Jun. 28th, 2012

Bravery

Jun. 28th, 2012 02:08 am
starfire11: (Default)
I didn't really write anything on this before and I saw it for the second time so I feel like I should comment on some things I noticed in it. Because that's what I do. Because I can. Because the lame ass post I put up last time is annoying me and this is on my mind and I'm not getting to sleep any time soon because I ate too much popcorn and I don't feel like going back to "A Clash of Kings" yet YES I'M STILL READING THAT DAMN BOOK AND YES IT MAKES ME ANGRYARLKAJLKAJLKGJAG...

SO.

Brave... is an interesting story. Like I commented before (I believe), it is a very cute story. Sweet. Interesting. Pretty music. The music makes one think of Clannad and Enya until you realize "the only similarities between this and Enya/Clannad is that some Gaelic is used and it's song by a woman". So.

One of the things I kind of forgot about the first time after seeing it because I was more focused on the story... the scenery in this movie was simply gorgeous. I talked about Merida's hair with my friends afterwards, which was just... amazing. It's much like the hullaballoo over Sully's fur back when Monster's Inc. came out. It was a big thing. Like a REALLY big thing. Like... all of those strands of fur took FOREVER to put together and he had a TON of it. And technology has only improved since then.

For instance, the grass in Brave. If you look at a number of these movies, the grass kind of looks like fake lawn. You know, the kind that gardeners stick on the ground in place of seeds and you wait and it becomes part of the ground and grows and it takes less time (I think... having never owned/managed a yard, I don't have all that much insight into this)... but it looks very weird cause when it's not set on the ground properly it looks like an overgrown green carpet.

Anyway, in past movies it just... it has this unrealistic look that you only get in idealized commercials from like... the 70s. Because making grass as unique and realistic as possible is HARD. It's much easier to make stuff into cubes and insert color. So the fact that they actually finally DID that with Brave (I mean make grass unique, not cubes of green) is just... quite amazing.

Beyond that, there were these vast landscapes that were just... gorgeous. There's this great snowy mountain range that made me think of LOTR, and then there are all these forest scenes that are simply gorgeous. And the work they've done on architecture is astonishing.

So yeah. Woot for that!

I also talked this over with my friends (sort of). One of the big problems a lot of people have with movies like this (that involve nations who don't commonly speak English as a first language), is that the characters, who are all speaking English... SHOULD NOT BE SPEAKING ENGLISH!

It makes NO sense for a movie that takes place in, say... oh what's a good example. Well, for starters, it kind of doesn't make basic sense to watch the majority of anime in English dubs because the stories take place in Japan for the most part, and they should be speaking Japanese. Not all of them, but a lot of them. Hollywood's been making some steps forward with the problem, but, well... they still struggle to a certain extent. I don't know how hard it is to find actors who can speak the parts in that language, but I know that it's a lot easier for script writers to write scripts in English.

There's this creative twist a lot of companies are doing to deal with the problem. BBC explains away the frequent use of English over whatever foreign language the people they meet SHOULD be using by saying that the doctor can somehow translate all languages for everyone to understand. And need we forget that most famous of examples, Star Trek's universal translator? (Ignoring the fact that something like that would simply make interactions with people not speaking common or English or standard or whatever the language is called look like a bad dub, and not be blatantly people talking in English)

Brave adds its own twist to this. It acknowledges the problem and moves on. A lot of people make fun of Gaelic for being a language that is especially hard for outsiders to comprehend. So... in Brave, there's one character who only speaks in Gaelic (like all the other characters should be), and... no one understands what he's saying. I'm assuming that what Pixar/Disney is saying here is that "yes, we understand that, despite our attempts at authenticity (and they do try, even though it's not perfect), we did not make everyone talk in the proper tongue. That's because it would sound REALLY weird to the majority of our target audience, and we'd have to do the entire thing in subs, which is not typically a good move for a company hoping to make LOTS of money." Anime survives this problem, you say? Anime is mass-produced. Not all of them are massive successes. Because there's so much, it's probably safe to say that the majority isn't a massive success.

