The Princess and the Frog – Really Disney?

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So far Disney’s The Princess and the Frog stands as the only Disney movie to have a black “princess” in its lead role. Considering this fact, this movie seems to really let down the audience, especially in terms of its potential. This movie could have served as a positive model for young black girls growing up in a still largely Eurocentric country.

Disney as a company has had problems with racism, so it’s not the biggest surprise that this movie would be a disappointment. There are still issues with princesses of minority races in their movies –  there has yet to be a Hispanic princess and they have chosen to settle with a Chinese princess as a sort of catch-all Asian princess.

Moving to Princess and the Frog, my  biggest problem with this movie is the fact that for their only movie starring a black princess, they chose to portray her as an animal for most of the movie. Tiana is only seen as human towards the beginning and at the very end. What message does this send to the young black girls watching this movie? They can’t even view a princess in their likeness for an entire film.

Another fault of the movie that has been pointed out repeatedly is the absence of a Black prince. Prince Naveen has a noticeable Latin accent, straight hair, and a Brazilian voice actor. Not to mention his Disneyworld counterpart is not black.

There’s nothing wrong with interracial marriage in children’s movies (unless it’s in the case of the bastardized account of Pocahontas). But why in this case? Could it be because when Disney develops a prince, they expect their viewers to not only dream about being princesses, but to be with a prince (not in a literal hentai esque way) Did they not want little (white) girls to fantasize about being the princess to a black prince? (Although they were perfectly fine with casting a Afro-Creole man as the villain.)

This almost leads to the next problem of this movie –  the inspiration. This movie was based on  The Frog Prince,  a German tale originally created by the Brothers Grimm. Couldn’t  Disney have put in the extra effort to find a traditional African tale? Most of the other Disney tales tend to take place in the country of origin, yet this movie decides to stay in America for their black princess. Did Disney not want to venture into that territory and instead chose a cop-out with a “friendlier” African-American image?

Lastly, Tiana seems to be the only princess who doesn’t end up in a castle with her prince. Although it’s beautiful she ended up fulfilling her lifelong dream of owning a restaurant of her own. However, why is she the only princess to not have her happily ever after living as a princess? Although it is more progressive to show a woman working instead of being at the right hand of a prince, there’s also the problem of Tiana not being seen as a true princess. There’s no castle waiting for her and her (broke) prince.

In conclusion, Disney could have done a better job if they had made a movie based off an African tale starring a black couple that’s human for most of the movie.

Side note – Another interesting conflict is the use of voodoo in this movie. Looking at the villain of the movie “The Shadow Man” Doctor Facillier portrays voodoo as something evil that will lock you into unfortunate curses and for some reason practices tarot reading (a more Romani practice). Mama Odie on the other hand shows a truer side of voodoo; one as more of a form of religion. However, it’s interesting to note the use of color here. Whereas The Shadow Man was enshrouded in black and other dark colors, Mama Odie, the one seen as more kind and moral, was clothed in a white dress. Just try and guess the symbolism here.

All images are from Google. I retain no rights.

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What happened in Seoul?

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Recently I’ve rewatched one of my favorite Korean dramas, Something happened in Bali (발리에서 생긴 일 or Balli-eseo Saenggin Il). Oddly enough I find this series even more confusing the second time around, which is why I would love for anyone out there in cyber space to explain a few things to me.

Other than why Jae-Min had the worst cry-face in Kdrama

First off I remember during the first viewing I was rooting for team Soo-Min and just feeling complete shock after watching the series finale. I have to admit after viewing, even though I knew what to expect, I just could not take all the emotion and let out my frustration in the form of droplets.

SHE ONLY GAVE HER HEART AT THE END

However, this time around I don’t know if I like Jae-Min as much. He was always that asshole who never really could express his emotions in the best form, but he seemed more likable before. He seemed like the lost man child who could not only retreat from fraternal rules but had a passion for his love that added charm to him.  This time he was just a douche.

Addressing the confusing parts, I still do not understand why Soo-Jung fell in love with Jae-Min and vice versa. Maybe I glazed over the whole section, because all I remember is him being a petty man child who can’t seem to directly address any part of his life. I can understand that at first she kind of just wanted the benefits he presented, but when exactly did this deep affection arise? There are some scenes where their being semi cute with each other (him buying the cell phone, then going to dinner), but I still just cannot connect the trains of thought that led to this complicated mess of love. What exactly about Jae-Min made her go “Gee I need to get with that immediately.” Especially when In-Wook is over here and totally in love with her (not to mention he can cook – Jae-Min couldn’t even chop a flipping cucumber).

