simplyjan

A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

Archive for the tag “Brave”

When the Attack on Women Gets Animated

I wasn’t going to blog tonight. I’m tired. I’ve been fighting a headache. I have a couple of more involved posts percolating in my mind – not yet ready to share. Then in a conversation with my friend Cathy, she asked if I had read some of the recent media speculating that Merida – the heroine from the new Pixar/Disney film Brave – is gay. Merida – my newfound hero that I wrote about here and again here. You have got to freaking be kidding me, right? So I hit Google. This is what I found:

But could Merida be gay? Absolutely. She bristles at the traditional gender roles that she’s expected to play: the demure daughter, the obedient fiancée. Her love of unprincess-like hobbies, including archery and rock-climbing, is sure to strike a chord with gay viewers who felt similarly “not like the other kids” growing up. And she hates the prospect of marriage — at least, to any of the three oafish clansmen that compete for her hand — enough to run away from home and put her own mother’s life at risk. She’s certainly not a swooning, boy-crazy Disney princess like The Little Mermaid’s Ariel or Snow White. In fact, Merida may be the first in that group to be completely romantically disinclined (even cross-dressing Mulan had a soft spot for Li Shang). ~ Entertainment Weekly

So let me get this straight. If you don’t live by traditional gender roles (the “demure” daughter, the “obedient” fiancée), if you are tomboyish and like physically challenging activities, if you claim your personal uniqueness (“not like all the other kids”), if you don’t want to marry a complete stranger (who for many reasons, not just physical ones, is not appealing to you), and if you’ve ever had a fight with your mother that’s made you mad enough to say and do things you later regretted, then you must be gay. Right. Folks, if that is how you determine if a person is gay, then I would qualify. But it’s not, and I’m not.

In case you haven’t noticed, women in America are under attack. Let me rephrase that. Strong, independent women in America – straight or gay, rich or poor, well-educated or not – are under attack. If a woman speaks out in protest to an all male panel on birth control, then she is an oversexed whore. And apparently, if you are an independent young woman who doesn’t swoon at the prospect of rushing into marriage – even if you are an animated character – then you are gay. (I hate to break it to you guys, but you aren’t all swoon-worthy!) This is an insult to all women, regardless of their personal persuasion – political, sexual, or other. In virtually every instance I can think of in recent months, when a woman has dared to stand strong, use her voice, and express her conviction in the public square, she has been attacked, belittled, called names, given labels, and told to go back to the kitchen (or bedroom) where she belongs.

Thank God, these attacks don’t seem to be working. Instead of intimidating all women into shutting their mouths and staying in “their places,” it is galvanizing women to stand even more strongly together. And those waging war are getting more and more desperate. I mean, come on! They’re threatened by a cartoon character?!

No. They are threatened by the Merida in us all. And to that I say: You go, Girls!

winning herself

What Is the “Right” Kind of Princess Story?

*Spoiler alert for the newly released Brave.

brave2

Last Friday, the kids and I went to see the newly released Pixar/Disney animated film, Brave. I wrote about the effect it had on me – a grown woman – in my post here. I loved the film! I loved how it portrayed the struggles often faced between mothers and daughters. I loved the strong-willed, strong-minded, strong-bodied young princess. I loved the mischievous humor and the beautiful scenery. I even loved the less-than-perfect Scottish accents. I’m excited to see Pixar/Disney moving in the direction of strong female protagonists. It’s about time!

I was shocked when I found the following in my twitter feed Sunday morning, written by the very famous, very prolific author, Karen Kingsbury:

Saw Brave tonight. Don’t see it. Naked backsides, abundant cleavage, PC messages throughout. Sorry … know your audience, Disney.

(Note: Before I go any further, I want to say that I have tremendous respect for this author and all authors. It is not the author that bothers me, but the sentiment she is expressing.)

Let me first address her three complaints. Yes, there were bare backsides in the movie. At one point the mischievous little brothers, who were helping their big sister sneak their bear-mother safely out of the castle, locked the king and all his cohorts on top of one of the castle’s high towers. In order to get down from the tower, the men tied their kilts together into a long rope and climbed down. As they walked away, there was a brief shot of their bare butts. Also, the three little brothers who had a propensity for eating everything in sight (including enchanted cakes), were also transformed into baby bears. Once the spell was broken, they lost their bear fur and were naked. Their bare little butts were shown in their joyful reunion with their family. 

Yes, the scullery maid has abundant cleavage. This was perhaps the most politically incorrect part of the movie. The movie’s creators chose to portray the scullery maid in the stereotypical way: chubby, easily frightened (and fooled), and big-bosomed. Based on follow-up tweets, I think her biggest complaint about the cleavage comes when the maid hides a key in her bosom to keep the mischievous three brothers (now bear cubs) from taking it. One of the three dives in head first to retrieve it, although I think it’s important to note that the scene is implied at that point, not actually shown.