I'm on a tangent here. Whatever. They acknowledge the problem and move on. Also, the Queen speaks at least slight in Gaelic. Once. And sings a song in Gaelic.

Moving on from there...

So Merida has a horse named Angus. Which I'm assuming is a Scottish name.

That's not the problem. When I think of the word "Angus", the first word that comes to mind is "beef", like in Angus beef. Beef comes from cows. The stereotypical cow image is a white cow with black spots (unless it's the reverse, like zebras, I have no idea). Angus has mostly black fur, with white socks and a white blaze. I don't know if this was a joke or what. This isn't the only type of horse they have - they show a number of other horses that, while probably being a part of the same breed, are not of the same colors. I don't know what the joke is SUPPOSED to be... but I find it hard to believe this wasn't intentional.

I also must say this for Merida - she REALLY needs to be applauded for climbing a precipice with no rock-climbing gear or assistance. While wearing a dress. While the former is an example of a VERY good climber... I'm not very sure that the latter is possible. At least by anyone but the BEST damn rock-climber. A dress would be slippery, hard to move in... Without gear, she would have to rely at least partially on her knees (I'm assuming)... and having something like that between your knees and the rock face would be WAY too much of a handicap. There's also the chance it could get tangled in her feet, which is VERY dangerous. Also... this precipice could be WET, being next to a waterfall, and a large waterfall at that. So... she could be climbing this WET precipice, without gear, without help, most likely without formal instruction, in a dress. At... what, age 16?

Give credit where's it due... that's pretty nice.

Oh great, more racism in anime. Yet again. What is it with the Japanese and REALLY hating black people? I'm kind of confused. (Yeah, I get it - America, no room to talk... but honestly, we take it out on EVERYONE who isn't white, male, and Christian, not just black people... although Japan does like to poke fun at Americans... and after that, non-Japanese/foreigners in general).

The second time around, I caught a couple references. The specific one I'm thinking about is the Fantasia Sorcerer's Apprentice reference in the Woodcutter's shop - we see a self-propelled broom cleaning up. Then there's the obvious Brother Bear reference (what is it with Disney and turning people into bears, I mean seriously?; then again, what is it with European culture and turning people into animals, I mean seriously? What is it with human society and turning people into animals, I mean seriously?). I'm curious if the triplets turning into bears is supposed to be a reference to Goldilocks and the three bears, which is one of the more well-known fairy tales that Disney has not added to its entourage. At least that I can recall. Pretty sure they haven't... Which is surprising. It could actually be a pretty complicated story VERY easily.  The will-of-the-wisps reminded me of the kodama from Princess Mononoke. I honestly know nothing about either the kodama in Japanese culture or will-of-the-wisps in Irish culture... but I'm guessing they're just types of forest spirits. So the fact that they look somewhat similar isn't all that surprising. I mean... they're both smile, don't talk, and have big eyes. That's about it for the similarity.

I believe that McIntosh is a relatively commonly Scottish clan name. But I didn't know before this that the movie was dedicated to Steve Jobs. Methinks this was intentional rather then: oh, here's a Scottish name we can use. Steve Jobs... Macintosh... you know...

I must bring up something that is rankling me, and most likely a majority of viewers. Merida acts very un-stereotypically princess-like. As an artist I like commented through drawing, the original Disney princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Jasmine, Aurora, and even Ariel) would be VERY confused by Rapunzel's behavior. The same could be said of Merida, because she so drastically fights the norm of this "princess" ideal. Which basically amounts to a) a willingness to get dirty, and b) a desire to fight. Also, a lack of a capability to literally make animals start singing because you're just-that-special. Thank you Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

While it's nice to wish that history could be rewritten and princesses wouldn't have been like they are pictured in stereotypical princess stories... there's some reason for some of the stuff Merida shoves aside in order to pursue her own chosen destiny.

I love how, of all the things Queen Eleanor thought to say to Merida to try and convince her to go along with the marriage, she never bothered to go into the political and economic and moral ramifications of refusing something like this betrothal. It is made clear that this kingdom is NEW. Fergus is the first monarch in his line. Something so new (and flimsy yet, not strengthened by time), and with as few subjects as it seems to have, could very easily fall apart - back into the chaos it was before the kingdom was created.

