Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Favorite Princess

What a month. Book and Movie Reviews, Teens Can Write Too! Blog Chain, a myth, discussion and debate, and lots and lots of princess talk.

Yet, after all this time, I haven’t even mentioned my favorite princess. Have you ever heard of the movie Willow?

If not, you’re about to.

via Pinterest
Why Sorsha is my Favorite Princess (Top 5 Edition)

If you’ve never seen Willow, here’s a short recap: It is said that a baby girl with a mark will be responsible for the downfall of the evil Queen Bavmorda. When she is born she falls into the care of Willow, a Nelwyn, who must take the baby to Tir Asleen where she will be protected by a good king and queen. Sorsha, the queen’s daughter, is sent to find the baby and return her to the queen, who will send her to the netherworld. Willow must rely on his friends, Madmartigan and the Brownies, to protect the princess, but if he is to save the baby, he will have to take the last steps alone.

1) Sorsha battles :: first and foremost, Sorsha is a warrior, and is like, the only woman in Bavmorda’s army. Obviously, this is a little sexist, but it’s a testament to Sorsha’s strength that she still can duke it out despite the prejudice against her.

2) Sorsha struggles :: the choice is between her mother, to whom she has always been loyal, and a baby, and the people who guard that baby. Such a choice is easy so long as the baby is faceless, but when Sorsha is captured and becomes more friendly with Madmartigan, she seriously has to reconsider her choices—and I do so enjoy character arcs.

3) Sorsha gets skeptical :: Madmartigan has an unfortunate episode wherein he accidentally falls in love with Sorsha. Sorsha wants to trust him, but she doesn’t immediately fall for him. Her romance never takes center stage (Gold star for the lady). Still, I guess it’s impossible to avoid that kiss in the middle of a battle.

4) Sorsha is kind of ruthless :: there are many warriors who are ultimately good, but here I’m not entirely sure. Even though she switches sides, she has a cruelty in her wrought from birth, it would take some time for her to leave that mindset behind.

5) Sorsha accepts challenges :: multiple times the odds are against Sorsha, and she is unfazed. She’s set up to become a queen and is thrust into a family—with people she met not too long ago. Not everyone makes a good insta-parent, and those who have that strength are completely cool.

And, for the record, Sorsha rocked the curly red hair long before Brave ever came out. Someday I will explain in full detail as to why Willow is my all time favorite movie, but in the meantime, satisfy yourselves knowing Sorsha is awesome. Because she is.

Who is your favorite princess? Why?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Your Turn: What is Your Opinion of Princesses in Fiction?

Flickr Credit: Scott Smith
I spent a lot of time thinking about princesses as a little kid.

I liked Belle especially, because she read books and we shared the closed physical appearance among Disney Princesses (It was a long shot, but still). Ariel was also really popular—whenever I would draw myself I would give myself red hair. Deep down, I liked to think that I had been switched at birth and some kindly nobles (or rich people in general) would realize the mix-up and come for me, their real daughter.

I loved watching Barbie movies (especially the Rapunzel one, because Cleo from Clifford voiced the dragon) and Frog Princess books and Disney encyclopedias and Anastasia and so on and so forth. It didn’t leave me; right now I’m reading The Cycle of Inheritance and Thrice Upon a Marigold, both of which contain princesses as prominent characters. And I watched the fourth or fifth Swan Princess movie last night (eh, funny but no).

I’d even go so far to say that a lot of my preferences and ideals are shaped by the stories I read as a little girl—including the princesses.

But is that a good thing?

There are more controversies than I can name about Barbies and Disney princesses and female stereotypes in books and movies. They’re always too sexualized or not independent enough or they are beautiful and independent and strong and have absolutely no bearing on the plot. Little girls are growing up to want to be skinny pink princesses, blond haired and blue-eyed. I already posted about some princess clich├ęs—and there’s every chance they could be horribly damaging.

Then again, in books and movies I read there are princesses who are heroes. They do great deeds. They don’t wait to be rescued. They think for themselves and they still live happily ever after. I’ve said it before: a princess is a symbol of her country. But is it not also possible that a princess is a symbol of the girls who look up to her as well? Identifying with strong heroines seems like a valid idea to me.

She was fabulous, so I thought I'd include her.
Flickr Credit: tanakawho
A princess could be anyone.

A princess should have the potential to be anyone.

But fictional interpretations seem set in their ways. Is that a bad thing?

It’s hard to say.

As for me, I haven’t lost my faith in princesses yet. Sure, they have their faults. Sure, they may be bad role models. But I also know that somewhere out there authors are making princesses shine. And that’s awesome.

That’s just me. I know people who detest princesses. I know people who don’t. But what do you think? Are princesses in fiction a societal menace? Do you love them anyway? What makes or breaks the role of a princess in a book for you? 

