Sunday, June 11, 2017

The White Princess Roundup





I have been struggling with the idea of writing this for almost two months now, almost to the point that I was glad when my computer broke in early May and I had a little more time to gather my thoughts on many things. The White Princess ended up being everything I thought it would be and in some ways worse. But what made it more significant to me is that it’s airing has coincided with a growing shift in my world view. Well not exactly, my world views has been making this shift for a very long time now but I am only now beginning to very slowly develop the confidence to be more open about them.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

At its core, The White Princess was bad, very bad. The writing was bad, none of the characters were likable save for Maggie Pole and the whole plot was as far removed from historical accuracy as Baltimore is from Christchurch.

I wish I could just say that the series was shit and leave it at that but I can’t because of the two really important things. One is the fact that these were real people and their stories are being further and further tarnished by populist historical sentiments and writers who think juicing up history will make it more interesting. And two, and probably most important, the implications that The White Princess was somehow a feminist show and that the female characters, through their (frankly) fucked up actions are somehow empowered.

Before beginning to write this in earnest I came across thisawesome article that I feel sums up my feelings on the current state of populist women’s history perfect ally. There is a quote in the beginning of the film Braveheart that I really like: “History is often written by those who have hanged heroes”. And it is true. Too often the stories of women have been overlooked, ignored, and even rewritten at the behest of the agenda of those who do not want their truths known. Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, Empress Dowager Cixi. These women continue to be much maligned in the study of history as well as in some media. Sometimes I also wonder how kindly or cruelly posterity will know Hillary Clinton.

But at the same time, we women have a responsibility to understand and acknowledge that in the past, for a woman to be strong and to have her own agency independent of a man was a difficult feat to pull off. Not impossible but difficult, and more often than not they did not or could not have it. Are we really any better than the men who try to silence these women through history if all we do is just undermine them in another way by disregarding their truths for the sake of some sort of feminist agenda? Many of my fellow Anne Boleyn fans talk a lot of shit about Jane Seymour for her meekness and submissive nature in comparison to Anne. I have no opinions on her bad or otherwise but I feel like it’s unfair to malign Jane for doing what, at the end of the day, kept her neck off of the block.

Dominated by men legally and judged by a backward and misogynistic church, society was harsh on women back then. Yes, there was strength in all of these women, but that strength had to be channeled to work for these women in the circumstances they faced. I’ve said it once and I will say it once more: history has no safe spaces. If you have an issue with the fact that many of these women were in one way or another victims of their times, then don’t study history. Go back to your safe space and return to the big girl classroom once you have earned your big girl panties.



You women are not empowered, you are just horrible.


Which brings me back to The White Princess. There was nothing empowering about it in the slightest and the very idea is not only asinine but dangerous. Nowhere else does this come off more clear than in the rape/incest subplot of episode one.

First off, how the damn hell is Lizzie being in a previous incestuous relationship with Richard III empowering to her? Not only would it be fucking stupid (because of the legal ramifications) but it also diminishes any potential sympathy I can have for her when Henry and his horrible mother constantly slut shame her. Also, why does it seem like the only way to empower a female character is through making her sexually aggressive? There are other ways to give a female character agency but I guess those would not be interesting or sexy for a premium cable television show. I won’t even get into how this also completely sacrifices her own real agency that she had in real life because, well I’ve already written a whole post about that.

And second, I want all those reading this to understand something: despite what some bullshit feminist writers would have you believe, what happened between Henry and Lizzie was RAPE! Plain and simple, it was not an empowering moment; no it was not a moment of reclaimed agency for Lizzie. IT WAS RAPE! The fact that she knew it was going to happen or made a few jabs at Henry does not take away the fact that it was still rape and she was clearly hurt and humiliated by the encounter. And do you want to know a little secret? The kind of rape displayed in The White Princess is actually a lot more common in real life than the more violent screaming rape seen in Outlander or Game of Thrones. Do you think the survivors of those attacks feel empowered? How far gone must feminism be if we must now equate a fucking rape scene as empowering or somehow feminist? FUCKING HOW?!

With that said, while Henry and Lizzie did eventually come to love each other as the show progressed, I frankly could not get that scene and his previous treating her like shit out of my head. And I really did want to believe in their love, but I just could not reconcile in my mind the idea that first Lizzie was in love with her uncle (who in real life may or may not have ordered the murder of her brothers) and then fell in love with her rapist. It made the episodes after that very jarring.

