Friday, November 22, 2013

The Disney Princess and the Self Esteem of Young Girls!

Hey everyone, Dana here. Last week, I posted my thoughts about gender segregation placed on toys and other consumables at Toys R Us. If you recall, I briefly touched upon Disney Princesses in the Barbie dolls, but I didn't really go into depth about it. Well, today...I feel my feminism re-emerging again, so it's time to really go into depth on Disney Princesses and how I feel that they ruin the self esteem of young girls. There are two Disney Princesses in particular that do this: Cinderella and Ariel. I'm warning you now, I'm gonna be brutally honest with what I think of these movies, so if you're faint of the heart, kindly close the tab and carry on. Thank you.
Alright, so I feel that the Disney Princess represents the identities of young girls that feel that they have to be attractive in order to be accepted by other people in this society. All of the heroines were portrayed as beautiful, intellectual, and ambitious women, while all of the antagonists were ugly, selfish, and cruel because they were jealous of the heroine’s beauty. This identity is portrayed in Walt Disney’s 1950 film Cinderella: the story of a young woman who lives with her mean-spirited step mother and step sisters.

Let’s talk about the time period this film was released, shall we? The 1950’s was a time that during the Cold War, women were being urged back home with imagery of ideal wives and mothers. Nearly every movie or television show that was either made in the 50's or took place in the 50's portrayed women as housewives or mothers. Look at Pleasantville, Father Knows Best, and The Honeymooners for instance; all of the women are housewives or mothers. Cinderella is no exception and is clearly unhappy about it. To break free from the poor living conditions, she sneaks out of her house to go to a party and falls in love with a handsome prince at first sight. 
The prince reciprocates that love with Cinderella and makes her his Queen solely for her looks, and for his personal gain: to become a king. Wow, selfish much? Since her amplified beauty was given to her by a fairy godmother, Prince Charming fell in love with her solely because of her appearance. He was completely smitten with Cinderella’s beauty and goes out of his way to find the “beautiful woman” with tiny little feet who can fit into the slipper. In other words, Prince Charming fell in love with her because of her looks; he didn’t even know her name or even bother to get to know her name. He did not get to know her personality or her ideal dreams for the future. Are you kidding me? That’s not “true love” or anything remotely close to being called “romantic.” Really, is he in love with Cinderella based on her personality, intellect and ambition, or how she looked at the ball? Which makes me wonder…who is the real Cinderella? The ordinary house servant, or the simulated princess? Is the servant, an identity forced upon her, more real than the woman so perfect her foot fits the glass slipper? Well, ladies and gentleman, it seems that only the perfect girl would fit in the glass slipper and would become the future queen of Prince Charming. In other words, if another woman cannot meet his expectations, i.e. fit the glass slipper, she isn’t good enough for him. That sounds like a great self esteem boost—not. 

You know what? What if Cinderella wanted to be more than just a housewife or a princess when she’s married to Prince Charming? This leads to the conclusion that since the film was made in the 1950’s, that’s all a woman was allowed to do. She couldn’t go outside of her home to get a well paying job because all of those jobs were occupied by men who applied to those jobs long before women were allowed to. But this message is still given to young girls who watch Disney Princess movies today. The 1950's was a completely different time from what we have now in soon-to-be 2014.

 From 1950 to 1989, society changed for women in America and the time period for Disney Princesses also changed. Yes, they have more opportunities than the woman portrayed in Cinderella, but Disney Princess movies still share the concept that a woman must be beautiful and perfect in order find a perfect man to marry. From what I get out of The Little Mermaid, the film encourages a pervasive world view that sees pure evil, not human fallibility, as the chief source of conflict. But you know what? The film fails to realize that Ariel had bad judgment on trusting Ursula’s deal, and chooses to change herself for her own personal gain: to fall in love with a Prince who only loves her for her appearance and singing voice. Selfish acts would not make a woman better than anyone else. Oh, but Ariel is a princess, so she doesn’t suffer consequences in the end, right? Yeah, sure, that sounds fair. So, in 1989, Walt Disney Pictures made The Little Mermaid, the story of a mermaid who must change herself to be accepted by Prince Eric, her future husband. Because Ariel is a mermaid, she can’t marry him unless she and Ursula sign a contract that is clearly reminiscent of a pact with the devil.