(P.S. I thought the dog, Princess, was too fabulous not to share. That is why she is there.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Without Love

via disney.wikia.com
I get really good ideas in the bathroom. The novella I’m working on for Go Teen Writers’ 100-for-100 sprang from me thinking in the shower about gargoyles and the concept of “notebook spawn.” I make my life decisions while I’m brushing my teeth, and think of blog post ideas on the toilet.

I know there’s some sort of scientific reason for this, but my point is that the bathroom is really conducive for idea generation. At least for me.

So that is where this idea came from.

Disney’s Princess and the Frog is kind of like Paul when he’s writing to the church in Corinth. Woah.

Why Tiana and Paul are on the Same Wavelength
By Heather

If you’ve never had a chance to look at 1 Corinthians 13:1–3, take a look really quick at the NIV version, which I have borrowed from BibleGateway.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

In other words, if you’re doing the right things for the wrong reasons, then you’re still doing the wrong thing. Yes, you’re doing stuff, but unless it comes from love, then that stuff doesn’t matter.

That’s all very well and good, Heather, but how exactly does that tie in with Disney’s first princess of color?

Think about Tiana’s greatest influence: her daddy. This was a guy who worked long, hard hours, probably doing backbreaking work and receiving little compensation for his efforts. He loved cooking—sure, he had a day job, but it never gave him the same fulfillment. More than that, he cherished passing on his love for cooking to his daughter and sharing his creations with his neighborhood.

He had a gift and a dream unfulfilled (a restaurant)—but he had love.

Fast forward a decade or so, and Tiana holds the same dream. She imagines her fairy tale coming true, with fabulous food and a rich pedestal where she stands alone as queen. She works two jobs to make ends meet and save a little for her restaurant, and she has no love in her life.

This would be a great time to interrupt and say, “Hey! The value of Tiana’s life shouldn’t depend on a man!” And you’d be absolutely right. But when I say Tiana had no love in her life, I mean that in a much broader sense than simply romantically.

She has an absence of FRIENDSHIP—When Tiana declines an evening out, she hears a girl say “I told y’all she wasn’t gonna come.” Tiana doesn’t spend much time with her peers, and not just because she can’t dance. She’s too busy working.

Nor at WORK—Tiana’s dream is shot down nearly as soon as she speaks of it out loud. Her coworker (the cook) doesn’t respect her, nor does she expend much effort respecting him back.

There’s a little in her FAMILY—Tiana has her mom, but she’s also an only child. There’s no company. And, while she is affectionate with her mother, her restaurant overshadows any desires to have a family of her own.

And, obviously, she isn’t involved ROMANTICALLY—Tiana doesn’t have the slightest interest in Naveen for the first portion of the movie. That’s fine, but it is yet another area where Tiana is solely focused on what she is making, not the people she is making it for.

Fast forward to the climax. Dr. Facilier offers her everything. Her restaurant. Her father’s dream. But something’s missing—Naveen. Her mom isn’t there. None of her bayou friends. She is standing alone in that restaurant.

Here is where she gets it.

Like Paul suggested, the things Tiana wanted didn’t matter until she became motivated by love. Her dream would be empty without the people who mattered most. She turns Facilier down. And even though she’ll be trapped as a frog, she marries Naveen—which is the best part, by the way.

Swoosh, they’re human again, and when her dream comes true, everyone she loves stands right beside her.

via www.mouseonthemind.com
Look at how that differs. Naveen minces and performs inside Tiana’s Palace. His parents and her mom sit at a table together, and one of her oldest friends, Lottie, dances happily with Naveen’s little brother. Louis is up there with the band. Tiana mingles with her guests.

Yeah, Tiana found love with Naveen, but she found love with practically everybody else in her community, too. And that faraway dream she once had—suddenly it started to matter.

Of course, we’re not limited to Disney movies in this matter. If you are a writer, or a feeder of ducks at the pond, a nanny, a McDonald’s employee, a teacher, a millionaire, a musician—a person who is alive: there are people in your life. If you’re like me, you have God in your life, too. Whatever your passion is, whatever it is you really want to do, it’s only going to get better by including the people who matter to you most.

Oh look, I’m not crazy after all. Happy Sunday!

What do you think? How do the people you love add meaning to your life?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

TCWT September Blog Chain: Principio a Fin

There are a couple things I would like you to know before reading this post.

1) I am sick, and feeling rather embittered towards the world. I, for one, would like to have a chat with God on why exactly bacteria couldn’t have a nucleus with a real membrane. These mutations are driving me nuts.

2) If you haven’t been here this before, all of my posts this month are about princesses—you can read why here. This post will be no different.

