Sunday, June 11, 2017

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? 


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 

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