Friday, May 23, 2014

Belle



Hello Everyone!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an absolute sucker for historical fashion, and anyone who knows me knows that I am even more of a sucker for historical dramas. I have always been in awe at times of the past and even though I have always thought of what it would be like to live in these times, I never really put much deep thought into it. The reason: being completely honest, as a woman of color, my life in those times would not be so glamorous. I would be the one most likely making the fabulous fashions, not wearing them, and I would be serving the aristocratic ladies, not socializing with them. And I did not want to think of such realities.

Well last Saturday, I had the opportunity to see a film that has piqued my interest for quite some time now, called “Belle”. 





I had seen pictures and gifs of the film floating around tumblr for a few months but I did not think I would get to see the film in theatres so soon. Belle tells the story of the real life historical figure Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of an English Royal Navy officer and an enslaved African woman.



Though there is little information about Dido’s life, the filmmakers were inspired by the above painting of her with her white cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray. The film begins with the death of her mother and her father taking the young Dido to live with her aristocratic great uncle Lord Mansfield whom is also bringing up his other niece Elizabeth who is just about Dido’s age.



The girls grow up together, as close as any sisters and Dido is raised as an aristocrat alongside her. Both become beautiful and charming young ladies ready to come out into society. But Dido’s social standing is a rather odd one, being something of an odd in between. Because of her birth and upbringing she is obviously higher than servants and commoners; but because of her interracial background, she is not really considered an equal to Elizabeth (even though Dido’s financial state is better than Elizabeth’s). She starts out the film being very conflicted as to who she really is so her challenge to find a place for herself in this world, find happiness, and maybe even love are some of the biggest conflicts in this film. All the while, Lord Mansfield, as Lord Chief Justice, is deliberating on a great slavery-related case that’s verdict could (and does) have a great impact on the English slave trade.



What first attracted me to this film was the fact that this is the first time that I have encountered a film about an aristocratic woman of color, though I know that they existed in this time. For example, when I was 10 my mother gave me a book about Princess Sarah Forbes Bonetta, an African girl who was the protégée of Queen Victoria, orphaned through tribal warfare, she was rescues by a English captain and presented to the queen as a little girl and the queen would continue to support her for most of her life. But there is still not much info out, but people of color did exist in Europe at that time. 



Also, there were many things in this film that really hit me hard like a dagger. Probably the most heart-wrenching scene for me was, after explaining to her main love interest that she can not dine with her family when guests come because it is not “correct” and how it speaks more about her status than his, she goes to her room and looks in the mirror. In disgust she begins clawing at her dark skin, as if to rip it away from herself, and begins to cry. Thomas mentioned to me how he had seen me do the exact same thing many times before and he is right. A lot of my insecurities come also from my skin color and how for a very long time I felt that if only I were white or lighter in complexion, than maybe I would think better of myself. Actually I still kind of feel that way, but not as much as before. It also does not help that in the Jfashion community, there is really not much love and or support for girls of color, more hate/disdain than anything else. Yes they are there but they are generally not given much thought even if they have amazing style. For a while I tried many different things to make my skin lighter with little results. Finally last year I threw away all of my skin lightening products and finally said “fuck it” because I will always be a girl of color no matter what and the sooner I come to terms with it, the easier it will be to live with who I truly am.



Dido realizes the same thing too. During the film, Dido spends a lot of time with a young lawyer named John Davinier and they fall in love. John respects Dido and see’s her as a person not just a person of color and he opens her eyes to the case of the Zong Massacre that her uncle is deliberating on. She rises from her insecurities to incredible strength and dignity that I can only hope to have at least half of one day.



This is one of my favorite scenes, Dido, having not been around other black girls most of her life meets a servant named Mable, who teaches her how to properly comb her hair. I thought it was a very sweet scene and reminded me of me and my mother for some reason. <3

Of course I loved all the costumes featured in the film, and the romances and the girls’ search for suitors that seemed like something out of Sense and Sensibility (my FAVORITE Jane Austin book!). But for once, that was not my main focus with “Belle”. I left the theater that night wiping a few tears from my eyes. It’s been a while that a film has touched me so deeply, that I felt I could relate to so greatly. I strongly suggest seeing this movie if you are able, while it is still in theaters.

The last few entries have not really been fashion related, I know. But honestly there has not been much to write about lately since I will not be doing any cons this summer besides Otakon. So expect many other entries from me in the coming weeks about other topics too as well as lolita, for the sake of avoiding another hiatus! XD


Monday, May 19, 2014

May 19, 2014



Hello Everyone!

 This time last year, I wrote about Anne Boleyn and introduced readers here to my strong admiration of her, on the anniversary of her execution/murder. I received quite a bit of praise from people on tumblr in my ask box which made me extremely happy. Many people in my daily life really do not understand why I love her so much and why my respect for her is second only to my mother. But I think that is because, in many ways, Anne’s story is still very misunderstood. The fact that there are still idiots out there who believe she had six fingers (even my own history professor!) is proof of this.

But I think the most misunderstood thing about her is that she, somehow, deserved her fate and that she was, at least, somewhat guilty; if not for anything else, destroying the marriage between King Henry VIII and Catherine of Argon. I think for this year’s post about her, I will write more about who she was as a person, and more importantly what I personally think about her downfall. This is just going to be a quick summary more or less and honestly does not do justice to the story of Anne’s life. The pictures included are various screencaps from my favorite Anne Boleyn film “Anne of the A Thousand Days” with Genevieve Bujold playing the title role. Many of these are from Tumblr.



