Or, okay guys, it’s nice that you have lady characters, but you can’t just have one lady in a film and thus the park and say you’re doing it right.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Disneyland. As of the trip I just got back from on Thursday, I’ve been six times now, and twice to Disney World; we have another trip already tentatively in the works. (In my family, we have big Disney people. Not the films per se, but the parks. Mostly because we have big amusement park people. Really person, though all of us enjoy it enough.) Of course, while the aforementioned big Disney person walks into the park and has a big, dopey smile on his face, I walk into the park and immediately start letting loose with the rational brain.
I think that before I get into the gender stuff, I should tell you a story so you understand how I “do” Disneyland: to this day, my all-time favorite cast members in the park are a guy who stood outside of the Haunted Mansion facilitating the line and just repeatedly waggled his fingers with a creepy expression on his face and a girl who once led a go-round of the Storybookland Canal Boats that included phrases like “and this is the part of Peter Pan where the giant ducks invaded London!!” One of my friends once proclaimed her desire to work at Disneyland in the High School Musical parade revue; I proclaimed my desire to be that tour guide. I don’t know who she is, and it was years ago, so I’m sure she’s not there any more, but she is still to this day one of my heroes. I do Disneyland sarcastically, even when I’m not trying. (How better to explain the HBO Disneyland fiasco?)
But once I find one thing that annoys the bejeezus out of me, it’s not hard to find others. Pirates of the Caribbean was one of the first rides we rode, and immediately it got me crankyfacing about the Anne Bonney and Mary Read situation. Pirates is a fun ride, but it’s so outrageously stereotypical that it makes me sad. The only women found in the scenes are the nagging wife leaning out a window, the nagging wives chasing their husbands with a broom or a, I don’t know, a frying pan, and the women being sold at a bride auction, being portrayed as literal commodities. “Drunk stupid misogyny,” the male dummies say as the auctioneer tries to promote a chubby bride. “Do want sex appeal,” they add, indicating the sexy redheaded dummy striking a pose nearby (why is it always redheads? I mean, I have a ginger thing, but still).
Oh, and the way they market pirate stuff. They do have one “girly” pirate dress; it’s pink, black, and white, and I will admit it’s pretty cute. (We were waiting in line next to a woman whose daughter had proclaimed a desire to be a pink pirate before coming, so the dress was fortuitous.) But really? That’s the only lady pirate option? What if you want to be a lady pirate, but don’t feel like you want to be a pink lady pirate? What if you want to be a pirate that’s, say, actually pirate colored? They sell replicas of Jack Sparrow’s clothes, why not sell replicas of Elizabeth Swan’s outfit from the third movie, when she was a pirate queen?
I can’t say for the Haunted Mansion, as it was done up all Nightmare Before Christmas style; I mean, I do think it’s weird that that movie has dozens of characters, but literally two of the ones who actually have more than one line are ladies. I absolutely love Sally, though; she is one of the queens of my heart. And she gets to be pretty helpful and functional in the film, which is cool I guess.
Oh, but guys, fyi: you could make a killing selling Sally t-shirts. Not Sally+Jack t-shirts proclaiming “true love” on them, though I’m sure you make a brisk business with those, but just Sally by herself t-shirts. I scoured the entire park looking for one of these, perhaps with a picture of Sally stitching herself up on it, or one like the tarot cards in the “thirteen days of Christmas” room in the Nightmare mansion where she’s holding day-glo passion potions; I personally ship Sally/Jack, I always have, but do I think it was developed enough in the movie to be comfortable with the label “true love”? Not yet. True love is for Anthony/Priya, for Zoe/Wash; true love is not for putting a male-featured spin on who is otherwise a relatively neat lady character so you feel comfortable putting her on a t-shirt. (I wound up buying a Sally doll instead, because I am creepy.)
And let’s talk about princess marketing. I will admit that seeing the little girls who want fouffy princess dresses running around in their fouffy princess dresses makes my heart happy. I saw a little girl running around the park with a Merida dress and wig on, waving a plastic sword, though save for a few racks in the large stores on Main Street and in Downtown Disney, I was disappointed with the amount of Brave merchandise that was around. I’d last been to Disney World following the releases of The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, and there had been an onslaught of relevant merchandise; I guess I was expecting the same for Brave. Not so.
