Wonder Woman…is the definition of “okay.” Not good, not great, not “the worst thing I have ever seen in my life.” Just “okay.”
Actually, no. It’s also a sad testament to the low bar that is modern female empowerment. It is too aware of itself, feels the need to make you constantly aware of it, and thus lacks any kind of subtlety in its execution.
To tell you that DC is trying to be Marvel is the equivalent of telling an Olympic swimmer that water is wet, so let’s not even dwell on that. But no, they still haven’t figured out the formula, let alone how to make it their own.
As a main character, Diana of Themyscira…doesn’t really have one. She’s a classic fish out of water, much like Chris Hemsworth’s Thor in his first movie (or Crocodile Dundee, He-Man, Tarzan, etc. for that matter), but the only dimension they added to her is that she’s extremely naïve about mankind and the world he inhabits. She thinks that humans are only corrupted by presence of Aries, the Greek God of War, so it comes as quite a shock when she explores London for the first time and realizes that good and evil are not so black and white after all.
We’ll have to come back to that plot element later. Other than that, Diana’s job is to be a “strong, confident woman” who shakes up 1910’s society with her outspokenness, strength, and passion. Oh, and to fall in love with a guy, of course, because we can’t have prominent female characters who don’t hook up or are heavily motivated by a man in some capacity.
Gal Gadot is pretty and plays the role well…such as it is. But she deserves a better character with better writing, and a cast that actually compliments her personality-wise, in addition to needlessly covering her in fights.
Speaking of men and other characters, nobody else in this movie has much of a character either. They’re just kind of walking stereotypes with barely-mentioned backstories, mostly there to gawk at Diana for being hot, powerful, and generally unorthodox. The fat, comic-relief secretary is introduced and then quickly disappears for the rest of the movie, and you wonder why the writers even came up with her at all. Chris Pine cares a lot about marriage and propriety in some scenes, and then in others, he’s awkwardly joking about his penis for agonizingly long moments with Diana.
The cool Amazonian women feature heavily in the beginning, but only get mentioned once in the second half of the film, basically so that one of the male characters can creepily wish that he could go to “an island full of women like Diana and not a single man among them.”
Umm….Ewww and good luck with that, Buddy.
Some of the fight scenes are hilariously nonsensical, and the forced slow-mo moments don’t highlight how badass Diana is to me. They’re just annoying and gratuitous and, as you might imagine, slow things down. Keep the scene moving, Zack Snyder! I know it’s hard, but you can do this!
Along those same lines, at one point, Diana remarks that her new man friend Chris Pine (who can’t hold a German accent if his life depended on it. Just throwing that out there…) should take her straight to the war so she can kill Aries. It’s not a great sign when my boyfriend and I are both sitting there thinking, “Yeah, can we get to the action now? Please?”
The plot is extremely predictable. The writing and dialogue within it can be absolutely cringe-worthy, especially when it comes to Chris Pine and Gal Gadot being alone in a room together. I have so many unanswered Greek Mythology questions, and yet I never even studied the subject that hard in school. Character motivations make no sense when presented the way they are, particularly for Diana’s mother; she is implied to be extremely world-weary, but we never figure out how it happened, and her approach to “protecting” her daughter from Aries is illogical and flip-flops within about ten minutes anyway.
Speaking of Aries (MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS INCOMING), wouldn’t it have been much more interesting if he was proven to be a myth after all? Diana builds him up as this scapegoat for why human beings do bad things to themselves and to each other, and then there’s a fake-out where she thinks she killed Aries, but nothing stops or changes after the fact. Instead of focusing on that, which would have strengthened the movie’s message so much more, Aries turns out to be some other guy who was barely in the movie at all, who we didn’t have a fair shake at figuring out in the first place. The writers threw in a red herring and third-act twist, but couldn’t be assed to set it up in a way that would make it feel poignant or clever.
And, more importantly, it weakens the idea that a man has agency and responsibility for his own destructive behavior. They try to hand-wave this away during the epic final battle, with Aries spouting off a bunch of bullcrap about how “he didn’t make men this way! They did it themselves!” But come on! You still could have made a cool final battle scene without this silly, monologuing supervillain, and instead exploring a different direction. One in which Diana doesn’t have a five-minute existential crisis, but instead has to wrestle with it for the rest of the movie and come to terms with the loss of her childhood innocence.
That would be really relatable and interesting, but I guess we can’t ask for too much depth in beat-em-up summer blockbusters.
At the very least, if I can’t have smart or competent writing, I would settle for less shallow, meaningless feminist pandering. Reminding me constantly that Wonder Woman is – gasp! – a woman, and yet look at how awesome she is…it’s like listening to a guy explain a joke over and over again and demand that his listeners laugh at it, rather than just telling it and letting it speak for itself. It loses its impact and just comes across as forced, and the fact that I still felt empowered by it is…kind of sad, really.
Fair representation is a tricky thing. A person’s womanhood (or race, sexuality, etc.) tends to look good when it’s incidental to her greater character, because it implies that this is – or should be – the norm. A woman kicking ass shouldn’t be all that surprising or noteworthy, at least not to the point where it requires constant acknowledgement.
But at the same time, making a bigger deal about such a character can also be truly groundbreaking, pointing a purposeful finger at our current societal flaws and status quo, as if to say, “@$%& that! We’re running the show now!”
So there’s no easy or concrete approach to female characters and their framing (personally speaking, I tend to prefer the former option), but I hope we can at least agree that how this movie approached the subject was clumsy, awkward, and unintentionally insulting. It’s damn-near insecure.
There is so much more to say about Wonder Woman, but while it was similar to Beauty and the Beast with its hollow simplicity, I didn’t take it nearly as personally because I didn’t care about Wonder Woman at all prior to seeing this film. I did really enjoy moments of it, unlike with Beauty and the Beast, but I can’t point to any deep or compelling reason why for any of them. I relate to being told “you can’t do (insert activity here).” I like watching a girl kick ass and prove nay-sayers wrong. That’s about it. I can get pretty much the exact same feeling out of watching A League of Their Own.
One thing that I like that is fairly unique to Wonder Woman is that Diana isn’t embarrassed by the attention of guys, and has a blasé, almost amusedly detached attitude towards sex when it’s first brought up. Sadly, a lot of female characters in media have one of two settings when it comes to sex and romance: “ultra-virgin” or “ultra-slut,” so it’s nice to see some middle ground in that regard, outside of something like I Spit on Your Grave. But the rest of the romance subplot is predictable and cliché, and it’s too bad the majority of the scene I mentioned is awkward as hell and drags on for forever.
One last thing before we go: at one point, Pine and his secretary are trying to get Diana to wear normal, human clothes so that she will blend in more. Makes sense, right? But besides being confident and forward, she is also (admittedly) gorgeous, so much so that men everywhere become brain-dead protoplasm at the very sight of her.
Pine’s solution? He puts glasses on her to minimize and dim down her distracting beauty.
THERE IS NO MIDDLE FINGER BIG ENOUGH, ZACK SNYDER.
*None of the images used in this post belong to me.
It’s a damn shame and a sad fact of life: sometimes a fandom is enough to ruin your enjoyment of the thing itself.
You would think that meeting fellow fans of something is a great way to make friends with like-minded people, but just as often, if not more so, it just angers or disheartens you. It’s not just about alternate interpretations and theories; with a series like Steven Universe, for example, it’s the idea that people would take a show with a message of love, kindness, and acceptance and use it as a justification to bully someone that they don’t agree with. However wrong you think that person might be, it does not excuse you and your despicable actions.
Another issue, though generally less reprehensible, is when you feel that avowing your fan identity lumps you in with the less savory parts of the community. For example, while there are many “bronies” who are reasonable, well-adjusted grown men or women who just happen to genuinely, un-ironically like a cartoon made for children, the world at large will always focus on the numerous fans who post creepy fetish stories and pictures for My Little Pony. The fans who, while maybe not actual pedophiles, still clutter up yours and your children’s Google searches with unwanted content that can’t be unseen, if you ever accidentally left the NSFW filters off.
The less you have to see those sides of the fan community, the better.
Or how about the jerks who suddenly swarm out of the woodwork to complain every time a character doesn’t fit with their worldview?
Personally, I also dislike people who insist that what they love is perfect, because in my opinion, a true fan of something can enjoy it without blindly worshiping the ground upon which it and its creators tread. I love The Lord of the Rings (both the book and movie iterations), but I’m not afraid to look at them critically and admit where aspects could be improved. I’m definitely not afraid to criticize Peter Jackson for his choices in making The Hobbit movies, even though they are parts of an established world and mythos that I love.
I realize this argument smacks of No True Scotsman, but that is just how I look at things. As always, you are welcome to disagree with me, but have you ever heard the phrase “media digestion”? To me, there are those who wolf down food and those who actually eat it. It’s the difference between gorging on autopilot, caring more about the good taste than if it might be bad for you, and taking the time to chew, swallow, and actually enjoy the food, and maybe making a few notes to better the recipes for the next time around.
My personal fan pet peeves are weeaboos, a.k.a. hard core anime fans who behave like cutesy cartoon characters come to life, and who usually assert that they “speak Japanese” when they only know 5 words tops (and all of which they learned from watching T.V.). But they are by no means the worst kind of fans ever. They tend to be bullied more than they bully others, at least.