Oh, hey, look at Game of Thrones! Anyone...?

Yes, that is fictional. But think of it like a thought experiment. Regicide is no simple crime. It is BAD. it is NOT taken lightly. Betraying oaths is no simple thing. If it were, no one would swear them. They have to be taken seriously for them to matter - for people to keep them. For them to MEAN anything. Coups are no simple thing, either. That's why they don't just HAPPEN every day. This is why Paolini's Inheritance trilogy is just ridiculous. People like revolution stories. They're fun. They're enjoyable. They're interesting. They're EXCITING. But they don't just HAPPEN. They cost lives and time and money and are EXTREMELY dangerous. They need a purpose. They need something to stand for. A goal. Otherwise, what's the point? If you blow away an order of government... you're left with a lot of strands flying in the wind, without anyone to control them. All those bits flying all over. Robert Beratheon's government after that coup is nothing but a stack of cards waiting to topple with a slight wind. Fergus' government is the same way. Think young America, back when the British finally left (ignoring the War of 1812, which should really be known as the war of 1815, but meh)... there was a LOT of arguing over a) who should be in charge, and b) what "being in charge" meant. That's why there was a Civil War (yes, for emancipation of the blacks, but principally because of state's rights, which revolved around the issue of who what power the government could exercise and whether it could decide, over a state, to decide if a new state would be free or slave - that was basically the spark that started it all off, because state's rights were a BIG question). State's rights versus federal power is still a problem, but back then, and I mean WAY back, things were new enough that people were still arguing over who should get to be in charge. Not everyone liked who was put in charge. Not everyone wanted to give the new government power. Most of the steps the government took to take more powers were fought tooth and nail and made people very angry.

My point is that a marriage between the crown princess and another clan's heir would a) signify favor with that clan, b) solidify rather precarious alliances, c) work towards a more established royal line, and d) altogether help keep the kingdom together. Ignoring a request by one's lords for an alliance might bring about fighting. And not a barroom brawl (which is bad enough), but real blood-death fighting. This kingdom could be ripped apart by war. This is a VERY real threat. A very SCARY threat.

And Merida doesn't want to get married. Poor baby.

While I don't like the fact that women have historically (for the most part, hear me out) been used as bartering tools... the children of monarchs were commonly used as such. That's one of the reasons monarchs could be so...liberal with their procreation (other then, "I'm rich, I can have whoever I want", "I lack the capability to control my appetites"). More heirs meant more alliance possibilities. Which could mean more money, more soldiers, more land, more power...

Besides, let me put this in perspective further... what does Merida want to do as an alternative to being married off and being the wife of a clan leader? Sure, she can fight. That's nice. But if I recall correctly, there were no female warriors in the hosts brought by the clan leaders, or in Fergus' own host. I also don't recall Scotland being the standard bearer for the female warrior. Women there might have been strong, but I don't recall them being proliferate.

While this could just be a metaphor for the confusion middle and upper-class children now face when they grow up and don't know what to do with their lives... children today typically have more options. We have an entire societal structure that creates LOTS of jobs. For instance, I could have been an accountant, a doctor, a nurse, sixty types of scientists, a mathematician, fifty+ types of teacher, who knows how many different things in the movie or television industry, a writer, an editor, an artist, a musician, a conductor, a clothes designer... More people means more jobs.

The Scotland used in Brave doesn't have a need for MOST of these things. They didn't have lawyers, computer technicians, engineers, movie and television industries... there was no real book industry. I haven't the faintest idea if the printing press has even been created yet by this point in the history...

She could... be a servant. There's a number of different servant types she could be if she wanted to. She could work in a stable, a kitchen, as a woman's maid, a nursery maid... she could teach a few subjects: music... sewing... heck, she could teach archery, I guess. If she really wanted, I guess she could be a combat instructor. Or a rock-climbing instructor, I suppose. Or a horse-riding instructor.

Because I can totally see someone as blatantly spoiled as Merida taking on the life of a servant. The life of a hunter... MAYBE. The life of a servant, which is basically her only other choice if she refuses to get betrothed... not so much.