And finally, if it’s a politically correct message for a female protagonist to be strong-willed, outspoken, true to herself, and open to new ways of interpreting tradition, then the movie is indeed filled with politically correct messages. In my opinion, those messages are what make the movie worth seeing, especially for girls of all ages.

I puzzled over why these things were so offensive. Then I remembered that Karen Kingsbury has written a Princess book for children: The Princess and the Three Knights. It has a similar plot to Brave: three suitors competing for the hand of the beautiful princess. While her story is a sweet one in many ways, especially in the final test the king presented to the suitors, its overall message disturbs me.

princess 3 knights

The princess doesn’t have a name. She has no identity of her own. She never speaks – not a word. She only acts twice throughout the story: once to move closer to her father, the king, “her eyes wide and fearful.” The second time, “her heart takes flight” when her father chooses her husband. While we’re told she is beautiful “inside and out,” we’re only shown the outside beauty. There are no words and no actions to demonstrate her inner beauty.

speechless

A passive girl with no voice, no say-so in her future, no identity apart from the men in her life: it’s about as opposite from the message of Brave as you can get. It’s also about as accurately descriptive of many of the political and religious agendas we are facing today. Our society is becoming more and more polarized over this very issue. Do women have the right to be heard? Do we have the right to have insurance coverage and access to birth control? Do we have the right to speak our mind and heart – from the pulpit and/or in the public square? Do we have the right to earn equal pay for equal work? Must we always be portrayed as either silent and passive or buxom and air-headed in order to be “politically” correct? Do we have intrinsic value apart from the relationships with the men in our lives? Is there no place for strong, smart, capable, independent women in our world and in our entertainment today?

What kind of princess story are we telling our children today? Guess which message I want my daughters to hear?

My Brand Is Simply Jan

A brand is the simplest, most memorable part of yourself you can give.

brand

I hate the word. I really do! It’s bandied about all the time – a catchphrase of moment. Throw it in a sentence along with “platform” and you’ll fit right in with everyone in the marketing, advertising, writing, and promotion businesses. Imagine my dismay when I learned the 15 Day Challenge for today was to work on defining my brand.

I mulled it over all afternoon. What is my brand? My brand used to be “Preacher Mom.” When I first started blogging years ago, almost everything I wrote tied in directly with my role as a preacher, my role as a mom, and how those two roles fit together – or sometimes didn’t fit together. I began moving away from that “brand” when I moved away from the Upstate three years ago. I finally started a whole new blog – Simply Jan. I wrote about my reasons for this change back in January.

At some point in time I made the unconscious decision that my identity would be tied primarily into just two aspects of my life: my life as a pastor and my life as a mom. I poured everything I had and everything I was into those two things. That isn’t totally a bad thing. I love being a pastor and I love being a mom.

But what about Jan? Who am I, both apart from these other identities and in relation to them? If I was no longer a pastor and/or if my children were no longer living in my house, who would I be?

That’s the journey I’ve been on all year. I decided to drop my defining roles and search for the voice of my self – my integrated, non-role-playing self. A close friend who has known me for a number of years does not like my blog title, Simply Jan. He thinks I’m reducing myself, selling myself short. He claims I’m anything but simple. I appreciate the sentiment. I’m even a bit flattered by it. But the fact is, who I want to be most is simply Jan. Me. Not a role that I’m playing; not an expert in a particular field; not the fulfillment of someone else’s expectation of who I should be. Just me – a little flawed, a little adventurous, a little scattered, a little creative, a little rebellious, a little strange . . . and a lot loving.

The kids and I went to dinner and a movie tonight to celebrate Mia’s return home after being away two weeks. We went to see the movie Brave.

brave

It’s the story of Merida, a princess who is being groomed to fill the role of future Queen. This is a demanding role, one that comes with many expectations of how she should talk, how she should act, how she should dress, what her hair should look like, and what she should do (and refrain from doing). All of this comes at the expense of her self, her true essence. She refuses to submit to a tradition that allows a young man to “win” her hand in marriage. She wins her own hand, quite literally. She is amazing! (Or as my 20-year-old describes her, a total bad-*ss.) She does learn along the way that there is a place for tradition and expectations, but only on terms that don’t require her to sacrifice her self. Interestingly enough, those who love her – the ones who were forcing those expectation on her – also come to that same conclusion. No one should have to change who they are in order to please someone else or just to play a particular role to perfection.

Merida is my newest hero. I think there is a little of her in my writing – the part of me that wants to escape the stereotypes of a single mom, who doesn’t want always “dress the part” of a dignified pastor. who wants to be a good mom without giving up being myself, who wants to be accepted and respected by the important people in my life, even if I don’t always please them or meet their expectations. I understand the place for tradition and expectations, but I’m learning to put them in their place – a place that doesn’t require me to sacrifice my self.

So what’s my writing brand? I’m still working on that one, but so far I guess I would say it’s just as my blog name implies. I’m Simply Jan – writing to share what life looks like through the eyes of my true self. And maybe to honor the bad*ss Merida in us all.

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