But generally speaking, it’s irritating that the ‘extreme examples” of anything (fans, politicians, etc.) become the immediate, quintessential image of that entire group in the public consciousness.
I’ve said before that some escapism can and should be mindless, and sometimes all it needs to do is make you feel a cathartic emotion. Movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, or video games like Mario Kart and Mario Party, don’t have a lot of application outside of their original, intended purposes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have value. But I also believe that skepticism and criticism are important to have, whether you are a kid, an adult, or somewhere in between, and sometimes the flaws of something can just make you love it all the more. Just look at cult classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show; it makes no sense and amounts to basically nothing by the end, but its unorthodox storytelling and utter shamelessness, among other things, making it an enjoyable watch, especially at special group showings.
In a similar vein, I get tired of being told that I expect too much out of my media diet. That may be true from time to time, but what is so wrong with asking for better quality stuff? I’m not just bickering for the sake of being contrary.
It seems to be coming from the same people who always argue that kids are stupid, and therefore it’s okay when the things we make for them are stupid too. Or those who complain when a movie or T.V. show is too “high brow” or “artsy” to be good .Most of these folks clearly mean well, but the bones of that message seem awfully familiar somehow…
Hmmm…I’ll figure it out one of these days…
Anyway, when fans and content makers can embrace the flaws of their favorite works and take them in stride, and argue their points respectfully with other people in the community, that makes a fandom great. More importantly, it doesn’t drive new and casual fans away by getting all up in their face right off the bat, then refusing to leave them alone. Sometimes, that actually just inspires an equal and opposite reaction.
Why does it seem like moderation is the key to everything?
If you do have a serious axe to grind, however, try not to be a belligerent ass about it, and always make sure you sincerely follow this advice. I try to.
I warn you that this will be an angry rant at times, but stick with me here. I promise this has nothing to do with Leo hate or any other such petty nitpicking.
This is both a review of Titanic and Moulin Rouge!; an endorsement of the latter, and an argument that, hopefully, will change how some people view the former. As always, you are free to draw your own conclusions.
The plot is virtually the same between these two movies; a boy (too idealistic to yet be called a man) on one rung of the social ladder meets a girl on a different rung of said ladder. They fall in love while a cartoonishly evil and jealous rich man tries his best to drive them apart, wanting the lady all to himself. The only real difference is that one story takes place in a performance venue and the other takes place on a boat…that sinks…
Both stories are a pretty basic retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but Titanic seems to get a pass and even praise from a lot of people because of history. Never mind that it shows a palpable contempt for history; for just one example, look at the portrayal of First Officer William Murdoch. Just compare the man he was to the man they showed on screen.
Also never mind that if someone tried to make a tragic, fictionalized romance that takes place in, say, the Twin Towers, I guarantee you that the public would not stand for it.
I guess time heals all wounds…and makes fools of us all.
Titanic annoys me on multiple levels (nonsensical plot things, like why Cal and presumably the other contemptible rich snobs would assume that a bribe automatically gets them a seat on a lifeboat, when everyone could very well be dead in the next hour), but a lot of it has to do with, again, historical accuracy.
To his credit, James Cameron never pretended this was going to be a documentary, but it’s still frustrating when the real-world compelling and heroic characters on the RMS Titanic seem to speed by in the background, ignored in favor of the boring, tension-less love story. And fictionalized or not, there is something insulting about painting virtually all of the rich people on the ship as snooty, misanthropic assholes and virtually all of the poor people as innocent lambs to be sacrificed and trod on by said rich people, all for the sake of petty drama.
Why do you even need to stir up drama, Cameron? Is the boat rapidly sinking into the icy water not enough?
Way to objectify both groups and make them so pointlessly one-dimensional.
Some third-class passengers did get stuck below deck and drowned, but that had more to do with the ship being massive and not having enough translators and staff to direct people to relative safety. And there were areas that separated first-class and third-class passengers, but that didn’t mean they were restricted from coming above deck.
In the movie, they are literally locked behind a grate, as if even the sailors decided that their lives were worthless. To which I ask: what point does that serve? We know half of these people will die regardless, and the real tension should be coming from the sinking ship. The plot does not need stupid, douchey people doing counter-intuitive things to both the lovers and the poor people.
Now, if we got a scene of Cal or some other evil person bribing the workers to seal off the lower class areas so that he and his rich friends could snag all of the lifeboats, maybe that would have made some sense. It would still be utterly batshit stupid and pointless, but it might have been better than no explanation at all.
Titanic hyper-focuses on two fictional characters, Jack and Rose, and sets everything up like it’s a James Bond-esque scheme to separate them. As Billy Zane’s henchman watches over a hand-cuffed Jack, he even says, “You know, I think this ship may sink.”
As if he set it up that way. As if he doesn’t give a shit about any of the other passengers (which isn’t that surprising, I guess), or has any concern that he himself will make it out okay.
Seriously, think about how ridiculous that is. Regardless of the context, that’s not just laughably baffling; it’s straight-up insulting.
The characters are so by-the-numbers that every other line out of Jack’s mouth is just reaffirming his one-dimensional character traits. You could just replace everything with, “I’m a free-spirited poor artist.”
As for Rose, I would empathize more with being trapped in a fancy-prison-but-prison-nonetheless if the ship weren’t about to sink into the sea. When the audience knows a major plot element so far in advance, it’s hard to get really invested in the vaguely-explained problems of a white-bread priviliged rich girl.
Contrast this with Moulin Rouge. We know from the offset that Satine is going to die by the end, making this a tragic love story, but we don’t know at first how, if at all, this will affect the Moulin Rouge or its other performers. For all we know, nothing more important is going on in the background.
Romeo and Juliet kept the settings intimate and the extraneous characters limited; it didn’t go into intricate detail about why their families hate each other. That makes the relegating of other characters to the background less problematic and distracting. They only come in when something they do is going to affect Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, and you can easily accept that as a viewer without thought or question.
You can make a good story where a romance is the main focus, but seeing as our quest for “One True Love” doesn’t tend to take priority in real life, the storyteller must tread a bit cautiously.
The only things I praise Titanic for are its visuals and unique perspective. Because of limited technology, it was near impossible to show a realistic and terrifying sinking scene, so a lot of films and documentaries had to work around that limitation. That had its strengths because you could focus more on story and character, but it was lacking an important piece of the puzzle; something to make the story more whole.
Titanic goes into enormous detail, both pre and post sinking, and while I admire the fantastic visuals, it’s the scene where the Titanic recovery team is going over the sinking that really impresses me. Bill Paxton’s buddy, Mr. Skeptic Smiley Shirt seen below, goes over the technical side of how the ship sank, complete with a cg model on a computer and emotional detachment bordering on disrespect, and after a somewhat haunted look while observing the presentation, old Rose remarks that being aboard the ship during that moment was quite different.
That is great build-up and foreshadowing, and it preps both the audience and the recovery crew in-story for the notion that there is a difference between understanding how it happened and respecting, truly appreciating, what the experience must have been like for the poor souls trapped onboard. The looks on that dismissive guy’s face as Rose progresses through the story are truly satisfying, but not in a vindictive way. Sure, he was being kind of a dick earlier, but not irredeemably so. Instead, you feel glad that he’s been humbled.
It is said that history must be understood if it’s not to be repeated, but sadly, the more distant in time we are from certain events, people will slowly but surely lose connection and fail to appreciate them in their entirety.
But as I said, the build up is great, and so are the moments when Cameron actually focuses on someone other than Jack, Rose, or Rose’s awful family. Like the ship’s officers actually being competent and efficient, rather than blindly panicking, when trying to avoid the ice burg.
Or Molly Brown. Note that she is not “old money”, so she’s pretty much the only nice one.
Everything else is unintentionally hilarious at best and insulting at worst.
Back to Moulin Rouge!, a lot of people complain that the style and cinematography are really jarring, and that’s a fair opinion. If it’s not your taste, that’s fine, but I will tell you that it is that way for a reason. You could probably guess that yourself, but can you guess what the reason is?
The story is being told from the point of view of Christian, a young, naïve boy on a cusp of manhood who admits, “(he’s) never been in love.” He sees the world, particularly the Moulin Rouge itself, like it’s a candy store ripe with opportunity, and the abundance of color and quick cuts in time with the music serve to highlight this view.
The good is emphasized and the bad/seedy/less savory is glanced over with explosive color, quick cutaways, and fast-paced musical numbers.
“But the songs are so distracting!” you cry.
Look, hypothetical person I’m talking at: Baz Luhrmann was trying to convey to us, a modern audience, what the Moulin Rouge would have looked and sounded like to the people of the time: new, exciting, and bombastic. And jukebox musicals are a thing, so it’s not that weird in the grand scheme of things.
If you don’t like that, cool. It wasn’t really my thing at first either.
“But Moulin Rouge takes place at a real place, just like Titanic!”
Yeah, it’s an iconic location, but a) it’s a musical, and b) the story doesn’t follow a real-world tragedy, thereby overshadowing the real event in the greater public consciousness. People can think of the Moulin Rouge the actual place without automatically saying, “Oh yeah! That’s that one place from that one movie!”
