The culture warriors have decided: Disney’s Frozen is queer. Elsa hiding her ice-powers could be read as a metaphor for the closet, the Oscar-winning “Let it Go” plays like a coming-out anthem, and a character in the film evokes the question of whether homosexuality is a choice by inquiring of Elsa’s powers, “born with it or cursed?” Some liberals have praised the film for its subtext; some conservatives have denounced it.
But the most remarkable thing about queer readings of the film may be how unremarkable they really are. Through both its corporate practices and the content of its films, Disney for decades has implemented the so-called “gay agenda”—which is to say, helping make the world a more accepting place.
To start in the most obvious place: As a business, Disney has long held a progressive attitude toward LGBT people. Gay pride events have been hosted at Disney World since 1991, and the company started offered its gay employees health insurance benefits for their partners since 1995, a decision that wasn’t entirely popular back then.
One of the most poignant examples of the company’s tolerant atmosphere is the case of lyricist Howard Ashman, who was openly gay and died of AIDS in 1991. Not only did Ashman write songs for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, he was also closely involved in those films’ productions, casting actors and holding story meetings with animators. At the end of Beauty and the Beast, Disney acknowledged his contributions with this tribute: “To our friend Howard Ashman who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful.”
But Ashman’s story also offers an example of how the substance of Disney’s films reflect an interest in LGBT peoples’ struggles.
Read more. [Image: Disney]
Luke Skywalker. Princess Leia. Kermit the Frog. Miss Piggy. Spider-Man. The Incredible Hulk. Buzz Lightyear. And now, Indiana Jones.
Together, they represent the defining characters and pop culture childhood memories of millions, if not billions. And in the past decade, they’ve all been snapped up by the Walt Disney Company.
The whip-wielding archeologist became the latest addition to Disney’s stable on Friday, when the company announced it had reached a marketing and distribution agreement with Paramount Pictures to acquire control of all future Indiana Jones films. (Paramount keeps the rights to the four existing Indy movies and “will receive a financial participation on any future films,” the studios said.)
Read more. [Image: 20th Century Fox Corp]
If Ariel had normal-sized eyes, we might be less endeared to her—forced to focus more immediately on her disconcerting scaly tail.
If Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg were a Disney Princess, as one artist recently rendered her, she’d have no wrinkles, a smirk on her face, and some décolletage.
And when Pixar redesigned Merida, the star of Brave, in May, she got a smaller waist and bigger hair.
There’s some research behind why the princess formula is so effective: Enlarged eyes, tiny chins, and short noses make them look more like babies, which creates an air of innocence and vulnerability. There’s evidence that adults who have such “babyfacedness” characteristics are seen as less smart, more congenial, and less likely to be guilty of crimes.
Halloween has come and gone, and with it that most terrifying of Halloween costumes: princesses. Angst about the ubiquitous, frivolous, artificial, beauty-obsessed femininity of Disney princesses is year-round, but is perhaps especially intense at this time of year, and that may be why David Trumble’s anti-Disney-Princess satire—a gallery of 10 inspiring female heroes, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Harriet Tubman to Malala Yousafzai, reimagined as princesses—is making the rounds on the web again after first appearing last May.
Trumble was initially responding to Disney’s “girlification” of Merida from Brave in their princess marketing. Trumble started thinking of great female role models, and wondering, as he put it, "How many of these women would be improved by a few extra sparkles?" The point here is supposed to be that, contrary to what Disney might be suggesting, strong, inspiring women—female role models—don’t need to be princesses, and that turning them into princesses trivializes them. Heroes don’t need sparkles, and sparkles distract from the heroines. In fact, though, Trumble’s drawings don’t so much satirize princesses as, rather wonderfully, validate them.
Read more. [Image: David Trumble]
Watching a movie about airplanes is often a cringe-worthy event for a pilot, because Hollywood tends to take so many liberties with accuracy for the sake of drama. One time on the set of one of these movies, I asked the director if he knew that real planes couldn’t actually do the thing he was having them do in that scene. “I’m not really concerned with you and the six other people in America who know that,” he answered. “I’m concerned with making it exciting for the rest of the audience.”
So I should note, up front, that Disney’s new animated film Planes has planes doing all sorts of things they don’t do in real life—beginning with talk, laugh, cry, scheme, feel bad, and cheer.
Read more. [Image: Disney]
Thank God. The movie business is awful. Just look at “The Lone Ranger.”
…There is no one theme that has anywhere near the prominence and influence that Disney Princesses do. Regardless of the more recent generations of empowered princesses in Disney movies, the overall princess trope promotes traditional notions of femininity and an unhealthy focus on physical beauty. Even the most feminist-friendly princess derives her social currency, her political power, and her personal identity as “princess” from the make-believe patriarchy.
Read more. [Image: Disney]