How is Merida spoiled you ask?

While they didn't have vacuums or an understanding of cleanliness and the definition of "sanitary" even a fraction of what we have today... people in castles tried, to a certain extent to keep things clean. I don't think that throwing half-eaten apples on the floor was common practice or good behavior. This is the behavior of a noble who knows that there are servants ready to clean up after them. It means they didn't learn to do the job themselves - that if they didn't do the job, it would never get done, and that it was a bad thing for this to happen.

She blatantly disrupts castle procedures and knocks things over, without picking up after herself. It takes WORK to keep a castle looking nice. It takes time and effort. They didn't have factories mass-producing merchandise to replace things when they get broken. They had blacksmiths and glass crafters (or whatever they're called) and tailors and so on... and these things cost a LOT of money. Knocking over a candle stand... possibly denting it, getting wet wax on a carpet, maybe burning something... that's money and time just brushed aside so she can get out and go shooting arrows into some hanging boards.

"Oh yeah, we spent the country's taxes on fixing and/or replacing some furniture the crown princess broke in her spare time because she couldn't just calmly use the stairs." Yeah, I'd vote for this government.

And then there's the subject of the dress. The blue dress Queen Eleanor gives Merida to wear when the clans arrive. The one she destroys so she can fire arrows.

For starters, the Scots aren't wearing much. While this was probably traditional clothing (the kilts) for men... if you look at the female servants in the castle, they're not wearing anything really nice, like the Queen is. If I go back and look more closely at the female peasants... I would probably see some rather normal clothing. The blue dress is made of NICE material. Nice material that isn't made to last through wind and rain and snow and hard work (basically, that isn't practical)... it was expensive. Peasants often had only one, or maybe two outfits. Inexpensive clothing is a recent thing. It's a sign of wealth. If you don't think you're wealthy, look in your closet and count how many sets of clothing you have. If the number is over five... you have a level of wealth people in olden times couldn't have dreamed of. Merida has at least three nice dresses in the movie. And then there's this dress. This really pretty, really nice dress of bright, nice material. Most likely, it's expensive - a princess should be wearing the west when she's being shown off to possible suitors.

And she walks in front of her father's people, wearing this thing, and rips it up.

Imagine a policeman taking a police car and smashing it into a light post for kicks. Because his unit could just get him another one. What Merida did is a LOT worse than that, although that's still pretty bad.

Also: making fun of the servants is a cute gag for literature. They make easy victims. And, historically, they're common victims in escapist stories. But treating them the way Merida and her brothers treat them... that's REALLY bad. They could LOSE their servants that way. Sure, you can treat your servants badly. Lords get that privilege. But do it too much, and they'll just leave for somewhere else. It might be hard... but everyone has a breaking point.

Such treatment, if it were bad enough, would encourage rebellion. Just sayin. Cough cough FRENCH REVOLUTION cough cough.

One thing I like about this: I support Merida's ability to protect herself. Against most anything other than a giant bear. And even then, if she were unprepared, like is in the movie. The movie brings up this idea: being able to protect yourself is important. It is VERY important. Sex or gender should have nothing to do with one's ability to protect oneself or learning how to do so.

Here's a thing I keep thinking about reading "A Song of Ice and Fire": if they had just gone about teaching their women to fight, these armies would have had a LOT more soldiers to help them fight. Sure it's expensive to arm all those soldiers... but the more soldiers... the better. Since that's one thing they keep complaining about: not having enough warm bodies to protect this or that. And scared women afraid of being killed or raped. Well. Thanks for being useful. MAYBE if you learned how to, I don't know, DEFEND yourself, the RAPE FEAR wouldn't be so bad, eh?

Being able to use a weapon also allows Merida to provide food for herself. So she doesn't need men for the two main reasons women were supposed to depend on them according to chivalry: providing food and protection. I support this. Chivalry at its base is a good idea (the whole being polite to people and not hitting people thing). Chivalry in practice and full theory is insulting and ridiculous. Yes, women exist as objects to admire! All for that! Great! Lovely!

Except not really. At all.

So I guess Brave is Disney's reponse to not returning to the princess motif established in the original films like Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and so on... these princesses who can't defend themselves (and aren't all that bright, really).

Why is Prince Charming attracted to Disney's Snow White? Ignoring the concept of love at first sight, because she sings nice. Or because she looks pretty. Or did anyone else notice that he disappears after their first meeting and only reappears to wake her up at the end? They don't interact whatsoever beyond that. They don't get to know each other. They don't go on an adventure.

Why does Prince Charming mark 2 love Cinderella? Again, ignoring the concept of love at first sight, beauty. He doesn't even show up until the ball scene. And then he disappears until the marriage scene at the end. He doesn't even show up to try the shoe onto Cinderella's foot. Because he can't recognize the "woman he loves" by her face. He has to do it by shoe size.

Aladdin and Jasmine have a bit more of getting to know each other... but still... it's not like they know each other all that well. This is a crush turned into a bit of courting turned into "we're meant to be!".

Why does Prince Charming mark 3 love Aurora? Love at first sight, nice voice... does this sound familiar? Oh, they get those moments in the woods... they probably talked for a while, although I don't think it could have been too long. They never even learned each other's names, I mean SERIOUSLY?

Even Ariel loves what's-his-face because she thought he was pretty. Which is a reversal. Ooh, now the woman wants the man first, too! :D And she actually saves him from drowning! That's pretty neat! And... she then spends their relationship not talking :D Oh joy! The perfect manxwoman relationship! "Actions speak louder than words" - you're right. All women should just stop talking. Clearly, that was what's been getting in the way of relationships all along. After all, according to some definitions of chivalry, "women should be seen and not heard". Unless they're singing, I suppose. Masogynistic men and subtext, -shrug-.

Here's the thing: two big things besides this will to fight and lack of "princess-like" qualities separate "princesses" like Tiana, Merida, and Rapunzel from princesses like Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, Jasmine, Aurora, and Snow White... one of them is that they have a main goal that they stick to for that majority of the movie that has absolutely nothing to do with finding love or the male protagonist. Rapunzel wants to see the lights and explore outside her tower (and then live her own life). Tiana wants to have her own restaurant and return to being human. Merida... wants a chance to choose her own destiny. Whatever that means. Heck, Mulan (who isn't a princess), wants to simply stand in for her father and defend her country. She wants to do what feels more right to her than standing around like a baubel.

There's another thing that separates Merida from every other princess... but Belle. Forgot Gaston. He doesn't really count though, cause she never liked him. Well... I guess he counts for this. Belle and Merida have a special thing in common: they had multiple suitors. Oh, and Jasmine (if we're counting Jafar). I suppose we could count Meg, too... since there was that dude we never met that she sold her soul to Hades for and who left her after the fact. Course, we could also count Mulan, as she almost marries that other dude in Mulan 2, even though he never courted her.

Suitors we know. Suitors who are important characters in the movie plot. If we discount villains... Merida stands alone. Heck, even Meg gets discounted here, because that dude she loved before was something of an asshole. She has three suitors. Suitors who are important to the story plot. Suitors with interesting personalities and curious storylines.

Personally, I think she ends up with Mr. Gaelic speaker. But that's just me. I'm a sucker for the cute.

So I don't really know what I wrote down here. But it took a long time and I feel better for putting it down. Whatever that means. Almost done with Casshern Sins! Woot!
starfire11: (Default)
Two things I'd like to rant on here: 1) 'compliments' and the perception of sex and gender in relation to action as exemplified by gothic literature, and b) failed predictions in science fiction.

I think I'll go over the former while it's on my mind.

So "Dracula", while being one of the most boring novels I've ever read, has a number of GREAT quotations on the perception of gender differences at the time. Am I surprised? No, I have had a great deal of instruction on the Gothic era in European literature and culture, throughout high school and my two years in college. Frankenstein happens to be one of my favorite novels. Why? Because it's an early form of angst. That's my theory, anyway.

Here's the most recent example I've read: "she was born with a man's brain, and a woman's heart". Ahhhh, compliments! We love them!

Now, I'm just imagining walking into the 1800s and being told this myself, and punching this person in the face. Put in current context, this is quite insulting (for the same reasons that, put in its actual cultural context, it's still insulting).