Pearl Harbor didn’t overshadow the real event in our minds, but that was because Pearl Harbor is still in recent memory (and a sore spot for a lot of still-living people), and Michael Bay is an incompetent hack.
“But the characters are so stock and bland!”
Well, they can’t be any more so than they were in Titanic, but hey, young Ewan McGregor just isn’t as hot and marketable as young Leonardo DiCaprio. I get that; his fangirls were pretty rabid for a while.
But on that statement, I have to really disagree. Christian is young and naïve, while Satine is experienced and somewhat jaded. Satine has to choose between her dream of working her way up to being a legit performer at a legit establishment, and committing to Christian. As the film goes on, we learn that the consequences of choosing the latter may put her friends at the Moulin Rouge, as well as Christian himself, in danger. The threats to her and those she cares about are clear, as well as understandable.
By contrast, how old is Rose? Could she and Jack not just elope when the ship made port?
What I don’t understand is why Rose feels she owes anything to her abusive, manipulating mother, who states at one point that all she really cares about is her material goods and her reputation. The scene only serves to make us hate her more, much like the Cal table-flipping scene, but why did we need to hate her more?
More importantly, what is the real harm if Rose chooses Jack over Cal? Sure, admittedly he’s shown to be a violent asshole, but as long as Rose is of age and the police still exist in this universe, I’m not seeing any grand implied threat. This happens while she’s still under his and her mother’s thumbs.
And what connection, if any, keeps Rose somewhat loyal to her mother? We don’t ever see a positive side to her character, so maybe it’s just that Rose is an abuse victim who feels she can’t leave.
You see? All we get are vague hints. We don’t get Rose really contemplating what it means to give up the world she’s always known for a world of uncertainty-yet-true-love. And as much as I hate filmmakers spelling everything out to the backrow, some elaboration is needed. Whether it’s implied, non-verbal, verbal, or explicit doesn’t really matter so long as it isn’t distracting and doesn’t feel unnatural.
Furthermore, Cameron sure loves to tell us that Rose is unhappy and chokingly restrained, but he doesn’t really tell us much else about her character. I assume she’d be happy to do literally anything else than sit around being rich, drinking tea with her scumbag fiancé, but that doesn’t necessarily make her compelling.
Other than her breakdown moment – where she runs to the stern to try and kill herself in a moment of last-straw-snapping, primal screaming insanity – I feel like she’s a Bella Swan character; a portable cardboard standee whose sole purpose is to be easily squinted away in favor of the female audience members. It’s not hard when all you have to go on is “nice and attractive.”
Again, I argue that’s worse than the Disney princesses, but I digress.
At least Disney princesses typically get a well-established “I Want” song. Rose wants freedom, but what does that mean? What would she do with it, if she could?
And this is a question I ask before she meets Jack. After she meets him, I guess she wants fun and spontaneity? I honestly don’t know, Movie. You’re using so much visual shorthand, which would be good if you didn’t try to cram so much of it in there.
But back to my point: where is the tension? Other than the obviously more important, it’s-the-goddamn-title-of-the-movie dilemma?
Even if you somehow missed that the boat is going to sink, what keeps you invested in the romance and the thwarting of Cal and his James Bond patsy? Cal could threaten to kill Jack like the Duke does with Christian, but he doesn’t really do that while Rose debates with herself. He only tries to kill him himself after his renegade fiancé clearly establishes her choice. At the worst-possible and least believable time, I might add.
Christian doesn’t know the full extent of the Duke’s power and influence. He’s just a rich guy macking on his woman. He also doesn’t know Satine’s personal experiences; how she has come to these conclusions in her life, or the fact that she is, you know, dying. Heck, she doesn’t even know she’s dying at first, and when she does find out, it changes how she plans to proceed.
Much like Romeo, all Christian knows is that he’s in love, and all he needs to do is break down Satine’s walls and get her to see things the way he does, and the two of them are home free. And she is drawn in by his naiveté.
It’s refreshing and new to her ears, obviously making her feel conflicted.
It’s not just that they’re both hot and unattainable to one another; they create a whirlwind in the other character’s life, weathering away any set-in-stone plans that they had and permanently altering how they will view the world from then on.
There is a reason why the opening song refers to Christian as “a boy,” is all I’m saying. There is some depth here; much more than just “I’m a free-spirited poor artist” and “I’m a discontent young heiress.”
Now looking at the villains, Billy Zane’s Cal and Richard Roxburgh’s Duke are nearly identical; rich, snobby, dangerously jealous, unlearned and unconcerned with love. But there is a moment that forgives the Duke’s over-the-top performances and one-dimensional evils, at least for me: when a performer reveals that the play he is financing is a parallel of real life, and that he is the evil Maharaja who the courtesan will leave for her true love.
The Duke’s response? Well, paraphrased, it goes like this:
“What, seriously? Why would she choose love, some vague thing I don’t understand, over money and security? How can the sitar player call it love when the best he could offer her is a poor, struggling life?”
Yes, the Duke is told, pretty much to his face, exactly what kind of character he is, and he doesn’t just blindly accept that, or ignore it, and continue on his merry way. It’s almost as though he is turning to the audience and consciously making a case for his side.
Does Cal ever get such a moment? Is he ever challenged, or given a platform to try and make himself relatable in any way?
Nope, because that’s not what kind of movie Titanic is. Nothing about him makes sense outside of his one note (or in this case, two note – Oh Cameron, you spoil us!): “I’m evil/want Rose.”
Titanic is safe and familiar, hiding behind the glittery, gimmicky shroud of a dramatic, real-world setting. It is all of the weakest elements of Romeo and Juliet re-polished for modern tweens and housewives, like Twilight was to Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. If you ported the characters to any other location anywhere, any other ship not named Titanic, the spell would be broken, and you would see how cheap and easy the story really is.
If not for the effects, you may as well be watching any other incarnation of Romeo and Juliet.
You could argue some of the same thing of Moulin Rouge‘s story, but at least it tries new things beyond effects (which are really just an unfair advantage offered by the time). It tries to take a familiar love story and update some of the elements to be interesting and challenging. It is told from the prospective of Romeo, but also in three settings simultaneously: the future, where everything is set in stone; the present, where things can be affected by either the good guys or the bad guys; and the world of the play, which our Romeo basically fashions his ideal ending. The play and the present mirror one another quite a bit, too, as Christian’s views on love and the real world change and becomes more of a man.
I used to think that Romeo and Juliet’s story was weak, because how could their love be so true? Romeo is literally whining to his buddy about his unrequited affection for Rosaline before he sees Juliet and goes, “Wow, she’s a hottie! Rosaline who?”
Yes, most people might assume that what draws them together is in fact lust, not love; they hardly know a thing about each other. Romeo is obsessed with her looks, while Juliet is clearly just flattered that an attractive guy is paying attention to her.
You can argue that, but you can also argue that just because they have never experienced love as we modern folks understand it – the trials of getting to truly know another person and incorporating their lives and goals into our own – doesn’t mean that it is any less true to them.
Maybe they are just being melodramatic teenagers, and a bit of time apart, age, and perspective would show them that life can offer them more in the long run, but maybe what’s really important is the here and now. When you’re young, the world looks so black and white, and time moves slowly, giving you the illusion that nothing will really drastically change.
Maybe they feel that their feelings give their lives meaning and joy. And maybe that is all that really matters.
That is why Romeo and Juliet is one of the greatest love stories of all time, despite sometimes looking like a parody of love on the surface. That is why it is so frequently lauded and adapted: because it captures a true, compelling, and universal, if illogical, human experience.
But back to two modern adaptations of it: yes, Moulin Rouge! is a silly sugar high experience, but it never pretends to be more than a dreamy fantasy puff pastry stuffed liberally with creamy melodrama. Meanwhile, there is something inherently disingenuous about a storyteller, even a well-meaning one, who looks at a tragic event and says, “I’m going to use this as a set piece for my bodice-ripper love story.”
Also, I must point out that both movies have the ever-loathed “third-act misunderstanding”, but while Moulin Rouge!‘s makes sense on some level, Titanic‘s is idiotic. Rose just believes the asshole she hates over her two-day lover when he frames him for theft because the plot needed her to.
And now, as I have said, pretty much everyone glosses over the real stories of the Titanic in favor of that popular movie with sexy Leo. This was perhaps best illustrated by the TV show The Talk , when they thought they were doing a good, loving tribute for the Titanic’s anniversary by blasting Celine Dion and waving their arms like ducks in front of a bow prop.
Yes, truly now, all the people who died and gave their lives to help others on the ship will be looking down at us from above, satisfied that their story really meant something to the world.
I realize I’m getting offended on behalf of a bunch of dead people, but again, try picturing this movie taking place on 9/11. Would you not feel like the heroic actions, sacrifices, and even the lives of the victims are somewhat cheapened? Is it not annoying when so-called news stations sensationalize false and unimportant aspects of important stories?
Can we not get so easily distracted by Leo’s dreamy eyes and floppy hair, or Kate Winslet’s exposed…tracks of land?
