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Part of me hates to admit this, but I did read all three 50 Shades books and while I enjoyed them, I had some major issues withe the books. However, my opinion on the books is irrelevant. Instead I want to focus on the hullabaloo surrounding the 50 Shades books and the new movie Magic Mike.

I’m not sure if this attitude is right or wrong, but lets reverse each story. For example–in 50 Shades it is the female character who is the dominant and finds submissive men and engages in BDSM. I’m not a huge romance reader, but I imagine there are novels out there with this theme. However, are they as popular as 50 Shades?

What if, Magic Mike is a tale of female strippers. Yes, female stripper movies exist, but were they advertised like Magic Mike? Did men line up with advanced tickets and get tipsy before the show, yelling and clapping at the screen? I can’t say for certain, but my guess is no.

If  we reversed the roles, this is what I think would happen:

50 Shades: Women would applaud Ana’s character. Even if the dominant character wasn’t applauded, nobody would argue about male (submissive) treatment. While 50 Shades is incredibly popular, there is a large, vocal, population who disagrees with the treatment of Ana (the submissive, although technically she’s not really submissive).

Magic Mike: There is no way the marketing scheme would ever pass go. Women would not stand for men lining up in theaters across the country objectifying the actresses. Sure, men do this in regular movies ( as do women, hello Avengers!however an overt marketing plan like Magic Mike’s only works for women.

Again, I dont know if this is good or bad. Sure, I’d like men and women treated equally, however I’m not sure that is possible. Perhaps it’s a part of our nature, or perhaps the message is ingrained into our culture’s mentality.

Thoughts?

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As I’m sure  many of you know, The Princess Bride is one of the greatest movies ever made. There’s love, sword fighting, giants, a little Fred Savage and Miracle Max. But there’s one thing that’s always bothered me about the movie. When Westley is posing as the Dread Pirate Roberts and Buttercup says, “I have loved more deeply than a killer like yourself could ever dream” Westley raises his fist as though to strike Buttercup. He says, “that was a warning, Highness. Next time my hand flies on its own. Where I come from, there are penalties when a woman lies,” yet two seconds later he’s all “aaas yooou wiiissh” as he tumbles down the hillside (after Buttercup pushes him) and she’s all, “Oh my sweet Westley what have I done?” Now, if my boyfriend (ex-boyfriend, love of my life etc) tried to hit me there’s no way I’d jump down a steep hill after him. He’d be lucky if he ever heard from me again.

Yet, abuse is an ever-present (horrible) occurrence. According to a recent study, “on the average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.” The phenomenon is even more common amongst young, white couples.

Until recently, I thought domestic abuse was largely a thing of the past, or (please don’t hate me) something that occurred in poorer, less educated families. Yet many of the women interviewed in the article are intelligent and hold advanced degrees. At the risk of sounding like I’m blaming the victim, I agree with those experts who believe part of the problem stems from women’s general increase in power in our society. Is women’s power a bad thing? Absolutely not. It only causes harm when we, as women, become too confident in our power and are unable to ask for help. Which seems like a general trend. I know that I hate asking for help or showing signs of “weakness,” but we have to realize that some situations shouldn’t be dealt with individually. As the saying goes, “it takes a village.”

I don’t want to say abuse was ever acceptable, but it definitely isn’t now. Yet, Westley’s almost abuse isn’t the only thing that relates to today’s (scary) romantic world. Humperdink marries, or at least plans on marrying Buttercup, in order to kill her. His hope is that her death will cause a war between two countries. I’m assuming he hoped for increased land or riches or something although the outcome is never specified. Yet, I highly doubt that Gabe Watson or Shrien Dewani were planning on starting a war when they killed their wives shortly after the wedding.

This terrifies me. Especially since I like to think I’m strong and smart etc, but I’ve never been in that situation. How do I really know how I would respond? Add to that, I tend to like the “bad boys,” at least in literature. As if the fear of rejection, STDs and other intensely scary dating and relationship worries weren’t enough, we now have to think about abuse, or worse, death.

While the Westley character never really appealed to me (when Buttercup is about to kill herself, why does he think a comment on the perfectness of her boobs is appropriate?), I want to find mine. I want to have the kiss that ranks in the top four in the history of the world. But, now I’m afraid that I’ll be too afraid to find him, or that when I do, I’ll be too afraid to make that leap of faith.

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Water for Elephants

Rules are meant to be broken, as the old adage goes, and I think the same goes for clichés. People always talk about the book being better than the movie and for the most part I agree. Especially when the book is amazing. I’m pretty sure some people will disagree with me here, since this movie is based on a super popular book, but I thought Water for Elephants most definitely fits into the breaking clichés category.

Maybe this is because I didn’t like the book so I had lower expectations. I’m not sure.

The movie (and book) is about Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson), a young veterinarian student who is forced to walk the rails and comes across a circus train. He soon becomes the veterinarian for the circus and eventually the bull man for Rosie, the elephant. Along the way he integrates himself with the enigmatic ringleader and his beautiful wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). August (Christoph Waltz) the ringleader, and Jacob’s boss, is by turns generous and charismatic and evil and controlling.

While I wasn’t a fan of the book, the setting was interesting—a circus in the 1930s—and that is what made the movie for me.

Seriously, the movie is gorgeous. Even when you’re sitting in the second row off to the right hand side so everything is a little distorted. One of my favorite shots is when the workers are pounding in the stakes for the circus tent. It starts with a close up of the stake and then hammers come from every angle, one right after another, almost like a dance. The camera then pans out as the tent is heaved upwards by men dripping sweat. The shot is awe-inspiring while still highlighting the intensity of the worker’s task. It may look awesome, but it’s hard work.

By comparison, the shots of Marlena’s performances are lush and almost fantasy like. The grittiness and desperation of the bawdy, floundering circus is lost. Even though Marlena’s acrobatics seem simple compared to what I’m used to with technology and CGI, the film made me feel like I was witnessing something special. Something amazing.

Even the costumes are worth the cost of a movie ticket today. The discrepancy between the poor, Jake drinking workers and Marlena and August is fascinating. The dresses worn at the cocktail parties looked luxurious even by today’s standards. When Jacob walks down the train to August’s car it is like entering another world—a bubble of wealth in a dark, smelly, violent arena. August’s car looked like something out of a first class art deco hotel and Marlena donned beautiful gowns for the nightly dinner. I would love to wear one of those long, slinky oh-so-art deco pieces.

Check out the belt and the bangles and the feathered bag. Very early-1930s.

The accessories were also perfectly picked for the time period. But, what really got me, are the costumes worn during the circus performances. Given the amount of detail paid to every other visual detail in the movie, I am going to assume the costumes are historically accurate. However, I am surprised by the skimpiness of Marlena’s costumes. Sure, the important bits are covered, but for a family friendly event in the 1930s, it seemed awfully risqué.

Unfortunately, Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson have no chemistry. Their scenes are awkward together, despite Witherspoon’s immense acting chops, and I couldn’t believe their attraction. Maybe it’s because Witherspoon isn’t believable in her role as the rough-edged survivor with a great love for animals—she was too prim and ladylike (and she can’t ride a horse well). Or maybe it’s because Pattinson can’t act. Instead of looking pained and brooding he looked out of it or high.

Rosie stealing the show: look at those eyes.

In any case, it’s not their romance, or their performance that makes the movie. When the two stars are in scenes with Rosie (played by Tai the elephant), they fade into the background, and everything is focused on Rosie. She steals every scene she’s in. I swear she acts better than Pattinson, and I certainly cared more about her. When she and Marlena perform, I wasn’t watching Witherspooon and her elegant cartwheels. No, I was watching Rosie, wondering at the 8-ton pachyderm’s grace. Whenever Jacob was in trouble I worried, but who is going to take care of Rosie?

All in all, if you’re looking for a heart-wrenching melodrama, look somewhere else. Water for Elephants may bill itself as that, but it lacks the heart of a romance. But what it lacks in heart, it makes up for in beauty. Beautiful scenery, beautiful costumes, and of course, the beautiful elephant.

P.S. if you’re an animal lover, take note: I cried. I cried a lot. I cried when an animal got put down in the beginning and I cried every time Rosie got hurt. Be prepared. Bring Kleenex!

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I hope everyone got the April Fool‘s post by Sapphire yesterday. I thought it was brilliant!

