Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fashion Update #8: Hercules

Hercules fashion week was super fun! Check out my looks:
Hercules: I think this may be my favorite outfit to date. I found this orange rust dress for $12 and I knew it would work perfectly. I really love this color combo and would totally wear this outfit again!
Pegasus: It's a little scary wearing an all white outfit. But for Hercules, when there are white flying horses, Muses and togas abound, it's kind of necessary to do it at least once.
Meg: Got this purple tank at Plato's Closet for $3! The gold leaves necklace doesn't directly correlate with Meg, but I think it adds a sort of "Greek-ness" to the otherwise simple look.
Hades: This is the drapiest dress I own and it happens to be the right shade of gray. As interpreted by my friend Abi, the chain necklace and earrings could represent Hades' underworld connection. haha.
Mt. Olympus: Someone dared me to wear a toga that week, and this was the closest I was willing to go. So I told people this silvery-sparkly outfit was a Mt. Olympus/Greek god-inspired look. :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

#35: Heroes & Pastries

Hercules, 1997
watched May 20, 2012

After two consecutive more serious Renaissance films, Hercules returns us to a more lighthearted, fun movie experience. Stylistically, the film intentionally mimics the sculpture and pottery of ancient Greece, giving it a very different look from its predecessors. The resulting boxy, two-dimensional style isn't my favorite, but I will forgive Disney, if only for the fact that teenager Hercules' ears look exactly like cinnamon buns. Yum.
Greek sculpture & pottery depicting "Herakles" - on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I took this picture back in December for the very purpose of posting it on my blog. :)
Seriously. Cinnamon buns!
If I ever had the ambition to pursue a completely useless degree for the sake of pure interest in the subject, I would have studied Greek mythology. Ever since middle school, when we first read stories about Zeus, Hera, Athena, and all the other gods of ancient Greece, I've always been fascinated by them. It's no wonder that Disney chose to draw from this world of dynamic, flawed characters and their intriguing stories.

And Hercules is a wonderful fit for the Renaissance era. He's born a god, but after being orphaned and zapped of most of his immortal power, he lives on earth, struggling to find out where he belongs. This self-discovery journey is quite familiar, as Hercules joins all our other Renaissance heroes and heroines who long to figure out what their purpose is, who they truly were made to be.

In this particular adaptation of the myth, Hercules sets out to prove himself a true hero so that he can return to Mt. Olympus and achieve his god-status. So Hercules does everything he thinks heroism means. He gets buff. He trains hard. He fights the bad guys. He loses the cinnamon bun ears. (They still look a little weird though. Maybe kind of like scones. I could really use a breakfast pastry right now...) On top of it all, he remains humble. No wonder Meg, the ultimate cynic, falls in love with him.

And yet, none of that really matters.

It's easy to be brave when there isn't that much at stake. The stuff we're made of is revealed at our weakest, darkest moments. When we've lost everything, when life is hard. Hercules becomes a hero not through physical strength or even bravery. It happens when he sacrificially loves the one who has hurt him.

It's spelled out pretty clearly for us this time. A true hero is one who loves his betrayer, who gives his life for theirs, who dies to see them saved. Hercules is one of the most obvious, but also compelling Savior figures in any Disney movie, cinnamon bun ears and all.

(Thanks for that low-hanging fruit, Disney!)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fashion Update #7: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a fun week. I enjoyed the chance to wear more color. And for the first time including nail polish into the look. Yay for summer and sandals!
Clopin: Definitely my most colorful outfit yet! I came to work late because I had to paint my toenails yellow, blue & magenta. I never do more than one color on my toes and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it.
Quasimodo: A casual outfit, but still fun. In the film his shoes are more of a turquoise/green, so I wore my blue Toms. The orange earrings make an appearance to mimic his hair color.
Esmeralda: A gypsy girl outfit is all about accessories. The colors may not be totally spot on, but I think I got the spirit of her look.
Frollo: Okay, he's one creepy dude. But I love this outfit! It's very dramatic.'s great that maxi skirts are back in style! Be honest now... do I look intimidating or ridiculous in these pictures?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blessing the Outcasts

I'm excited to host another guest blogger, Christopher Maslanka. The first time we met, I discovered that he and his wife were Disnerds and, naturally, we became instant friends. He shares his thoughts here on his favorite Renaissance film.
When I watch a Disney film, I am particularly drawn in by the animation artistry, something The Hunchback of Notre Dame has in spades: the quality of light throughout, enough beautiful fire animation to fill three movies, the background work, detailed shadow movement, etc. Heck, the entire pre-title sequence is a perfect short film in its own right. And, of course, the movie has a gorgeous centerpiece: the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris. But that beauty is set against one of the most intense and adult dramas Disney has done. And I say that despite the presence of dancing gargoyles.