A story of hubris being the downfall of man is a pretty good metaphor for the film itself; a director with eyes too big for his stomach, hoping to give us as little newness as possible and milk the proceeds for every last estrogen-soaked drop, so convinced that his ship of a movie could never sink.
…Except that it didn’t sink after all. It’s still hailed as a masterpiece. And Moulin Rouge! is written off as a cheap, soulless, inferior knock-off of a knock-off.
With the 2014 iHeart Music Festival going on soon, I decided it would be a good time to say that I hate radio…..
Nah, nah. I kid….Sorta.
As a person who spends a lot of time in the car and doesn’t have the money or the patience to pay for monthly “satellite” radio services, I spend a lot of my morning commute listening to FM radio, which I’m sure a lot of you do. I mean, I can say that I hate radio but that is not the truth. I hate MODERN commercial radio and what it has turned into. Let me give you a little anecdote.
Dawn of the First Day
I get into my car in the morning and turn on my car.
The newest song comes on. “Oh yeah! I love this song.” I say and I start jamming out to the song. Everything is fine….
Dawn of the Second Day
I get into my car in the morning and turn on my car.
“Didn’t this song come on at the same time yesterday?” I say and I start jamming out to the song. Everything is normal…..
Dawn of the Third Day
I’m worried the same song will come on again, so I turn on my car and cut of the radio. I drive down the road and I’m stuck in traffic…
It’s like my arm is possessed. I reached for the on button, and guess what comes on?
“AHHHH” I scream, and cut of the radio.
Later that night, I turn on my car.
3 minutes pass, and what song comes on?
“Hmmmmm…” Frustrated, I turn off the radio and silence fills the car as I drive the lonely dark streets.
“Maybe if I change the station, I’ll have better luck?”
I turn on the radio and change the station…”Oh…My..God…the song….it keeps coming back…Why in God’s name does it keep coming back!?”
Then the moon fell.
Nah, nah. I kid. The moon didn’t fall.
But aside from my haunting tale of the song that follows me, this perpetual cycle of top 40 songs day in and day out is the majority of the reason why iHateRadio.
Now, I do have to recognize that radio has been around for a while and has done some great things over the years. It is a huge industry that has made 17 billion dollars in revenue, current annual growth is 1.9%, and employs 103,436 people, according to IBIS World. (1)
For decades, radio has provided programming to listeners free of charge, introducing its audiences to new types of music entertainment and new recording artists. It is widely believed that radio stations, record labels, and recording artists enjoy a
symbiotic relationship; meaning, the record industry utilizes radio to promote its artists and music to hundreds of millions of radio listeners, while radio attracts listeners and advertisers by airing recorded music. Also, radio’s music promotion is understood to stimulate the purchase of recordings, merchandise and concert tickets by the listening audience. The radio also provides royalties to the recording studios and artists.
However, because of the profitability of commercials and advertising the station owners found themselves increasingly beholden to sponsors, who began taking over complete shows, then buying radio stations from which to launch media empires. This type of sponsorship lead media cause a big problem. Station owners were no longer willing to lose ratings over spinning new records or breaking new artists because of all the money that was at stake if people didn’t tune in.
At this point, market research was the main way to decide what was safe to play. And to divide up that profitability risk, bigger radio stations send promo songs and new songs and artist to college radio stations and MTV as test marketing. The music rating from college radio was a good and safe indicator for bigger radio stations of what was now deemed “popular”. Bigger stations take these ratings and makes an arbitrary roster of “hot” songs, old or new, repeated ad nauseam in a blatant effort to “hook” the listener long enough for exposure to the ad.
And thus the reason why my morning commute is feeling a little bit like Groundhog Day.
Some radio station can even be as impatient for the next ad as to cut entire sections of the song and/or speed up the song, making the song sound in a higher pitched key. Ever wonder after 1 month of hearing a new song on the radio you all the sudden can’t match pitch with Katy Perry. Well…
With that elephant in the room taken note of, I think I will leave you with this.
I do like music on top 40 stations and commercial radio. There can be some interesting songs and artists that make their way on there.
Recently, I have heard Be Okay by a band called Oh Honey. It was good hearing them on the radio, considering I saw them live as an opener to one of my favorite bands, The Fray, as part of their Helios tour, which by the way is an awesome album and does not disappoint. But I wish there was more of a chance taken with new artists and new songs on all radio stations.
I’m still hearing Lights by Ellie Goulding on these “new” stations, which was released back in 2010. Even radio stations that claim they play everything only play “pop” songs from the 80s, 90s, and today.
If radio is truly made to advertise the artists and grant them exposure, this should apply to other artists and not just what the sponsors deem as “popular”.
So be ready to hear All About that Bass and Shake It Off as you use Maps while swinging on a Chandelier and hunting an Anaconda, because you will be hearing those for the next 5 months.
I love and hate being a consumer, playing with new, high-tech toys that allow me to express myself, yet also draw me further inward, away from the natural world and other human beings face to face. I love and hate the way materialism and youth are valued, idolized, over contentness, making use with what you have, and loving the things that make you different from everyone else. How we seek instant gratification, rather than hard work and just rewards. I love and hate so thoroughly trying to understand people, getting inside their heads, only to then exploit their weaknesses, insecurities, and wants, telling them that your product is the holy grail; the answer to all of their problems.
I hate the power money has over everyone and everything, but I accept it and try to look at the bright side.
It’s not black and white, but let’s be real here: however fun it can be at times, we live in a culture of want. It’s just the way it is.
Sometimes the best way to live with it is to look away and think of other things. Like which new smart phone I’ll get when my contract expires soon. But other times, you come across trends that you can’t ignore. You try and you try to pass over it, or laugh it off, but it just won’t work.
So what’s worse: being phony upfront, or lying to your face? And how about when you can tell that it’s a lie?
Christmas showing up early in stores annoys me. Not because I have something against the holiday or anyone who wants to keep the spirit of the season in their hearts all or part year round, but because it’s so obviously a marketing gimmick. A lie.
“Spend money now!” the retailers shout out with glee. “You can never start too early!”
Ever heard of the saying, “Money can’t buy happiness”? Or that Christmas is (at least meant to be) about peace, joy, giving, and goodwill towards men? Lining stores with decorations isn’t meant for the benefit, or happiness, of people. It’s hoping to trick them out of a couple of extra bucks, using something they love or are obligated to celebrate. And how about those people who don’t celebrate, now forced to endure the holiday months before it even gets here?
I guess there isn’t much wrong with that in our capitalist society, but Christmas stuff out as early as August this year? For shame, you Sam’s Clubs of the world!
I know our economy is still in the crapper, but why couldn’t we stick to marketing Christmas beginning on Halloween night? That was…tolerable, at least.
Poor Thanksgiving. It’s a nice holiday, but only really valuable to those who sell turkey, gravy, and potatoes. And food goes bad, so it can’t sit on shelves for months and months.
On a similar note, I’m getting irritated with how many movies these days, sagas or not, are being turned into multiple-parters. To me, that’s just as blatantly a money grab; almost identical in its deceptive charms.
With Harry Potter, the idea made some sense; book seven, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is jammed-packed. Could we argue that it wasn’t necessary? Sure, but we could also argue that the book turned two movies split the content up nicely. Deathly Hallows Part 1 was running and exposition, setting the stage and displaying the passage of time as they meander about looking for clues, while Deathly Hallows Part 2 was the action-packed climax. The tactic may not have been completely innocent, yes, but it served a purpose to a good, acceptably long series. And there are some arguments for artistic merit in this splitting process, after all.
But now, I can’t help but think that if Harry Potter was just coming out today, every book would get at least two parts. Because there is so much to tell!
Twilight: Breaking Dawn? Marshmallow fluff. The Hobbit? Fluff-apolooza. And now, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay? FLUFF! FLUFF AND NONSENSE, I SAY!
And it’s a safe bet that Not Hunger Games (a.k.a Divergent) will be getting this treatment in the future.
Here’s the thing: no one really uses the 2-3 parting of movies to add more content that might have been cut out from the original source material (The Hobbit doesn’t count because the appendices of LOTR and The Silmarillion have little to do with the original hobbit story, and were each written many years afterward). Did The Deathly Hallows films bring up Peeves, or Hermione’s little S.P.E.W. project? No. They kept in all that was needed to carry the plot. We saw other ghosts in the films who affected things, and learned enough about Hermione’s character to know that she is smart, resourceful, and compassionate.
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, on the other hand,was full of padding; dragging out every single minute with repetitious scenes and drama that, like the next and final segment, was rendered completely pointless by the end. Perhaps more faithful to the book, but equally, if not more so, lacking in substance.
Whether you’re adding in things that don’t need to be there, or stretching out concepts to fit a movie with a ridiculous run time, you’re padding it. Too much of that, and it’ll fall over and be stuck. Or stretch it to its breaking point.
Marketing serves a purpose and has benefits for makers, marketers, and audiences. This is true. But this process isn’t being done to bring people (book fans and general audience members alike) quantity and quality content. It’s not even really to keep a series from ending for just a wee bit longer. I see it as being blatantly, unashamedly about the money, whether it’s warranted or makes sense in the slightest.
And while that isn’t a shocking notion, and shouldn’t really bother me at this point, it does.
