Review of sorts: The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Gnomeo and Juliet
Summer is over and I breathe a sigh of relief as my son returns to school, ceasing aggravated nerves and boredom that had marked the summer of 2011. Over the holidays, my son and I watched a lot of movies. Restricted to the G rating, there was rather slim pickings, especially when one’s son had moved beyond Barney but is not allowed to watch the rather violent superhero cartoons that seemed to have proliferated over the years. What had happened to G-rated superheroes? Batman has turned into the Dark Knight, Ironman is a promiscuous philanderer and the Green Lantern…the ad opens with him in bed with a woman. Not a good trend, and one that panders to the adult comic reading audience. I would not mind it EXCEPT these films have been marketed to kids indirectly. DO NOT give me the BS that the ratings prevent kids from being affected when 1. the advertisements are played in the afternoons and early evening 2. the toys are being marketed and sold to kids as movie tie-ins. One cannot walk through Toys R Us without being assaulted by images from the movies.
Thing is, my son enjoys tremendously the camp 50s Batman, the older Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc so I do not think there is a need to include adult themes in superhero movies. Adult themes should be where they belong – out of cartoons.
Okay, so let’s put my rant on the state of kid-orientated shows aside. Cartoons – especially Disney cartoons before the advent of Dreamworks – largely form a modern child’s consciousness the way traditional fables used to. Good or bad, they are a form of socialization for children to cultural norms, especially in our age of TV. When all you have are white princess being saved by equally white princes, it becomes something of a problem. Gender inequality, racial inequality, many charges have been leveled at the Disney ideal of the world. Things are not quite so bad now – Tangled provide a better balance between the sexes (although I prefer Princess Fiona of Shrek on the realistically feisty princess scale) than say, Cinderella, and (eventually Princess) Tiana is a working class gal who works damned hard for her dream instead of hanging around for a prince. The men do not impress me much (thief in Tangled, irresponsible prince in P&F, yobbish Gnomeo) but way better than the cookie cutter princes of yesteryear. The Princess and the Frog is a credible attempt at racial inclusion – finally, people of colour (gasp! snicker). The storyline is punchy, although the dialogue and songs could be improved. Tangled is a good adventure, venturing on fluffy. Gnomeo and Juliet is an odd-ball comedy, although a number of the jokes went over my son’s head. He was more amused by the fact that the gnomes were talking (as compared to outright laughs Robots had elicited). The thing that tied all these movies together, however, is the happily ever after that all involves marriage (or the implication of future marriage). Is this the dream that I want to sell to the future generations? That no matter how much success you achieve, you are nothing without a man by your side? That singlehood always means loneliness? (Is it? I haven’t been single for seven years now so I can’t say. Maybe. There is a reason why Bridget Jones strikes such a chord.) That a man’s role is fulfill the dreams of their princesses in one way or another? It is the last that disturbs me to no end – instead of both sides helping the other to fulfill their dreams, the woman reforms, or changes the heroes’ dream to something more morally appropriate, while the men provide money and/or labour (P&F), or rescue (Tangled; G&J) to achieve the ever after.
Maybe I should take the movies for what they are – good, solid fun without sex, violence and inappropriate themes. On that count, all three deliver laughs and shared family fun.