None of this was made any more bearable where the other characters were concerned. The only other characters that I managed to take a liking to in the show were Elizabeth Woodville and Maggie Pole, the latter in particular. For a show that made such a fuss about how empowering it was, Maggie was literally the only character that I saw that was empowered and naturally grew to have her own sense of agency. She begins the show as a frightened little girl very much at the mercy of the new king and always in the control of others. She becomes a child bride (though her husband is decent enough not to commit marital rape right off the bat), and struggles constantly with whether to be loyal to her brother and her house, or to her husband and to Lizzie. By the end of the show, broken by the injustices dealt to her brother, she has grown from being submissive and scared and comes into her own. Maggie’s sense of empowerment is the only one that comes off as natural and not the result of being cruel or manipulative like most of the other characters in this damn show.

Probably the person who received the most violent character assassination was Margret Beaufort. One of the few good things that has resulted from me watching The White Princess is that it has further piqued my interest in learning more about who Margret was truly and not the fanatical demon cunt shown in this show. Considering that my love for Anne Boleyn began with me reading a terrible populist pandering teen novel, I can’t be too upset at that. But it is quite frustrating to see that Margret’s legacy may very well be going down the same path that Anne Boleyn’s went for so long. Again, I guess her natural agency, her intelligence, her piety and charity, were not juicy enough for Philippa Gregory or Emma Frost. Clearly only through manipulative scheming, murder, and ordering her son to rape someone, can she be empowered.

I am almost to the point with my disdain for this show that I am being hyperbolic. So, to wrap this up, I did not like this show at all. Maybe if these were not real people I could maybe like it a little more, but that is not the case. I have heard rumors that this show may be picked up for a second season. Considering how the books go from this point I don’t know how they will manage to do a season two without further assassinating these characters all the more. But either way, I do not plan to watch it even if it does occur. I am just so tired. Tired of history being butchered like this. Tired of these women being demonized and sacrificed for populist historical agenda. Tired of their truths being undermined for feminist agenda because some women can’t stomach the realities of what history truly was. And if this show is an indication of what history and feminism in the media has become, well, for someone like me who loves history, who at one point considered herself a true feminist, this is just frustrating and heartbreaking.




Elizabeth of York, Henry VII, on behalf of all those who love and devote themselves to the study of history, I am sorry.

Yours Jasmine

Feminist Folly ~ Beauty and the Buzzwords




Hello Everyone!

So, I know it’s been a while and for that I apologize. I’ve been going through an immense amount of personal and mental growth in the months since my last blog post, and I recently had a very shocking experience (I am safe, but it was a bit unnerving in the moment), that prompted me to not want to write for a while. I had planned for another post before this one; a review of The White Princess as well as an analysis of how this show is an example of the impending death of feminism in my opinion. But because that one is taking so much emotional energy out of me, I decided to write this one before finishing that one. Also, this post was long coming before I even saw The White Princess but as I will explain in my next post, when I have opinions that can be considered conflicting to the majority, I like to keep them quiet until I have them validated by someone I consider smarter than me. There is a reason for this but like I said I will explain it in my next post.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 Anyone who knows me knows I love Disney movies, especially the Disney Princess movies. I love all things Disney Princess, there is no doubt about it and if there is one thing that irritates me really quickly, it is criticism of the franchise. Let me rephrase that - stupid and non-constructive criticisms of it. I can understand where some criticisms of the Disney Princess franchise come from, but honestly most of it at the end of the day seems so disingenuous to me, and too often misses the point of things. Which brings me to 2017 Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie, and one of my favorite animated movies of all time. One of the things that really makes the movie so wonderful to me is the character of Belle. I adored Belle growing up and still love her. I see so much of myself in Belle. She is such a lovely character. In many ways, she was my role model. So initially I was thrilled with the idea of a live action remake of Beauty and the Beast, because it would expose a whole new generation of little girls to this wonderful story and her wonderful character. And boy was I disappointed.

The film itself is extremely underwhelming, more or less a line for line remake of the 1991 film, but with a lot less emotion in my opinion. Some of the changes I liked – I liked the backstories they gave to the Beast and the Enchantress, but that’s about it. Most significantly, I was not buying Emma Watson as Belle. She just seemed so bland at times, and her singing was less than stellar to my ears. I could not see Belle, all I saw was Emma Watson cosplaying as Belle. I think another actress would have been better suited for the role, maybe Elle Fanning or even Emmy Rossum (maybe not her since she’s like 30 but her singing is beautiful!) AND THAT AWFUL CHEAP LOOKING YELLOW DRESS! After seeing the 2015 remake of Cinderella, and falling in love with her magnificent blue gown, I was really looking forward to what Disney would design for the new version of Belle, and on that front again I was disappointed. I feel like what I wore to prom was more ornate. I had other issues with the dress but I will get to THAT in a moment.