They are encouraging you to shop for Christmas over 100 days early. For things you won’t display for at least another month or two (if you’re sane). They want you to pay an extra 15 dollars to see the next part of the movie, rather than making one whole with an extended edition that comes out on DVD, and buy the food, merch, and hype that goes along with it.
At best, that’s annoying, and at worst, it’s insidious.
Movie-makers, if I could ask one thing of you this Christmas, it’s this: please worry about how to market your films last, and just focus on making/adapting good stories.Trust me, you’ll still make a ton of money. And marketing gurus, I wish for you to stop with the splitting of movies into parts to drag out the franchise. Endings are inevitable, and sometimes it’s better to kill off your series while you’re riding high.
Money doesn’t have to be everything.
*As usual, the video and images don’t belong to me. “Clean all the things!” is from Hyperbole and A Half, a damn good blog.
This is going to be an amendment to some of my previous posts, as well as a look at some of the differences between the categories, some more subtle than others.
I’m not the Lorax. I don’t speak for trees.
Well, I do, but not this time around.
I’ve been throwing around the term “kids’ movies” a lot lately, despite addressing many “grown up” themes and elements in those movies. Kids’ films can have adult aspects, just as adult films can have childish aspects, but I feel that the better term I could have chosen was “family movies,” because the whole family can find things to enjoy about them.
These are the movies that truly transcend age gaps, and sometimes, that means that family members can watch them on their own, without the kids.
And yet, an obnoxious stigma persists, particularly with things like 2D and hand drawn animations.
I’ve said this before, and it probably won’t be the last time here. I don’t have any patience for adults who regard animation and cartoons as “strictly-for-kids” fare, something that is beneath them (and, sometimes they believe, should be beneath other adults as well). It seems as if, to them, animation cannot be considered art in any capacity; that the medium has nothing of value to offer after you’ve passed a certain age. This attitude sometimes extends into live action as well, in family movies, kids’ movies, family t.v. shows, and kids’ t.v. shows.
Part of this is probably due to the generational gap, which strains and influences many changing opinions. But for others, it’s a condescending attitude, and even hypocritical for some.
“I only watch big boy movies! Like those based on comic books!”
I also don’t like when people treat video games like they are strictly poisonous and have no value, but that’s a topic for another day.
Now, this is not to be confused with people who just don’t care for the styles and genres. It is possible to dislike something, or find it just not your taste, but still acknowledge that it entertains others and does some good in the world.
But just hating to hate, or hating because it doesn’t specifically appeal to you, is arrogant and obnoxious. It’s still a reason, I guess, just a very stupid one.
And let’s face it: some of us still watch things we watched when we were kids.
Look at the popularity of people like the Nostalgia Critic and Nostalgia Chick; they make a living off of talking about movies and t.v. shows from the 80’s, 90’s, and onward, mixing in some comedy and historical and pop-cultural context.
Some of it is as good as we remember, and a lot of it isn’t. Hell, a few gems here and there are even better than we remember. But in the interest of bettering things for future generations of kids and their families, as well as demanding decent quality for ourselves and the current generation, it’s good to look at the media and their accompanying trends, tropes, clichés, character archetypes, etc. See what went right, what went wrong, and why. Sometimes “Dear God, why?!”
Let’s not get into gender stuff here, or move too far away from Western entertainment. Those can come later. For now, let’s just look at the age factor, and the divide.
Not everything gets nostalgic credibility and protection. After all, new stuff comes out all the time, and it has to have value too. Some things that adults and young adults watch probably deserve a laugh or a suspicious glance from their peers, but saying that you watch The Powerpuff Girls or Dexter’s Laboratory is not the same as saying you watch Ni Hao Kai-lan.
Forgive the omission of Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, Adventure Time and many notable others. Also, don’t take this as an objective or subjective ranking of any of these shows. (Looking at it again, I might have put Pixar between Looney Tunes and MLP/Spongebob) This is a basic scale of maturity, for our convenience.
Things to the left on the graph are the shows and movies that adults are less hesitant or embarrassed to admit that they watch. Regardless of the target audience, these media do little to no talking down to their viewers. They also tend to be less “cheesy,” kid pandering, and in some cases, (again, I’ll talk about this later) less specifically gendered. These shows have messages and morals, their own persuasive elements, but they tend to be less obvious, or “spelled out.”
To the right, we have shows and movies that pander more to kids’ interests, as well as their (typically) lower emotional and intellectual maturity. A lot of these tend to be educationally focused, whether the kids are learning to count and spell, to speak a new language, or learn valuable life lessons. To balance the less extreme right, these media often contain subtle references that would sail far over the heads of the children, but any parents or guardians who may be watching with them (perhaps against their will) would recognize and even chuckle at. Both the extreme and less extreme right typically have explicitly stated morals or messages to teach the audience, and they tend to have less complex (but happy and still colorful) characters.
When I say “pandering,” I’m not trying to imply that pandering is bad and should never be done. It shouldn’t be done when it is cheap and lazy and constantly used; if it is the only thing interesting or redeeming about the movie or show. That is when it can be bad.
When it comes to the extreme right, I see adults watching those more ironically, or to reminisce about things they watched when they were very little.
Once, as a college student, I was taking a class in media, when my professor made a joke, scoffing at Spongebob Squarepants.
For those who don’t know, that goofy yellow kitchen sea-sponge had (and to some extent, still has) a significant population of adult fans. People with and without kids. I used to be a part of it myself.
Why? Because of the unique and colorful characters, hilarious and outlandish scenarios, and, most notably, the humor. It had a touch of well-written, mean-spiritedness at times, but also some very clever visual puns, regular puns, references, and subtly-framed adult jokes. Everything had a point (even if it was only for one moment), and it was well executed for the most part.
I even watched a few old episodes with a certain adult I know, who wishes to remain anonymous. This person told me that they actually sort of “got it,” but if I ever told anyone that, they would deny it. 🙂
Anyway, I actually stuck my neck out a bit in this class and said that it had humor and potential once. Once, long ago, before people like Derek Drymon, Sean Charmatz, “Mr. Lawrence,” Zeus Cervas, and yes, even the once great Aaron Springer beat this series like a dead horse, drained all likability from the characters, and even made numerous, morally reprehensible episodes that stink like prime time feces.
See “The Splinter,” “Stuck in the Wringer,” “Squidbaby,” and “A Pal for Gary,” for reference. And that’s just to name a few.
Some other guy in class, of course, scoffed at that and the class laughed.
Yeah, the show is pretty bad nowadays, but it didn’t use to be. That’s part of what’s so sad about it. It went the way of The Simpsons and still refuses to die.
If you refer back to the graph above, you will notice that I’ve put two separate My Little Pony series up there, and on different sections of the right (one of which is paired with Mr. Squarepants). Why would I do something like that?
While the shows have always been a glossy, colorful, toy-selling vehicle for Hasbro, the new series has a couple of interesting features that distinguish it from older series, such as the nightmarishly bland “Generation 3.” These have also brought in a large population of adult fans, men and women averaging ages 15-30!
The first episode (technically a two-parter) was written (and the series was developed for television) by Lauren Faust. Just take a look at some of the work she has done as a writer and animator; a lot of it is for shows and movies that are nostalgic and fondly regarded, such as The Powerpuff Girls and Codename: Kids Next Door. Also of note are the voice actors, two major ones being Tara Strong and John de Lancie, who are both loved by fans young, new, and old, for their onscreen and offscreen personalities.
The animation is colorful and employs the use of Adobe Flash, and the effort put into it shines through more often than not. Songs are kid friendly, of course, but thoughtfully written, beautifully scored, and (usually) given good animation sequences to match. Most notable to adult fans (referred to as “bronies” and “pegasisters”) and parents, I think, are the characters. Most of them are female, but they don’t just gush about fashion or moon over boys 24/7. Two of the ponies are successful business owners, they go on grand adventures, they engage in cartoonish sitcoms, they act like real people you know and are friends with. The ponies have siblings and other family relationships that are decently realistic, good but sometimes strained, and no one has to be specifically in the wrong or the “antagonist” in a lot of cases.
This stands in contrast to the ponies of older generations, who lived in bland and sugary worlds devoid of conflict, with vapid, brainless characters only distinguished by flank tattoos and color schemes.
^For those without the time, patience, or stomach to watch the whole thing, the most interesting thing in this review above is probably right at the end (at about 10:19), when he mentions that most of these episodes were written by men. But, as I’ve said, gender stuff is for a whole other day.
Many people are weirded out by these older fans and their interest in something that was written with little girls in mind. There will always be perverts and creepers out there, after all, and this is just so different from the norm.
Lauren Faust and the other creative team weren’t sure what to make of it at first, but they’ve come to accept and embrace the new fans, even going so far as to name background characters what the fans have suggested.
If you aren’t new to this phenomenon, and you’ve heard the excuse, “I like it because of the story,” that really does seem like the adult fan consensus. They like the nostalgic references and feel of the show; the likable, dynamic characters; and the show’s trend towards avoiding, subverting, and inverting common tropes and stereotypes. Not just in media aimed at children, but a lot of media. Things that are simple and like to quietly reinforce the status quo, knowingly or not, for better or worse.