Hunchback features a stock figure that occasionally bothers me: the Evil Christian. You’ve probably seen an example somewhere in pop-culture: a hypocritical villain spouting off Bible verses fighting the more enlightened, virtuous heroes. Disney mitigates the situation by making Frollo a judge instead of a priest. (Frollo is the Archdeacon of Notre Dame in Victor Hugo’s book. For the record, I have no problem with adaptation. If Disney hadn’t adapted Pinocchio, children would have been traumatized.) Despite the change, Frollo is clearly a believer, seeking what he sees as God’s will. Of course he is terribly, tragically wrong about what exactly God wills. His Christianity is an excuse to hide from his own desires and fears. Those desires and fears creep out along with an intense sense of guilt, making him a complex and very frightening villain. We can recognize that he espouses is not what Christ teaches. However, there are many outside the faith who look at Frollo and think they are seeing an example of Christianity.

And, to tell the truth, the stock Christian villain occasionally reflects real life. I was once a bit like Frollo. I had a taste of the truth of Christ, but I used that truth to support and defend attitudes and a sense of self-righteousness that were not Christian. In high school, I felt so confident in my faith that I put myself above those who did not share it. Thankfully, I moved out and went to college. I saw the world as far more complex, beautiful and frightening than I had ever realized. When I looked more deeply at the truth of Christ I learned that I was not in a position to look down on anyone but was called to love.

Which brings us back to Hunchback. Esmeralda sings “God Bless the Outcasts” in Notre Dame after the Archdeacon tells her someone in the Cathedral can help her (He ain’t talkin’ about the Hunchback, kid!) She sings about being alone, about being abandoned, but also recognizes that God’s love is universal. It is the most overtly Christian song in the Disney canon that I can think of off the top of my head. Further, its message rings true.

In a world torn apart by selfishness, self-righteousness, and self-hatred, we are called, like Quasimodo, to step beyond our safe homes, our self-imposed limits, and actively love those around us, especially those condemned and abandoned. Like Quasimodo, we have a unique perspective on the world, one that renders everyone beautiful and worthy of love: we can see everyone as a child of God. Quasimodo looks down on Paris from his bell tower and sees everyone bathed in heaven’s light and wishes to be a part of that. Frollo, in his own palace of justice, looks down and sees a reflection of his own twisted corruption. Now, I think it’s fairly clear which perspective we are supposed to buy into by the end of the movie, and I think it’s a perspective our King would approve.

Currently completing his PhD in Medieval English Literature, Christopher has long considered himself a Disney Apologist in that he attempts to defend the artistry of Disney animation against those who would dismiss the work as juvenile or overly commercial. He was very excited to hear of Laura’s project and feels it an honor to be writing a guest blog.  He also likes the term Disnerd much better than Apologist and is sticking with it instead. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Earth's Mightiest Fashion: Avengers

In honor of the premiere of Marvel's Avengers, Grete and I dressed up as Hulk and Thor. I figure this counts as Disnerd fashion, since Disney owns Marvel.

Hulk: Katie was upside down Hulk (which looks kind of like Ariel, actually), so I had her take a picture with me. The movie version of Hulk doesn't have purple pants. But this is iconic Hulk, so it works. :)

Thor: Okay, so I know Grete is the fashion maven, but I am not sure about this interpretation... she looks a bit more like Iron Man with the gold shirt. Also, I think she may be confusing Thor with a monkey with this pose. haha.

By the way, the movie was EPIC. Go see it. Now.

#34: Sanctuary

(c) Disney
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996
watched May 13, 2012

The Hunchback of Notre Dame addresses a theme we haven't seen in a Disney film since Robin Hood. And this time, it is treated with a much more serious tone. Let's face it: human characters bring the subject of injustice much closer to home than a couple of anthropomorphic foxes and bears ever could. Additionally, a religious figure portraying the villain adds a weighty, complex layer of tension in the story. With the grand, yet intimidating Notre Dame in the backdrop, the film narrows in on deep, personal crises experienced by our main characters.

