• The Disney Philosopher: One Reason Tangled is Super Awesome

    I’m sitting here watching the scene from Tangled where Rapunzel sings “When Will My Life Begin.” I already absolutely love this movie, but as I listen, it occurs to me that this song holds the key to why Rapunzel is  rather excellent Disney princess, especially comparatively speaking.

    Rapunzel has purpose. That’s what “When Will My Life Begin” is essentially about. In case you’re not familiar with the song, it’s essentially a narrative of how Rapunzel spins her day. Despite the extensive variety of activities that fill her hours (candle making and ventriloquy are among the more esoteric of her hobbies), the song expresses Rapunzel’s deep-seated sense of emptiness. Though the song is as bright and chipper as many other Disney favorites, the essential premise is that her life hasn’t actually started yet—that all of these activities, while filling up her time quite nicely, still leave her longing for something more.

    Though the song doesn’t detail her purpose (to unravel the mystery of the floating lights she sees every year from her tower), it sets up Rapunzel’s character as one who needs a purpose to be fulfilled in life. This sets her apart from other Disney princesses. Other Disney princesses, in certain ways. You could argue that, say, Ariel, Jasmine, Mulan, for example, had purposes, but these purposes (as I see it), boil down to escape. Escaping whatever circumstances life has handed them (tightly-controlled boundaries, arranged marriage, unsatisfactory gender roles) mainly for the purpose of escape. But Rapunzel doesn’t escape the tower just to escape the tower. She actually, in the beginning, has every intention of returning. She leaves to achieve a goal. To fulfill a purpose. One that has nothing to do with a man.

    Oh, she leaves with a man, yes, and he helps (and hinders) her achieve her purpose in various ways, but the purpose itself does not involve men in the way Ariel’s, Jasmine’s, and Mulan’s do. Ariel is escaping her father’s strict rules and pursuing her love. Jasmine is running away from men she does not want to marry and laws upheld by years of patriarchal rule. Mulan is running to protect her father, and, in many ways, to gain his (and others’) approval. But the only reason Rapunzel runs away with a man is because she’s rather a shrewd opportunist. If a strange woman had wound up in her tower instead of Flynn, she’d have begged her assistance all the same.

    I also think her purpose is more sharply defined than the trio mentioned above, if you want to be so generous as to grant that they have purpose. Ariel, for instance, does have a goal of “getting dear old princey to fall in love with [her],” but what does she do when she gets to the surface? Mostly she smiles and bats her big blue eyes. She’s pretty much just goes along for the ride. Literally. She rides through the streets of France in Eric’s carriage, taking in the spectacles they offer. She rides in his canoe while the animals sing about kissing; basically, they’re doing the wooing. And she stares and sighs at Eric from her balcony in his palace while she brushes her hair. When some random chick comes in to steal away her man, she hides behind a pillar and cries, then mopes about on the dock, not even planning on attending the wedding. Only when Scuttle brings news of the Sea Queen’s treachery does she take action—she jumps into the water, only to discover she’s not nearly as strong a swimmer without her tail. So Flounder has to pull her to the ship, and Scuttle and his crew are the ones who actually tall the wedding. Ariel comes in at the last minute, just in time to get her voice back and then be flung into the sea by Ursula. So, even when it seems like she might try to achieve her purpose, she finds that she gave up the key tools to help her do so (her voice, which is what Eric loves her for in the first place, and her tail, which would’ve helped her stop the wedding).

    Jasmine and Mulan are much more straightforward cases. Though they both escape undesirable home circumstances and gender roles (at least temporarily), once they are away from those circumstances, they don’t have any sort of a plan, any sort of a goal to achieve. Jasmine didn’t even bring any money on her great escape—which begs the question, um, exactly how long was she planning to escape for? What was she escaping to do? Where was she going to go? Mulan joins the army in her father’s place, and her only purpose is to just “be in the army” in place of her Father. Check. So then she’s stuck going where the army goes, without any purpose of her own.

    But Rapunzel’s got a goal—I gotta get to them lights. And she achieves it. With help, of course, but she’s by no means helpless during the journey. Don’t get me wrong, I love all four of these movies, and I understand that there are issues with each of them (even Rapunzel), but this is just something that popped into my head this afternoon while I was listening to Rapunzel’s adorable song.

    So there you go. Am I forgetting a princess with purpose? Am I not giving Ariel, Jasmine, and Mulan enough credit? I’d love to hear what you think.


  • 2 years ago
  • Yoga, Writing, and Langauge, Oh My!

    I’m having a reeeeeaaaaaallllyyyyyy hard time focusing on what I’m trying to read right at this moment in the office. I’ll blame it on a mix of caffeine, after-lunch slump, and my own lack of discipline to just TURN THE SOCIAL MEDIA OFF. Oh, and I’m not a linguist and this particular section of the book is kinda linguist-y. Regardless, as I was reading things early this morning, I kind of wanted to blog a bit about what I was reading. Having come to a bit of a productiveness impasse, I decided to just do it.

