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November 2, 2011

You get what you pay for (especially if you pay for it over and over again)

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 5:15 pm

Fair warning: If you read this blog with any regularity (well, if you did when I wrote with any regularity, that is), and are here because you like what you read when you visit… this post may not be for you…

Having said that, what I know about my readers, in general, is that they are a thoughtful, reflective, open-minded bunch. As I begin, I am counting on those qualities to stay alive (or at least keep my car and home free from eggs).

Having said THAT… I shall begin.

This morning I saw the following picture/satire/cartoon/whatever making its way around Facebook. It instantly resonated with me on many levels… I’m sure it will with you as well:

disney women

~insert outrage here~

(actually, no, insert the outrage in the comments area below… it sparks conversation and exposes more people to the thought process… in short… its good to do!)

Did you get enough off your chest… do you feel better yet? Probably not…

~insert more outrage – with a side order or anger and/or despair ~

I agree with most of what just went through your collective minds… 110%.

HOWEVER…

I also have other thoughts. Since I think we can all agree on the reprehensible (or at least objectionable) ones… I’m going to skip over those and move on to the more potentially esoteric or fringe thoughts.

First of all, I’m not at all sure that beauty is any more or less relevant or valid of a judgment criteria, assuming you are going to judge someone in the first place. Secondly, I think if you were to assemble all of the Disney princes, you’d find the same criteria applies. The difference would be that instead of saying “if you are beautiful, you will be approved of and courted” it would say something closer to “if you are handsome you can get away with pretty much any aberrant or otherwise poor behavior and you will still be thought of as desirable and pined over.”

In fact, inspired by this train of thought, I have found just such a picture:

disney men

See what I mean? But lets get back to beauty as a criteria…

I’m not sure I can go along with the mass think that using someones attractiveness (as it effects you) is somehow a lesser criteria than something else. Using it to the exclusion of all others, is probably going to get you into some trouble, sure, but to discount it as shallow and base I think is wrong. The proverbial baby is getting thrown out with the bath water.

Different people certainly have different strengths; some are more conventionally attractive, some more intelligent, some more humorous… others may be all of these things. However, I don’t think that being more intelligent trumps being more attractive or being funnier, in a general sense. At its base, human life is about survival (some would add “of the fittest” to that statement) and beauty has its place in the area of survival, just like any other attribute (if you don’t believe me, interview a flower someday).

Clearly, society today has placed far to great an emphasis on appearance… and within that, to great an emphasis on micro-waistlines. Even more than the the Disney gals, the Disney guys picture demonstrate this to be true. But again, just because someone does too much of- or with – a good thing… that does not make it a bad thing (it’s kind of like a top 40 song ;) ).

I short, Disney’s deficiency, in my opinion, is not in makeing the women (or men) attractive, but rather in rendering them lacking in other attributes, or convictions. And, I’m not even really sure that argument stands, really. We all learned in school that hero’s (good, interesting ones anyway) are burdened by a tragic flaw (aside: it constantly amazes me how I am not a super-hero… as I am resplendent in tragic – and not as tragic – flaws). They must work through this burden in order to be the transformative beings we want them to become by the end of the story.

In the Disney version of The Little Mermaid… written for kids… there are some very clear (and crushing to those who know the original story) plot deviations made for its audience. What kids do not want to see, is the person they have spent the last 90 minutes bonding with turn into the (highly suspect, and kind of icky) bubble bath like stuff that gets on your ankles at the beach in an act of Shakespearean level love and devotion. Lacking an appropriate ending, Disney did what all good capitalists do, and took the path of least resistance. Unfortunate, but who am I (or you) to decide that giving up your identity and becoming human is more tragic or wrong than giving up your life and becoming sea foam? In the end, in both stories, she makes a sacrifice for love… and I’m not sure that is the worst thing for which glorious sacrifices have ever been made.

Just like (most of) you, I have issues with reducing women into eye candy and elevating men into risk-taking-result-creating-world-saving machines, I really do. However, much like I believe subjugating the (traditionally attributed) feminine quality of intuition in favor of the (regularly assigned) masculine mode of applying logic to a situation when seeking solutions is a mistake; I, likewise, question the wisdom of reducing the role or importance of beauty.

What I am more inclined to take to task is the overly simplistic black and white thinking that permeates our modern discourse. We are, by and large, a laze society that no longer even takes the full cover into consideration when judging a book, let alone its internal contents. When we aren’t being lazy we are moving too fast to recognize the attributes in others that distinguish one biped from another. Is she funny? How could i begin to know… who has the time to chit chat, unless there is some other visible ROI for doing so.

Can we seriously blame Disney for “dumbing down” classic stories when we as a society in general are unwilling to palate them as originally written?

Disney is a business, existing to entertain people. They are not here to establish social norms, rather they are tasked to work within what is established by you and I… the actual members of our society. By contrast John and Jane Doe (AKA you and I) and our daily activities do define social norms, cultural values and acceptable behaviors. If there is a scantily clad co-ed selling us beer, an ruggedly handsome man selling us after shave, or a Disney princess extolling the virtues of caking on makeup to catch a man… its because we as a society have instructed the creators of this drivel to do so. Those comercials and movies are not made because someone thinks they are cool and wants to dump that thought process on us, they are created from hours of extensive market research, customer surveys and – more than anything else – retail response to the previous campaigns that paved the way for what we are watching today.

As I have said time and time again about things like sports (or entertainer, or CEO, or teacher, etc. etc. etc.) salaries if you don’t like what you are being served… change your order. If there is one thing I know about business – all business – they are going to produce that which is going to be purchased. Businesses don’t care what they sell, only that they sell. All we have to do, as a society, is send a clear message that we want something different, something other than heaving breasts and massive biceps, something different than cookie cuter barbie’s and chiseled Ken doll/GI Joes types.

Assuming, of course, that we really do want something different. We all do want something different… right???

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