Honestly though, I am such a fan of Beauty and the Beast, I probably could have overlooked all of these things. There were things about 2015 Cinderella that I also did not like but probably could have overlooked too, and I almost did, were it not for one glaring thing that I cannot just ignore any longer: the need to somehow make the new Disney Princess remakes “feminist”. I saw some of this in the remake of Cinderella, but it seemed very obvious and blatant in Beauty and the Beast. Emma Watson really held nothing back in her opinion that Belle should be turned into a more “feminist friendly” character, but this all seemed to happen at the sacrifice of what made Belle such a remarkable character. (Now before I continue, let me confess that I do not like Emma Watson. I can’t hate her because I don’t know her, but I have a feeling I would if I did. She comes off as an entitled, spoiled brat and is in my mind a shining example of the hypocritical, oblivious, smug and often self-serving pretentiousness that has poisoned feminism in recent years.) 

This became more and more clear in the weeks and months leading up to the release of Beauty and the Beast. It seemed like Emma had issue with every aspect of the role, from her dress to her demeanor. But there was one thing that Emma Watson seemed to overlook in her pretentious and self-righteous quest to make a more “feminist” Disney Princess. Do you want to know what that thing is? 




BELLE WAS ALREADY AN EMPOWERED FEMINIST CHARACTER!!!




And this is where I get angry and somewhat fan-girly, so forgive me. But seriously this is another huge issue I have with modern feminism. My mother once said that “one must have the right tools to get the job done”. It seems like there is a complete lack of understanding (or even contempt) by modern feminist for the power of being subtle. Belle didn’t need to be some kind of cocky misandrist who held her ovaries up in triumph against the patriarchy to have her own sense of dignity and agency that, to someone who actually understands the power of being subtle, translated into being a feminist character in her own right without having to state it for all to hear.

 Belle did not, in Miss Watson’s own words “fall into the cliché of the subservient princess”. Not in the slightest. Belle had her own mind, spoke for herself and stayed true to her heart. Though a dreamer with some hints of romantic sensibilities, Belle’s main interest was books, and through books exploring and learning about the bigger world outside her tiny little village. The villagers thought her odd for the very traits that were feminist in her and in contrast to the blond bimbos who fawned over Gaston’s hyper-masculine swaggering, Belle saw him for the “positively primeval” loser he was, and instead wished for someone who understood her and loved her for who she truly was. And contrary to the number one complaint that many feminists (including Miss Watson) have about the original, Belle did NOT have Stockholm Syndrome. She was more than ready to haul ass out of the castle after the Beast showed a more vicious side, but her compassion for the Beast began from the fact that he saved her from certain death at the paws of wolves. Even then she did not begin to come around to him until after he stopped being such a moody asshole. In my mind, Belle truly was at the time of her release the most feminist of the Disney Princess; a true feminist, not this bullshit perversion of feminism that we see today.

I think I’ve made it quite clear how much I despise what feminism has become. It has gotten to the point that me and my similarly-minded friends have begun to use the “Alt Feminism” because actual, well-meaning feminism has been so thoroughly poisoned by people like Emma Watson, Lena Dunham and the like that for it to survive it must completely separate from what feminism is now and start anew. And over the last few months my anger at feminism has only grown but in many ways Beauty and the Beast was my breaking point. Growing up in Baltimore (which can at times seem as small as a 19th century provincial French village despite being a city) around a lot of people who thought I was weird for the things I liked and not having many friends, Belle was the type of young woman I wanted to become. Belle was the outcast and in some ways so was the Beast, and they found solace and love and happiness with each other. Belle didn’t have to change to get her prince, quite the other way around – who she was changed him and made him want to be the best person he could be, and that is how it should be.

 This is what made Belle stand out and what made her so beautiful and inspiring to me. To have her character get hijacked so shamelessly and unnecessarily for some kind of feminist agenda is just galling to me. It makes me want to throw up and cry. And just like with the backlash and controversies that revolved around 2016 all-female lead remake of Ghostbusters, I fear that Beauty and the Beast will inevitably go down as a pawn in the asinine game of gender politics. I can only hope that the legacy of the 1991 film will overpower this agenda.

I have heard that the next live action princess movie Disney is planning for is Mulan. That could be quite interesting but I must now tread carefully in my excitement of it. Now I doubt anyone from Disney will read this but I have to say it: the Disney Princess franchise is not inherently a feminist franchise. Yes some of the characters like Tiana, Belle and Mulan have feminist traits. But they are incidental. They are first and foremost great and empowering characters in their own right. And you know what? That’s okay. I don’t like the idea of changing an original story around in order to suit some sort of political agenda, especially when it already did in it’s own unique (i.e. subtle) way.

