Moana Month

You may have heard that I quite like Disney films. They’re cool, and you should quite like them too. Gladly, any non-believers have the opportunity to learn the error of their ways in November when Disney’s latest animated masterpiece, Moana, hits screens.

3e233a812f08e87f3fa41fcaa7d3d882

To celebrate, I think I’m going to launch a little month in Disney’s honour: Moana Month. I’m not sure of the exact content at the moment, but as Moana is the latest Disney Princess, it’ll definitely focus on the Princesses. Because they, like Disney, are cool.

I’m definitely going to write an in-depth piece about my personal love for the Princesses, and probably do a Top 5 Princess films countdown. There’ll be other little bits and pieces too. Like I said, I haven’t really planned it out. Leave me alone, ok!!

As ever on Kids Riding Bicycles, this is very much a participation piece, so please feel free to comment and get involved. It’s what the Princesses would do.

The Great Disney Princess Poll

Across the last couple of weeks, I’ve been using the power of Twitter polls to scientifically prove beyond all doubt which Disney Princess is the best of them all. Spoiler alert: it’s Rapunzel…

3298362t939zntcj5

 

My methodology for this highly important poll was utterly and hopelessly unscientific, which is a bit of a problem when you’re scientifically proving something beyond all doubt. First, I stuck up a poll about the best Renaissance Princess. That was quite fun, I thought, so then I did another one about the best Modern Princess. Also fun, so I did a third one, this time focusing on Classic Princesses. “Hey,” I figured. “There’s a chance here for a tournament.” So I made up some Princesses to complete a round of Quarter Finals, and the tournament was set!

Science is fun!

Check out this staggering act of scientific genius in full below…

Ok, yes, this was the worst act of sciencing ever, and I wish I’d had it all mapped out in my head before starting. I pretty much saw it as an individual poll when I started that first one; no follow-ups, no tournament. Just a one-off. If I were to do it again, I’d split the Princesses into batches of two, rather than four, and go from there. I’d probably randomise them, pitting different generations against each other, rather than keeping the eras together in groups. But hey, science is hard, and I got, I think, a C in it at CGSE. So screw it!

The results are genuinely interesting, I think, particularly the popularity of Mulan. Sure she’s a great character, but when we think of the Renaissance period, we generally tend to think of Ariel, Belle, or Jasmine. Mulan’s generally overlooked. But the years have been kind to her, and maybe there’s a good reason for that, as brilliantly articulated by Cat Lester, a PhD student who I follow on Twitter and who has written brilliantly on Frozen.

capture1

 

capture2

 

This makes total sense and the forthcoming live action remake will be fascinating to follow when viewed through the prism of social development since 1998. Mulan, it seems, was ahead of her time and now that the rest of the world has caught up, she’s finally getting the due she deserves.

The other surprise was the early elimination of Anna and Elsa, and this is where my decision-making really falls down. Had I thought about it more clearly, I’d have split the Sisters of Arendelle up, ensuring that the popularity/unpopularity of one didn’t affect judgement of the other. three of the Sisters Switch rightly pointed out that this could have been a major contributing factor.

I wonder what would have happened had I split them up and divided the tournament into several smaller polls? I also wonder what the results would have been had younger kids been voting on it. Rapunzel seems to fly well with teens and early 20-somethings, perhaps because her “when will my life begin” refrain chimes with an age group that’s starting to fly solo itself. They can obviously relate to Elsa too, but ‘Let It Go’ has become such a sing along anthem, and that sparkly gown such a dress-up favourite, that she seems a favourite of the young in a way she simply isn’t with teens and young adults.

Either way, Rapunzel’s progress to the final didn’t surprise me as she’s a great character; indeed, I personally favour her over Mulan, so part of me was pleased to see her take the crown. But, I was quietly willing Mulan on, if I’m honest. Her success was so unexpected and so significant that it felt right that she should win. More than that, it would have put paid to the nonsense that Princesses are all weak, passive waifs who offer nothing to society and are bad role models for young girls.

Alas, it wasn’t to be, but it hardly diminishes the significance of Mulan, or the Princesses as a whole. My poll may have been the least scientifically sound thing in the history of science, but it underlined what I wanted it to underline: that the Princesses are cool, popular, and relevant. Long may they reign.

The Power of the Princesses

If you read Buzzfeed you may have already heard of the story of Brooke Lowery, a woman who ended her engagement and had a photoshoot at Disneyland to help pick herself up again. It’s a lovely story and can be read in full here.

sub-buzz-29683-1474563480-1

There are many more pictures like that at the link I’ve posted, and they’re all equally as nice. Miss Lowery is a vision of loveliness and Disneyland looks astonishing, as it always does. The whole thing has a hint of the old Date Nite At Disneyland events they used to hold in the 50s, and which I kinda wish they’d bring back because, well, just look at it. Those swingin’ cats look gosh-darned adorable, and it’s all so lovely and…

Well, we’re not here to talk about Date Nite at Disneyland. Back to Brooke Lowery, who had this to say about her photoshoot.

“London is my absolute favorite place in the world, but Disneyland, like a fairy tale, is almost like my favorite place outside of this world, and I knew this milestone in my life wouldn’t be complete without incorporating such a magical place.

“These women are kind even when others are not. They are loyal and compassionate, inclusive and accepting, elegant and discerning, dreamers and doers. They look for the best in others, they bring honor to their families, and they work hard and stay true to themselves.”

I love this quote for reasons I’m a little nervous about going into. That’s because, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I really love the Disney Princesses. I love what they stand for, I love their strength in adversity, I love their faith in other people. There’s so much to admire about them, and it genuinely makes me sad that these characters come in for some really nasty criticism.

Now, the nerves about discussing this come from the fact that as a man, I have absolutely no right to dismiss how women react to women on screen. If you watch Disney Princesses and don’t like them, I’m certainly not going to tell you you’re wrong. I’d like to think I’m not that kind of guy. In fact, one of my favourite things is critiques of Disney films (so long as they’re well-considered). However, I will defend Disney Princesses a bit here (and will probably return to the topic in a longer piece somewhere down the line).

That’s because I think Miss Lowery has really struck upon something here. Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White and all the rest – she’s right, they are “kind even when others are not”. They are “loyal and compassionate, inclusive and accepting, elegant and discerning, dreamers and doers” (thank you, thank you, thank you for that last word; too often we overlook how proactive these women are). They are heroes.

I’ve intentionally used that word because as I’ve got older I’ve found myself increasingly tired of superheroes (which I loved when I was younger) and more and more fascinated with Disney Princesses. The likes of Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman all still entertain me, but the nature of their stories all lead one way: the use of superpowers. They have to. Could you imagine a Spider-Man film where he doesn’t web-swing? Or a Superman movie where he doesn’t fly? Superhero films are fantasies that are resolved by fantasy: the use of powers none of us can ever have.

Disney Princess films, however, are fantasies where our heroines win by using powers we all have and we all should use a hell of a lot more: our loyalty, our compassion, and all the other things Miss Lowery mentioned. These are things that are all in our grasp, and Disney Princess films show us worlds that need them and characters that have the courage use them and save the day by using them.

Like I say, I’ll probably come back to this at some point, but in our society, which is so divided and currently being threatened by an orange beachball, Disney Princesses are important role models who people should celebrate much more. It’s great to see stories such as this doing just that.

UNPLANNED EDIT: In The Smiths song I Know It’s Over, Morrissey (as he did often in the 80s, but doesn’t do so much any more) said something incredible smart.

“It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate/It takes guts to be gentle and kind.”

He knew it not, but Morrissey was really singing about Disney Princesses and why they’re awesome.