sitcom, which ran from 1968 to 1977, gave us 80 episodes and a film in 1971 featuring the original cast. The show was written by comedy partners David Croft and Jimmy Perry, and is now considered a classic.

Set during the Second World War, Dad’s Army follows a group of well-meaning but inept men in the Home Guard, working to protect England from the threat of invasion.

The cast of Dad’s Army includes:

Toby Jones as Captain George Mainwaring (originally played by Arthur Lowe)

Bill Nighy as Sergeant Arthur Wilson (originally played by John Le Mesurier)

Sir Tom Courtenay as Corporal Jack Jones (originally played by Clive Dunn)

Bill Paterson as Private James Frazer (originally played by John Laurie)

Sir Michael Gambon as Private Charles Godfrey (originally played by Arnold Ridley)

Blake Harrison as Private Frank Pike (originally played by Ian Lavender)

Danny Mays as Private Joe Walker (originally played by James Beck)

There is also a role for Catherine Zeta-Jones as a journalist sent to report on the Home Guard, and Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss will also feature in the film.

Dad’s Army will be directed by Oliver Parker, who has previously directed St. Trinian’s and Johnny English Reborn. The screenplay has been written by Hamish McColl, who wrote 2007s Mr. Bean’s Holiday.

Filming is currently taking place in Yorkshire. Dad’s Army is due for release in 2015.

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