Wednesday, February 8, 2017

“Hey, Bud! What’s your problem?”

Sometimes I feel like I am happily living my life when a critical theorist inserts him/herself  to tell me that I am either ignorantly manipulated by The Man’s machine, or that I am a practicing xenophobe.  I simply want to put down the article and say: 

Whether commenting on the Vietnam War, black culture, or Disney princesses, critics find fault with culture’s artifacts and come close to condemning audiences who indulge.  At times it begs the question, “Hey, Bud!  What’s your problem?
            In Said’s article, “Orientalism,” the author condemns Hollywood’s multiple portrayals of the Vietnam War because the conflict is depicted through a skewed American perspective.  While some of the themes may not be representative of the entire experience, they do shine a light on a situation that would otherwise remain hidden by time and miles.  In Hall’s discussion of culture, he encourages hybrid views, so that moments do not have to be binary with an either/or view (pg. 291).  Perhaps not all of the images and storylines are accurate, but not all of them are Said’s “imperial fiction” (pg. 172).  I was in junior high when the Vietnam movies discussed in Said’s article premiered in the 1980s.  It was a short 15-20 years since the war, so the events were not clearly defined in our history texts.  How would a white girl from Idaho have any idea what Vietnam (or the war) was like had it not been for these Hollywood representations?  Encyclopedias were still big books that lined multiple shelves in libraries, and there definitely were no authentic video clips found on our Commodore 64s.  

There was no History channel full of documentaries, and if there were, I would have chosen to watch the sitcom, Cheers, instead.  So while the Hollywood interpretation may have exaggerated the unsupportive government and the lone American against the many communist shadows, it did present a story that was full of pain and loss.  How would a critical theorist present the Vietnam War to teens and uneducated citizens?  Wasn’t it better for me to see a partial representation than no representation at all?

            When it comes to an entire culture and race, it is a bit more challenging for me to declare that those who criticize are extreme.  Having never walked the path or survived those struggles, I would be arrogant if I said the two articles based on black culture, found in the Popular Culture reader, were unfounded.  When Cashmore writes of white guilt and plantation-like situations in the music label industry, I can question the powerful choice of words, but how can I question the feelings behind them?  Cashmore mentions celebrities like Denzel, Luther, Whoopie, and Snoop so I can glimpse the black entertainment culture, but then Cashmore explains that standouts are the anomaly and puts me back in my place of the ignorant white consumer. 
The statement that I can most appreciate from “America’s Paradox” is, “No nation has been as tortured by racism as the United States” (pg. 195).  Although I am not the recipient of racism, I can definitely see and feel its effects ripple across our country.  Although written in 1992, Hall seemed to foresee the current political turmoil and government shift.  “Aggressive resistance to difference; the attempt to restore the canon of Western civilization; the assault, direct and indirect on multiculturalism; the return to grand narratives of history, language, and literature...” (pg. 288).  The results are tangible, but the cause is beyond my limited cultural reach.

            Princesses, however, are right in my strike zone because 
I am indeed a princess.  

With full passion of heart, I can declare that Lacroix’s criticisms are overreaching.  How dare she belittle the strengths of each princess?  The differences between body structures, eye shapes, and athleticism should be celebrated and not scrutinized.  On one page Lacroix bashes Disney for the “repression of differences” (pg. 214) but then negatively declares, “…heroine characters increasingly emphasize the exotic, the foreign…” (pg. 218).  Pluralism is paramount and can make the foreign known.  Each princess must be respected and appreciated for who she is.  Yes, Pocahontas is nimble and brave while Belle is conservative and romantic.  In her need to criticize, the author pushes aside the positive attributes of each princess and focuses on sex, a word she uses 25 times in her text.  I think Lacroix is the uninformed consumer.  She should follow my lead and start following TheDisneyPrincesses on Instagram. #DreamBigPrincess.  Look beyond the drawing to see the character within.

     Unlike critical theorists, I can agree, admit ignorance, and find fault – the trifecta of balance.  While examining course readings, I allow for flexibility in thinking, unless it is nonsense about Disney’s excellence.  Critical authors need to get off their soap boxes and wade around with us in the slippery slope of popular culture.


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I was reading the same article on Orientalism and thought to myself, "jeez, you can't please everyone!" Originally there were complaints because the original Disney princesses were all white women, Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, etc. So what does Disney do? They diversify. I remember when Brace and Rapunzel came out there being criticism for them being white. News flash, there are white girls, Asian girls, Black girls, Middle Eastern girls, ALL KINDS OF GIRLS who want to be princesses! I think Disney is great for including all kinds and love what they do to use the Princesses to inspire.
    I hear all this criticism about them making body types unrealistic but when I was growing up I never noticed their small waist lines or exaggerated facial features. I just remember thinking, "They are like me, and I can be like them."

    Anyway, I digress, the point is, there's no way to satisfy everyone. Personally, I love what Disney has done to be more inclusive!

  2. To answer your question: "Wasn’t it better for me to see a partial representation than no representation at all?" I'd have to say that no representation is better than partial or imperfect representation.

    If representation is incomplete and/or bad, it can be harmful, and perpetuate negative beliefs, attitudes, stereotypes, and create lasting damage. I have to say that this argument suggests that Vietnam should be grateful for any inclusion or representation given even it affects their country negatively. Even if the story showed pain and loss, viewers came out with an exaggerated negative view of the Vietnamese government and/or people while showing Americans as the heroes.

    I think that if you're storytelling, etc. based on a true story, especially when telling a foreign story that the general public may not be aware of, one should be diligent in how they tell that story. The story needs to be told with respect to the true events and not be exaggerated to reflect already-existing stereotypes, be one-dimensional or include inaccurate portrayals of "real-life" characters. If the storyteller isn't able to do this, they shouldn't make the film at all.