So was it for revenge? Did she want to become the rich girl who rose from the bottom and was able to snag some money so that she could finally be in some position of power instead of having to work at the lowest positions? Was it also to spite Choi Young-Joo since she pretty much treated her like less than shit? (I have to admit that scene she first stands up to Young-Joo was one of the best bad bitch moments for Soo-Jung).

Seriously Soo Jung?

Obviously in the end you find out that she actually loved Jae-Min, even if fate doesn’t seem to want them together in this realm. Poor So Ji-Sub once again ends up getting the girl that doesn’t love him (Delicious Proposal and Glass Slipper – where he also ended up getting killed because of his affection) because she couldn’t be with the man she actually loved.

Back to the issue at hand –  why exactly Jae-Min fell for Soo-Jung? Was it to spite Young-Joo? Did he feel like she was the only person he was able to assist? Did he like the feeling of someone looking to him for aid (for a change)? Was her charm too irresistible for him to resist? Is he just some sort of sadistic/masochistic machine that  wants to bring down everyone within arm’s length?

Maybe I just missed these parts. Maybe I just didn’t pick up on the subtle hints the writers presented to explain the growing affections. Maybe I don’t know enough about Korean culture to understand the characters. Either way if someone else can answer these questions, please comment below. Until then I will assume there is some lost footage floating around somewhere in the editor’s closet that will magically fill these plot holes.

“Why do anime characters look White?”

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This is a question that used to run through my mind repeatedly when I first started watching anime. Even my mom would point out the unusual features of these characters, figuring their big eyes conveyed contempt for the typical smaller eyes many East Asians have. There would be other comments along these lines that would make one think the Japanese hated their appearances in favor for for a more European look.

Though after visiting the city of Tokyo, this has made me change perspectives somewhat. I have to admit there is a large influence from the Western world (shops, frequent use of English, music). However, there never seemed to be the idea of self hatred, or the drive to become white. While over there, I was taking a few summer classes, and one of my teachers commented on this. Briefly she mentioned “Please don’t think that anime characters are trying to look Western. The large eyes are meant to convey emotion.”  Although if you look in the history of anime, the image of big eyes were largely borrowed from the cartoon Betty Boop and the animation of Walt Disney.  So you may think to yourself why didn’t they take these white characters and make their features look more Asian? Well if you look at the history of Japan, you notice there were many different aspects borrowed from other countries (mainly Ancient Chinese and Korean civilizations) with their original form somewhat intact. For example, let’s examine the Japanese language. Much of the written language is borrowed from traditional Chinese characters (kanji) with different pronunciations added to them. Some words may have also came from Korean, which  was brought there from early travelers. So there seems to be a sense of blending different aspects of culture into the Japanese way of life (Sounds familiar America?)

But think about it (especially in Betty Boop’s case), do you realistically see white people with eyes that large?

Think about it, what type of shows do you typically see characters with big eyes? Comedies, romances, other less serious genres. But for thrillers and mysteries, you would typically see characters with smaller eyes.  What does this say?

Yes there were products that were designed to make eyes bigger, but when one stops to think about it, it doesn’t seem to imitate white features so much as imitating the features of a young girl (think about it – how many white people do you see with eyes that cover half their face).

If you look at any small child around the area, their eyes were typically larger and rounder, which leads to a more innocent look. People who are familiar with this Japanese pop culture see a large influence of this cutesy “kawaii” look everywhere; there is a small cute mascot for almost every business and city, the “innocent” look is popular for women, along with the incredibly high pitched voice many women adopt. So rather than women trying to imitate a European look, it seems more like there is a strive to look more innocent and childlike. This leads to another question as to why images of innocence is often associated with a sort of sexual thrill (many hentai anime/manga featured girls who looked somewhat young), but that shall be for another day.

This leads to another question of the potential infantizing of women, which is a theory that can also be applied to American culture. Big eyes, smooth hairless legs, and the idea of being more submissive are all popular beauty standards American women here are expected to adopt. So why don’t we assert the argument that many white women wish they were children?

You may also ask “Well what about the pale skin of anime characters?”.  First off most Japanese people tend to be pale (unless they are from the country). You may also point out that whitening creams are popular in Japan, and I have to admit I have seen whitening creams (along with the option to whiten oneself in those purikura machines). However, if you look historically at courtesans and geishas, they would also paint their faces white (with lead based paint unfortunately).  Would we say Geishas are trying to be white? Or maybe there is another culture significance of white skin? Could it be that it signaled royalty, for a women who was a part of the royal court would often times spend their days inside the palace. As a result of this, they may be a bit pale. Either way, historically pale skin has been a beauty standard in Japan.