One of the only females in the story, Esmeralda is the least conflicted, acting boldly against Frollo and his corrupt justice system. She is unafraid of consequences because she has nothing to lose. This determined constancy is perhaps the reason why Disney chose her to sing the deeply meaningful theme song, "God Help the Outcasts." Whereas other characters experience more doubt, she clearly feels the chasm between the message of hope the Church supposedly proclaims and the oppression that is actually demonstrated towards her people.

Phoebus' ability to follow orders earns him respect and influence in the community. But when he is asked to do something he knows to be wrong, he must decide if he will take the easy route, or bear the disgrace of rebelling against a corrupt power.

Conversely, despite his good heart, Quasimodo, our main character, has never experienced acceptance. Fear and naivetĂ© are what drive him to remain within Frollo's control. As the wall of lies he has been told crumbles along with Notre Dame herself, Quasimodo struggles to defy the one he called Master, even when others' lives are threatened. 

Finally, Frollo's crisis is a very different kind. The thick mask of righteousness and piety he wears prevents him from admitting to the darkness of lust and pride that dwell in him. In effort to keep his secrets hidden, he uses fake religious fervor as a means of getting what he wants. The result is not only the destruction of the entire city, but also the destruction of his own tormented soul.

Justice is not just a theoretical, ambiguous idea. It pierces the hearts of individual lives. In a world where life is plagued by things that shouldn't be, we encounter these same crises of conscience. We can choose to cling to a false reality, or to believe that something beyond ourselves is worth the risk of taking a stand. While Frollo is incapable of  moving past his own selfish pride, Esmeralda, Phoebus, and Quasimodo count it worthy to give themselves up for something much greater.

In the final scene, Quasimodo cries "Sanctuary!" -- claiming Notre Dame's promise of safety and solace. Our sanctuary, true justice, lies not in an ancient cathedral, or in a pious appearance. It lies in a Person, who was once an outcast, too, and who indeed gave up everything to become our Sanctuary.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fashion Update #6: Pocahontas

Flit: I have learned that the best way to cheaply add a certain color to an outfit is to wear a headband, preferably purchased from the dollar store. This pink one was one from a set of 3, and worked perfectly for this colorful hummingbird outfit.
Pocahontas: I struggled to find something the exact color of Pocahontas' dress. This shirt is nearly 10 years old and I never wear it anymore. This may be the last time I wear it. My necklace worked pretty well though, I think.
John Smith: If there's any outfit I can do easily, it's one that consists of all blue. :) Since skinny jeans are in, it's super easy to assemble "men in boots" outfits (see Prince Eric & Gaston).
Meeko: Please excuse my reddish nose. It was cold that day and I take all my pictures with the window open.This is definitely the most shades of gray I've worn in one outfit before.
Thomas: I happened to have this green beret that I bought at St. Vinny's for $1 for an Oscars-themed party at which I wrote a Hugo-inspired outfit. It's really the only thing about my outfit that was accurate for Thomas' look. I'm proud of myself for keeping the hat on all day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

#33: Pocahontas? Puh-lease.

Pocahontas, 1995
watched April 29, 2012

As a self-proclaimed Disnerd, I have a pretty high threshold for unbelievability. Talking animals and magical creatures run rampant through these films. It's no question that I am very willing to suspend belief for the sake of a good story.

So despite the fact that Pocahontas features neither talking animals nor magical creatures, the movie really bothers me. Sure, there's the whole historically-inaccurate-there's-no-way-she-was-that-well-endowed thing. There was no romance between John Smith and her. And I'm pretty certain Governor Ratcliffe never wore that awful purple suit.

But I'm not even talking about that.

As an InterVarsity staff, I've become familiar with the "approaching differences diagram," which emphasizes that one must take an open, learning approach when encountering a culture different from one's own. And in Pocahontas, the clash between Pochahontas' native people and the ignorant Englishmen provides the core of the story. We're dealing with major cross cultural stuff.  

In light of all this, I absolutely cannot stand the way that Pocahontas learns to speak English by "listening to her heart." It makes me want to pull my hair out! (Though, that would probably be counterproductive as one of my new life goals is to have hair just like Pocahontas. I mean, it's gorgeous, really.)

I digress. This "listen to your heart" plot device (remember I warned us about this before?) says nothing about the hard, often awkward process it is to engage across cultures. We're not dealing with a fire-from-heaven-Holy-Spirit-anointing kind of situation where people miraculously speak other languages. No, this was a quick and dirty way to move the story along and I just can't get over it! Furthermore, there is little effort on the Englishman's part to learn Pocahontas' native tongue. What's that about?