3) This is also one of the many esteemed posts belonging to the Teens Can Write Too! Blog Chain; the prompt this month is What are your favorite book beginnings and/or endings?”

Compromise is the subtle art of solving a problem by catering to all involved parties at the same time, and then ducking as they try to kill you. Though I would appreciate it if you did not attack my house, I shall compromise: all of the beginnings and endings I choose shall indeed be of my favorites, and more than that they will all have princess references.

Watch me.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hold, and that means comfort.” –The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein, page 1

When I think of this line, I don’t think about young Bilbo or his adventures with the dwarves. I think of my dad reading it to me on a hard living room floor on a dark night in a soft voice. I love it when he reads to me.

[Princess Reference: To my understanding there are no girls in the book, but they go to Rivendell, where Elrond is, and Elrond is Arwen’s father and in my opinion, she is a princess.]

“The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid name Annette.” –The Princess Bride, William Goldman, page 33

The entire beginning of The Princess Bride rather fascinates me. In fact, the entire introduction is something to gawp at “This is my favorite book in all the world, though I’ve never read it.” Goldman crafts a strange story with a lot of potential energy—and how loud does it then explode.

[Princess Reference: Because Humperdinck couldn’t marry a peasant, he had to give Buttercup an estate so that she would be a princess and would therefore become eligible for marriage.]

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” –A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

I have never read this book. I love the beginning, but I haven’t read it. No… There’s another book called Deadlock, by Mark Walden, and it is on page 17 that Dr. Nero, who is, by the way, the most fantastic of characters to have ever lived, begins to read it. I’ll fangirl about this some other time for you.

[Princess Reference: It’s French Revolution time frame, which is anti-aristocracy, which is anti-princess. Marie Antoinette gets dead, yay peasants.]

“And they lived happily (aside from a few normal disagreements, misunderstandings, pouts, silent treatments, and unexpected calamities) ever after.” –Twice Upon a Marigold, Jean Ferris, page 297

I am that chick who really enjoys realistic endings. Love does not get easy after you get married, I think. Married people seem to think so—I am not married, but it is my understanding, and have you a complaint with it, I suggest you find someone who is married and have a discussion yourself.

[Princess Reference: Marigold is a princess.]

“So she commanded. He obeyed her, glad at heart./And Athena handed down her pacts of peace/between both sides for all the years to come—/the daughter of Zeus whose shield is storm and thunder,/yes, but the goddess still kept Mentor’s build and voice.” –The Odyssey, Homer/Robert Fagles, page 485

I do very much enjoy this ending. It’s a good ending. But I also like this ending because just under Homer’s last line, my freshman self wrote in her copy of the book: “And they lived happily ever after./The end.” I was so cute.

[Princess Reference: Nausicaa is a princess.]

“Prometheus began to laugh in spite of himself. He gazed out, past the rim of the mountain, toward the sun just beginning to slide down to the horizon.
‘Oh, dear Brother, wait till I tell you about my girl!’” –Pandora Gets Lazy, Carolyn Hennesy, page 277

Have I mentioned I’m a sucker for father-daughter moments? If you want me to cry, if you want me to love your book forever, if you want me to fall to my knees and squeal, you just need to write the best father-daughter sequence I’ve ever read. The relationship between Pandy and Prometheus in this series? Golden.

[Princess Reference: In Pandora Gets Vain, they run into Cleopatra, who, at the time, was technically a princess.]

And there is one more. One more. But it is a beginning, and it is an end…

“It all started in Ho Chi Minh City one summer. It was sweltering by anyone’s standards. Needless to say, Artemis Fowl would not have been willing to put up with such discomfort if something extremely important had not been at stake. Important to the plan…” –Artemis Fowl and The Last Guardian, Eoin Colfer, page 3 and page 328

They’re not a perfect match, but they complete the puzzle. The lovely thing about a circle is that it has no end. Here is the circle. And I love it.

[Princess Reference: I’m pretty sure Corporal Frond started insisting that everyone address her as a princess at some point because she claimed to be descended from King Frond himself.]

Flickr Credit: Chris Alcoran

How do you like them apples?

So, there you have it: beginnings and endings I love, all with princesses to boot. Don’t think I wasn’t honest, either. A beginning is an ember. And no matter who the characters are, or what the setting is, or who is causing the problem, by the end there will be a fire. Should that fire be especially hot, it shall brand you forever.

Here’s to books that brand you. May our scars never fade. Huzzah!

If you ARE in the Blog Chain: Be sure to drop me a link to your post so I can comment back, if I haven’t already!

If you ARE NOT in the Blog Chain: What are some of your favorite book beginnings and endings? And, while you’re here, why don’t you take a look at the other folks on the blog chain, just for kicks?

Prompt: “What are your favorite book beginnings and/or endings?” 
and http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)