“Well what about the blonde hair that so many characters seem to have?” First off let’s examine these anime shows: do they involve other characters with unnatural shades of hair and fantastical scenarios that involve small creatures, robots, aliens, talking animals, etc? If so, this is not a realistic depiction of everyday life. Keeping this in mind,  why would you expect the characters in the show to have realistic appearances?

Now let’s consider more realistic anime:

What do the above people have in common? Let’s examine someone with blonde hair in a manga that has a more realistic premise:

What sort of words run through your head when you look at this character? Something along the lines of “I don’t exactly want him teaching my kids or really leave him alone with any children.” In contemporary Japanese society, having blonde hair tends to denote the idea “that person is trouble,” “they’re probably an gangster”, “let’s hide our money from them”, etc. This is more of a thought held by many older Japanese people, but it is still a popular association, much like tattoos are still associated with the yakuza. Black and dark brown hairdos that are both common natural colors for the average Japanese person, so consequently any other color is still seen as “odd” much like it is in America. Take a look at any other realistic manga/anime:  IkigamiMonsterBattle Royale, etc. What do they have in common? They feature more realistic plot lines (which for the most part are also quite solemn) that feature characters with dark brown/black hair.

Let’s examine blogger Julian Abagond’s take on this subject in his article “Why Do the Japanese Draw Themselves as White?” In this he points out “The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white. Why?  Because to them white is the Default Human Being.”

For example, if you look at this figure of a stick man, what race do you assume him to be? Most likely a white man, even though there are no features to tell you otherwise. That’s because in our Eurocentric culture, whiteness is seen as the default race. Any other has to be explicitly stated. Similarly, in (homogenous) Japan, a Japanese person would automatically assume that figure is Japanese. Why? Because there the default race is Japanese. Americans would have to add slanted eyes or some other stereotypical feature. Abagond goes on to say “So they feel no need to make their characters “look Asian”. They just have to make them look like people and everyone in Japan will assume they are Japanese – no matter how improbable their physical appearance.”

As shown above, when there are foreigners in anime there is usually a marker to indicate this “otherness”.  The white characters have features typically associated with white people –  wide nose, chiseled jaw, larger ears, blonde hair. The character of Hispanic descent looks hispanic – larger lips, higher cheekbones, and dark skin.

So why is it that people assume that anime characters look white? In my personal opinion, this could possible result from a colonized way of thinking. Being under the rule of Western Imperialism, minorities would often try and imitate their oppressors, often times to gain a better standing in society. If you look more like your oppressors, you would be viewed upon more favorably by those around you. However, Japan was never colonized by European countries. They instead chose to close their borders and reject any type of foreign influence. All of this changed during the Meiji Restoration, but one has to realize the Japanese did not have to deal with this burden of self hatred. They may not feel the constant pressure of looking like another culture as minorities who live here may.

It seems Abagond put it best “Some Americans….want to think the Japanese worship America or worship whiteness and use anime to prove it.  But they seem to be driven more by their own racism and nationalism than anything else.”

Although I’m not going to touch the trend of many South Korean women getting double eyelid surgery.

All images are from Google. I retain no rights.

Eraserhead

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(Note: Most of this post is taken from a essay I wrote in a past course. There have been some edits made)

First off I have to mention that David Lynch is one of my favorite auteurs and I believe this man is a genius, even though I may not really understand his point. Either way I am a big fan of his When examining a film, it typically helps to know what is going on in said movie. However, if you have chosen to watch a David Lynch film, this is an aspiration that you will most likely not reach. Lynch is known for unusual plot lines that don’t always seem to connect to the viewer, and usually causes people to wonder what the hell they just viewed. However, there is a method to his madness (cliche but seriously applies in this case). I will explore the film Eraserhead, one of Lynch’s most famous works, while also trying to figure out what was the meaning of this film. To summarize my idea in one simple line, I believe this movie addressed the terror of (forced) marriage and responsibility.

Before the idea of marriage is introduced to Henry, the concept of what it entails is brought up in the very beginning of the film where we see Henry floating around what looks like another planet. This could introduce the alien concept to his current lifestyle (i.e. marriage). Although the planet seems somewhat more rounded and smooth, a closer examination of the “planet” reveals multiple craters that are deep and look difficult to traverse. Could this mirror the idea of childbirth in this film? Childbirth is typically viewed as a blessing for people who view the act from the outside. However, once the camera zooms into the planet you see the craters and unevenness. Does this present the idea of something thought to be beautiful is actually unappealing up close.