What I hope for the live action remake of Mulan is this: that they find a new and exciting ways to bring the story of this compelling maiden to the life without needing to sacrifice her own natural agency and put in it’s place artificial pandering at the behest of new articles for Buzzfeed about how Mulan is now oh so feminist when she already was.

And please, please PLEEEEAAASSE cast Fan Bingbing in the role of Mulan!

Yours Jasmine 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Feminist Folly ~ What’s Wrong with The White Princess


Hello Everyone!

Oh Lord, this is going to be a long one; so much so that I fear I won’t be able to fully make my point in one post. This post has been long and coming, since 2014 honestly. And as the years have gone by I have added more to this rant and put off this post more and more. Honestly I’m glad I put it off for so long, with The White Princess premiering on Starz in a little more than 2 months from now it is time to set my feelings (more like annoyance) free on my blog. About fucking time!

Just a little background for those who are not aware: The White Princess is a continuation of The White Queen, a series that was on BBC and Starz in 2013 based on the book by Philippa Gregory of the same name. At the time of it’s premiere I will admit I was a little excited because Tudor and Plantagenet history is rarely shown in TV and with Downtown Abbey between seasons and The Tudors no longer on TV I was kind of starved for any sort of historical drama. But by the end I was just disgusted with everything about it. Between the added soft core porn, (the BBC version had less sex and nudity but everyone knows that the only way to make history interesting to Americans is to slut it up, RIGHT? AM I RIGHT?!) to the cringey (AND INACCURATE!!) incest scene between Princess Elizabeth and her FUCKING UNCLE Richard III, this show was just a train wreck.

I guess I was not the only one to think so because BBC decided not to make a sequel based on the book The White Princess. Instead Starz decided “you know what? Fuck it, let’s make a series based on The White Princess ourselves without BBC! WITHOUT EVEN THE ORIGINAL CAST!”. And that is just what they did. In some ways The White Princess is actually a worse book than The White Queen and just as inaccurate to history in a most insulting way. But I will get to that soon. 

    


Considering how far they went to make the promotional poster look almost identical to the one for The White Queen, you would think they would put more of an effort to get the original cast. Guess they could not be bothered with this tripe no more than I can. XD


Anyone who knows me well knows how crazy I am about British History, especially Tudor and Plantagenet history. As such anyone who knows me well also knows that I fucking hate the author Philippa Gregory with passion that burns with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. Well, I don’t hate her personally since I don’t know her; but I hate her writing and I hate all that she stands for. The main thing that pisses me off about her (other than the fact that the book that made her famous is basically a slightly twisted ripoff of Wuthering Heights) is her “claim” to speak for history when her writing adds up to being on par with bad e-harlequin novels at best. It seems like she cannot write a book without including incest, rape and female backstabbing under the guise of “feminism”.

What really sealed my hatred for her was her book The Other Boleyn Girl which depicts Anne as a conniving manipulative bitch with no redeeming traits outside of being raped by King Henry VIII and who was willing to fuck her own brother in order to produce a son for the king (a grossly false allegation that sent Anne to her death). There are a lot of reasons why Anne Boleyn is till so reviled even in our times (some of which I’ll write about in my yearly May 19th post later this year) but I hold Philippa Gregory partially responsible for this because of her writing and because the average reader is too lazy to do a little research most people believe it and think such things really happened!

Which brings me to The White Princess, which chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth of York at the conclusion of the Wars of the Roses when she is made to marry the new king of England Henry VII after he kills her uncle Richard III and takes the crown by conquest. Now history tells us that despite not having much political power or influence and not being made Queen Regent in her own right,  Elizabeth and Henry’s marriage was a rather happy one. She birthed many children, including the all important male heir as well as a future Queen of Scotland and Queen of France.

She seems to have been a beloved queen and a loving mother; when she died in childbirth (514 years ago this day) her husband genuinely mourned her death and would not remarry. If you are interested, I highly recommend watching the 1972 drama “The Shadow of the Tower” which shows the affection between Elizabeth and Henry quite well. They were not in love at first of course and a little of their famed love could be easily written off as Tudor propaganda, but over many years they did grow to love each other. I believe that.


A small selection of Elizabeth’s scenes in The Shadow of the Tower. While I’m not much of a fan of how they made Elizabeth a bit headstrong and haughty, it’s still a good representation and much better than how her treatment in The White Princess will be.