Let’s read between the lines here: she isn’t accepted for who she is, so she’s forced to sign a contract with an evil person to change her appearance so Prince Eric can fall in love with her. What the hell kind of love is that? Why can’t Prince Eric see Ariel for who she is as a person? He sees her as a beautiful woman, but nothing more. Not to mention she loses HER VOICE, you know, the thing that you use to state your opinions, give constructive criticism and to back up your beliefs. Unless Ariel digs shallow men like Prince Eric, no woman should ever pursue a guy who will only marry her unless she was beautiful. Also, Ariel is SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. What the hell kind of sixteen year old is already planning on getting married? 
 The message that The Little Mermaid gives is that if you want to get married, you have to be more attractive for your fiancĂ©. From what is perceived in this message, inner beauty doesn’t matter and a young girl doesn’t need to get a job or do anything productive in order to be successful. As long as she’s beautiful, she will have a happily ever after like every damn Disney Princess ever made. So tell me, how does this story affect a young girl’s self esteem? Not every girl in the world is going to become a super model or have a perfect body with flawless skin. With messages that the Disney Princess movies create, a young girl may develop an eating disorder because her first crush said she was ugly. Her dream of finding her “Prince Charming” would be crushed because she wasn’t beautiful like Cinderella and Ariel. So, how can a Disney Princess be a role model for young girls who want to be successful in life? Why should beauty be the only successful trait that young girls have? What about her intellect, ambition, and other productive skills that she may possess? This also ties into my severe distaste for beauty pageants; why are women being subjected to have the "perfect, hour glass shaped body" in order to be classified as "beautiful?" If this is apparently the meaning of success, then I don’t know what success means.

 So how does this tie in to youth culture? Young girls are in love with the idea of falling in love with “the perfect guy,” and expect him to just appear out of thin air. I noticed that in both Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, both Prince Charming and Prince Eric fall in love with Cinderella and Ariel, respectively before knowing their names. They base their “love” solely on appearance and beauty rather than knowing her name, interests, intellect, ambitions and dreams. Prince Charming wants to find the beautiful woman from the ball making each woman try on the glass slipper while Prince Eric tries to figure out who saved his life by listening to a woman’s singing voice. Again, these are just minor traits a woman can have. If I have a young daughter one day, I will not allow her to absorb delusional messages that Disney Princesses give to young girls. Physical beauty and appearances do not make a good role model. 

After viewing these Disney Princess movies, girls should fall in love a person based on personality, intellect and ambition regardless of physical appearance. The most attractive man in the world can be mean, shallow,  dishonest, selfish, pretentious and rude, while the average looking man can be funny, smart, honest, compassionate, romantic and faithful. If he can make her laugh, has good taste in music and treats her as if she's the only woman in the world, I'd give her my potential future daughter(s) my blessing! If it turns out that the ideal personality of a man matches physical beauty, then it looks like that girl is the lucky winner. I will teach my future children a phrase that I was taught when I was a young girl: don’t judge a book by its cover.

Well, there you have it, people. Thank you all so much for reading, and have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dana takes a trip to Toys R Us!

Hey everyone, Dana here. As you can see from last week's blog post, I did an "old v.s new" review of the 2002 Spiderman movie and it's 2012 remake, The Amazing Spiderman. Today, I'm gonna review something completely different than any of the last blog posts I made. It isn't a movie review, it isn't a TV review, and it isn't a music review! That's right people, I'm gonna be discussing youth culture at Toys R Us!
Alright, so yesterday afternoon, my Teen TV class decided that class will take place at a Toys R Us in Rego Park instead of the classroom because last week, we discussed an essay called "Toys R Us" by Ellen Seiter. In that reading, Seiter tells us her findings of what she sees when she goes to Toys R Us. She claims that there's a "wall of pink" or a "strictly girls section" of the store right near the entrance! Seiter even goes people watching too; she observes how mothers are with their children while shopping or browsing for various toys. Since Seiter got to write a long essay about her findings and observations at Toys R Us, I think it would be appropriate to write a blog about my night at Toys R Us!