I’ve been watching The Winds of War and War and Remembrance lately. And there’s something that has struck me about all of the goings on throughout the mini-series which takes place from 1939-1945: How on earth did a woman survive with that luggage?!?

Seriously, take a ganger at luggage during the 30s and 40s! Sure, it’s beautiful, but not all that practical.

Louise Vuitton Luggage

Louise Vuitton luggage from 1890-1948

napping on luggage

Boy sleeping on luggage at Waterloo 1930

luggage store

Luggage Store of 1940s

As someone who has lived and is living out of a suitcase, I cannot imagine doing so on the space and inconvenience of old travel bags. Granted, less clothing was used which would be a huge space saver. Of course, if my clothing was tailored to me and of excellent quality, I could survive on less options.

I’ve been in enough antique stores to know how heavy those cases can get empty, much less filled with clothing. Between a purse, tickets and even one travel bag, a girl would have her hands full. How could she be expected to go gallivanting alone? No woman was really expected to travel alone, but just looking at one tiny factor like luggage, it’s clear that a solitary journey is effectively inconceivable.

Frankly, I’ve never been so thankful for a wheeled suitcase. In fact, my current expedition-ready incarnation involves an expandable top, 360 wheels, a retractable handle, as well as  reinforced corners, top and bottom. I do love my modern advances!

For more information on luggage of the 1930s, check out this blog post from a couple of knowledgeable women, “1930s Travel Pt. 1 – Luggage” by The Painted Woman Blog.

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My cohorts wrote equally lovely and interesting posts on Disney princesses and their relationship to our lives and romances. I wish I had something as interesting to share!  But, when I tried to write my follow-up, I started to get angry. I love Disney. I own many Disney princess movies (ahem, family and friends, Tangled is coming out soon and my birthday is near), but I don’t like to think about them too critically. Inevitably I start to wonder about the message the movie is sending, the subtle (sometimes not so subtle) racist undertones, or how Disney butchered the original stories.

Instead I like to focus on the beautiful animation, funny animal sidekicks and fantastic songs. I have an iPod playlist dedicated specifically to Disney music. It motivates me while working out and cleaning my apartment.

One of my all time favorite Disney movie is Sleeping Beauty, solely for the animation. It is unbelievable. For those of you who are not Disney fanatics, medieval European tapestries inspired the animation design. Sleeping Beauty is one of those rare Disney movies that give us a time period, or at least a slightly more obvious one. Cinderella on the other hand always baffled me.

So, let’s play a little game.  What time period do I take place in?

Snow White:

Snow White’s high starched collar is reminiscent of 16th century ruffs and collars, but the rest of the dress is too simple. There are no crazy hoops or panniers that were so common in 1500s. Nor, did women wear bows, but I’m assuming that was based on fashion of the 1930s (time of animation).

However, the prince’s outfit does seem to fit the standard men’s wear of the time. The sleeves are puffed, the tunic covers the split between the legs (the codpiece was just coming into fashion and before that, there was just a hole, covered by the tunic; wardrobe malfunction heaven). And, he carries a sword, a very important sign of nobility.

Cinderella:

Mostly I’m basing my theory on the stepsister’s clothing choices and Cinderella’s ball gown. Check out those bustles! And panniers! Looking solely at the fashions, I’d guess late 1800s. Most likely 1880s based on research I did for this article on a wedding dress (here are some other examples). Yet, the rest of the movie doesn’t seem to fit this time period.

I also imagine it’s supposed to take place in Germany. Especially since Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle in the movie and Disney World, is in Bavaria. However, nothing in the movie looks German. This is most likely since Disney based the movie on Charles Perrault’s version. AKA the French version. Yet, things don’t seem French either… but that could just be me.

The Little Mermaid:

Apparently, Ariel is 16. If you ask me, that is faaaar to young. But, in our past, 16 was a perfectly acceptable age to think of marriage and love.

Anyway, I don’t think Ariel’s age is apparent until she becomes a “human,” with legs. On land, with that huge bow she looks young, but underwater she looks very mature (and developed) for a 16-year-old. I think this is the most ambiguous Disney time period. I can’t place any of Ariel’s clothing. And, as far as I know, there are no time periods where men, especially princes, could run around in just their shirtsleeves. What are your thoughts?