This is worse than Tinkerbell's pantslessness.

Despite my harsh criticism, I will admit the film still sends a truthful message: ethnocentrism leads to deep prejudice and hatred, which can result in violence and destruction. The solution? Learn to appreciate and understand that which is different from you. The movie's one saving aspect, the beautifully animated and sung "Colors of the Wind," sums it up: "You think the only people who are people / are the people who look and think like you. / But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, / you'll learn things you never knew you never knew."

Pocahontas had a lot of potential, but it's overly serious and weepy (thank God for Meeko, Flit and Percy!), and it cuts some corners that I find unforgivable. Add to that some embarrassingly lame pickup lines from John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson), and it's all over. I have high standards for these Renaissance films, and even with its gorgeous background landscapes, Pocahontas is by far my least favorite.

My recommendation? Listen to "Colors of the Wind" on repeat and you're probably good to go.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Disney Mothers

Disney animated films have a lot of missing mothers (Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, for example), and also many evil stepmothers (Tangled, Cinderella, Snow White). Why? I do not know.  I'm sure someone more intelligent and thoughtful than me has a theory. If you've got one please feel free to leave it in the comments! (I've already said some stuff about orphans, a related subject.)

But, since it is Mother's Day, I thought it would be appropriate to supply you with a list of Disney mothers that are present (for at least part of the story) and who demonstrate an immeasurable kind of love, a mother's love.

Mrs. Jumbo: She gets locked up in the "crazy" cage simply for trying to protect her son Dumbo. "Baby Mine" is by far the most memorable mother/child moment in any Disney movie.

Bambi's mother: Here's another example of a mother who gives her life to protect her child. We never see it on screen, but her death has a remarkable impact on viewers of the film.

Fairy Godmother: She's not an actual mother, but she is kind, warm and caring in all the ways Cinderella's stepmother is not. While her bibbidee bobbidee magic is helpful, it's her gentle, loving nature that makes us love her.

Perdita: Anyone who gives birth to fifteen puppies at once deserves to be on a list like this! Not to mention the lengths she goes to in order to rescue her lost puppies. I'm assuming she also adopts the others that come to live with them in the end, totaling 101 children in all. Wow.

Sarabi: Showing great strength after losing both her husband and son on the same day, she does her best to lead the lionesses under Scar's evil regime, and stands beside Simba when he returns to challenge his uncle.

Quasimodo's mother: She's only on screen for the opening song, but her sacrificial love for her deformed child leaves a lasting impression.

Fa Li & Grandma Fa: The only example of multiple generations of mothers, these women deeply care about Mulan, even if they're unsure about how to handle her. Grandma Fa steals the show, proving that old traditional Chinese mothers can be quite funny.

Kala: Perhaps Disney's most well-developed mother character, we see in her a courageous resolve as she adopts Tarzan after losing her own child. She helps him to understand that he belongs, no matter what anyone else says or where life takes him.

Who would you want for your mother? Vote in the poll.

Have a Disnerd Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Leading Lions, and Octopus

Leadership is on my mind these days because I recently attended the Asian Pacific Islander Women's Leadership Conference (aka Conference with the World's Longest Title EVER) in California. I began a post but it turned out to be kind of serious and personal. And we can't have any of that here! So I moved it over to my other blog. I'll finish that one later.

So I'm going to write about Disney villains instead. Cuz, you know, that's the next place my mind goes when I think about leadership. Naturally.

The majority of Disney villains are motivated by power. They long to call the shots, to rule over other people and things. They want their preferences to take priority over everyone else's.

In other words, they want to lead.

I have a feeling Ursula, Jafar or Scar would never say it that way.
I just noticed that they're all smiling. haha.
These villains are not unlike us. The motivation to lead is rooted in how people were made. We were created to rule over every living creature and to have dominion over the seas, skies and land. Inherent in who we are is the desire as well as ability to influence the world we live in. Our propensity for leadership is good.

But it's also our greatest downfall. The fall of humankind came as a result of desiring to "be like God"--to have a  knowledge and power that only God can or should possess. Throughout history, the worst kind of evil happens when leaders abuse their power.

And so, Disney villains are really just human. (Even the ones that are lion and octopus.) They embody the extreme of what exists in all of us: the ambition to gain power, and the sinful tendency to abuse it.

