Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Look at a Family-Centered Conglomerate

From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Hass, and Laura Sells


This was a collection of essays about Disney movies.  The book was divided into three sections: Sanitations/ Disney Film as Cultural Pedagogy, Contestations/ Disney Film as Gender Construction, Erasures/ Disney Film as Identity Politics.  The first section talks about the some of the themes in Disney, and the formulas they tend to use.  In one essay, the author examines the differences between the Pinocchio fairy tale and the Disney film, and how Disney's changes make the story be a very different type of morality tale, and honestly, the original sounds like it had more to say.  There was also a discussion of Billy Bathgate or Disney's failed attempt at gangster films, and the ways in which the film sanitized the story, and took a lot of the color and ambiguity out of it (the novel the film was based on sounds kind of interesting).  I liked that one most out of this section.


The second section, of course, talked about representations of gender in Disney: the innocent heroine, the evil villainness/ femme fatale figure, the old helper/fairy godmother figure.  They also talked about presentations of masculinity in films such as Bambi, where the king stag reigns over everything.  My favorite essay in this section was a discussion of The Beauty and the Beast, and the comparison of the fairy tale, where the Beast won the Beauty by being kind and intelligent, to Disney's version, in which Belle had to teach him how to be a proper man.  They also mentioned Kindergarten Cop in this essay since it came out as a similar time, and also shows a beast figure (Arnold Schwarzenegger) be civilized by a woman.


The third section had quite a few interesting essays about very different topics.  One was an analysis of Pretty Woman as seen by a black feminist.  Another writer examined The Little Mermaid in juxtaposition to Barbara Bush speech, and tells how she can gain hope from the film as a feminist despite the destruction of Ursula.  I also enjoyed the chapter "Spinsters in Sensible Shoes" which examines how nontraditional women are actually used to uphold traditions and social norms.


While reading this, I realized how many Disney movies I haven't seen - I remember as a child, I owned a few, but the only one I really remember watching over and over again is The Little Mermaid.  I also had quite a few of the books, and my memories of the Disney book versions of their animated tales are much stronger.  My mom still had a soft spot for these books for quite a while because of all my childhood books, these are the only ones she never let me get rid of or even box up.  They haven't been touched or read in years, but they are still on a bookshelf in our house.

No comments: