In Defense of Hades

Whether you love or hate Disney’s Hercules, I think you can agree that Hades is awesome. He’s hilarious, his voice acting (courtesy of James Wood) is fantastic, and he is an effective antagonist. But is he really pure evil?

 

Disney is well-known for making villains who relish being evil and don’t have any visible redeeming qualities or clear motives as to WHY they’re evil. This isn’t entirely the case for Hades.

When we first see Hades, the Olympians are shown to immediately dislike him, though it’s never entirely clear WHY they don’t like him. Did he try to take over Mount Olympus before? Did he do something horrible? It’s never revealed, and judging by how Zeus is at first eager that Hades has shown up, that’s probably not the case. Hades isn’t a nice person, but it’s odd how only Zeus seems to be fond of him (probably because they’re brothers).

Zeus: “How are things in the Underworld?”

Hades: “…a little dark, a little gloomy, and always…full of dead people”.

Doesn’t sound like an ideal place to call home. And then, when Zeus encourages Hades to join the celebration, Hades replies, “But unlike you gods, lounging about up here, I regrettably have a full time gig that you by the way so charitably bestowed on me, Zeus. So, I can’t.”

It’s a little hypocritical for Zeus to be pointed out that HE assigned Hades a bad job position and then makes it look like HADES is in the wrong for ‘working himself to death’.

Within the first ten minutes or so of the movie, it becomes well-established WHY Hades is the way he is. He’s not JUST an asshole; he’s bitter from so many years (likely hundreds or even thousands) of being assigned to a job he hates, away from all the glory and fun, and being disliked on principle. So his callousness towards his own kin and bad temper and general asshole-ry suddenly makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t EXCUSE his bad deeds, but they become a lot more understandable when you realize he’s doing it out of frustration than just pleasure.

But why was he given such a job anyway? I have a theory.

You see, throughout the movie, Hades is shown to be EXTREMELY powerful; he can conjure up anything he wants, controls and assembles monsters, frees the Titans, can teleport himself and others, has immense control of fire and smoke, and probably has a lot of other tricks up his sleeves. All Zeus is shown to do is rule others and control lightning bolts. So if he’s less powerful, how does he make sure HE gets all the power? By putting his rival in his place. By cosigning Hades to the Underworld, Zeus can secure his regime. And it’s not like Zeus sees Hades as a potential tyrant that he has to control; again, he was perfectly fine letting Hades come to his son’s first birthday.

I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that Hades is so damn likable in the movie and that, in the original myths, Hades wasn’t all that bad and ZEUS was the cause of most strife.

So yeah. I think the movie is less about some angry asshole wanting all the power just because; it’s about an angry asshole wanting all the power because of being mistreated for so long. He’s made to contrast Hercules, who has also been shunned but grew up to be good and pure despite all odds.

Am I saying that Hades is totally innocent? No. He made the choice to try to have an infant killed and put lots of people in danger just to get to Hercules. (Though I find it interesting that never once does Hades try to kill Hercules himself; even when Hercules is weakened, there’s nothing stopping Hades from just strangling him on the spot, but he never does…make what you will of that.) But I AM saying that all this could have been avoided if Hades was given a companion (beyond his bumbling minions and a woman who was coerced into being his servant). Someone who could genuinely help him out with his work so he had more freedom to move about and do things. Maybe someone to help liven up his living space. Someone who would appreciate him for who he is, but not take his shit. Someone who can rule the Underworld beside him. Someone like…Persephone, his wife from the original myths? Anything is possible…

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Which Disney Character Should Be LGBT?

WARNING: VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY HARSH FROZEN CRITICISM BELOW!

For a long time, people have been begging Disney to have a canonically LGBT/queer character (that wasn’t a sidekick or the villain) in one of their animated films. Considering how Disney is known for hiring LGB (not sure about the T) people for voice work and other behind-the-scenes work, it’s only fair that they should represent one on-screen as well.

For awhile, people wanted an original LGBT character, but now it seems that people want a pre-established character to be so.

Recently, people have been tweeting at Disney to make Elsa from Frozen LGBT (preferably a lesbian) in the sequel, with the hashtag #giveelsaagirlfriend.

And to be honest, I don’t think that hashtag is going to work.

See, the thing about Frozen is that it’s the epitome of safe. I’m sorry, but it is. The plot is simplistic, the dialogue is childish, it doesn’t delve deep into serious themes (like how Big Hero 6 dealt with the death of a loved one and how to cope with it, or how Zootopia dealt with societal prejudice, or how Tangled dealt with abusive relationships, to name just a few), the characterization isn’t that complex; even the animation and design looks really flat compared to other Disney films that came out recently. It’s not really ‘feminist’ because, for a movie about two sisters, Anna and Elsa aren’t happy together for most of the film, it has a muddled message on ‘not needing a man’ (when Anna hooks up with a boy who had to save her life a lot throughout the movie), and Elsa being single isn’t that revolutionary when we just had Merida the year before and Honey Lemon and Gogo the year after. It’s a safe, marketable movie meant to sell merch and make people happy. You notice how literally EVERYONE seems to relate to Elsa? It’s because she’s an empty shell; she has such scant characterization beyond being depressed and anxious and has things happen TO her (not making any real decisions by herself, beyond staying away from Anna because she feels that she’s too dangerous); and her powers as a metaphor is so vague it can be seen as a multitude of things, from mental illness to disability, to, yes, being q*eer. (The fact that she’s white and skinny and pretty helps a lot.)

So really, do you think Disney is going to risk losing money out of one of their biggest franchises by making Elsa a lesbian or otherwise q*eer? Probably not. Frozen is successful because it is basic; they can’t be TOO progressive with it. Elsa is simply too marketable for Disney to take risks with her. They’re taking advantage of the fact that she’s so relatable.

Besides which, I really, really hate how, if a woman is single in a Disney film, she HAS to be q*eer. Men can be single and no one will raise an eyebrow, but the minute a woman expresses how she doesn’t want to get married, suddenly she must not be straight. I have no problem with people headcanoning the heroines as having a different sexuality, but I don’t like how society as a whole sees single Disney women this way.

So, okay, maybe Disney should make one of their characters q*eer anyway. After all, shows like Steven Universe have been proven to be popular despite (or perhaps because) of their LGBT representation, Disney shouldn’t have to worry too much about backlash. But still, I think they’re going to do it with a character they’re allowed to take risks with. And who might such a character be?

This guy:

http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/disney/images/d/da/Wreck_it_Ralph_pose_transparent.png/revision/latest?cb=20151202214156

Yes, Ralph.

Why do I say this? Well, for starters Wreck-It Ralph was a successful Disney movie that is (eventually) going to have a sequel, but hasn’t been marketed to death like Frozen has. So Disney is allowed to take a few risks with this character.

Secondly, Wreck-It Ralph, unlike Frozen, is VERY progressive and much more layered. I plan to do a separate post on it, but basically, Ralph is a man consigned to the role of a ‘bad guy’, and while he isn’t necessarily ‘pure’, and is a little rough around the edges, he still has a good heart, and would do anything for his friends (even die for them). He is an outcast, and it’s well established that people actually dislike him for who he is, and they have to overlook their prejudices and accept him. He rejects riches and living the good life, he’s fine having some recognition and friends. And, despite being big and burly, he’s actually very caring and sweet, not falling into a macho man stereotype. (Seriously, watch the movie. The differences between it and Frozen are like night and day.)  So not only is he a well written and unconventional character, why wouldn’t he be q*eer? It could certainly tie in with his narrative of a man taking life who had to deal with stigma and had to take life one game at a time very well.

I think Disney is allowed to be riskier with this movie, and Ralph is a fantastic, well-developed character that can pull it off. Granted I’m not sure if it WILL happen (and I think ultimately Disney should just make an original LGBT character), but I think WIR would be better for representation than Frozen.

I guess ultimately, we’ll have to see what will happen. Maybe Elsa WILL be revealed to be LGBT in the sequel and they’ll write her sexuality in effectively, who knows? But for now, I’m keeping my expectations really low, and I still think Ralph would be a better choice at any rate. But that’s just how I feel at any rate.

 

Bottom Five Least Fave “Feminist” Characters

For a lot of people, there are certain characters from certain media that resonate with them very strongly. They can personally identify with them, relate to them, or even feel empowered by them. This is the opposite. Don’t worry, I intend to do posts on the characters and movies I DO love, but I want to get this out of the way before it boils up inside me. So, here are five female (or in one case, femme) characters that are widely beloved, but I look at them and go “Oh, it’s that person”. Please note, if YOU like any of these characters or find personal empowerment from them, that’s great! More power to you! I won’t bother you! But for me, they just don’t personally click. They are:

Continue reading “Bottom Five Least Fave “Feminist” Characters”

The Greatest Short in Cartoon History

This is something you simply have to see to believe. You can find more context for this short on it’s Wikipedia page but you might have more fun without knowing it. This short proves that humanity hasn’t really changed in terms of what we find to be hilarious.

I think my fave two things are the surprising amount of degree and strength the female character is given (which I won’t spoil) and Dan Backslide’s inability to have an indoor voice.

The best part? This cartoon is in the public domain, which means we can do whatever we want with it. Go nuts with it! I’m sure Chuck Jones would’ve encouraged it.

Frozen (Alternative Version)

FROZEN CRITICISMS AHOY!

So, one of the many reasons why a lot of people don’t like Frozen (and no, nobody dislikes it because they’re hipsters, trust me on this) is because it has almost no connection to the original Snow Queen fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, beyond the fact that there’s a woman with ice powers who declares herself queen. I have my own problems with the movie (I could literally go on a five hour rant about it), but I can sympathize with that sentiment.

Every now and then, I think of alternative ways Frozen could’ve been written. One of my fave versions is to have made Elsa a literal monster (like the Beast combined with a Frost Giant) and Anna and Kristoff show her true love (both in the familiar and romantic sense, respectively) to help her unfreeze the kingdom and be accepted. But I don’t think Disney is ready to make an ugly/monstrous female protagonist just yet, unfortunately. So I try to think of a version that’s loyal to both the original fairy tale and that’s similar to the movie. And I think I may have found a version that does the trick.

In this version (which I’ll call The Frozen Queen), the Snow Queen is almost the same as she is in the original fairy tale; not the sister of a princess and heir to the human throne (I honestly have no idea why this was a concept in the first place), but a spirit of snow and ice. Maybe she was human long ago. Maybe she wasn’t. But she’s beautiful, graceful, elegant, and VERY powerful (and knows how to use her powers)…but also very lonely. Everybody fears her and won’t accept her.

Then, she notices the prince and princess of the kingdom, Kai and Gerda (yes, I know they were peasants in the original fairy tale, but hey, Disney needed their Princess, so this will have to do). She becomes jealous of how loving they are too each other and how strong their bond is, so she decides that this is the perfect opportunity to select an heir. She curses Kai with ice powers. While his grandmother is accepting, his parents are not. They forbid him to interact with his sister and isolate him, making sure no one ever knows of the secret. Gerda, who KNOWS about Kai’s power, is very sad, and hopes that one day they can be together.

Time passes. Kai is ready to ascend the throne after his parents die, but is so shaken up from years of isolation and abuse that he is unable to reconnect with his sister. This is the perfect opportunity for the Snow Queen to strike. She pierces his eyes and heart, which makes him freak out, think everyone is out to get him, and he freezes the kingdom and runs off.

He is soon on the mountaintop, where the Snow Queen takes him in. They sing a twisted duet of Let It Go together, where Kai expresses his freedom, while the Snow Queen expresses her control over him.

Gerda still believes in her brother. With the kingdom under her grandmother’s supervision, and with an entourage, she goes after her brother, but a storm breaks out. She gets lost from the entourage and collapses into the snow, but is rescued by the Robber Girl (from the original fairy tale). Despite the Robber Girl (who here I’ll call Krystal) being rather abrasive, the two still become friends, and set off to find the Prince with their talking animal friends (they existed in the original fairy tale, and hey, we need more merch).

The two make it to the mountain. Gerda almost manages to get through to her brother (her tears managing to heal his heart), but the Snow Queen, enraged, chases Gerda and Krystal away, freezing Gerda’s heart in the process.

Gerda and Krystal return to the kingdom in an effort to heal her, but nothing works. The kingdom is also freezing quickly. Kai, who knows how much Gerda loves him and realizes that he can be good, goes back to the kingdom to help her, but because his eyes are still unhealed, it’s hard to find her, to see properly, and he makes the situation worse. Gerda finds out that he’s returned and, despite growing weaker by the minute, comes to him. That’s when she sees the enraged Snow Queen ready to strike Kai, and she comes to his aid. She saves him, but freezes over. Kai sobs over his sister, healing his eyes, and then he realizes he must use his powers for good, and unfreezes the kingdom. That’s when she unfreezes. Because their love for one another was so strong, they saved each other.

The Snow Queen, realizing this, has her heart warmed. She apologizes; Kai and Gerda forgive her.

About a year passes. Kai is slowly getting better, with the help of his grandmother, sister, and their new friend, Krystal. Then winter comes and a gentle snowfall is bestowed upon them. Kai and Gerda acknowledge the Snow Queen’s presence, wondering if they’ll ever meet her again, but knowing it will be a much better, more loving encounter (leaving a sequel hook).

