Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pump, 4M, Glass, 1pr.

Actually, I spent the evening with the family last night and DID find something that inspired me to blog about.

It's completely trivial and kid-centered, so if you're looking for more ire on the subject of private weaponry, prepare to be disappointed.

Anyway, the Girl is going though something of a Princess Stage.
It's not horribly awfully mawkish in the way I feared it might be, with her demanding to dress up in princess garb 24/7; yes, she loves all things sparkly and pretty and cute but retains an underlying snark about it all which saves us from disappearing underneath the quicksands of Terminally Cutesy. But, still - for the Girl, Princesses Über Alles.

So the other night when we came across the cable broadcast of the original 1950 Disney Cinderella we HAD to watch.
(The Boy, for all that he pretends to mock these princessy puff-pieces, watched - though he was able to throw in the occasional smartass comment when the whole macguffin got too ridiculous. The Cinderella royals really believed there was only one girl with size four feet in the whole damn kingdom? Riiiiight.)

The show actually entertained me, too, since it has been years since I actually watched it. We have all sorts of Disney Princess storybooks and picture-books and even the odd princess doll around the Fire Direction Center (though the ladies tend to shed their clothes rather quickly before ending up in the Tub Toy bin; along with that tramp Barbie I'm beginning to suspect that the Disney royals are a trifle naughty) but not the movie. So my recollection of the actual ur-Cindy was pretty vague, and the cartoon was kind of a surprise on several levels.

The first thing I had forgotten is how little Cinderella actually occupies the screen.

The damn flick should really be called "Animals in Clothes", since probably half the run time or more is taken up with the adventures of Cindy's animal pals, the mice and songbirds that she befriends and seems to have had time to sew teensy little shirts, hats, and shoes for.
Where she finds time or materials to do this heaven only knows, since she's portrayed as the overworked and impoverished slavey of her wretched stepfamily, but that's the kidVid biz for ya.

I found these animal antics rather flat but, then, I was raised on the old Warner's cartoons, where cat-versus-mouse or rabbit-versus-hound had a real nasty edge to the humor. I tend to like my anthropomorphic critters with a bit more bite to them. Sorry, Jacques. Sorry, Gus. Just sayin'.

Between them Cindy and Prince Charming got less on-screen business than the comic Grand Duke, or the comic animals, or the comic King; it was as if ol' Walt knew that his audience didn't care about the lovey-dovey stuff as much as having a bit of a larf. Or knew that his prince and princess were pretty...and boring...so he stuffed the story with everything else under the sun. But it certainly didn't make our heroine any more compelling, and that's even without all the sobbing.


The other bit I didn't recall was just how delightfully eeeeeevil stepmommy-dearest Lady Tremaine is.
Even the Disney Wiki mentions this at length, so, clearly, it's not just me. Lady T is a terrific villain in the classic melodramatic sense, in that she hurts and twists our heroine for no better reason than her own personal enjoyment. She's a colossal bee-yotch and - since Cindy is a bit of a drip and not really much of a character - her pure evil is about 85% of why you root for Cindy; because she's NOT a bitch like her stepmother.
The "ugly sisters" are nasty and spiteful, too, but no more. They're just cat-scratches, irritations, naethings. Cindy and the viewer can just ignore them.

Lady T is a deadly steel dagger hidden inside a silken sheath and never lets you forget it, and she never lets her stepdaughter forget it, either.

What I had also completely forgotten was the terrific voice work of the 1950 Lady T, Eleanor Audley. She's perfect and makes the original Evil Stepmother work on vocal strength alone; cold, controlled and controlling, but with a sort of frightful majesty that makes you afraid of her even when you know she's armed with nothing more dangerous than a mean backhand.

She's an unusual Disney baddie, too; she's got no magic, no powers, nothing but an iron will and a consuming, implacable selfishness. She's not even really "ugly" in the Cruella de Ville/Malificent tradition; she's not humpbacked or bug-eyed or snaggle-toothed. Her skin isn't green, she doesn't turn into anything nastier than a scary relative, and she can't command lethal huntsmen or flying monkeys.

