"s&co" - a photo by Flickr user austinevan
Thoughts on media, culture, and the world-at-large bubbling up from the dusty corners of my cluttered mind
May 15, 2011
The Crew

Bridesmaids was marketed like a raunch-com centered on female friendship and the absurdities of weddings, but there's a whole lot more going on. The film's wide-ranging (and, to some, surprisingly cross-gender) appeal appeal is based on something far more universal.

Posted By Saralyn on/at 2/05/2010 11:51:00 PM

During a fit of compulsive link-clicking on Copyranter, which often has some very insightful and extremely funny insights on advertising, I noticed something about "Disney Princesses as Sin City characters".  Thinking it must be an exercise in humorous, critical juxtaposition, I found the following images:

All images retrieved from http://www.notafishinglure.com/SinCity.html and are property of the artist and site owner, Curt Rapala
On face value, I saw the images themselves as somewhat in line with my expectation.  In particular, the recasting of Jasmine (an Arabian character) as Miho (a Japanese character) struck me as interesting and amusing on a variety of levels - the interchangeability of people of "Oriental" descent in the Western mind (as evidenced by the seemingly frequent indifference of Hollywood to casting actors of the same nationality as the characters they are to be playing), the sexy-dangerous trope in portrayals of foreign, and particularly Middle Eastern and/or Asian, women, etc.  Pairing Belle with the "you just gone and done the dumbest thing of your life" tagline fits with the analyses of patterns of abusive relationships in Beauty and the Beast.  The portrayal of Snow White, one of Disney's most virginal, pure, and innocent Princesses EVER, as Sin City's violent madame Gail is definitely funny, but it also seems to point to some of the hypocrisy of the way Disney Princesses sell a certain brand of femininity and sexuality just as does a character as obviously sexualized as Gail.  If this is what the author had in mind, I think many kudos are in order (and I wish I'd thought of it first).

However.....the text that accompanies the images doesn't quite jibe with the notion of I had of the artist's intentions:
There's just something so incredibly awesome about the idea of juxtaposing something brutal, harsh, sexy & violent, like Sin City, with something wholesome, fun, and child-friendly, like Disney.
 ..."incredibly awesome"?  If with a critical eye, in a culture jamming sort of way that reveals something deeper about the continuities present between the creations of Miller and Disney, then I agree.  But it seems more like the "awesomeness" is supposed to stem from putting together two things that have nothing in common at all - it's just amusing.  That's fine.  I enjoy a frivolous mash-up - listening to the vocal of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" over the music and backing vocals of The Monkees's "I'm a Believer" was the highlight of my yesterday.  The place where I start to scratch my head is the "wholesome, fun, and child-friendly, like Disney".  I admit that Disney films were a large part of my childhood and I still enjoy watching them, but any critical eye turned toward the company reveals that they are far from wholesome.  The racism, sexism, heterosexism, violent masculinity, etc etc promoted in and by the films is something that many critics and academics have addressed, but the fact that Disney is seen as something simply fun, fluffy or child-friendly is a large part of why those themes persist and go unquestioned in their products.  An exercise that could have been a cultural critique ends up simply reinforcing prevailing (and largely problematic) ideas.

Part of me is somewhat concerned about having misread/read too much into the artist's brief comments.

Then the other part of me takes another look at the header image on the site of a nearly nude woman with a hand print on her ass and a pinup girl/blow up doll expression on her face.

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erinasonrisitas said...

Hey Saralyn! I thought this post was very interesting. I had quite a bit to say about it though, so I'm just going to post my comment on my own blog, as you will see in a minute. Thanks again for sharing!

Saralyn said...

Thanks, Erin. I loved your entire post, particularly the addition to my line of thought with this this insight: "[In Sin City] characters like Nancy Callahan can be seen as both, a grown-up stripper, and an naive little girl. When you look at it this way, “Ariel” from “The Little Mermaid” doesn’t seem like that radical of a contrast."

I knew there was something about the Ariel/Nancy combination that struck me, but I couldn't put my finger on it. That's exactly it!

Jeff said...

In regards to the racist, sexist, heterosexist etc. themes that Disney propagates, is it because of Disney's image as a simply fun, fluffy, or child friendly company that's doing it? Or could it be that those themes are what has made Disney so successful?

Maybe it's not that we accept Disney as the child loving company and proceed to condone their method. Maybe those themes (which tend to go unnoticed until you scrutinize the films) are what our culture is most comfortable with, making it easy to accept what Disney puts out.

At our age and in our time, we are able to look back at those more conservative notions of racism, sexism, and the like and criticize them. More conservative trains of thought don't necessarily need, want, or care to and are okay with these largely ignored undertones.

Saralyn said...

Jeff - I think you're right in that themes that should be troubling are (often/largely) accepted in Disney products because our culture is comfortable with them. It is when one of those themes becomes an issue in society-at-large that we begin to stop accepting them in (at least in words/theory). A prime example of this is the way the mainstreaming of a lot of ideas about gender equity and sexism led to criticism of passive Princesses like Sleeping Beauty and Disney's creation of (seemingly) active, "powerful" ones like Belle and Mulan.

I suppose my point here is less that we actively condone what Disney does in their films than that we just don't see them. We are often blinded to subtler offenses because they are buried in something that's supposed to be frivolous and have no effect beyond entertaining children. We just don't see them through pretty colors and catchy tunes. And it's because of this that opportunities for juxtapositions like the ones above to provide insight or challenges are missed.

bodicegoddess said...

Man, I love mash-ups.

I'll pass this one your way:
Go to YouTube and look up "Single Ladies in Mayberry" and prepared to have an earworm enter your brain and take up residence.

I'll probably have more constructive and academic things to say on later posts, but for now... I just have Beyonce and Barney Fife.

Fabulous blog, by the way!

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