See, Elsa was originally going to be the villain, but John Lasseter, the executive producer, was all “hey, what if instead of being evil, she was just misunderstood?”, inspired by his diabetic son (and how awesome “Let It Go” was). I kept the theme here, but wanted to maintain the Snow Queen’s original role, and having her learn and apologize for hurting Kai and Gerda.

This is one (of the many) version(s) this movie could have gone that would’ve been both true to the original and unique for Disney. This is the basic bare bones of the plot, but let’s just say, I would have made major changes to the characterizations as well (mainly, not making Anna/Gerda a typical perky, bubbly princess, and not make Elsa/Kai not constantly go “oh but I can’t control it!” and actually actively do things to try to make the situation better).

I’m not really going to deconstruct why Frozen isn’t a good story about two sisters and how it’s NOT an empowering, feminist movie (that’s for a whole other post), but I will say that stories about female friendships and a brother/sister bond is just as important as a mother/daughter and sister/sister story.

So yeah, that’s my version of Frozen, but at this point Disney isn’t going to do anything like it. I just hope that, if Frozen 2 gets made, it will do justice to the original fairy tale. In the meantime, for people like me who are dissatisfied with the movie, there’s always the world of fandom.

The Unique, Heartbreaking Tale of Princess Kaguya

For all the praise Studio Ghibli gets, I can’t help but notice that the praise mostly goes to Hayao Miyazaki. And while I do genuinely love Miyazaki’s work and have great respect for the man, it’s really unfair for him to be the only anime director that has gotten worldwide acclaim. In fact, it’s important to note that one of his greatest influences was another director at Studio Ghibli, Isao Takahata. And he has done some truly great works. And his latest (and arguably greatest) work came out just a few years ago. This film is The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

If you think anime is nothing but creepy fetishization, gratuitous sexuality and violence, exaggeration, and general weirdness, I highly suggest you give this movie a look. It’s a much subtler, more down-to-earth movie, with very brief (and nonsexual) nudity and brief violence that isn’t glorified. The animation is stunning, and shifts at the appropriate times. When Kaguya is in the mountain, the animation is bright, colorful, and detailed, looking like something out of a child’s picture book. When she’s at the palace, the colours are more muted. THIS SCENE is one of the greatest pieces of animation I have ever seen (you can see a great breakdown of it HERE).

The story at times feels like a brutal satire of the western fairy tale. Kaguya is actually much happier living as a peasant girl and loathes the life of a princess (where she’s seen more as a prize rather than a person; her suitors can’t even see her when they propose to her), and refuses to belong to any man. She also has an extremely close bond with her mother (something quite rare to see in Western media) and doesn’t overly depend on animal sidekicks.

The film is over 2 hours long, and manages to work in a range of beautiful animation in addition to great characterization, allowing you to become really attached to Kaguya and her family. Watching it for the second time, it’s a story of a young girl learning the beauties and ugliness of life and how precious it all is, but I feel like it also serves as a cautionary tale. Had the father simply listened to his daughter and respected her wishes rather than assuming what would make her happy, things would’ve gone much differently for them all.

This movie is also extremely sad. While I do think the movie is simply a masterpiece, I can’t watch it because it always makes me cry. I’m not going to spoil the ending for anyone, but basically, it’s an emotional roller coaster at the end.

Despite being a Studio Ghibli movie, this film didn’t generate a lot of hype when it came overseas. I’m not sure if it was because GKIDS/Universal dubbed and distributed it instead of Disney, or because it wasn’t directed by Hayao Miyazaki, or if it’s because it got swallowed up by all the good western films that was released in 2014. I can sort of understand and accept it not winning the Oscar For Best Animated Film (well, then again, I do have a bias for the film that won that award), but I find it atrocious that it did not win any Annie Awards (you know, the awards ceremony that’s supposed to care about all animation) and only won a few obscure awards.

I’m not really sure if there’s much I can say. You just need to see it to believe it and take it all in. If you get a chance to see it, please do. You’ll probably cry, but it will be worth it.

The Reaction to Pocahontas

If you’re a hardcore Disney fan, you probably know the story of how, in the mid-9os, the company believed that Pocahontas would be the next epic masterpiece classic in the vein of Beauty and the Beast and the like while The Lion King would be filler. Well, you know what happened. I kind of marvel the amount of effort put into a movie that was supposedly just meant to be filler, but that’s for another post.

While Pocahontas does have its fans, a lot of people consider it snark bait, or boring, or both. And of course, a lot of people lambasted the film for not being historically accurate.

As a kid, I really loved this movie (it still has a place in my heart), and I knew it was meant to be historical FICTION, not fact. I found it odd that this movie got bashed for not being entirely accurate whilst a lot of live action historical fiction films get praised and revered despite taking a lot of liberties with history.