While Ursula and Jafar both cause much destruction in their brief rise to power, perhaps the most evident example of corrupt leadership is Scar's reign as king of Pride Rock. His partnership with the hyenas leads to starving animals and a ravaged land. Even when all the herds move on, he refuses to admit there's nothing left. His pride and stubbornness leave him sitting in a cave, hungry and miserable. I highly doubt that's what he had in mind when he killed his brother and sent his nephew away.

Most of us will never go to such extremes to attain a position of influence. But we're not exempt from the damage that can occur when we think only of ourselves or what we can get out of being a leader. Maybe we long to prove our worth, either to ourselves or to parents, friends, or colleagues. Perhaps we like receiving the attention or praise that comes with our role. In some situations our ambition is motivated by financial reward.

I take these Disney villains as a warning to check my motivation for leadership. As I've had time and space to explore my desire to lead, I find that the longing for glory can easily outweigh my desire to do good and help others. It's in these moments when I'm thankful that God, in his grace, can still use me. Otherwise, I wouldn't be too far off from having a starved Pride Rock on my hands.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fashion Update #5: The Lion King

"Is that a challenge?!" Yes! I knew The Lion King would be difficult. Actually I had a couple of other outfits planned but due to the personal issues I had to attend to, I couldn't make them happen. So, here are the four that I did wear that week!
Simba: The only thing I had in the right color for Simba's orange-yellow fur was this old tshirt/hoodie. It's not my favorite thing to wear, but I had to do an outfit for the main character!
Nala: I don't have anything that's the exact color of Nala's fur, so my khaki blazer and tan shoes were as close as I could get. The green earrings help since one of Nala's distinguishing features is her green eyes.
Rafiki: No, I did not have anything blue on my butt.
Zazu: Do the earrings look familiar? :) Apparently this interpretation was a little too far-fetched for my fashionista friend Grete, whose complaints I've mentioned before. But, oh well. I tried.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

#32: Look Harder

The Lion King, 1994
watched April 15, 2012

If Aladdin was the film that began my love for Disney, then The Lion King cemented it. This movie is everything I love best about Disney: artistic, funny, scary, sad, and memorable. And to top it off there are adorable baby animals. (If you didn't "awww" at the first glimpse of baby Simba, I'm not sure we can be friends.)

Rather than fully adapting a single story, The Lion King combines various narratives found in literature and history. It is a form of storytelling unique to Disney that succeeded, as The Lion King remains the highest grossing Disney animated feature both in the box office and home video/DVD sales.

First, LK bears a strong resemblance to another Disney classic: a coming of age tale featuring a young prince, whose birth to the monarch of the forest (pride land) is witnessed by the entire animal kingdom. After losing a parent at a young age, he grows up and learns the ways of the world, joined by his two buddies and childhood sweetheart.

In addition, the film borrows from Shakespeare's Hamlet (an acknowledged source): A jealous brother kills the king and drives away the heir to assume power. The king's ghost later visits his heir.

Simba also reminds me of one of my favorite Bible characters, Joseph. As a naive child, he can't wait to possess the power that he knows will be his some day. But a jealous relative sends him to a place where he is "good as dead," and he spends years wondering if he will ever become who he was meant to be.

There's one more parallel. We don't fully recognize it until we hear the voice of Mufasa coming from the sky: "You are my son, and the one true king." Sound familiar?

The Lion King stands as Disney's most successful animated movie partially due to its loud echo of the Ultimate Story, the story that is the very heartbeat of humanity. Simba symbolizes the "chosen one," destined to be king and to carry on the "circle of life" that his father set in place. He's the one on whom all hope rests.

While Simba is a shadow of the One who restored our world, he also holds a mirror to those of us who believe in Him. Because unlike the Son of God, the son of Mufasa is reluctant and afraid. For years, Simba hides, reinventing himself as a carefree, bug-eating friend of warthogs and meerkats. But he never completely evades his true purpose.

And doesn't this sound familiar too? Our calling to live for Him seems a daunting task. We face doubt, fear and remorse over past mistakes. We try to escape or go the easy route.

During Simba's identity crisis, a wise baboon helps him look harder. And what he sees is power and courage, coming from the one who lives in him. As he embraces this indwelt life source, triumph is achieved. The enemy is defeated. A desecrated kingdom is restored.

Likewise, in us lives the one whose power makes our weakness strong, and whose sovereignty makes our failures succeed. When we look harder, we see him, and we triumph.