These episodes have made references to a variety of adult things, like the A Team, Dracula, and even Train Spotting. I’m not kidding about that last one. Look up the episode Baby Cakes and go to the last 5-10 minute. It’s brief, but it’s there.
On top of all this, adult fans argue that the messages about friendship, while sometimes basic, obvious, and worded oddly, are often forgotten by kids and adults alike today. Particularly adults. “Bronies” and “Pegasisters” admire the themes of tolerance, acceptance, and coexistence, and encourage each other (and their non-pony peers) to take those lessons to heart. Remember and make use of them, even when people think they’re too old or too good for them. Because sometimes, even adults need reminding.
Sometimes even simple messages have great power and meaning in people’s’ lives. And sometimes, people can be so focused on a colorful drawing or cheese, girly music, that they don’t notice the value under the surface.
Bugs Bunny doesn’t just beat people up. He outwits them. He and his buddies joke and satirize, and reference Groucho Marx. That’s so cool, and so much more than slapstick, violence, and mean-spiritedness just for its own sake.
I’m not arguing that people should reconsider their opinions on things like Dora the Explorer, Nihao Kai-lan, Lazy Town, and a lot of the 6 and younger shows. They’re really just meant to educate on basic levels anyway. Those are the ones I find are best to be outgrown, thought of only in the fond innocence of childhood memories.
I am a lorax, and I speak for The Powerpuff Girls. I speak for Friendship is Magic, Gravity Falls, Looney Tunes, Daria, Batman the Animated Series, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, even Spongebob Squarepants, if only for what he once was. I speak for the Disney, the Dreamworks, and more.
I speak for these t.v. shows and movies, for they have no tongues themselves. I know some others speak with me, but we need more. The kids’ movies genre isn’t just a dumping ground/easy money printer; like animation in general, it takes time, effort, and care. There is value there, if you care to look. Fun, escapism, and sometimes a genuinely human experience.
Before I get into the thick of things, a little setup:
I was watching a theory video the other day about a video game character that gets kidnapped a lot (here’s a hint: she’s from Mario). MatPat, from the hit video series Game Theory asserts that, because this character makes no attempt to get away, and doesn’t seem particularly bothered by said repeated kidnappings, she may in fact be a victim of a little something called Stockholm Syndrome.
Stockholm Syndrome, for all two people who’ve never heard of it, is defined as, “an emotional bonding a victim forms with his or her victimizer, often leading to feelings of sympathy and even appreciation for that person.” The syndrome was coined after an incident in Stockhom, Sweden, “when, following the end of a bank robbery, the hostages identified with and supported their captor” (see source here).
While MatPat was trying to point out that this was in no way a new occurrence in modern storytelling, particularly for the kiddies, he singled out Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as a prime example.
I have heard this argument so often from the anti-Disney and social justice crowds, and it’s really starting to irritate me. It’s a fairytale, people! Why does the Internet fixate on this (highly contested) real-world psychological condition?
It’s a good movie with…a unique set of circumstances I’ll admit, but I would hardly say that it seriously advocates for that kind of relationship.
To some extent, I get where people are coming from. I personally never wanted a relationship like Belle and Beast’s as a kid, and the movie didn’t push any noticeable messages on me that the loud, violent, abrasive Beast is what I should aim for in a man. I suppose some kids could look at it that way, but who knows? Lots of girls out there seem to love a project, and boy howdy, did Beast need a fixing!
If anyone did think that was what Disney was trying to say, I suggest finding some therapy and deeply exploring the parental neglect they have clearly suffered.
Most people I’ve talked or noticed to who had a crush on Beast saw him as a fantasy (yes, they do exist), the whole “bad boy that can be fixed by the right girl” kind of fantasy. Unrealistic, perhaps a bit strange, but still, clearly just a fantasy. I’d be more concerned by those who idolize Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, because that’s a live-action movie that appears to follow our basic reality.
I’m kind of of the mind that cartoons are not, or at least should not, be considered role models. They cannot be held accountable for their actions (even if their creators can), and they are not real people with entirely realistic goals/dreams/aspirations/what-have-you. They are who they are for the brief period that they inhabit our screens, and then that’s it.
Because of how these characters and this movie could possibly affect expectations of reality, people argue that this great and admittedly dark film is bad for kids, and that Belle isn’t the awesome, smart, cool, independent Disney Princess we all thought she was.
I do not agree, but I decided that rather than indignantly whining about how it is “soo not stockholm syndrome OMG shut up (insert illiterate troll lingo here),” I would try my hand at an actual argument that this is not the case. If this debate has to happen, as if Belle and the Beast are some celebrity couple selling Chris Brown-Rihanna-esque beatings to kids as “twue wuv”, let me roll up my sleeves and hack into it.
So many people believe the other argument, and no one I have come across online or in person has adequately defended the movie. Can I prove it isn’t so to you fine readers? But even more important still: can I prove it to myself? Is it just my ego, defending a movie I’ve loved and hailed as a masterpiece for all these years?
Yes, it is a masterpiece still, and no, I am in no way impartial. This movie was my first movie ever, and some part of me will always be protective of it. But I like to think that I can step back and be objective when I need to be.
(Little aside here: I’m not counting any shorts or midquels based around this movie. Those are just fancy fanfictions with a budget that add nothing to the original story besides messing it up) (if your criticisms stem from those, I totally understand. They are awful, and Stockholm Syndrome is completely on the table there).
The story is a tale as old as time. Well, sort of.
Belle lives in a quiet little town where no one appreciates her for her brains and individuality, while Beast is raised as a human prince in a life of opulence and royalty. He’s not the biggest scumbag on the planet (this we see hints of in the opening and learn to be true later in the film), but he’s “spoiled, selfish, and unkind.” He’s been surrounded by yes men and servants his whole life, waited on hand and foot, which has made him arrogant and insensitive to the needs of others.
The plot happens. Belle’s bumbling father gets lost (also chased by scary wolves) and stumbles into Beast’s castle and gets himself locked in the dungeon, as you do. Belle comes to get him, and ends up switching places so that he can go back to the village, but she must promise remain in the castle forever.
I have used rainn.org, or the “Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network,” to define Stockholm Syndrome above. To ensure accuracy, I have included another site. Hubpages states that
“(Stockholm Syndrome) occurs in hostage situations, in other words, when people are placed in a situation over which they have no control, and are forced to depend on their captors. It is a psychological phenomenon in which the hostages actually develop positive feelings (most often empathy) towards their captors and sympathy for their problems. They ignore the fact that the hostage takers put their victims at great risk, and focus instead on their failing to abuse them. This is often mistaken for an act of kindness and compassion.”
So two sites that say basically the same thing about it. And I think we can agree that Stockholm is not a good thing.
Rainn.org further explains the components, stages, and general mentality of the syndrome beyond that basic explanation. According to this site,
“Dr. Joseph Carver, a clinical psychologist, describes emotionally bonding with an abuser as a survival strategy for victims of abuse and intimidation…It is important to remember that Stockholm Syndrome develops subconsciously and on an involuntary basis. The strategy is a survival instinct that develops as an attempt to survive in a threatening and controlling environment.”
This seems about right. After all, whether she likes it or not, Belle became “part of his world.
Yes, I know. Bad puns.
She was forced into this situation, giving up her freedom and her family to keep Beast company forever.
She wasn’t forced to make a choice; she came up with the arrangement on her own, and then she and the Beast established the terms. Oh course a Disney heroine is not going to let Maurice, her father and an innocent man, rot in the dungeon.
But the Beast did not suggest that option to her; she actually came up with it on the spot, on her own. And sure, she thought it up in a fit of desperation, but it was a choice she consciously made, and she wasn’t threatened into accepting it. She didn’t even back down after seeing her jailor’s ugly mug in the light.
Beast may have insisted she keep up her end of the bargain, but it was a promise (which, by the way, she breaks not long after, and she respects virtually none of the rules that the Beast sets before her. “Don’t day without me,” “Don’t go in the West Wing,” yadda yadda yadda). Note also that the Beast makes no threats of consequences if she leaves; he puts no locks or chains on the doors (not even in his personal areas of the castle).
In the original story, Belle’s father would have been facing a literal death threat, whereas here, it’s subtlely implied, if it’s even there at all. The Beast clearly wasn’t very attentive, but why wouldn’t he just go ahead and kill Maurice if he was just planning to do that soon anyway? He specifically says, “He’s my prisoner.”
“But wait!” Some of you still say. “She still had no choice in the matter. It was her father’s life, after all. What was she going to do, leave him there and go home?”
Like I said, of course Belle was never going to do that, but at least in theory, she could have said, “Sucks for you, Dad. Whelp, that’s all the time I have! Bye!” That would have been incredibly heartless and callous, but it’s still a viable option, and one that was, for better or worse, not taken. You have to take the emotions out of it a little bit and look at her choices logically.
The Beast didn’t coerce her into being his prisoner; she volunteered the alternative of her own volition, and they both agreed.
