Okay, Disney. I Never Thought I’d Say This…But You Need to Gay It Up More.

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By Persephone

I took my mom to Beauty and the Beast on Saturday.  Having been a longtime fan of the original, I’d already felt my interest piqued, but I decided to go after hearing about the boycotts.  It turns out that there was a gay character complete with a gay scene, and a great many ultra-conservatives were kicking up a fuss.  Therefore, I had to see it in theaters.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I knew that there’d be a good heap of nostalgia involved, but that was about it.  As it so happens, the movie was good.  It was a fairly light-hearted story that extended the original rather competently.  There’s all the songs we know and love–this time in live-action.  The Gaston song was particularly campy.  Despite the longer screen time, the movie’s pace never seemed slow, and the momentum built well.  The weird curse on the beast was clarified (because it never really made sense in the original), and Belle’s back story was extended.  Her dad (as played by Kevin Kline) grew a lot more as a character.  Kline might not have been given a great many lines, but he made the most of them.  The visuals were amazing, and the CGI wasn’t too distracting.  Plus, you had Emma Watson, and she never fails.  I say this as a long-time Harry Potter fan.  Emma Watson is just awesome.

However, I’ve got two complaints, although they’re pretty minor.  First of all: Belle and the Beast have amazing chemistry while he’s a beast.  There’s a playfulness to the Beast and an emotional strength to Belle that really makes their relationship a lot more believable.  Then, he turns human, and it felt like they were going through the motions.  Seriously.  He pretty much just turned human to walk through the standard happy ending with very few lines.  He kissed Belle, they danced, and the story was over.  I just wish there’d been a conversation or something between them, you know?  It felt forced.  Who knew bestiality would feel more natural?

My second complaint is more complicated.  The supposed gay character and gay scene were a total let-down.  Let me rephrase that.  Gaston’s lackey LeFou is the gay character.  He really wasn’t the let-down.  Hanging onto Gaston’s every word, LeFou even added a number of cheeky words of his own.  He was self-aware, fantastic, and in possession of a conflicted moral compass.  For such a minor character, he made quite the impact.  The gay scene, though, was pointless.  In the big dance number at the end, there was a two-second shot as LeFou started dancing with a guy.  That’s it.

Arg!!  After all that hype, that was it.  That was the most minimal gay controversy ever.  So…my beef with this is…if they knew that theaters in conservative towns would refuse to play this movie simply because there was any gay content at all, why didn’t Disney make the most of it?  You know, add in a whole relationship?  Maybe even a kiss.  It’s not like there’s never any gay characters in Disney movies.  The first full-length animated feature Disney made was staffed by seven guys all sharing the same room for heaven’s sake!  I’m of course referring to Snow White there.  Let’s also remember Timon and Pumba from The Lion King, Flora and Fauna from Sleeping Beauty, those Siamese lesbian cats from The Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan and his lost boys, Cogsworth’s crush on Lumiere in the original Beauty and the Beast, and those mice from Cinderella.  Having queer characters in Disney movies is kind of normal.  For once, they should have announced it loud and proud.  Disney should have presented an openly gay character and rocked it.

Other than that, though, the movie really was good.  It wasn’t super-deep, but then fairy tales rarely are.  Such tales are an escape from reality, although I was pleasantly surprised by the racial diversity in this version.  For once, we saw a fairy tale that wasn’t entirely staffed by white people.  The biracial couples were a nice addition, and no one in the story brought up the matter of race.  It was simply an accepted part of the cast, which was an attitude I found quite refreshing.

I guess in the case of Disney’s acceptance of social progression….this is a matter of baby steps.  Not bad.  Certainly an improvement over their botched take on Pocahontas back in the ’90s.

Picture from digitalspy.com

Something to Smile About

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By Persephone

The last three months have been just brutal, and that was after a heart-wrenchingly long campaign season.  It’s hard for me to read the news (though I do it anyway), as every day seems to provide some new hurdle to overcome.  Trump’s lack of experience, intelligence, or ability to surround himself with experienced or intelligent people has resulted in some pretty dark policies.  If you don’t know which policies I’m referring to, then you need to pay the slightest bit of attention.

This website has helped me through the last three months.  It’s given me an outlet to vent out all my fears and frustrations with our new administration.  Today, though, I’d like to use it as a sounding board for something that made me laugh so hard I actually forgot that Trump was our president for a few seconds.