First and foremost, this Toys R Us was completely different from other Toys R Us stores I've ever been to. This store was in an outdoor mall! All of the other Toys R Us stores I've been to out in Long Island were in gigantic buildings that were far away from other stores. This one was literally to the right of the up escalator.

As soon as I walked in, I was greeted with CANDY. Not your typical "sweets," but "kets!" You know, giant lollipops, Pez dispensers, Double Bubble gum balls, Skittles, all different kinds of confection candy! Also known as, "candy that's marketed towards kids" and not for adults like Ghiradelli brand chocolate, Altoids and Ferrero Rocher.  Kids certainly love their candy, so what's a better way to draw their attention to the entrance of Toys R Us? CANDY! 
There were also seasonal Christmas candy since Christmas is right around the corner. We see candy canes, Santa Claus related items with chocolate inside, those giant candy cane shaped things with Hershey's kisses inside, essentially the usual Christmas candy we used to get when we were little! How ironic, it's not even Thanksgiving yet, and here is a ton of Christmas stuff thrown at us as soon as we walk in the door. Retail at it's finest, ladies and gentleman! Gotta love it, right?
Well, it looks like both seasonal and non-seasonal candy "greets" the shoppers and the consumers. Honestly, that's a pretty smart idea. That kind of set up attracts not only the shoppers, but their kids as well!

Aside of the candy greeting the shoppers, a "wall of pink" also shot at me as well. Right above the girls' section is a giant pink and white banner that's like a halo. So many doll houses, kitchen play sets, baby dolls, and at least fifty different kinds of Barbies! Holy crap, the variety of Barbie dolls was absolutely unbelievable. Back when I was a little girl, there were only the typical blonde princess Barbies or a Barbie dressed as a nurse. Now we have Twilight Barbies, Disney Princess Barbies, Hannah Montana Barbies, etc. But I noticed a couple of interesting things while looking at the labels and packaging of these pink boxes. When you get a doll for a little girl, there are images of young girls playing with the doll that is contained inside the package.  

Aside from the pictures of the little girls playing with the baby dolls and The Little Mermaid toy instruments, there's a rare chance that a boy would be featured on a toy that's marketed towards girls.
Well would you look at that?! A boy is shown on a toy-kitchen box that normally girls would play with! And surprisingly here, a girl is shown on an Exploderz box, right next to one that has a boy on it. And a girl is portrayed on Nerf gun box; wow. What I really liked about this store is that the girls section and the boys section were right next to each other, if not in the same aisle as each other. Other stores I've been to had the girls section on one side of the store, and the boys section would be on the complete opposite side of the store. No wonder there were so many temper tantrums in the other store! (Maybe one or two were crying last night.) They wanted to go to the other side of the store because they felt trapped being in a section that they don't belong to. But with this store, boy toys and girl toys were right next to each other!

It looks like toys aren't gender segregated anymore! Hallelujah, girls aren't only portrayed on packages of easy-bake ovens and baby dolls! And boys are shown playing with girls that are having fun using their play kitchen sets! I mean, really,look at that girl shooting hoops with the little boy. I remember when I was little, only boys were playing outside playing basketball or shooting at each other with Nerf guns while the girls were inside playing with their Barbies and playing house with their easy-bake ovens and play-kitchen set! I sure am glad that there are changes being made in the toy marketing industry. I really don't think there should be any gender segregation in the toy market. If candy displayed at the front of the store isn't gender segregated, neither should toys. 

Call me weird or crazy, but I think there is nothing wrong with a girl playing with toys that are marketed for boys and I certainly don't think there is anything wrong with a boy that plays with toys that are marketed for girls. 

When I was a little girl, I had no interest playing with Barbies, easy-bake ovens and kitchen sets. If I wasn't outside playing Manhunt, Capture The Flag and street hockey with the boys on the block, I was inside with my older brother playing Sonic The Hedgehog on Sega Genesis or playing with super hero action figures like Batman, Spiderman and the X-Men.
I will end this blog with one last long as kids are happy, getting along, and not fighting with each other, gender shouldn't be placed on toys.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Old vs. New: Spiderman

Hey everyone, Dana here. First, let me apologize for the lack of blog posts. Due to writer's block, I didn't make a blog post for the past three weeks. But if you caught my last post three weeks ago, I did a review of Joan Jett's new album, Unvarnished. Tonight, I'm gonna do something a little different. Yes, this is gonna be another movie review, but it's gonna be an old vs. remake movie review. Who would have thought that a ten year difference can make a movie so different, yet so similar at the same time. Without further-ado, let's dive into the 2002 movie Spiderman, and the 2012 movie The Amazing Spiderman!