So then the Beast sent crazy old Maurice away without letting him and his daughter to say a real goodbye to one another. Belle pointed out what a jerk move that was, and Beast looked genuinely remorseful for a moment. As if he realized just then that, yeah, maybe he shouldn’t have done that. Without dialogue, strictly by animation, the filmmakers showed us a moment of remorse that we can obviously recognize as such. A lot of character comes through in those little ways.
Beast quickly recovered though (by which I mean he went back into closed-off-jerk-mode), and led her to her room, all the while making awkward small talk and trying to figure out how to woo her. Kinda. Sorta.
He was “nice” enough to offer her better accommodations than the dungeon. He was clearly still being a spoiled, childish dick, though we never really learn what Beast would have done if he’d noticed Maurice dying in the dungeon at some point. Are boobs really the only thing that could sway him back to something resembling humanity?
These things we may never know.
Make no mistake: Belle lived in an expansive prison, but a prison nonetheless. But while she was fearful of the Beast during the first half of the movie, she did put her foot down quite a bit, which is unusual for what we picture of a cowed victim. She wasn’t completely helpless, nor did she act like it. Belle did not open the door to Beast, even when he pounded on it and threatened to break it down. She refused to join him for dinner, even when ordered to. She outright defied him with the other servants by eating dinner after he made the whole “if she doesn’t eat with me, then she doesn’t eat at all” ultimatum.
Still…there could be emotional abuse still happening.
Rainn.org lists the common components of Stockholm Syndrome as:
Victim having positive feelings toward the abuser
Victim having negative feelings toward family, friends, or authorities
Abuser having positive feelings toward the victim
Victim supporting or helping the abuser
I’m going to try to tackle these in order, but some apply differently over the course of the story.
Let us consider Belle’s eventual feelings of love toward the Beast and her sense of belonging in the castle and with the servants. Belle had no positive feelings for the Beast in the beginning, seeing him as a monstrous creature with a temper to match. She wanted nothing to do with him at all, and defied his wishes (possibly as little acts of defiance to feel like she had some control over her situation). We have established that, while she is clearly not in complete control, she is not totally weak or helpless either; she didn’t take his temper tantrums passively or, worse yet, blame herself and try to appease him.
She was allowed to explore the castle, but walked willfully into the West Wing, an area that was explicitly forbidden to her by Beast. She came across the enchanted rose and was then promptly chased off by Beast, who was in a fit of rage.
Abuse! Plain and simple abuse! Your argument is invalid, Marge!
But no. I maintain that he wasn’t trying to hurt her or scare her, but he was angry and fearful that she could have damaged the rose and somehow affected the curse. It’s basically his fate manifested in this world, so he has a reason to be very protective of it.
Also, he was established as immature and not very self-aware. How many times do average people get mad and fly off the handle at their friends and loved ones? Saying or doing things they didn’t mean in order to cause pain?
And yes, I know Beast and Belle were not even close to friends in this instance.
That doest excuse his actions. He did break things and yell at her, and as she left we saw his face morph from huffing frustration to a sort of “oh God, what have I done?,” before what the kids these days call “face-palming.”
Abusers can be regretful in real life, or be deceptive and manipulative because of it. So there you go. Perhaps a point goes to you, guys on Team Stockholm. Who knows if Beast was being genuine here? I think he was, judging once again by the animation, but what do I know?
But Belle grabbed her horse and left. She said to the servants, “Promise or no promise, I can’t stay here another minute.” Despite givingher word, she left at the (arguable) first sign of potential violence towards her. She felt obligated to stay until she realized how frighteningly unstable the Beast was, and that she couldn’t avoid him forever. Belle did a dumb (or possibly rebellious thing), but she doesn’t stick around to try and fix things with the temper-tantrum throwing buffalo man. She GTFO, intent on going home and never coming back again.
During her escape, Belle encountered wolves, presumably the same ones that tried to ambush her father. Just when hope seemed lost, Beast rushed in to save her, presumably (again, this word) because he felt guilty and wanted to make sure she didn’t get killed (either by wolves or the blizzard).
Some might argue that Beast only followed her to force her back to the castle, but the evidence is inconclusive. And we saw him show clear regret in the previous scene.
Anyway, Beast fought off the wolves, but was wounded. Belle almost left, seeing an opportunity to escape him forever, but because he risked his life to save hers and got hurt for it, and might, you know, die of frostbite or blood loss, she decided to go back to the castle, carrying him in tow. So in turn, she saved his life right back.
This area might blur for both sides of the argument. I say she helped him out of the kindness of her heart and a feeling of debt. A life for a life, because she’s clearly compassionate like that. I can’t say for sure, but she looked fully intent to leave him there. At least for a minute.
Meanwhile, back at the castle, she treated his wounds, weathered his whining and howling like the spoiled child he was, and even dressed him down a bit. Belle is no pushover, and by this point, she still hasn’t really come around to Beast.
She did admit some fault as well (a little bit), but she clearly won the argument there.
The two then reconciled, and Beast started being nicer to Belle. Probably for the first time in his life, someone stood up to him and didn’t give him exactly what he wanted. Remember, he’s a royal. It’s also heavily implied, if not outright stated in “Be Our Guest,” that he was a boy (about 11) when he was cursed (which I think is much more unfair and screwed up, but that’s another rant for another day).
Belle developed positive feelings toward him over believable things, such as him saving her life (the first act) and then later giving her a library, a gift based on her interests.
This may seem like a shallow “sorry I was mad, babe. Here’s a present. We cool now, right?” kind of gift to some people, but really think about it:Back in Belle’s village, no one but her father really cared about her personality or interests. Everyone saw her as a strange but beautiful girl, who should have been swooning over Gaston like the rest of her breasted ilk. Beast was the first person to actually try to get to know her, and the first to offer her a gift, a truly genuine and touching gesture. He gave her something suited to her interests; something she would appreciate and enjoy, as opposed to Gaston, who wanted her to tag along so he could show her his trophies and brag about himself.
How many girls genuinely enjoy that?
This is really the first instance in the entire movie of someone actually getting to know her. Other characters tell her what she wants or should want, or assume things, but he asks. My point is that Beast didn’t treat Belle like a housewife or just some trophy girl who should be hanging off his arm. True, she started out as a goal for Beast – someone to break the curse on him – but he figured out, slowly but surely, that approach was going nowhere fast. Selfishly hoarding and using people wasn’t doing any good. Through his interactions with her, seeing her kind nature and independent spirit, Beast realized what a jerk and an animal he was becoming (which may also be a result of the curse and his repeated despair; see the Broadway musical for more clues on that one), and started working his way towards redeeming his character. Maybe for her sake, his own, or both. It’s ambiguous enough to be interpreted those ways.
And Belle realized that, while he was capable of great anger and darkness, he is capable of kindness, and caring for others as well. He just hadn’t had much experience before, when he was being served, or when he was a despairing beast, slowly being worn away. We saw, as the movie progressed, that Beast began to walk and talk more like a man, dressing in clothes and engaging in civil behaviors, encouraged all the more by Belle and his servants.
Speaking of the servants, as I’ve mentioned before, they could be seen as just as guilty as Beast. They are invested in breaking of the curse as well. They want to be human again, but they couldn’t force Belle to love Beast, and they couldn’t prevent Beast from being a jerk.
But Belle gave them hope, much like the Beast, with her very presence, and while they could have been selfish and manipulative, they tried to make her feel welcome, even when Beast himself didn’t.
She truly was welcome, too; a welcome change in their lives. They had someone to entertain and serve again (“Be Our Guest”), and to everyone except maybe Cogsworth, she was a pleasure to serve. She was kind and, despite her initial fear, full of wonder.
My final word on the servants is: they weren’t always a party to Beast’s attempts, and even undermined his orders at times. They also did not prevent Belle from leaving (the first or second time), and were implied to be innocent people who were affected by Beast’s curse.
But back to the main argument…
Conditions 1, 3, and 4 mentioned way above fit together and are decently rebutted, and condition 2 doesn’t even really apply here. The only friend/family member Belle had outside of the castle is Maurice (excluding the horse), and even when he still thought the Beast is a monster, Belle didn’t harbor any anger or negativity towards her father for his differing opinion of things. She did clearly say he didn’t understand, though, to Maurice and later the townsfolk, but to be fair, none of the latter were her friends. Quite the opposite, actually.
And Belle only think she knows more than Maurice because she has spent more time with Beast, and gotten to see a side of him that her father pretty definitively never did. It wasn’t as though Beast was all nice in the beginning, and then slowly started hitting or gaslighting her, and she’s the only one who refuses to see the truth.
But what about more concrete stages of Stockholm Syndrome? Surely there’s more room in this story for abusive not-love?
Rainn.org lists the stages of Stockholm in this order:
The victim dissociates from his or her pain, helplessness or terror by subconsciously beginning to see the situation / world from the abuser’s perspective. The victim begins to agree with the abuser and certain aspects of his or her own personality, opinions, and views will fade into the background.
By doing this, the victim begins to learn how to appease and please the abuser, which may keep him or her from being hurt or worse. Similarly this tactic can be used to manipulate the abuser into being less dangerous, at least for a little while.
After a while the victim begins to realize that his or her abuser portrays the same human characteristics as anyone else. At this point he or she will begin to see the abuser as less of a threat. Some abusers may even share personal information in an effort to bond with the victim and to promote pity rather than anger.
