Artist David Trumble recently released a collection of drawings of famous women from history. The images are highly stylized, mimicking the aesthetic of Disney princesses. The project, which Trumble refers to as “a prototype for Disney’s new ‘World of Women’ collection”, seems to be a satirical response to Princess Merida’s makeover:
Trumble’s models include Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Hillary Clinton, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Anne Frank, Malala Yousafzai, Harriet Tubman, Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, and Gloria Steinem:
These images show how insulting the real Disney princess images are to women and girls. Trumble includes photos of the real women next to his drawings, so we can see the discrepancies between the women’s strong, confident body language and the coy “on display” poses of the illustrations. All these women have accomplished incredible feats and committed their lives to amazing causes. Instead of capturing their power and unique traits, the Disney-style illustrations reduce the women’s images into flat “Look at me – aren’t I pretty?” cartoons with vacuous smiles. For years I’ve been aware of how unrealistic Disney princess images are, but this project really drives home how ridiculous they are. Girls deserve to see princesses and warriors who look and move and act like real women.
A more positive aspect of this project is the notion of making women from history the new Disney princesses. Although I don’t expect Disney to change their stories or character designs anytime soon, hopefully the discussions fueled by Trumble’s work will inspire more children’s authors and illustrators to both create realistic portrayals of women and tell stories from women’s history.
Finally, this project made me think about what kind of images I’d like to see in children’s media, and if I’d ever seen them before. I remembered one of my favorite books, The Serpent Slayer: and Other Stories of Strong Women – the stories are folklore from around the world, featuring heroines who use their intelligence and strength to succeed. The illustrations show characters who have strong bodies and real facial expressions:
What do you think of Trumble’s project? And do you have any favorite storybooks that feature strong heroines?
In Here Comes The Boom Kevin James plays Scott Voss, a high school biology teacher who starts competing in MMA fighting in order to win enough money to save the music program at his school. It’s a sweet family movie with some violence (the fight scenes are very realistic). Although the film is simple and predictable, Scott Voss’s character is extremely unique for Hollywood.
He has many traditionally masculine traits and could be considered a “man’s man”. He’s got a laid-back attitude, a motorcycle, and he’s training to be an MMA fighter. He also deeply cares about his students. Training for MMA fighting rekindles his passion for life and teaching. Becoming a better teacher is a highly significant part of Voss’s evolution in becoming the champion he is by the end of the film. We very rarely see this in Hollywood productions. Throughout their story arcs, most male characters only care about themselves and their immediate families. Female characters (and the occasional grandfatherly character past his prime) are the ones with the altruistic drive to improve schools, save arts programs, and instill a passion for learning in future generations.
There’s a victorious moment in the film, where Voss jumps on his desk and excitedly explains how cells interact. The soundtrack music swells and Voss’s love interest, Bella Flores, notices him through the classroom door window. This moment is one of my favorite movie moments because it shows genuine enthusiasm as something cool. When Voss allows his natural enthusiasm to flourish, he becomes more himself and by extension more cool. This is also when Bella starts considering him attractive; Voss’s enthusiasm makes him sexy. His passion for education, and life in general, makes him more of a man not less. I’d love to see this new definition of manliness reflected in the male protagonists of more films and shows.
Who are some of your favorite male characters?
For most female characters in movies and television, work is not a source of fulfillment. Work is either a potentially fun way to get money and meet a man, or an all-consuming source of stress that transforms women into miserable loners with no sense of humor. Work itself is rarely a source of joy.
Of the women who do enjoy their work, most have jobs that involve severe violence (Buffy, Linda Hamilton, Lisbeth Salander, etc). The satisfaction they get is actually from exacting revenge or fulfilling a preset destiny. In either of these setups, the female character is reacting to an external event. Regardless of her BAMF-ness in handling her fate, she’s not initiating her life’s journey. I want to see stories where the female protagonist is pursuing a life path that she decides she wants for herself, regardless of external influences. Her motivation should be coming from an internal sense of what she wants in life, instead of being a byproduct of an unfortunate experience.
Enter Detective Alexandra Eames, of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Like most Law & Order detectives, Eames is intelligent, perceptive, and intimidating when she needs to be. Her attitude is naturally no-nonsense, and she always has a vibe of personal contentment. True to Law & Order style, she only uses physical force when it’s absolutely necessary. She’s a detective because she enjoys solving crimes and protecting her community, not because she needs to right some wrong that was committed against her or her family. She enjoys the company of her partner, Detective Gorem, and they have a supportive (and never romantic) relationship. This is also very rare for TV, as most professional partners either end up married or spend their entire careers cheekily flirting with each other. Eames and Gorem are just colleagues with a good friendship who work together to solve difficult crimes. And that is why Eames is one of the best female characters of all time.
Who are some of your favorite characters?