    I was afraid, at first, to blog about what I want to blog about because I’m about to start conducing some interviews this week with people who are my facebook friends and I’m going to write about the kind of stuff we’ll be looking for in the research. And then, I remembered THIS blog! Since it’s summer, my students will likely not be paying attention to it, and if they are, well, good for them! But, students, know that this is certainly not a reading response assignment. :) But, if you’d like to reblog/comment, by all means, please do!

    So here’s what I’ve been thinking about all morning: language! Are you surprised? Of course, not; my subject is writing and part of writing is language. BUT. My current research is looking at the intersection of language and gesture, language and the body, etc. One introduction I read made interesting points about gesture being the imagistic part of language—kind of your brain/body’s way of getting those pictures in your head out to the people you’re trying to communicate to. Because we don’tjustthink in words. We think in ideas (which, remember, are not words in and of themselves), we think in images, we think in feelings. Or, at least, I would argue that emotions are a part of thinking. I think, too often, we try to separate emotion and thinking, because (thanks to Descartes), we link thought and thinking with logic and emotion, as the opposite of logic, with the body.

    But I think there are such things as emotional logics (though I’m not sure I could articulate to you what those are) and the the only way you think is, in fact, through your own body. And emotions, literally, feelings, the things you feel in your body through your senses, the way you feel your heart race when you’re excited or angry or when you get that “sinking” feeling in your stomach when you’re dreading something or that weight on your shoulders when you’re sad, those are a part of thinking.

    So one author talks about gestures as being our way of getting those mental images out, but I think that’s too static of an explanation. I think that gestures are more active; perhaps they are thinking-as-action, the way we try and relate intangible, active concepts that we experience in this world through our bodies to whomever we are attempting to communicate.

    I keep coming back to this idea of language and the body, language in the body, how language (and gesture, and writing) and the body are related. And that makes me wonder about how different people experience language bodily. It makes me wonder whether people who are more active in their bodies, who are more attuned to their bodies or parts of their bodies for one reason or another (athletes, for example, or musicians whose hands and/or mouth muscles are fine-tuned) might experience language differently from only moderately active or sedentary people. I hesitate to consider that as a line of inquiry for research, because I could easily see such research being used to make sweeping claims about inactive people (possibly a way to further fuel “weightism” in our country), but I think it’s a really interesting idea.

    Especially when I think about how differently I feel when I do/do not exercise, or especially when I do yoga. Yoga, like no other exercise (sorry, running, biking, weight lifting, and roller-skating) puts me “in my body.” I’m sure that’s because a main part of yoga is the focus, and if I incorporated the idea of “focus” into my other exercise endeavors, I might find the same kind of “in-body-ness” as I do in yoga.

    But because I’m in no way a consistent yogi, or a consistent writer, I have no claims to make about how being aware of one’s body influences one’s command of language or expression. It might be interesting to conduct a self-experiment, but I’m not sure I have the time for that. Plus, self-experiments are kind of methodologically bogus anyway. But, if it meant I actually did yoga and/or actually wrote on a regular basis, that could be useful in and of itself. Hmm. I’ll “think” about it. :D


  • 2 years ago
  • Participation Extra Credit: Question 15

    15.) Read this article and watch the accompanying videos. Do you think these kinds of things “count” as writing? Do you think these “ways” of writing could be used in a WRIT 1301 class? Why do you think they would be useful?

  • 2 years ago
  • Participation Extra Credit: Question 14

    14.) Read this article on science writing and respond to the things it has to say about how scientists and writers work together on science articles. What things surprised you? What didn’t surprise you?

  • 2 years ago
  • Participation Extra Credit: Question 13

    13.) Read this article on “New Literacy.” Respond to what the author and the folks he interviewed have to say about today’s students’ literate strengths. Do you think you and your peers share the abilities they talk about? Why/who don’t you think that is?

  • 2 years ago
  • Participation Extra Credit: Question 12

    12.) Read this article from The New Yorker. Respond to what the article says about brainstorming and/or collaboration.

  • 2 years ago
  • Participation Extra Credit: Question 11

    11.) Listen to the podcast in this article. Write about how the things they say about writing fictive TV correspond to/differ from the ways you write for this or other classes.

  • 2 years ago
  • Participation Extra Credit: Question 10

    10.) What is the most interesting thing you’ve read this semester (in or out of this class) and why?

  • 2 years ago
  • Participation Extra Credit: Question 9

    9.) What things would you change about how you approached this class? Consider changes in your writing habits, class attendance habits, class participation habits, etc. Why would you change those things? How do you think those changes might affect what you got out of this class?

  • 2 years ago
  • Participation Extra Credit: Question 8

    8.) In this class, for the majority of the semester, we talk about recreational culture and use that topic as fodder for practicing writing in different genres to different audiences. What else do you think might be a good topic for such a project? Why? Can you suggest some readings for that kind of a class?

  • 2 years ago