So, I'm gonna break this review down into pieces. I'm gonna compare and contrast the two categories of each segment...and which ever I like better gets a point. By the end of the review, I will have decision about which version I liked better.

Let's start with this one...
Who is the better Peter Parker? Tobey Macguire or Andrew Garfield?
Let's take a look at the original version first. During the first scene of the 2002 Spiderman movie, we see Peter Parker running after the school bus as everyone laughs at him and makes fun of him for trying to run after the bus. Even when he gets on the bus, no one allows him to sit next to them. It was essentially a complete carbon copy of the bus scene from Forrest Gump! The only difference was that Peter never ended up sitting next to his love interest. His potential love interest just glanced at him and then never gave him the light of day until later on. In this version, Peter Parker is a victim of bullying from essentially everyone in the school except for his only friend, Harry Osborn. Everyone makes fun of him for being such a dork! He's a scrawny, socially inept, nerdy guy with black-rimmed glasses who is fascinated with the sciences and is not afraid to flaunt it. He's also very sensitive, but very clumsy before he inherits his spider-powers. This is the kind of character anyone can relate to; especially if you're a loner or if people call you a "dork" or a "nerd." Tobey Macguire clearly portrayed the comic book version of Spiderman in this movie. If you were to put a name/face to a definition of the word dork, Tobey Macguire's interpretation of Peter Parker is spot on. No questions asked. 

In The Amazing Spiderman, with the exception of Flash Thompson, his peers think he's a decent guy and like that he's a photographer.  In the  first film, girls would scoff if he's seen with his camera. Meanwhile in this version, girls would come up to him and compliment his photography. He even has a skateboard! Since when does a dorky, clumsy guy like Peter Parker have the balance and grace to know how to skateboard? So yeah, right off the bat, Andrew Garfield's interpretation of Peter Parker doesn't hold true to the original comics. Also, the only reason why he gets physically beaten up by Flash is because he tried defending someone else who was getting bullied. From there, Gwen Stacy immediately takes an interest in him. Meanwhile, in the 2002 version, Peter Parker does everything in his power just to get Mary Jane to even have a conversation with him! Peter Parker is known to have bad luck with women. Needless to say, Tobey MacGuire clearly did a better job portraying Peter Parker over Andrew Garfield.
As of now, the older version takes the lead.

Old: 1
New: 0

Now, let's take a look at this one.
Who is the better Spiderman? Tobey Macguire or Andrew Garfield?
When Peter Parker wakes up the next morning to discover his spider powers in the original 2002 Spiderman movie, he's amazed that his vision significantly improved, became more muscular, has more stamina and is no longer clumsy. In essence, he became a total stud over night and takes it in stride. With the exception of the confrontation with Flash Thompson, Peter really doesn't have any problems controlling his new powers. He even beats Flash Thompson in a fight and from that moment on, the bullying comes to an end. Afterwards, he catches on quite easily. Even though things tend to look up for him in the story, I wasn't too thrilled with him as the role of Spiderman. He's too busy being "Mr. Good" and doesn't have any funny or well known one liners that made me chuckle. He kind of irritated me as Spiderman in a way. Spiderman is supposed to be Peter Parker's alter-ego; a funny, good looking dude. In this, not so much. 

