Disney and Sex–A Misguided Interpretation of Princesses

So I’m at the PCA/ACA conference, which so far is a really fascinating experience. Being an introvert, I haven’t made any new professional best friends yet, but I have bought three books, which I will review once I read them because they just sound like the perfect way to spend my dissertation research time. Of course, they’re dissertation-worthy, but yet not dissertation-necessary, which is the case of just about all books.

Anyway, there was this panel about Girl Power, which involved some misguided, shallow approaches to feminist theory. Specifically, looking at girls in literature and how they are awesome. No context, no theory, no analysis. To close the panel was a presentation about Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Princess Tutu, three Japanese fairy tales.

But here’s the annoying part: This presentation did not incorporate fairy tale theory, feminist theory or any cultural analysis into its thesis. Instead, it made some grandiose claims about how the images of Disney caused our sexual culture. The presenter specifically looked at The Little Mermaid. The assertion is that a) Disney images portray women as sexy, quoting a study of how much skin between the upper thigh and bust women show, and b) the “Princessfication” it portrays limits women.

In response to A: The portrayal of women as sex objects is NOT Disney, it’s the larger culture. BUT, to read Disney characters as sexual (and only directed at children, hence the problem) is a misreading of Disney fairy tales. Walt Disney retold fairy tales using traditional models, which did include arguably “weak” princess characters, but gave them a voice long before the birth of the Feminist Movement. PLUS, Disney’s goal was to define family entertainment as something adults and children could equally enjoy together, not as tamed down stories that are more palatable to children. It is important, Oh Disney Critics, to define the era of Disney fairy tales in your analysis and to take into account the goals of the company at the time of the fairy tale release, because those factors greatly influence the marketing of the film. The era in question influences the portrayal of the characters, which is the crux of the argument I am making during this conference.

In response to B: really? Just because the Princess is the over-used marketing campaign of Disney does not mean that Disney holds a negative view of women.

Now, the comparison to three Japanese fairy tale films to Disney Princesses is just plain shaky territory in a 15 minute/6 page presentation. In order to make a sound argument (especially if one is relying on films distributed by the Overtakes of the Mouse), it is essential to take cultural differences into account. One could easily argue that Ponyo portrays a fetishized child (thanks Rebekah!), which is far more sexual in nature than the portrayal of a Mermaid, whose bare midriff is a side-effect of the fact that she lives underwater and whose story is about her failure of finding love with only her slim, red-headed figure as her tool.

On one hand, it really bothers me that Disney Critics are so shallow. But on the other hand, I appreciate the opportunity to be the voice of the opposition. There is so much more to Disney than one’s fear for the brand, but this is a different conversation all together. Eventually, I hope that Disney Critics will start to recognize their shadow and work accordingly. Then I might have more respect for their arguments.


Infinitus, WWoHP Wrap-Up

The Con is coming to an end, which means I’m taking it easy tonight and packing and leaving bright and early tomorrow. I’m going to post the transcript for my talk when I get home, but in the mean time, I thought I’d wrap up the Con. This is really just an excuse to post the pictures I took of the Park.

The Con itself is a little disappointing. There is some good dialogue still happening about Harry Potter, but not enough of those people came to the Con. In fact, my presentation only had about 15 or so people because everyone was lining up for an event that didn’t start until after my talk that was far more popular than a bit of formal programming. I’m curious how other presentations at the same time went. Additionally, there weren’t as many talks this year worth seeing (in my opinion) than in previous years. Come on, Potter Scholars, don’t be afraid to share! My favorite talks were both by Travis Prinzi of The Hog’s Head, both were themed around Umbridge and her position in the Ministry and her place as an educator. I finally got a copy of The Hog’s Head Conversations and I am very reminded that I need to finish the Potter Project I’ve been working on for a few years. Perhaps that’s the sanity break I need while writing my dissertation.

The Park is well… a nice attempt. Not just as a fan of Harry Potter, but as a Disney-phile with very high standards for what a theme park should be, it’s very disappointing, crowded and the rides are mediocre. The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is an excellent attraction, and it’s clear that Universal put a lot more thought and money behind that than any other aspect of the park, but I’m not sure that it’s worth the cost in the entire Islands of Adventure to go see. Crowd control is a huge problem, and that alone suggests a huge amount of oversight on the part of Universal Creative. Some of the comments during my presentation pointed out that this is Universal’s first real attempt at a family themed area, but for those familiar with Disney will understand that Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in the middle of Mickey’s Toontown equals a bad time for any traveler. There is a rumoured expansion, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a nice attempt, Universal, but far off the mark.

Here are some pictures though. Unfortunately, I arrived at the park right before the daily rain shower, so they’re kind of dark because of the overcast:

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The entrance to Hogsmeade and the sign going in, says “Please respect the spell limits”

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View of Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts Express.

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Zonko’s and Honeydukes – the crowds were so ridiculous, I had to stand in line to get in!

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The Dragon Challenge (inspired by 1st task of Tri-Wizard Tournament) & The Three Broomsticks

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The Hog’s Head Pub & The Owl Post (which has its own postmark).

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I love the idea of the bathrooms being “public conveniences” & store fronts (which are dead space)

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More Store Fronts.

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More Store Fronts & the crowd in front of Ollivander’s for a wand selection. Apparently, it’s not a good presentation. I didn’t do it because the lines were always too long.

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Dervish and Banges attached to Ollivander’s and the Owl Post – far too small for Potter shopping – & Hogwarts Castle, which houses Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is a very excellent attraction (it’s like Soarin’ meets Indy, really cool, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price of Universal)

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Hagrid’s Hut (which is NOT a walk-through and very disappointing, plus it’s not made of the correct material) and baby Beaky.

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The Flight of the Hippogriff (kiddie ride) & more Hagrid’s Hut.

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Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods & interior of Three Broomsticks.

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More Three Broomsticks & Mad-eye Moody.

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Night of  a Thousand Wizards crowd, a special promo event for those of us who bought the add-on for Infinitus. It gave us a few extra hours in the park with no Muggles running around.

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Dancing Snape and Hogwarts at Night.

In the Universal promo they showed us during NoaTW, there were headline’s about this out-doing Disney. Sadly, I think they’re mistaken. Nice attempt Universal, but go back to Disney University. Hogwarts is the only successful aspect of the over-crowded land, because it achieves total emersion.