Illustration: Nicholas Luchak
She Said, He Said, She Said is a recurring feature in which all three founding SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS contributors discuss a specific topic using G Chat. Sometimes we agree with each other. Sometimes we don’t. Occasionally we’re even funny. Often alcohol is involved.
Please note some of these chats have been edited for length, clarity and typos or because we went off on strange, drunken tangents.
MARLO: Tonight’s topic: Disney on Ice, debuting a new(ish) show in Winnipeg soon: Princesses & Heroes. GUESS WHO GETS TO BE THE PRINCESSES AND WHO GETS TO BE THE HEROES?
JEN: The title. SO PROBLEMATIC.
NICHOLAS: Can a transsexual be classified as a princess?
MARLO: Yes. But I doubt this show will feature any trans skaters.
JEN: I highly doubt it. Has anyone here been to Disney on Ice? I have. Recently. It’s mostly just a rehash of the super-old movies.
MARLO: You have? Why?
JEN: Friends with kids.
NICHOLAS: I haven’t been since I was around 12. I think Ariel might be transsexual.
MARLO: Ariel is not trans. She’s a mermaid.
NICHOLAS: Maybe the fish half was male.
JEN: I think she’s technically asexual.
MARLO: No no, she has … urges. She probs just has female fish sex organs.
JEN: That’s true. So she has the urge to lay eggs?
MARLO: WITH A HANDSOME HERO.
JEN: SHE ALSO GIVES AWAY HER VOICE FOR A DUDE.
MARLO: Who needs a voice when you have a handsome hero?
NICHOLAS: Yeah, but he had to get wet and stuff.
JEN: Speaking of The Little Mermaid, this is from the presser: “Join Ariel as she yearns to explore the world above the waves and Prince Eric breaks Ursula’s slithering spell to reclaim his one true love.” RECLAIM.
MARLO: Oh I know, that’s one of the worst parts of the release. Reclaim his true love my ass. Claim his fish-woman possession is more like it.
NICHOLAS: Wait, why is reclaim the bad part? Because he’s assuming that he has possession of her?
JEN: Correct. That’s how I read it.
JEN: Which is true. Basically, Ariel belongs to King Triton, then she’s given to Eric.
MARLO: And does Ursula really slither? She’s half-octopus, yes? Octopi don’t slither. Snakes slither.
JEN: Octopi. Hee hee.
NICHOLAS: Octopi don’t even leave the ocean, do they? I think slithering implies land beneath you.
MARLO: I think they used the word “slithering” because it sounds gross. And Ursula is gross. Because she’s fat.
NICHOLAS: She’s also a crazy bitch though.
JEN: More from the presser: “And, watch in awe as the dreams of Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, Rapunzel and Tiana all come true.” So, like, marriage?
MARLO: Every female Disney character dreams of marriage.
NICHOLAS: Essentially all of the Disney princesses are prizes to be given, now that I think of it. Except the case with Brave, which was kind of about the opposite. I assume. I haven’t seen it yet.
JEN: Except Jasmine. “I AM NOT A PRIZE TO BE WON.” Real line.
MARLO: But … does she get won? By a prince? And is he handsome?
NICHOLAS: I think they all get won.
JEN: I had an urge to “like” your comment Facebook-style, Nick.
NICHOLAS: So, what of the Brave girl, though? Does she fall under princess or hero? Will that be confronted in the show?
JEN: Merida, alas, is not included in this Disney on Ice production.
NICHOLAS: Oh really?
JEN: Merida is definitely a hero, which is why there was so much backlash when Disney tried to give her a Bratz Doll makeover.
NICHOLAS: That’s a damn shame then. This whole princesses and heroes issue could be entirely confronted by using that character.
JEN: Totally! Missed opportunity completely.
NICHOLAS: Bratz Dolls make me want to throw up all over.
JEN: Me too, bud. Me too.
MARLO: TOKEN WOMAN WHO DOESN’T FIT THE MOLD FOR THE WIN! Sexist narratives could be solved just like that. Speaking of throwing up: “Families of all ages will enter a world of wonder where heroes and hearts prevail.”
NICHOLAS: A heart: the only item of value a princess has.
MARLO: Yep, pretty much.
JEN: I’m almost sad they didn’t even think to tokenize Merida. How’s that for unfortunate? At least the discussion line would have been opened.
NICHOLAS: What about Mulan? I also haven’t seen Mulan, but she was an independent woman, right? Are they leaving her out, too?!
MARLO: I think she was a warrior.
JEN: They are leaving her out, too, it would seem. Because, again, she doesn’t fit in the binary.
MARLO: Looks like Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, Rapunzel and Tiana are the chosen princesses.
NICHOLAS: That’s brutal. They’re clearly avoiding the addition of any female character with free choice.
MARLO: Who the hell is Tiana?
JEN: Tiana = Princess and the Frog.