Meanwhile in the remake, Peter's new spider powers cause a ridiculous amount of commotion and ends up fighting the other passengers in the subway. He had no intention of causing any problems to anyone but ends up making things worse because he literally couldn't take his hand off of that woman's shirt since his hand was stuck. The confrontation with Flash Thompson is also different. There is no fight at all; Peter challenges Flash to take the basketball from him and is essentially trolls him! "Come on Flash, take it." With that, the roles are reversed; Flash is the victim and Peter becomes the bully! After discovering his new powers, he hand makes web shooters instead of them magically appearing from his wrists like in the original 2002 movie. When Spiderman catches his first criminal, he's cracking one liners at them, makes fun of them while webbing him to the wall. I legitimately laughed at some of the things Andrew Garfield said while in the new, flashy Spiderman suit. In the comics, Spiderman was known to piss off his victims  by not only catching them in the act, but also taunting them and making them feel even more stupid. THAT, ladies and gentleman, is Spiderman! So, even though I prefered Tobey Macguire as Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield is a much better Spiderman.
Looks like we have a tie going on now.

Old: 1
New: 1 

Now, let's take a look at the story itself...this will be the tie breaker.

With the 2002 movie, Peter lives with his elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Since he's constantly bullied and ridiculed for being so geeky, there's a darker, sadder tone with this film. When he has a fight with Uncle Ben, he blurts out "then stop pretending to be" after Uncle Ben acknowledges that he's not Peter's father. And those are the last words Peter ever says to Uncle Ben before he dies. Ouch, that's heavy. When he gets cheated out of winning money from the wrestling tournament, he deliberately lets the thief rob the promoter; repeating the words "It's not my problem" to him.  Unfortunately, revenge on the promoter who cheated him out of winning money was the worst decision he ever made; that thief murdered Uncle Ben. Not only did Peter lie to his aunt and uncle about where he's going, but he could have stopped that thief from murdering Uncle Ben.
That, ladies and gentleman, is heart-wrenching story telling. From that moment on, we see Peter as Spiderman; avenging Uncle Ben's death and making sure no one ever has to feel the pain that he had to deal with for the rest of his life. The main antagonist of this film is The Green Goblin, who just happens to be his best friend's father, Norman Osborn. So not only did Peter lie about his identity to his best friend, but he killed his best friend's father.
This is a very heavy movie. Heavy acting, heavy dialogue, heavy storyline. Job well done.

With The Amazing Spiderman, I sensed that the tone was much lighter; more comic relief, and a storyline that isn't as deep. The story is essentially about a guy who who grows up looking for his parents but ends up finding himself. I noticed that this film was more about Peter Parker's back story instead of Spiderman himself. With that kind of storyline, this movie was extremely dragged out. I mean, the appearance of Spiderman didn't come into the movie until roughly one hour in. When I see a Spiderman movie, I expect to see more Spiderman than Peter Parker. Which is exactly why I'm not too big on the Chris Nolan Batman movies; I saw more Bruce Wayne than Batman. I also felt Uncle Ben's death wasn't as heartbreaking as this one. Peter got into a fight with Uncle Ben because he forgot to walk Aunt May home from work. Then when he goes to the convinence store to get a bottle of milk, he couldn't pay the last two cents he didn't have. Because of that, the cashier refuses the sale.
Alright, I call bull on that. I work at CVS. I work retail. If some kid wants to get something and he's short a cent or two, I give the guy a break. Two cents isn't gonna get me fired. The next guy in line robs the store after pushing stuff off the counter and takes money from the register while the cashier's back is turned. After the thief runs off, he trips and drops the gun with Uncle Ben in clear sight. Uncle Ben is shot and killed, solely because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, he was looking for Peter, but the fact that Ben's death was caused by the lack of two cents is less believable than getting cheated out of prize money from a wrestling tournament. Also, there were people around when Ben got shot; where the hell did everybody go when Peter found him? I don't know, as much as I prefered the lighter tone in this film, I have to say that the 2002 Spiderman was much better than the remake. I think ten years is a little too soon to release a remake of a movie. Take a look at True Grit and The Karate Kid for instance. Those two remakes were released 41 and 26 years, respectively, after the first two movies were released for the first time.

Old: 2
New: 1

I must say, even though I prefer the original over the remake, The Amazing Spiderman was not a terrible movie. All movies have flaws, but I just feel ten years is just too soon to remake a movie. If a Spiderman movie had Tobey Macguire play Peter Parker and Andrew Garfield played Spiderman, that would be awesome. I just want to thank you again for taking the time to read my blog posts. Have a great weekend, everyone.