Yeah, she's got that hook-nosed aristo face, but if you put her in a slinky drop-front black satin gown and quirked those lips into a sultry smile she'd be a sort of purple-gray-haired Step-MILF, a bit of grown-up sexytime for the fella that likes his ladies slim, arrogant, and evil.

Nope, she's frightening because she's just a regular human woman; her power comes from her pure malevolence, from her lambent hatred of her lovely stepdaughter.

She's the animated female Khan Noonien Singh; "From hell's heart I stab at thee!".

She's the Mother from Hell, every boyfriend's worst nightmare.

Can you imagine her as Charming's mother-in-law? Brrrr. I'll bet getting the whole family together for Christmas dinner at the Tremaines was a fucking nightmare.

I mean, the woman is a tartar. Even after she's lost the game, after it's all up, after her daughters' ginormous feet have defied every attempt to shoehorn the glass slipper, Lady T is by God going to screw over her stepkid or know the reason why. She trips the page and breaks the slipper, and it's not her fault she hasn't foreseen that Cindy still has crystal loafer #2. She's still in there swinging, horrible woman that she is, and I felt a certain affection for her because of it.

She's a wonderfully awful character and I have this mental picture of her post-defeat, lounging at the edge of the swimming pool in the expensive tropic hideaway she's fled to escape royal vengeance, sipping something with a paper umbrella in it as though she owns the place.
The way she arches that long predatory body and eyes the cabana boy makes him hunch over his groin protectively. And all the while her vulpine smile bodes very ill for the next encounter with that ungrateful stepchild of hers.

She's defeated, not beaten, and the loathing she feels for the entitled little bitch will ensure that her brain is still racing, still plotting a dire fate for the Happy Couple long after they've "moved on".

Lady T doesn't do "moving on". Fuck that shit. Lady T does "Revenge is a dish best served cold."

Good stuff.

The kids liked it, too.

Well, tonight the Boy and I are off to see what Peter Jackson makes of J.R.R. Tolkien's children's tale. I daresay I may have something to add on that subject when we return.

Don't bite any poison apples, now.


basilbeast said...

The Fleischer cartoons, though not as numerous, were way cooler.


Talyssa said...

I love Disney (as if that is surprising in any way haha) but mainly because I LOVE the villains. They have some of the best personalities!! I agree, that Cinderella's step mother is positively evil! Other favourites of mine are Cruella Deville, Ursula, Gaston and Jafar. I love how some Disney movies, particularly in the more modern films from The Little Mermaid onwards, portray the evil villain in a somewhat humorous light as well. Cruella, Ursula, Gaston and Jafar always crack me up in some way with their melodramatic evil-ness - especially Ursula - she's such a diva! Favourite Ursula clip:

FDChief said...

Basil: Fleischer for me is kind of like bebop; I have to be in the right mood. The Warner's stuff, tho, I always laugh. It's just that kind of contagiously whack.

Talyssa: I tend to agree for several of the cartoons. Ursula is a good "baddie" because she's so over-the-top; she clearly enjoys the hell out of being evil. I love Mother Gothel from Tangled for the same reason; she's just SO bad she practically hugs herself out of pure evil joy. And Cruella, too, is just pure Id; she's the greedy, fiendish person we love to be sometimes. Gotta appreciate that.

OTOH, I'm not a huge Jafaar fan because the flick makes him take himself too seriously. It's tough finding a line there between humorless evil and self-parody. Jafaar is on the one side; he's just a guy with an evil stick up his ass.

Mind you, Robin William's voice work as the genie helps make him such a loser.

And my problem with Gaston is that he's too far the other side; he's SUCH a monstrous dick that he's hard to take seriously. That and his dickishness has a nasty sort of rapey edge to it; if you try and imagine the movie without the Disney gloss to it the Gaston character is actually really creepy in a stalker-boyfriend kind of way.

But, frankly, the whole film isn't one of my faves. Belle is a good spunky heroine and the comic sidekicks work fine but the Prince-transformation at the end kinda kills it for me. It's the Beast that you end up siding with, and when you lose him it's kind of like Dustin Hoffman dumping the female impersonation in Tootsie; you like him better as a man-in-drag than you do as an actual man. I liked the Beast better than I liked the Prince inside the hair suit...

But I might be overthinking this stuff just a tad...