Saturday Night Live has always demonstrated a political side in its sketch comedy–especially in election years.  Trump has offered up substantial comical fodder this last year, and the show has run with it.  He really hasn’t helped restrain their enthusiasm as he continually tweets his disdain for their humorous antics at his expense.  They remain quite undeterred.  I’ve watch SNL skits off and on over the years, but never with any real consistency.  After President Cheeto got elected, I’ve found myself watching them religiously.  Last night, this devotion totally paid off.  They provided a series of adorable sketches (I particularly enjoyed the Totinos commercial), but Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer was definitely the highlight of the night.  She entered the room with Spicer’s angry, uninformed manner, and she maintained that energy through props, podium attacks, a diapered CNN reporter, and tons of chewed-up gum.  You have to watch it to understand just how funny it was.  McCarthy never even breaks character.  She’s such a pro.

However, SNL isn’t the only show that’s helped me get through all this.  Ever since the Bush administration, I’ve watched Comedy Central’s Daily Show, first with Jon Stewart, and now with Trevor Noah.  I love both hosts, although they’re pretty different.  Admittedly, I haven’t been all that consistent at watching the show until this latest election, but I now can barely survive whenever the show allows its cast and crew to take a vacation.

But that’s not all!  There’s also Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, and Seth Meyers.  It turns out that political satire is what saves my sanity.  I can’t survive in a world in which President Trump isn’t made fun of twenty-four seven.  Thanks to these individuals, such a world doesn’t exist.

So…what I mean to say is…thanks.  Keep up the good work.

Picture from tvline.com

Moana: Is Disney Starting to Grow Culturally Sensitive?

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By Persephone

Having grown up in a progressive household, I’ve heard all about the historical inaccuracies of the culturally insensitive Disney industry.  Films like Aladdin and Pocahontas were debatably the worst of the lot, but Mulan and The Princess and the Frog weren’t exactly a step up, either.  In their own heavy-handed way, Disney clearly tried to represent non-white characters and situations, but it really wasn’t their strong suit.

Color me surprised then, as I emerged from seeing Moana for the first time.  While it was still a glamorized (as in, Hollywood version) of a Polynesian, pre-invaded culture, it was guided by much more knowing hands.  Self-aware of its Disney film status, Moana still boasts what audiences expect: awesome visuals, a likable princess, and lots and lots of catchy songs.  Luckily, none of the songs resembled the earworm that is “Let it Go,” thank goodness.

There was more to this story, though.  It connected some spectacular Polynesian mythological characters throughout the film, presenting them to modern American audiences with unapologetic good humor.  Moana accepts her wandering nature, as well as becoming chief of her people.  There’s a balance between heart and mind that is rarely accomplished in cinema, much less in a children’s film.  There’s also the question of accepting the past while embracing the future.  It was beautiful.

By far my favorite character was one which never spoke.  I adore the ocean, yet I’ve never witnessed the ocean promoted as such an overwhelming presence before.  Not only does it surround our characters every step of the way, carrying them forth, but it’s a real participant with a strong personality all its own.  Pretty cool.

So, if you want to take your kids to a well-made and thought-provoking film, look no further.  This one will not disappoint.

Picture from seventeen.com

Fantastic Beasts: Fantastic or Not?

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By Persephone

As a long-time Harry Potter fan, I knew I’d eventually get around to watching J.K. Rowling’s new spinoff film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  It just took a little longer for me to arrange getting there.  After viewing it, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised.  The atmosphere felt dark and moody, matching much of the tone of the film, and there was quite the queue of ridiculous, likable characters parading through an admittedly weak plot (dark monster, predictable villain–you know the drill).

However, it’s those same characters that probably disappointed me the most in viewing this film.  The characters were all lovely–Newt was strange (in a kind way), Tina was singlemindedly obsessed with fulfilling her duties, and Queenie proved flirtatious and just awesome in every way.  However, this is the problem; these were great characters that were granted very little in the way of character development.  After the strong attachments so many fans (myself included) formed for so many characters in the Harry Potter franchise, this bunch is sadly quite forgettable.  I’m hoping the sequels fix that.  Having said that, I felt Dan Fogler placed so much heart and care into his role as Jacob that this was the one character that, I believe, will remain the film’s most memorable icon.

Can I also say that you could tell this movie was made by the British?  A British director, primarily a British cast, and a British writer from behind the scenes created this 1920s-style New York.  It was good, just a stylized version of Americans living in a city that felt more like a copy of London than New York.  At least now I know how the British view Americans in history–they’re opportunistic, strict about the law, no matter how arbitrary, and they punish perpetrators swiftly and severely.  Since we recently elected President Cheeto, I’m pretty sure British opinions have already lowered considerably.

Despite all this, I’d recommend this film to anyone.  Its truly most beautiful component were the beasts.  They each held so much life and energy, adding very much needed humor as well as developing Newt’s humanity.  He adored each of them.  Without them, I probably wouldn’t have really cared for the main character.

Overall, this was a story filled with hanging plotholes and undeveloped characters, but it’s message of love and understanding held unshakably throughout the entire film.  I liked that.

Picture from nerdist.com