Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Disney's Enchanted: Hey, I'm BA-A-A-A-D!

It's not that I didn't enjoy this sweet film. It's not that the characters, music, and script didn't captivate me.  It's just that I can't leave my bleeping between cultures bifocals at home. 

So when the Bad Guy Brit (standard Disney choice played by Timothy Spall) offered Princess Giselle poison apples, it didn't surprise me that he disguised himself as three different kinds of first generation American: creepy hawker with generic Eastern European accent, Italian waiter, and (I knew it was coming) Sikh taxi cab driver. Thankfully he was reforming by the time he was costumed as an Indian immigrant, so we didn't have to endure a fake South Asian lilt. 

Throughout the movie, two Manhattans were evident: rich, white people with doormen and dry cleaning and working class immigrants, of whom all children should beware. On a good note, the film didn't vilify the High-Powered Jewish Princess (Idina Menzel), although she was dumped (after FIVE years of patient dating) in favor of the WASP Domestic Princess (Amy Adams) who cooked, sewed, and cleaned.

But the worst part for me was when the Real Bad Babe, played by a gorgeously middle-aged Susan Sarandon (in black with black hair ... yet again), became a downright crone before she convinced Princess to eat said apple. You know what that means, don't you? In a few years I get to be perceived as a double villain: a zero-generation immigrant AND an old woman. Let's terrify some kids during my author visits, shall we? 

Sigh. I feel kind of witchy already, smearing a good flick with my hyper-critical take. Too bad I can't just go to the movies and be swept away by the magic of a well-made tale. Can you?

11 comments:

Pooja said...

"Too bad I can't just go to the movies and be swept away by the magic of a well-made tale. Can you?"

Nope. I would have probably had the same thoughts you did. Le sigh.

Mitali Perkins said...

Well, that's good. I was worried I was becoming a curmudgeon, but since you're so far from that, Pooja my dear, I'll take heart.

pooja said...

:)

BTW, I just finished White House Rules this weekend and am writing up my review of it for Kahani. It was definitely good fun! When is High School Diaries coming out ;)?

gail said...

I'm loving this! I can't tell you how often I've felt like the Real Bad Babe because of a hypercritical take.

I can't leave my feminist bifocals at home. (Seriously. I can't see without them.) They cause me to perceive some YA books much, much differently than the average reviewer does. I just can't believe others are missing what I see in those books.

Mitali Perkins said...

Interesting, GG. Maybe we're all wearing unseen bifocals on the soul, albeit with different prescriptions. (Defined by what, I wonder, past pain?) But wouldn't it be a relief to take them off once in a while and simply enjoy an untarnished view?

That's one definition of Heaven, I guess, as a place where we don't have to worry about any destructive or subversive "isms" so we can finally let down our guards, weapons, and bifocals. Can you tell I'm greatly anticipating my four-day silent writing retreat at a monastery next week?

Great to meet you face to face recently, and thanks for your nice post about Sparrow and SLJ.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Mitali: This post reminds me that I recently read Edward Eager's Half-Magic, as I had read his books as a child and loved them. I felt sick at heart when I came to a part I hadn't remembered-- negative stereotypes of Arabs and Chinese in one of the children's early adventures. I am a bit nervous about rereading the rest of Eager's books, but I must, and see if I really can continue to recommend them.

Mitali Perkins said...

Oh no, Akelda, you're right! I love Edward Eager, too. Will this make me love his stories less? I don't know; F. H. Burnett's Secret Garden with my critical internal bifocals reveals Indians described as "pigs," but after I process this, I can still relish the story. The magic doesn't disappear even though I recognize the author's mistakes.

Nonetheless, Eager is another instance, as with Burnett, where I have to wonder what my own time-specific cultural blinders are. Years from now, what will make readers of my stories wince (given that one of two of my books are still around being sold on ebay for 50 cents)?

David said...

Enchanted - A wife swapping film, for the whole family, in which a mopey jewish lawyer falls for his shiksa homemaker fantasy, dumps his loyal girlfriend -- the talented jewish woman -- and justifies it to himself, and to the cinema audience, on the ground that she wasn't right for him. I suppose it's a lifestyle for lots of people (LA?), but is it good entertainment for my nine year old jewish daughter, who later tells me the only character she didn't like is Idina Menzel's Nancy? I'd say it's entertainment, sure, but that it's also shallow, shameless, misogynistic, smarmy, self-deluded and embarassing. I wouldn't say it's good.

Mitali Perkins said...

David, how telling and poignant that your daughter wanted to distance herself from Nancy. I remember feeling just that way when I was a child and saw certain movies or read books where the villains reminded me more of me and "my kind" than of the majority. And longing, longing to be more like the heroine ... sound like you're parenting well, though, aware of it, grieved for her sake, and talking it through.

Kelly said...

Interesting thread--one that explains why I felt a little uneasy after enjoying the film.

I DID realize that I felt bad for Nancy. I thought she was awesome. I couldn't see why McDreamy would leave her for a crazy lady from the streets. I didn't realize Nancy was supposed to be Jewish, honestly. I didn't think McDreamy was Jewish either. But...I still couldn't see why he would leave her for someone he just met.

I did notice, Mitali, the three instances you mentioned and wondered...why? why did they have to do this? WHY?!? It could have been a cute film!

And, back to the Nancy issue...It could have been a great film if he had stayed with Nancy. Why did he have to leave her for someone he met 3 days ago? Someone, who on the surface of things, seems completely insane?

Still, I loved the 2 musical numbers.

Mitali Perkins said...

I loved the music, too, and the movie was definitely entertaining. I'm glad you were uncomfortable before you read my post, Kelly, I certainly don't want to ruin it for anybody. Hope you're staying warm and cozy through the ice storm out there.

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