In The (fucking) White Princess Elizabeth is in love with her uncle Richard and commits incest with him at least once before he is killed and hopes to marry him and become his queen. Henry then rapes Elizabeth and decides to put off their wedding to be sure she is not pregnant by Richard. He proceed to treat her like shit throughout the book and is under the nose of his psycho mother (do not even get me STARTED on her bad treatment in this tripe novel) and all the while Elizabeth continues to dream about her uncle (whom may I remind you took the crown away from her brothers and her, locked her brothers away in the Tower and is the reason why Henry Tudor invaded in the first fucking place). It’s not a very fun read honestly and a real insult to the history of these people.




 The trailer 

But here is the thing; I don’t want to talk about all that. Oversexualization in premium cable dramas is not a new thing, nor is oversexualizing history to make it more palatable to the average stupid viewer who is too ashamed to look up some actual porn and  neither is the over use of rape as a plot point (just look at what HBO did to Game of Thrones!) It’s all disturbing and unnecessary but sadly it’s still there. I want to talk about the asinine way that the producers seem to be changing the series from the novel to make it more interesting and the even more asinine  idea that this somehow will make this a feminist friendly show.

I understand that the term “feminist” has been more or less reduced to a buzzword, almost a derogatory term and no one can seem to understand what it originally meant or people use it and change it’s meaning to suit their needs whenever they can. The general idea is that anything that advocates for female superiority over men and or has a strong representation of women to the point that all men are evil or inept (I’m looking at you 2016 Ghostbusters) is what is considered feminist. Personally I think that is ludicrous and gives actual feminism a bad name. Honestly I have little hope of feminism ever being seen as anything but a joke now because of such ideas.

Based on the little shown in the trailer and based on articles I’ve read about the series, that seems to be the route they are taking with it and if I were to be completely honest, I’d have more respect for the show and it’s production staff if they just stuck to the book. Totally twisting around not only history but the book to make Elizabeth of York this feisty bitchy warrior queen (she even strikes Henry in the trailer and I feel like this is when the rape scene will happen) and making the whole story of these women about backstabbing and political turmoil is not only grossly inaccurate but also an insult to Elizabeth’s own feminine agency.




“I’m stronger than I look! I’m a badass warrior who don’t need no man!”


Feminism is not only about feminine triumph over the obstacles of a misogynistic society and simply being strong or “badass” does not make for a good female character. This is one of the reasons I did not much like the 2015 version of Cinderella and absolutely reviled the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters. Female superiority should never be what feminism is, what it should be is respecting and celebrating all women no matter what they what or how they are. The cold fact of the matter is that female subservience to men is a big part of women’s roles in history, it sucks of course but that is just how it is. History has no safe spaces.

Were there badass women in history? Of course, but for every Isabella of France or Anne Boleyn there were at least three Elizabeth’s of York. But that does not mean we should look down on Elizabeth as uninteresting or so bland that she must be made “strong” to be relatable. One article I read even stated that the changing of Elizabeth’s character from passive to badass was actually a good thing. Ugh!

No she was not as ambitious as her mother or mother-in-law Margret Beaufort but do you know what Elizabeth was? Elizabeth of York was a loving mother who taught her younger children to read and write as opposed to sending them to tutors. Elizabeth of York was a peacemaker whom bought end to a war with her marriage. Elizabeth of York was the Mother of the Tudor Dynasty and gave name to the greatest of their monarchs: Elizabeth I. Elizabeth was a kind and generous woman and was so loved by her husband that he never remarried after her death and fell into deep depression (it is generally agreed that this is when most of the corruption of his reign began).



A contemporary illuminated manuscript done around the time of Elizabeth’s death. The king looks very sad and his daughters can be seen in the background wearing black mourning hoods. The little prince Henry can be seen weeping on his mother’s bed.


That was her agency. That may not seem like much compared to other historical women but I feel like demeaning the more traditional aspects of womanhood in the name of having strength is one of the greatest follies of 21st century feminism. Many women willingly choose such roles for themselves and happily find fulfillment in them. Be it mother or warrior, neither role is superior to the other.

But that is the exact type of bullshit pumpkin spiced “pussy grabs back” “feminazi” pandering that this show is gearing up to be. At best it will probably be more like a 15th century version of the 80s show Dynasty with lots of bodice ripping and female backstabbing for good measure. If that’s what you like than fine, but its not feminist. And calling it such is not only stupid but just makes it more difficult for the world to take seriously actual feminists. Doesn’t feminism and historical fact have enough issues without Philippa Gregory and Starz making our plight all the more difficult? I look forward to watching it online when it’s made available if only to laugh at it’s absurdity and inwardly weep as another one bites the dust.


Yours Jasmine