Sapphire thinks it takes place in some Mediterranean setting–South of France, Spain, Greece, etc. But as far as eras go, I’m not sure.

Beauty and the Beast:

Beauty and the Beast gives us a setting–France–but the era is still uncertain. The Beast’s clothing looks very post-French Revolution. In France, at the time, no one wanted to look like an aristocrat and strayed from the lush velvets and brocades, while in England, Beau Brummel introduced crisp, white linens and simple, tightly tailored pieces. However, Belle’s clothing does not fit this time period (picture any Jane Austen adaptation and that is what she should be wearing if she were to match the Beast).

Belle’s clothing is all over the place. The gold dress looks like an 1860s ball gown, but the blue and white day outfit… I have no idea.

Aladdin:

I’m not a big Aladdin fan and I don’t know much about Middle Eastern culture, so I don’t even have a guess as to the era. What about you? Do you have any guesses? I do know that no woman would run around with their midriff showing in the Middle East at any time period.

One thing I noticed during my “research” (movie watching) is that all the day dresses worn by the characters show ankles. Is this to further enforce their age? In Victorian times anyway, girls wore shorter skirts and letting them out as they mature. Wearing long skirts and putting your hair up was a sign of maturity; finally reaching womanhood. However, I think, in most other time periods, all females wore long skirts. Including children. Maybe it’s a subtle sex symbol; a view of a woman’s ankle was just as titillating as cleavage in the past.

Or maybe I’m thinking about this far too much.

Do you agree with my guesses?  Have any other ideas?

For further reading on fashion through history check out “Dressed for the Occasion: What Americans Wore 1620-1970” by Brandon Marie Miller and/or “How Underwear Got Under There” by Kathy Shaskan.  Yes, these are both children’s nonfiction, but they have lots of good information!

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Just to show that women are truly different and each individual wants completely different things, I wanted to write about my favorite Disney princess. (My reasons for using Disney are twofold: 1-In order to continue the theme begun by my eloquent co-writer, Sapphire. And 2- Because most people, especially women, have seen the Disney movies and they are highly relatable.)

Disney's Little MermaidMy favorite Disney princess is, and probably always will be Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Aside from all of the amazing songs (which I still sing on a regular basis in my shower) I love the general message sent about relationships.

Let me tell it from my possibly-feminist-biased point of view: (Feel free to skip to the next paragraph to get to the point)
Ariel sees Eric and falls in love entirely. (Like, Sapphire, I am a bit uncomfortable with this aspect, but for arguments’ sake I’ll overlook it.) Basically, she sees what she wants. Then she rescues the guy. I love this! She makes that hurricane her %#&@$! Then, Eric also instantly falls in love with her and her voice. (At least they are equally unbelievable.) Ariel stands up to the Man (her father) and convention to defend her love. After which she goes to extremes to get what she wants. When we see Eric again, we discover through causal conversation that he has also been searching for his lost love. (Granted, at this point I am a bit miffed he doesn’t make the connection between his savior and the girl in rags; however, in his defense, Ariel’s voice is a very memorable feature.) Is Ariel deterred by his thickheaded-ness? No, sir! She keeps at it. She gets awfully close, too. Until Eric is hypnotized by the Sea Witch; and Ariel must rescue him again! (You go girl!) Finally, Eric sees what has been right in front of him. She gets taken away from him, and he in turn rescues her. Love!

Disney's Ariel and Eric kissingSo, in short, it’s a fairly equal relationship. Yes, for those keeping score, Ariel does a bit more than Eric. However, Eric comes back in the end (as Sapphire points out) which sort of makes up for it. I really like that model. If something is just too much for one to bear (either a gigantic Sea Witch or a hurricane) the other comes to lend a helping fin or ship or whatever.

Perhaps we all have been influenced a bit too much by our experiences in childhood, because, like Sapphire, this has largely been what I’ve looked for in a relationship. Equality. I want a man who will rescue me, but I want to feel secure knowing that I will rescue him right back when he needs it.