NICHOLAS: I don’t think women can vote in the Disney-verse either.
JEN: Tiana = token black person.
MARLO: Hahahaha. But they sure do have some pretty clothes. Why did you attend this show, JEN?
JEN: Not THIS show, but one like it. Because friends with kids. But also, I used to go as a child and was a lover of Disney. And nostalgia. Nostalgia is powerful.
MARLO: That was my next question: were you guys Disney fans as children? ’Cause I wasn’t. And yet, I have still seen many of the movies and know a lot of the plots.
JEN: I was. Definitely. AND I’M TOTALLY NORMAL AND OK WITH MY BODY. 😐
NICHOLAS: The plots are universally known, definitely.
MARLO: Jen, did you want to be a princess when you grew up? Which one was your favourite? Was she sassy?
JEN: I was a Belle fan (obvs).
MARLO: Why obvs? Because the power of her love made everything OK?
JEN: No, because she had brown hair and read books and was the outcast of her town. LIKE ME! Except, elementary school. Not entire town.
NICHOLAS: To me, Belle seems like she’s more in control than most of the other characters. Mostly because she spends the movie mothering the beast.
MARLO: Beauty and the Beast is basically an apology piece for domestic abuse.
JEN: I think I was six when it came out and it was the second movie I saw in the theatre and it BLEW MY MIND. But now? UGH. Totally. B&B is the worst. STOCKHOLM SYNDROME.
NICHOLAS: I don’t know if Disney can be blamed for the way the plots turn out. They’re mostly based on other famous folk tales/fables/etc. But they can be blamed for choosing those directions.
MARLO: Ah, key phrase: “based on.” Which means you can do whatever to the original story.
JEN: And choosing how the characters, specifically the lady characters, are drawn.
NICHOLAS: I was a Disney fan as much as any normal kid. I dug Aladdin and Lion King the most, I think.
MARLO: I liked the music from The Little Mermaid. And that little cranky crab.
JEN: Me too. First movie I ever saw in the theatre.
NICHOLAS: Which movie would you say is the worst example of this stuff?
MARLO: Oooh…. TOUGH CALL.
NICHOLAS: Let’s look at them all. Snow White could only be woken up by a big man-kiss. What was her purpose again?
MARLO: That’s Sleeping Beauty: unable to consent to a man who kisses her. Rape-culture narrative.
NICHOLAS: To try not to eat witch apples? Riiight.
JEN: They both were woken by kisses.
MARLO: But then of course, his kiss turns out to be THE VERY THING SHE NEEDED.
JEN: TRUE LOVE’S KISS.
MARLO: Shit, you’re right. Both are woken by kisses. My bad.
NICHOLAS: Jesus these girls sleep a lot.
JEN: I think The Little Mermaid is pretty twisted, the more I reflect on it.
NICHOLAS: Did they ever consider that these girls may have wanted to sleep?
MARLO: Old women as evil women is another aspect in a bunch of them that’s pretty gross.
NICHOLAS: Maybe they were sick of the oppression of their societies. Nevermind. That got dark.
MARLO: Jealousy between women, rather than solidarity and support. That’s another problem.
JEN: For sure. Big problem.
NICHOLAS: Yeah, there are a lot of female rivalries. The “princes” in those movies don’t have a problem with anyone unless they try to hit on their ladies.
JEN: The Little Mermaid has it all!
MARLO: Note how most of the princesses are alone and, if they have a companion, it’s an animal or an inanimate object.
JEN: And it’s always a MALE animal or inanimate object. There’s never a female sidekick.
MARLO: Yep. Exactly.
NICHOLAS: Tinker Bell? …Is Wendy a princess?
MARLO: Nope. Tinker Bell was the sidekick to Peter Pan. TOKEN FEMALE.
JEN: Tinker Bell HATED Wendy. She tried to kill her.
NICHOLAS: That’s true.
JEN: JEALOUS PIXIE RAGE.
MARLO: If there are additional female characters, they’re usually adversaries: wicked stepmother, mean stepsisters, witch, etc. Wendy was the mother figure to all those out-of-control boys. Because God forbid they control themselves. I bet she had to clean up after them, too.
NICHOLAS: WAAIT. What about the fairy godmothers!? They were friendly AND sidekicks.
MARLO: Ah, good point.
NICHOLAS: HAH. I DID IT. DEVIL’S ADVOCATE.
MARLO: Not sidekicks; saviours. Foils to the evil women. But good point.
NICHOLAS: Even then, they all had to be delightful old women. Never peers.
JEN: Totally. They’re the delightful moms Aurora never had.
NICHOLAS: That’s Cinderella.
JEN: Aurora’s mom had to give her away so she wouldn’t poke her finger on the spindle. Hence the godmothers. But yes, Cinderella also had no mom.
MARLO: Wait: who’s Aurora? SO CONFUSED YOU GUYS.