Anne was a young woman when she joined the court of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Argon as a lady in waiting. Before she served in the French court and from there learned many things about fashion, philosophy, and love. She was elegant, intelligent and stylish. Many accounts say that she was not considered beautiful; but then again the standard of beauty at the time was pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, Anne was olive skinned with dark hair and eyes. I think she was probably very beautiful, in her own way, she certainly did NOT have six fingers on one hand!



In any case, Henry had stopped visiting Catherine’s bed long before Anne came around, the poor queen had suffered many miscarriages and her only living child was a girl, Mary (the future Mary I). It was foolishly thought at the time that a woman had neither the wit nor strength to rule on her own and Henry wanted a son to inherit the crown when he died. Henry had asked Anne to be his mistress, just like Anne’s sister had done before her. But Anne steadfastly refused, many times she would leave court to avoid the king’s advances and would send him letters with mixed messages (to straight out refuse the king was unthinkable at the time, which is why some people, myself included, think that Henry’s advances were a form of royal sexual harassment). Finally Henry proposed marriage to Anne and she accepted but still refused to sleep with him and would continue to do so until very shortly before their marriage. 



But he would need the pope to grant him the okay for an annulment of his first marriage first, something that the pope refused to do. Henry was furious and refused to let the pope dictate what he would and would not do. He broke from Rome and the Catholic Church and had the marriage annulled anyway and married Anne in secret when she was carrying his child, presumably a boy.

Alas though, it was a girl! A sweet little redhead that we know now as Elizabeth I! Anne adored her daughter but at the time the gender of the child was a great blow to her father and that, in my opinion, was the start of her ruin, among other things. 



Like I mentioned in last years post, what ultimately bought about Anne’s downfall was the fact that she did not give birth to a son. I honestly do believe that if she did then she would have lived. Henry probably would have found love with another woman because, well he was just a whore like that, lol, but he would not have discarded Anne like he did to Catherine. But there was a lot more going into her downfall then just her misfortune of not having a son.

The fact is that Henry had been contemplating to his advisor, Thomas Cromwell, about getting rid of Anne as early as October 1534. Anne was very outspoken, argumentative at times, and highly opinionated, something that was considered unthinkable for the wife of a man who expected total submission from all those around him. But Anne was not submissive, one of the things I really admire about her. It is ironic because it was Anne’s outspoken nature that was one of the many things that attracted Henry to Anne in the beginning. 



By 1536, Henry had turned his eye to Jane Seymour, the complete polar opposite of Anne. Meek, sweet and obedient. Jane, like Anne, refused to be Henry’s mistress and by this point Catherine was dead so Henry began to think of the possibility of marrying Anne and getting a son off of Jane as Anne had suffered two miscarriages after the birth of Elizabeth and with the most recent one, the fetus was said to have all appearances of being a boy.

To add to it, Anne and Thomas Cromwell, although originally allies, were beginning to butt heads as well. In Henry’s desire to marry Anne he brought down the power of the Catholic Church in England and had began getting rid of the monasteries and taking away vast wealth and riches of the clergy. Anne wanted these riches distributed to educational and charitable causes but Cromwell wanted to fill up the king’s treasury with these riches and take a cut for himself. Recent evidence strongly suggests that Cromwell orchestrated Anne’s downfall and I do believe it to be true.

Either way on May 15th 1536, Anne was put on trial for adultery, incest, and plotting to kill the king; and was found guilty. In the beginning of this post I said that her execution was also a murder, that’s because it’s true. Anne was 100% innocent of the charges against her and basically was killed for no reason at all save for the fact that Henry had tired of her and wanted someone new to put his dick in.



This video here describes much better my thoughts. Her thesis is so dead-on and very impressive.



Take note between 13:39 to 14:14. Preparations for Anne’s downfall had begun BEFORE she was condemned! But what really angers me the most is how some people still view Anne as a harlot. She was not! Was she scheming? Yes. Was she intemperate? Yes. Was she ambitions? Yes. But that is what made her such an amazing woman in my eyes and I believe that the fact that her daughter Elizabeth lived on to become one of England’s greatest monarchs is karma. Henry did eventually marry Jane Seymour afew weeks after Anne’s death and they did have a son, but she died soon after and their son (named Edward) died after only about 5-6 years of being king at the age of 15. 



Another video, this one describing in great detail, what happened during the morning of Anne’s execution.



Little Elizabeth looks on as she hears the cannons signifying the death of her mother, probably not understanding that the direction of her life is now about to change completely.

I feel as though I am rambling now. Before I end this, let me share this beautiful Tudor styled gown from the taobao lolita brand Surface Spell based on gowns from the 2008 film “The Other Boleyn Girl”. 



I honestly don’t think much of that particular film more than the fact that it is sensationalist tripe based on one of Gregory’s books. But it is an extremely rare thing to find a good quality accurate historical costume under $200. I plan to order it very soon for an Anne Boleyn cosplay that I hope to debut this year at Anime USA. In the meantime if you are interested in learning more about Anne, I suggest this site above all others:


This website is run by a woman who is as devoted to Anne as I am if not more. There are a lot of different articles on this website, not just about Anne but about Tudor history in general and the people in her life.

Yours Jasmine