The Wonder in Your Living Room

  Theater might be the most exclusive of all performance arts, with the possible exception of ballet. Tickets cost money, yes, and that’s one barrier to access, but more important is location. Even if you can afford a ticket, you’ll need to travel to a theater mecca like New York or London, watch for a touring company to swing by the nearest large city, or wait for the rights to die out so your community theater can put it on. […]

How Dragons Slither Into Fairy Tale Media

Dragons are some of the most famous stock creatures in fairy tales, right on par with fairy godmothers and wicked witches. Dragons might actually have a more prominent presence in legends, like St. George saving the local princess from a hungry dragon and King Arthur’s knights galavanting around the countryside to slay them. In Greek mythology, Hercules and Perseus both rescue princesses from a huge sea serpent. Dragons have snaked their way into modern media franchises. Jabba, the gross, huge, […]

Toddlers, Arise! Why Recipe for Disaster is a Recipe for Success

The queen of YouTube is a three year old girl who eats pink goop with an overgrown teddy bear. Masha and the Bear is a children’s TV show based on a Russian fairy tale of the same name. Masha has achieved a fair amount of success on streaming services, like Netflix, but she’s most successful on YouTube. The seventeenth episode, Recipe for Disaster, has racked up over 4.3 billion views as of December 2020. It ranks as the fifth-most viewed […]

The Ugly Truth About Depictions of Cinderella’s Stepfamily

Cinderella is quite possibly the most popular story about a blended family in Western culture. Her ugly relationship with her stepfamily can provide an outlet for young viewers in messy or abusive step relationships. But stepmothers and their children have feelings just as real and complicated as the “Cinderellas” of the world and suffer from one-sided portrayals. The etymology dictionary website Etymonline says the very word stepmother has been associated with cruelty since at least the Middle English era. The […]

Cinderella, the Modern Woman: 1961-1978

In a previous post, we went over how Cinderella was modernized in the first few decades of the twentieth century in pre-television cinematic featurettes. The 1950’s brought a television boom. By 1953, half of all American homes owned a TV set. Sadly, the small screen Cindys of fifties haven’t survived in a form that’s currently accessible. Televised Cinderellas of the 1950’s include a 1957 broadcast of the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptation and a Cinderella ballet, neither of them realistic or […]

Cinderella: the Modern Woman, 1922-1944

Classic. Old-fashioned. Anti-feminist. Cinderella seems to belong to a bygone world of ball gowns, but for the past century, she has been modernized at least once a decade by the magic of television. Our oldest database entry, not just for Cinderella but any tale type, is a silent, black-and-white cartoon produced by Disney in 1922. Instead of waltzing the night away in a ballgown, Cinderella shows up to the ball in a flapper dress and dances to ragtime; a thoroughly […]

Can Black Fairies and Mermaids Save the Remake Machine?

It’s no great secret that audiences are weary of live action remakes and reboots. If we measure the live action Disney age as starting in 2010 with the release of Alice in Wonderland, they’ve now been at it for ten years and show no signs of stopping. We can only assume Disney will continue this trend until it stops paying or until they run out of things to remake. They’ve effectively robbed their future selves by spending the last ten […]

Why You Miss Mushu So Much in the New Mulan

The new 2020 live action Mulan featured many departures from the 1998 animated version, but one stands out. Her trusty dragon friend, Mushu, has been axed, to the dismay of many fans. Mushu added a dash of comic relief to this children’s war film and filmmakers wanted a more serious tone for the live action reboot. His levity was also seen as trivializing Chinese culture. While Mulan’s love interest Li Shang was successfully cleaved into two characters, the unromantic Commander […]

Four Secrets Allusions to The Ballad of Mulan in the Live Action Remake

Both the 1998 animated Mulan and the recent live-action remake draw from an ancient Chinese poem entitled The Ballad of Mulan. This poem is not as well-known to audiences as the European texts that serve as fairy tale fodder for other movies. Western audiences are primarily familiar with the story through the animated film and may miss the allusions that help to shape the 2020 Mulan. These shout-outs add character depth and underscore the gender themes of the classic Chinese […]

Why Mulan Can’t Empower Other Women

The recent release of the live action Mulan has generated a buzz on whether this new film’s plot and character changes constitute a step forward or a step back for women. Filmmakers made the controversial decision of cleaving Li Shang’s character in two. Her romance with a commanding officer was seen as a problematic power dynamic, though both the animated Mulan and the live one had very little actual romantic interaction with him due to her cross-dressing. The new film […]