NICHOLAS: Cinderella had the godmothers, no?
JEN: Aurora is Sleeping Beauty. Cinderella had one. Aurora had THREE: Flora, Fauna and Merriwether.
MARLO: Wow. You totally know your Disney shit, girlfriend.
JEN: I DON’T KNOW WHY IS THIS STILL IN MY HEAD.
NICHOLAS: OK, so there are two movies where princesses had positive female companions.
MARLO: Not companions.
MARLO: Fairy godmothers only show up to grant a wish. They’re more like a narrative device. They don’t hang out throughout the movies with the princesses.
NICHOLAS: Man, I have almost no recollection of either of those movies.
MARLO: Me neither, Nick.
JEN: I apparently have full recall.
NICHOLAS: Alice was a pretty strong character, right?
MARLO: Yes. But not a princess.
JEN: Just a lowly child.
NICHOLAS: She wasn’t really forced into any position by a man in power.
MARLO: Alice doesn’t get to be on ice.
NICHOLAS: Right. This is only the ones on ice. I’m getting too broad.
JEN: We strayed, but it’s all good.
MARLO: Let’s discuss how problematic it is that little boys have heroes to look up to whilst little girls have princesses.
NICHOLAS: Well, in the case of little girls watching Disney on Ice shows, they have no female heroes.
JEN: BECAUSE LADIES CAN’T BE HEROES!
MARLO: I want to be a hero. 🙁
NICHOLAS: *Ladies on ice can’t be heroes.
JEN: Nope. All ladies. Disney says.
NICHOLAS: Well … Brave? Mulan?
MARLO: Heroes are defined through their actions. Ergo, anyone who is brave, valiant, etc. can be one. In contrast, princesses are defined by their relationship to others. That’s a problem. Actions vs. relational identity.
JEN: It’s interesting that a prince is automatically a hero; seldom is he defined by his relationship.
MARLO: True — although prince, by definition, is still a relational thing.
JEN: Right, but most of these “heroes” are also princes. They’re heroes BECAUSE they’re princes. They don’t have to do much.
NICHOLAS: Aladdin tried pretty hard.
JEN: And Aladdin is included as a hero in this show! He saved Jasmine from Jafar’s creepy sex palace.
NICHOLAS: I mean, from Aladdin’s perspective, he changes all of his shit just to get with a girl.
MARLO: Well that seems very healthy.
NICHOLAS: Which is a negative message for us little boys, as well.
JEN: He changes all his shit FOR HER MONEY.
NICHOLAS: When I was a kid I thought Jafar was definitely a woman, BTW.
JEN: That’s awesome.
MARLO: The makeup?
NICHOLAS: Maybe. And he’s very curvy. His voice was kind of like a gravelly cougar that smokes too many cigarettes.
MARLO: OK. Have you two seen Dina Goldstein’s awesome photo art series? It imagines Disney princesses after the movie ends.
JEN: Oh man! Rapunzel’s is sad!
MARLO: Belle is my favourite one.
JEN: I feel like that’s off-brand for her character.
NICHOLAS: I like Cinderella in the bar. After her marriage falls apart.
MARLO: I think she was riffing off the “Beauty” aspect.
NICHOLAS: She could love a beast, but not herself.
MARLO: Beauty IS a beast. No, wait, that’s bitch. Actually, the other problematic thing about Disney princesses is that they’re all conventionally attractive: skinny, tiny waists, clear skin, etc. Like what, can’t a princess have a zit?
NICHOLAS: True. They have yet to stray from that mold. But I feel like we’re not far away from getting a healthier-sized female Disney lead, or something to that extent.
JEN: I think they literally just change the hair and eye colour and reuse the same template. As a woman with prominent features, the Disney Nose just KILLS me.
NICHOLAS: I feel like some people over there are aware of these issues, i.e. Brave.
JEN: I hope so. Merida had frizzy hair, but she’s still thin and white. Baby steps.
NICHOLAS: But I mean in the sense that she was a strong female lead.
MARLO: Ten bucks says if they do, the ENTIRE story will revolve around the princess’ size.
JEN: FOR SURE.
MARLO: OK, should we wrap up? Here’s a big vague question that I’m sure will be super-easy to answer: If Disney has all these weird problems — particularly with respect to the way it depicts women as helpless victims who must find love — why is it so popular?
NICHOLAS: Nostalgia is a big thing. Parents have nostalgia for Disney and want their kids to see these movies while they stay blissfully ignorant about what goes on in them. Also, they are “classics” and results of very fine cartoon animation. Disney set the standard for animated films. Since then, people will go see them regardless of what’s in them.
JEN: I think that’s a great point, re: animation. Also, because little girls are still socialized to be little princesses. And, so long as there are little girls who want to be princesses, Disney will make $$$.
MARLO: Little girls are socialized to be little princesses because of Disney. It’s a vicious, money-making circle. On ice.