This bonding, in turn, leads to conflicting feelings (e.g., rage and pity) and illogical concern for the abuser. The victim may even ignore his or her own needs.
Once the traumatic event has ended, however, the victim must again learn not to dissociate from his or her emotions and not focus on the abuser. This can be a very difficult transition.
As established, Belle only came around to the Beast when he saved her life, admitted to being an insensitive, violent jerk; and even started behaving more like a person than an animal. She was still wary of him while the change was occurring (hesitantly agreeing to follow him when he was going to surprise her with a library), but she did not agree with him or comply with him just to save her own skin. She repeatedly refused doing things she didn’t want to do (from Gaston and the townsfolk as well, I might add).
The third stage is a possibility, as Belle began to see Beast as less and less of a threat, but other than telling her he had forgotten how to read (an embarrassing fact that they then proceed to bond over in “Human Again”), he doesn’t share personal information with her onscreen. Not about the curse or life before the curse, at least. They mostly bond over mutually pleasurable activities; Beast distracting Belle from her feelings of loneliness and Belle distracting the Beast from focusing solely on breaking the curse. There was no evidence of any one character’s needs being compromised over the others. They only time spent getting to know one another.
In another little aside, Belle professed a desire for adventure from the very beginning of the movie, seeking something beyond herself. In a way, that was exactly what she received, albeit not in the way she expected.
I mentioned before that the curse had been somewhat forgotten in Beast’s mind. I think that it was still there, as a nagging reminder at the back of his mind, but at the same time, he started to genuinely care for Belle as a friend, making his desire for love more genuine and, by extension, less selfish.
But here’s some more conditions relating to Stockholm Syndrome, as provided again by Rainn.org.
There is often:
Perceived or real threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and belief that the abuser will carry out the threat. The abuser may:
Assure the victim that only cooperation keeps loved ones safe.
Offer subtle threats or stories of revenge to remind the victim that revenge is possible if they leave.
Have a history of violence leading the victim to believe they could be a target.
Presence of a small kindness from the abuser to the victim
In some cases, small gestures such as allowing a bathroom visit or providing food/water are enough to alter the victim’s perception of the abuser.
Other times, a birthday card, a gift (usually provided after a period of abuse), or a special treat can be seen as proof that the abuser is not “all bad.”
Victim’s isolation from other perspectives
Victims have the sense they are always being watched. For their survival they begin to take on the abuser’s perspective. This survival technique can become so intense that the victim develops anger toward those trying to help.
In severe cases of Stockholm Syndrome the victim may feel the abusive situation is their fault.
Perceived or real inability to escape from the situation
The victim may have financial obligations, debt, or instability to the point that they cannot survive on their own.
The abuser may use threats including taking the children, public exposure, suicide, or a life of harassment for the victim.
Applying to Number 1, Beast does promise Maurice’s safety and freedom in exchange for Belle’s freedom, but he doesn’t threaten to seek Maurice out and harm him after the deal is made, nor does he threaten to hurt Belle or hurt her father if she were to break their agreement. In fact, Beast seems to forget about Maurice altogether. Belle might worry that if she leaves, Beast will come after her or her father, but she doesn’t make that fear explicit, if it even exists at all. It’s never presented to us.
Beast may vaguely know where she lives though, because his creepy spider carriage knew exactly where to take Maurice when he was ejected from the castle. Hmm…
For Number 2, Beast does give Belle a library after a big fight they had, but to be fair, it is the last fight we see them having in the entire movie. And I don’t think that is because Belle is cowed or too grateful to stand up to him. That’s pretty clearly never been the case before, so why should it be now?
Besides, he remarks to the servants that he wanted to do something nice for her, because he’s “never felt this way about anyone.” I doubt he gives the servants gifts of any kind after he’s yelled at them. And no way is he shelling out for a library or a fancy Baroque piece for Cogsworth.
Number 3 doesn’t really apply, and for Number 4, Belle is pretty quick to leave for someone with so much stake in the situation. Granted, it was panic-driven and spur-of-the-moment, but she did leave. Also, later the Beast lets her go, knowing full well that the curse will never be broken, so that she can help her father. And again, she leaves. She doesn’t really seem to give it a second thought, other than to be slightly unnerved by Beast’s roar of sadness as she’s departing.
Maybe she would never have come back if it hadn’t been for Gaston riling up the mob (In this case, maybe she felt responsible or maybe she was worried for Beast and the servants’ sakes, but it’s, again, up to interpretation. No surprise here, but I pick the latter).
Belle sees contrast between the Beast and Gaston; the former being monstrous in shape but kind-hearted, and the latter being handsome but a truly selfish, hideous person on the inside. She races back to the castle with her father. I guess Maurice was okay with it after all, after that one talk while he was probably sick and delusional anyway?
Beast had lost the will to live when she left, because he loved her and he knew that he would spend the rest of his days as a monster without her, so he was content to let himself be killed by Gaston. He gains the will to fight back with Belle’s arrival on the scene, and even shows mercy (unlike Gaston) because of his remembered human emotions and kindness.
But Gaston manages to fatally wound him before dying himself, leaving Beast to die beside the woman he has grown to love. And as she finally realizes the love she felt for him – it really does seem like she didn’t recognize any real feelings until she actually thought about it right then – the curse is broken. Beast is revived and human again, and everyone lives happily ever after.
I don’t want to spit on real cases of Stockholm Syndrome or those of domestic abuse sufferers. I chose that word and not “victims” or “survivors” because both have problematic associations of perceived “strength” or “weakness” that are usually insensitive at best and unfair and disparaging at worst. Every situation is different, and people should be treated like people.
Also, while I have been trying to argue against it, I can see why people argue that this romance may in fact be just a case of Stockholm Syndrome, much as I disagree. Some warning signs are there, certainly, so if that’s your interpretation of the film, I can’t really stop you from going forward with that.
It’s a fairytale, which aren’t known for being the most progressive of stories. They’re meant to teach a few lessons and encourage good behaviors and characters; in this case, being kind, compassionate, and looking past appearances to see the truth inside. They’re meant to scare kids a little too, warning them about consequences of misbehaving or straying from a moral path. Things change over time, and what used to work doesn’t always when modern audiences are concerned. I acknowledge that.
But anyone over a certain age can see that it’s a fantasy; escapism. By definition, not reality. Kids who don’t understand that should be engaged by their parents to talk about it, which requires some energy and supervision, but can certainly be done.
Can Beast be classified as an abuser? Yep. While he is a product of the time and his royal pampering, he stands above others and orders them around, bellowing at them, smashing things, and threatening to break down doors. But he’s a prince, so it makes sense (I’m explaining, not excusing here). Before Belle came along, his servants were probably either neglected or beleaguered by him.
Also keep in mind that he’s also growing up throughout this whole curse. If the rose blooms until he’s 21 years old, and it’s been “10 years (they’ve) been rusting,” he was just a kid. Possibly one who made a few stupid mistakes with little to no parental supervision.
(Team Stockholm says, “That’s right, kids! Stay with your abuser and change them, for your benefit and theirs! It’ll all work out!”)
So, is Belle and Beast’s relationship a class A case of Stockholm Syndrome?
I still say no.
Call me stubborn, but I honestly think love blossomed between the two without necessarily having to be coerced or guilted. Belle didn’t pity Beast or wait on him, and she didn’t go out of her way to please him so he wouldn’t hurt her. If anything, he went out of his way to please her because he discovered the joy of pleasing someone else. And, when he had nothing to gain and everything to lose, he let her go, concealing his anguish until she left so that she would not feel compelled to stay with him out of pity.
Another thing I’m sick to death of hearing is the whole “it’s a kids’ movie/show/product, so it’s okay if it’s crappy” argument. Why do I get so worked up about it? Because the stuff I grew up with was mostly good and challenging and engaging, with some crap mixed in. I don’t believe media makers get a free pass to make crap just because kids are their target audience, and it pisses me off even more when they are successful and make loads of money off it.
I believe Disney has exceeded this standard time and time again.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a great kids movie. Not just good, but great. It has flaws just like everything made by human hands must, but it had stunning animation, unique characters, and a dark and engaging story with good pacing. We don’t know how long Belle and Beast spent together, so it could’ve been three days-ish, a la Ariel & Eric or Aladdin & Jasmine, or it could’ve been weeks or months.
There is so much to love and respect about this film, and it pisses me off when, particularly feminists, harsh on Disney relentlessly without acknowledging things like time periods in which movies came out, and also how far Disney has come as a company and a content creator.
Criticism needs context, and an acknowledgement of the good and bad, to be whole and rounded. Kids’ movies can sometimes paint the world in black and white, but nothing is just black and white. Not even opinions, really. Just hating or loving something blindly and ignoring the contrasting side of the argument makes otherwise sound, interesting ideas stupid and irritating. You know, unless they’re really funny.
There are people out there that will find reasons to hate something, anything, about anything. If you must, make sure you can back yourself up first.
And don’t even get me started on the whole bestiality thingy.
Beauty and the Beast and any images of it are owned by the Disney Corporation. It is not in any way mine. In fact, none of the pictures here are mine. In any way. At all.