 

Following this vision of the planet, there is the man who seems frozen with skin that resembles bark on a tree. A tree, which is although continues to grow, still remains stationary in this life until it dies and leaves behind a stump. This imagery could be the result of an unwanted pregnancy (which in turn may lead to an unhappy marriage), and being in this confined arrangement drains the life out of the person, leaving them a frozen stationary being.  Then he pulls a lever, which sucks away what looks like an umbilical cord from Henry. The use of the umbilical cord (at least that’s what I assume it is) seems to represent the upcoming pregnancy that Henry will be faced with. Connecting this with the man who reeks of hopelessness, the implication seems very clear of the attitude of this unplanned pregnancy.

Playing off the idea of regretful decisions, the sound effects seem to enhance this idea. For instance when Henry was first meeting Mary’s parents there was an odd rubbery sound in the background. Now this may sound a bit odd, but it almost sounded like a rubber condom being rubbed back and forth. Henry becomes increasingly uncomfortable in this scene, as if being haunted by a past mistake. A broken condom perhaps?  There is also the scene where Mary leaves after the first night at the apartment, and before she leaves she reaches to get her suitcase from underneath the bed. As she is doing this, she repeatedly rocks the bed back and forth, which also denotes sex. Once again, this sound (and action) terrifies Henry, potentially once again reminding him of his mistake.

Going back to the idea of the umbilical cord, I will examine one of the more popular characters to arise from this film.

looking at the scene of the girl with the exaggerated cheeks, she slides back and forth across the stage as other cords fell around her. She was careful not to step on any of them at first, but eventually begins to deliberately step on two of them. When you look at the woman, she seemed to have an exaggerated image of innocence.The grotesquely plump cheeks, the angelic dress, the childish demeanor. This woman could be the embodiment of Henry’s subconscious, a sort of warped form of innocence that he still holds onto. Maybe he feels he is the victim and this situation and internally feels resentment towards this birth. (Side note – relating to the idea of innocence, towards the beginning as Henry is show walking through an empty, desolate wasteland in high water pants, which almost demonstrates immaturity (having pants that don’t fit quite right). Once he enters the  elevator clutching his package, where he looks small and innocent as he clutches the package the same way a child may clutch a teddy bear)

As the movie progresses, there is the increased conflict felt from Henry towards the “baby”. There is the imagined sequence where Henry’s head falls off and he is taken to a  pencil machine operator (according to the credits), the operator examines the head and says that it is ok. Although pencil machine operators do not typically make the best therapist, maybe this helped to sharpen Henry’s view of his surroundings? Then as the operator brushes away the pencil dust, this almost represents the freedom that Henry may now experience as a result of the diagnosis. It almost tells him that he is not the guilty person in this family and what’s really destroying his psychosis is the baby. In the following scene, the image of the baby becomes more sinister and mocking when Henry comes out of his dream. The only way for Henry to heal himself and the marriage is to destroy the nuisance. Once he does this, he is free as the dust that swirls behind him. He is free to reclaim his innocent past, free from the responsibilities that dragged him down. The world seems brighter and he is free to drift off with his subconscious (potentially signaling a loss with the real world and instead embracing the comfort of his imagination)

All images are from Google. I retain no rights.

What is this blog all about?

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This blog is all about the world of cinema from a completely unprofessional, self taught film enthusiast.
I will try and include production terms and concepts and whatnot to help one become more familiar with the workings of a film production. What are all the different positions on a film set? What sort of terminology should one expect for these different jobs? What is a production assistant expected to have to do? (besides being everyone’s personal bitch on set)
Also there will be the random informal film analysis and/or review mainly because I personally enjoy analyzing films. Besides, what king of film enthusiast would I be if I didn’t dissect a film? I do have to warn the reader that I have an untrained eye for everything I am viewing, so I can’t guarantee the most professional analysis. Then again it is an informal analysis so….
Since I am an aspiring filmmaker, I may include some personal works of mine. Usually these productions will be incredibly low budget and may not have the best quality, so just a warning these videos may not always be the prettiest.

While in the future I may pursue formal education of this field, for now I will try and teach myself what I can. Or I may get lucky and learn enough to finally be able to work on a film set. Either way I’m hoping to delve further into the world of cinema and production while at the same time dragging everyone else here with me.(Side note –  I will not include film descriptions of films I analyze since this is not an essay for class and I trust people know how to Google.)