This requires me to take this apart properly to understand fully what is being said (insofar as I've been taught). To be "born with a man's brain" at the time meant that this was a person who had intelligence. Only men were intelligent. Women were not, it was believed, genetically capable of being intelligent. So clearly, if a woman were to demonstrate some measure of intelligence, they were born with a MAN'S brain, and not a woman's.

No, I'm not angry that Mina Harker is being told that she was born with a wrong body part (because male and female brains are hardwired differently 9_9). This is insulting because it demonstrates a common cultural view: women were not intelligent. Only men are.

This "woman's heart" idea is that women possess feelings and emotions that men do not. They are more emotional. They are "sweet" and "gentle" and "kind" creatures while men are, well... "manly" creatures (whatever that's supposed to mean, depending on the century - for the most part in Europe, it seems to mean heterosexual, strong of body, and more ready to do violence than not).

And then there's this: Mina is told not to participate in the hunt for Dracula because she is so precious that she must be protected while all the strong men go off to do this thing.

On the one hand, this ups Mina's chances of survival, so hurray for that.

On the other... seriously? You people are ridiculous in your use of resources. Give her a cross or a bunch of garlic or, heck, teach her to shoot and give her a gun! Jeez.

The book, like most classic literature, rankles me. Every mention they make of "men not being able to confide in a woman, where such feeling is proper to confide in" or on the differences between men and women and so on that I've harped on before and I just WANT THIS BOOK TO BE OVER WITH. UGH.

Ironically, put in today's cultural context, I would still find this insulting (yes, I am aware that a woman back then would probably find this flattering - I mean to say that if I were time-jumped to back then and told this, I would understand the meaning and find it insulting) for similar reasons.

If someone told me I had a man's mind, I would think that they were telling me I was stupid in one way or another, depending on who gave me the comment and when (or still that men were superior). If someone told me I had a woman's heart, I might think they were telling me that I was weak. Or I could feel complimented, while also being annoyed because the compliment giver is relying on the stereotype that only women have empathy. All of this understanding relies on gender/sex stereotypes in our culture. And sexist humor.

Moving on from that: failed science fiction predictions.

A friend brought this up by putting up a meme of a screenshot from the dolorian (or however you spell it) in "Back to the Future". I forget which movie, but it's a picture of when they were looking at what year the car was being sent to. Apparently it was sent to June 25th, 2012. When we apparently have hoverboards. Hello toy companies? The last big thing we had was roller tenneshoes. Are you just waiting to release the hoverboards?

So that's wrong. It's not alone, though.

Then there's the original "Lost in Space" TV show, which was made in the 70s, and was supposed to take place in 1996. Accordingly, we had moon colonies, cryo stasis, androids (that, admittedly, looked like screwed up garbage cans) and flying saucer space ships. I KNEW NASA was hiding something!

The 1999 "Bicentennial Man" starring Robin Williams as an android begins in 2005. Admittedly, the Information Age took off WAY beyond what anyone expected, I feel like people in the 90s were a bit over-expectant when it came to what we could accomplish in the early 2000s. I understand the way our world has changed drastically in a little over a decade... but honestly, we don't have anything approaching an android slave army.

If I find some more examples, I'll put them here. I've actually stayed away from some of the really old science fiction. Most of what I've read (and watched) takes place in a future so far ahead that years are kept in a completely different format, so as to make it nigh impossible to know how many years stand between now and then.

Most the bad continuity comes from the advancement of technology overtaking "future tech". Miniaturization, the advancement of knowledge of physics and electricity, the advancement of medical science, changing fashion, increased understanding of our planet and environmental science... it all catches up, and looking at the way people in the past viewed the way the future looked is... humorous, among other things, and a little sad, in others. But without them, we wouldn't be where we are today, so we should still be grateful.

A good example would be the original command deck of the Enterprise. What's the console? A black board with a bunch of glowing rainbow buttons. What's the instruction during a scene? Probably press random buttons in the relatively correct area to make it look like you know what you're doing.

Anyway, things have changed. Things have happened that no one predicted. In ways people didn't predict. And so it goes.

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