I think the reason why this movie gets a lot of flack (along with Don Bluth’s Anastasia) for not being historically accurate is because 1) it’s for children, most of whom don’t know the REAL history, and 2) because it becomes less of a historical drama and more like a fairy tale/fantasy. I don’t think people like it when you add magic to history. Then it no longer becomes historical.

But as I grew up, I realized that the biggest reason why people get mad at the film for not being historically accurate is because of how it portrays Native Americans (in this case the Powhatan Nation) during colonial times. There’s a stereotype of First Nations people being ~~magical~~ and *~~in tune with nature~~*, which the movie unfortunately utilizes despite trying to be AGAINST racism. And of course the film glosses over the horrors of what ACTUALLY happened during the real Pocahontas’s time.

But because of that, I get a little iffy when people’s first reaction to the movie is to say “it’s boring” or “it makes me giggle because of how silly and heavy-handed it is”. Like with Anastasia, whenever people point out how inaccurate THAT movie is, they almost always do it angrily or negatively. With Pocahontas, a lot of people go ‘lol it’s so inaccurate’.

So, the movie that’s racist makes you giggle, but the movie that doesn’t accurately portray white Russian history makes you legit angry. Okay.

Now I know there are people who genuinely hate Pocahontas for it’s inaccuracies and racism (mainly, actual Native people), but still. I don’t like how a lot of reactions to this film are to make fun of it.

I guess the reason why people prefer to make fun of Pocahontas is because, as a whole, the film takes itself too seriously. I actually think that’s the main reason why the movie wasn’t as successful as Disney hoped; while The Lion King was allowed to have fun, Pocahontas tried too hard to be serious and adult and as a result came out as too grim. So people make light of it. But again, shouldn’t that inspire more anger, not snark bait? That they woefully misrepresented an entire group and have the audacity to claim that it’s a serious epic? Well, I can’t really change people’s reactions to it.

What do I think of the movie?

Well, visually, it’s stunning. I have some issues with the character design, but overall, it’s pretty gorgeous. The music is okay, but not as good as in anything Howard Ashman did. The animal sidekicks are pretty annoying and take too much screen-time. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for the animals not to talk but for the tree to do so. But, the “If I Never Knew You” song (which was added in for the 1oth Anniversary Edition) is perfect. It is an emotionally powerful and beautiful song, and it makes the love between Pocahontas and John Smith feel real and genuine. (Seriously, why was the song cut from the movie? I feel like the movie could have avoided a lot of detractors if they had just kept that scene in.) And I also love Pocahontas herself.

While I do understand people who find the movie itself boring (it’s not as lively as Disney’s previous hits), I get a little offended when people dismiss Pocahontas as boring or dull. Yes, her design is pretty bad (you can read more about it HERE) and the story team used elements of the racist “Indians are so stoic” trope in her character, but even beyond that, she’s not just boring. She’s playful, she’s athletic, she cares deeply about her people, believes in the best in everyone and wants to help people look at things differently, is against violence, is against racism, war, and is pro environment, and is torn between following her passion for John Smith and her duty to her people to stay in the village and marry Kocoum. You should absolutely criticize how the writers couldn’t make her AS full of life as Ariel or Jasmine or Belle because of the stereotype of how Indians can never be fun, but don’t dismiss her as ‘dull’. There’s a lot more to her.

Granted, I could be biased. Growing up, I absolutely loved Pocahontas. I loved how free-spirited and independent she was. I wanted her hair. She was my first fave Disney Princess. And let’s be real, despite the problems with her movie, she’s still important for a lot of girls of colour (especially a lot of young native girls), and it’s a shame she doesn’t get as marketed as much.

Still, I have to ask this: if Disney wanted to make a film based on a Native American ‘legend’, why distort someone’s actual life and not, you know, adapt an actual Native American legend? There’s an ABUNDANCE of stories among First Nations people Disney could’ve adapted (with consultation from the Nation it was taking inspiration from), it’s odd that they picked something with a historical background.

Well, there’s nothing we can do about it know. The movie has been made, for better or for worse. I guess it’s a good thing it didn’t gain The Lion King level success at any rate.

I think the best thing Disney can do about Pocahontas as this rate is to make sure it ISN’T their only movie about Native Americans. I hope Moana (which is going to be set in ancient Polynesia) is successful enough to encourage Disney to make more movies about different ethnic and indigenous groups and give them the proper respect they deserve to create some beautiful films. I just hope they remember to have fun with them too.