Friday, July 11, 2014

Where are the Disney MEN?

I apologize once again for my long absences, voracious readers. Sometimes time gets away from me, and I find that suddenly it's been months since ____. Lately there's also been lots of distracting things going on in real life, so even when I do think of exciting things I want to post about, I end up just stashing them in my juicy brain storage places, and there they molder sometimes. Like my post on the dreaded "Friendzone" and some surrounding issues, or my post on The Feminine Mystique and its relevance to my generation. (Both of which I still fully intend to write.)

Either way, I thought today I would write about the thought that struck me the other day, which was this:
Where are all the Disney men?

Disney is my childhood, and as a feminist, I've spent way too much time thinking about Disney, their princesses/other female protagonists, and how it relates to the way that women are treated and perceived by our culture. But the other day, someone posted on Facebook (my blogs come from this way too often lately), yet another of the squijillion covers of "Let It Go" from Frozen.

Even if you've never seen this movie and know literally nothing about it, you know every word to that song, and it fills you with fury.
Which is absurd, because the best songs in the entire movie are OBVIOUSLY
"Reindeer Are Better Than People," and "No Heat Experience."

This cover, though, was a genderbend. For those of you who live in a hole, this means that they changed the characters sex to the opposite one, in this case being a male Elsa prince thing with generic vocals to make the radio rock world proud.

But this got me thinking. Where are all the really good male Disney leads?? The actual men that we want to see portrayed as a positive representation of what men are like, or are supposed to be like (as in the case of all the princesses). I wracked my brains while washing dishes at work that day, and all I could come up with was Tarzan and Aladdin. And maybe Jim Hawkins. Is Treasure Planet Disney? I doubt it, but I love that movie.

Yes, I suppose you could argue that there's also Peter Pan and Pinocchio, but Peter is a gigantic prick and Pinochio is irrelevant to everyone. Honest John and his cat sidekick are the best part of that entire movie. 

Someday, I'll have a friend to dress up like this with me.

One of the things that struck me was that all of the male characters that immediately jumped to my mind for awesome, sympathetic, admirable, animated men were almost exclusively non-Disney, like Cale from Titan AE, or Dimitri from Anastasia (I'm sure it's a total coincidence that they also have almost the exact same character design.)

My point here--as I frolic gleefully away from it--is that we have this ridiculous double standard presented, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone question it. No one is upset that Prince Charming has even less personality than Cinderella, the most saintly, plain-whitebread-toast woman you can imagine. We spent so much time complaining about what Disney is doing to little girls and then praising characters like Belle and Mulan and Merida that I don't know if it ever occurs to anyone to ask what it does to our boys.


Captain Lee Shang from Mulan. There's another genuinely admirable, multi-faceted Disney man. He's overtly masculine, and yet still works with and for a strong, smart woman without being threatened by her, and he learns to adjust his culturally skewed notions of what women can and can not/should and should not do.

Interrupted thought over.

There's this Ted Talk that I think is very connected to this. It's about marginalizing men in the pursuit of feminism, which is just stupid for everyone. "Women's issues" are not just relevant to women. These issues are people issues, problems that we as a society and as species experience. Presenting weak, stupid, disproportionate women as idealized princesses is a serious problem, but I think making men irrelevant is also a very real problem. Boys are given the choice between choosing bad male role models, or weak, practically nonexistent ones. There's a whole set of gender expectations that little kids are being poisoned with, and that's exactly where we don't want to propagate the centuries of repression and violence. 

Not every girl wants to be a sylph-like damsel, so why can't we remember that not every boy wants to be a shining prince, or a cartoon animal?