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Fairy Tale Princes

I’ve been ailing for the past week, and although I did manage to drag myself out of my sickbed yesterday for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, I was quickly back in it by 8:30 last night. While chicken soup, tea, and extra vitamin C is on my flu curing regimen, no fluid, antibacterial serum, or medication can dispel the blues that come with languishing in bed for hours at a time. That funk I fall into when I am miserably ill can only be cured by popping in a feel-good movie, or a Disney cartoon. Last night, the prescription was for Cinderella.

Cinderella DVD
While I do love all of the Disney princess movies best of all, I’ve never been that attached to Cinderella. This particular movie has always fallen to the bottom of the heap with Snow White while The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty have dominated the top slots. I’ve never thought too much about it, but last night, while watching one of these classics that I have not seen in at least ten years, I had an epiphany about why some of the Disney fairy tales never appealed to me that much.

In Cinderella at least, the prince doesn’t do anything. Prince Charming is in the movie for all of five minutes and doesn’t do one thing to make himself sympathetic to the audience. There isn’t anything he does to ingratiate himself to Cinderella, besides looking nice and dancing well. At the time, Cinderella doesn’t even know that Prince Charming is a prince, so the title isn’t even a factor. It is Disney after all though, and a fairy tale, so I’ll fall for the Love-At-First-Sight bit, but even after the fateful moment of eye contact and waltzing, the prince does not do anything to woo Cinderella. He doesn’t even search for the mysterious woman with the glass shoe himself. He sends his father’s right hand man out to try physically impossible and dangerous footwear on ladies’ feet. At this point in the movie, I was quite mad at our dark haired prince. If you want Cinderella so badly, GO LOOK FOR HER YOURSELF! It’s the LEAST you can do.

After all, the princes of my favorite Disney movies actually do something to win the heroine’s favor. Prince Phillip endures imprisonment, slays a dragon/evil fairy, and hacks through thorny vegetation to get to the castle where he eventually kisses Aurora awake. Prince Eric jumps overboard and tries to save Ariel from Ursula’s clutches (underwater, mind you, where he can not breathe), then commandeers a ship and stabs Ursula, making her screech as she becomes fried calamari. Finally, the Beast, who I hope has a real name, especially after he transforms back into a human, saves Belle’s life from a pack of hungry wolves, GIVES HER A LIBRARY, lets her go to tend to her father and lead a happy life, placing her happiness over his own, and then kills the village tool, making him scream like a little girl.

Gus, CinderellaEven the Prince of Snow White seeks Snow White out in the forest himself and kisses her back to life. Prince Charming just comes off as lazy. This is, what I’ve realized, exactly what I never liked about Cinderella and similar movies. I generally like the songs in Cinderella, the adorable subplot with the mice, Gus being my favorite, and Cinderella as a character. It is the relationship, or lack thereof, with the leading man that turns me off. Prince Charming doesn’t have to work for anything. Cinderella overcomes the loss of her family, forced servitude, a horrible stepmother, and a feline incarnation of Satan. She deserves a happy ending, unlike the entitled, two-dimensional prince. Prince Charming rescues Cinderella with his money and title, but only at the altar. Cinderella has to rescue herself up until then, both out from her prison made from her tower bedroom, and by producing the other glass slipper. While I can admire her strength of mind and optimism during her miserable life, I think the fact that Cinderella rescues herself is the part about the movie that makes me hesitant in fully enjoying it. No woman wants to shoulder all of the responsibility and work of a relationship and personally, I’d like to be rescued by a handsome prince. We all need to be rescued from something, and it is nice to know that there is someone out there who will one day be our pillar of strength.

The other epiphany I had in bed while viewing the movie was that the reasons why I like certain Disney princes are also the reasons I have unrealistic expectations about dating.

I have just pointed out that my three favorite movies include physical feats of strength, grand gestures, displays of heroism, and sacrifices. Being realistic, I know that a man with all of these qualities plus a job, sense of humor, normal mental health, and at least average looks does not exist. But who doesn’t want the fairy tale? Aren’t we all hoping to find a man with at least one of these attributes that we hold in high esteem: bravery, loyalty, sensitivity, and tenacity? I know I can admit to wanting it, and until I find someone with just the right measure of fairy tale magic, I won’t settle for less and I’ll keep dreaming. After all, a dream is a wish your heart makes.

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