July 2nd, 2012


Brave and Curly Hair

I think this is going to be a very productive day. Before noon, I've proofread two chapters, made a batch of strawberry jam (the cooking part, now it has to cool, cook again, and then go in jars), and walked to the library (which counts as both errand and exercise). Some of this is because of what I call the summer insomnia, which means I wake up freakishly early (for me), no matter what time I went to bed or how badly I slept the night before. Without setting an alarm, I was up in time to go to the early church service yesterday. I may as well make use of the time, especially since I more than make up for it during winter hibernation mode. I could do without the weird sleep pattern of going to sleep, then waking up from a deep sleep and thinking it's darker than when I usually get up and wondering if it's worthwhile to go back to sleep or if I should just get up -- and then I look at the clock and discover that it's an hour since I went to bed, and then it takes me a couple of hours to really get back to sleep.

I kind of gave up on Project Bad Romantic Comedy. There's a certain formulaic type that I need for what I'm working on, and there are some not-so-hideous examples. You've Got Mail fits pretty perfectly, and while it is rather formulaic and I have some issues with it, it doesn't strike me as too cynical. I don't feel like the people making it thought it was stupid. I think I came to this realization when I just couldn't force myself to watch Life As We Know It, and then it occurred to me that it doesn't fit the pattern I want, anyway. There are plot contrivances that make that movie sound awful (really, talk to the people you want to raise your child if something happens to you, and don't use your orphaned child as a matchmaking tool), but it isn't the kind of awful I need.

I went with a big group of friends to see Brave, and I wonder if we got a special edition that was different from what the critics saw because way too many critics sneered at it as "Pixar makes a Disney princess movie." And it was so not a Disney princess movie. There's no Prince Charming anywhere in sight, no hint of romance, no hint that the heroine is even looking for a romance, ever. A character who happens to be a princess doesn't make something a Disney princess movie. I kind of get the feeling that some of the reviews were a subconscious expression of "ewww, girl cooties!" -- that it was judged on some different standard just because it had a girl as the main character.

I happened to love it because it was a different twist on the princess story that was more about figuring out how to be yourself and how to get the other people in your life to let you be yourself. It was also about how there's more than one way to be a girl, and no one way is 100 percent right or wrong. You have to find what works for you in your situation, and you have to let the other girls/women in your life find their own way. That's an incredibly powerful message for girls, who seem to have these all-or-nothing ideals thrown at them -- you must be a Disney Princess! You must not be anything like a Disney Princess! I recently read a really good rant on that topic, criticizing one of those "those girly girls are stupid and awful and only the girls who fit this particular mode of being a geek girl are on the money" things that tend to get passed around Facebook. Whatever your age, see it with your mother or your daughter.

But the truly important thing about the movie was the hair. I understand they had to practically invent new technology to do it, but they got the hair right. It was wild and curly, and it looked like wild, curly hair really looks. Naturally curly hair isn't uniform. Some curls are tighter than others. Some form into perfect ringlets while others are just wavy frizz, and they got this right. They also got the way this kind of hair looks wet right. I was really impressed. Merida's hair looks exactly like mine when I don't use styling products and let it dry loose (though mine is much darker and more of an auburn than a red). Even better, they never straightened her hair. It was the way it was. If this movie had come out when I was a kid, I think it would have totally changed my self image and I'd have come to terms with my curls a lot earlier. I was a child in the 70s, when stick straight was the way to go. The Disney princesses may have had a bit of bounce to their hair, but they didn't have real curls. When a movie or TV show did have a character with truly curly hair, she was usually considered the awkward, geeky one (Sarah Jessica Parker in Square Pegs). If a curly haired character ever went through a transformation to become the love interest or be considered beautiful, her hair got straightened. The overall message from the media was that sleek, straight, shiny hair was the only way to be beautiful, and no matter how many times your parents tell you how great curly hair is, if you're being bombarded by those images, it's hard to get past the brainwashing that your kind of hair is something that needs to be corrected. Brave never actually tells us whether or not Merida is supposed to be considered beautiful. That's not really an issue for her (something else that keeps this from being a Disney princess movie). But she's shown as fierce and powerful and all kinds of wonderful, and she has that hair that she never has to change, and there will be dolls and costumes and action figures with that hair. I know how much it would have meant to me as a kid to have a doll with hair like mine. I came out of the theater saying in awe, "They got the hair right!"

I have another movie to discuss, but that will have to wait until tomorrow because I suspect it will be a long rant.