One of my people declared that Brave was probably going to wind up like Mulan: critically lauded, loved by a few with devotion, but ultimately underrepresented for whatever reason. To which I replied indignantly. The underrepresentation of Mulan in Disney parks is and has always been one of my pet peeves: the once I saw a cast member dressed as Mulan, I flipped out and, regardless of the fact that I was nineteen years old at the time, I insisted that one of my people get a picture of me with her. One of my friends requested I bring her Mulan souvenirs as a gift, and I found exactly three to choose from: a pin of what was basically chibi Mulan in a set of chibi princesses, a small Mulan doll in a box with four other princess dolls, and a legit Mulan by herself pin on the pin trader wall.
Speaking of Brave, though, I saw a cast member dressed as Merida offering photo ops; once the children were done getting their picture taken, they could go learn how to shoot an (assumedly blunted) arrow at a target. That’s more like it.
(My dream is this: when I am the godmom of my best friend’s daughter, I will be at Disneyland with her. I will buy her a princess dress if she so desires it and I will pay for her to get her hair done if she so desires it. And then, if she so desires it, I will take her over to Tomorrowland to partake of the learn-how-to-lightsaber-fight lessons at Jedi Academy. In her princess dress.)
When I was in California Adventure, I overheard a woman speaking to a little boy; he was presumably her grandson or nephew in my read. They were looking over the map, trying to decide where to go next; “What about the Ariel ride?” she asked this little boy, her voice sing-songy. “No, you probably don’t want to, that’s a girl ride.”
Does it really start that simply? Girl rides/boy rides? Where girls are expected to be able to enjoy boy rides too, but god forbid a boy want to go enjoy the story of The Little Mermaid. Ariel’s Undersea Adventure was much debated amongst my people; it was cute, it was sweet, but it was not innovative in the slightest, it was incongruous with the surroundings. Yeah, maybe, but my argument in favor of it was this: I don’t care what the ride is, the fact that it took this many years for Ariel to even get a ride is sick. It now exists, so that’s good enough for me.
How many of the other princesses have a ride? The carousel in Disney World used to be Cinderella’s, but they relabeled it as belonging to her prince, because “he got it in the marriage,” because they needed to make Fantasyland more boy-friendly. (As if the rest of the park isn’t boy-friendly.) Snow White has one of the crappy storytelling dark rides in Fantasyland.
And that’s… it. Unless you count Alice in Wonderland, who has several rides to her name. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty Castles are not rides.
Never mind that they put in multiple Finding Nemo rides immediately. Never mind that there are multiple Toy Story rides (and even those: Toy Story Mania includes the green army men, but completely disregards Bo-Peep, and despite the fact that Jessie is just as present at Woody’s Shooting Gallery, it’s still just Woody’s), a Wind in the Willows ride, a Pinocchio ride, a Peter Pan ride, a Star Wars ride, dozens of rides that don’t have anything to do with Disney cartoons at all. (At least the Pirates movies, no matter how painful, did eventually include lady pirate Elizabeth, as well as surprise lady pirate Zoe Saldana at one point. In that way, they improved upon the ride.)
So: why not a Mulan ride? A shooting game one, but with arrows and swords and Huns, maybe. Why not a Brave ride? Why not rides featuring any of the dozens of female Disney characters prominently?
Because the boys won’t want to ride “girl rides”? Hey boys, I’m a girl, and when I was a kid, I didn’t want to ride “boy rides.” I’m relatively grown now, but I still find myself wishing for more “girl rides,” preferably that weren’t crappy storytelling dark rides. Why do they assume that letting the little girls dress as princesses will be enough to placate them? Assume that oh, little girls are fine with “boy rides.” Why do rides have to be boy rides or girl rides at all?
God, I want to go to HBO Disneyland now. I want to go on the Authority shooting dark ride and fire stakes and silver bullets at asshole sanguinista guards to vent my frustrations, I want to go get my picture taken with the cast members dressed as Sansa and Dany and tell them that they are both my queens, I want to go on a fake-horseback Frontierland adventure with Calamity Jane.
–your fangirl heroine.