Phineas & Ferb Star Wars: A Reminder that Disney Isn’t Star Wars’ Problem, it’s Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, and JJ Abrams

A few months back on a lark, my GF started watching Phineas & Ferb on Netflix. While it took a bit for it to grow on me, it’s become one of my favorite cartoons, and I’ll be bummed when it’s gone next month.

Season 4 had an unusually high share of “special” episodes and two-parters–the best of these was a Star Wars special.


While Mouse Wars has scrambled to hit diversity checkboxes and increase female representation in science fiction to 1920s level, Kathleen Kennedy and her ilk have failed to create any likable, relatable, or compelling female characters. Rey is a grating bully who is constantly berating her companions and treating them like they’re useless. While I enjoyed Rogue One, I recognize its roots in Tabletop and therefore see Jyn for what she is–the MacGuffin NPC the Party has to protect for their TPK one-off adventure. Rose Tico and Holdo are bad memes (I feel bad for Kelly Marie Tran, a cute fan-girl that the film-makers intentionally dumpied up and gave a shit part so they could check a diversity box, much less so for Laura Dern). Phasma was supposed to be a big deal, cuz “ermegerd, a lady Storm Trooper!”, but we all saw how well that went.

Feminist Star Wars couldn’t even make a female character as compelling or with half as good an arc as Storm Trooper Candace.

Candace was everything that Phasma or Finn should’ve been–someone who’s bought into the imperial ideas for reasons that are not bad reasons, so they can have a genuine moral conflict when presented with a dilemma that makes them reconsider their role as an imperial enforcer.

It’s cheesy, has a bunch of song and dance numbers, and has a bit of an over-reliance at times on the old “Darth Vader’s socks” meme… Here’s the thing about this cartoon special, though… If you strip away the burlesque elements, you’re actually left with the building blocks of a pretty compelling Star Wars story:

  • A villain has devised a way to artificially augment Dark Side Force abilities.
  • A Rank & File Imperial who believes in “the cause” gets caught up in an incident that leads them to see the humanity of the Rebels.
  • Brother is set against brother when the villain corrupts one of them.
  • A tough-girl space pirate (Pepper Melange, anyone?) falls in love with the hero, one of the brothers, because she comes to realize that he’s not a squish and is willing to put his life on the line for his friends.

Compare that to:

  • A villain is mad at mom and dad, so he digs out grampa’s war memorabilia and goes off to play space Nazi. Some has to go stop him, I guess?
  • A janitor defects from a cause he’s not invested in the first time he sees action.
  • A woman yells at said janitor and treats him like crap until he gets coma’d. (Seriously, how does “Pro-Diversity” Star Wars go from having a black man piloting the fastest ship in the galaxy to destroy a Death Star to having a black man get yelled at and told he’s useless by a white lady for 2 hours?)

So, if you have Netflix, do yourself a favor and watch this before they take it off and it gets shuffled over to Disney’s streaming service they’ll be launching in the soontime.

 

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If Leigh Brackett Had Written Frozen

I’m about half-way through The Enchantress of Venus and got to wondering: what if Leigh Brackett, Queen of Sci-fi, had written Frozen?

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The chill winds from her heart of ice blow their death across the hills of Denmark; he will not let it go.

Kristoff would’ve been folded into the character of Hans, who would have been more roguish from the beginning.

Anna would’ve been a false romantic lead for Hans/Kristoff, projecting childlike innocence and purity while seeing and bringing out the best in the flawed man.

Hans/Kristoff would be more intrigued by the darkness and strength of Elsa; he knows Anna would be a nice girl to settle down with, but there’s something about Elsa’s strength and anger that he sees as a challenge.

Anna would’ve died at some point tragically in a fire-fight against out of control snow monsters; she sheds a single tear as she dies in Hans/Kristoff’s arms, and her last words are “Save my sister from herself”.

Hans/Kristoff would eventually smack some responsibility into Elsa; Elsa would fall in love with Hans/Kristoff because he was the first person to stand up to her and not be afraid of her nor cater to her just because she has crazy magic powers.

Peter Pan, WTF

Might take some heat for this one, but here goes…

As a tater-tot, I apparently had a flashbulb memory of Disney’s Peter Pan. I always assumed I’d seen it, like maybe when I was 6 or younger. Maybe because of those little picture books in doctors’ offices combined with the fact that I’d seen SOME version of Peter Pan (I know with some degree of certainty that it was not the Tim Curry Peter Pan and the Pirates on Fox, because when I first saw that when I was in daycare, I was mentally comparing it against some other Peter Pan I had seen) I thought I’d watched it at least once. Well, turns out I was wrong.

I love the movie Hook, and so does my girlfriend. Once while watching it, I mentioned that it had been ages since I’d actually seen Peter Pan. With some reservation, she informed me that she had it on VHS, but didn’t really like it much so didn’t watch it often. After watching it with her, I can see why.

It was kind of creepy and a lot more sexualized than I would’ve expected from a children’s cartoon from the 50s. No one thing would do more than raise an eyebrow on its own, but the pervasiveness when paired with the themes adds up throughout. Tink checking herself out in mirrors, getting her hips stuck in the keyhole after implication that she thinks her butt’s too big, ultimately getting tossled about and landing spread eagle was uncomfortable to watch. Follow that up with the rest of the movie being about Peter Pan pretty much going from girl to girl, doing everything to make Wendy jealous while being completely oblivious himself, saying it’s not a good couples movie is kind of an understatement. “Why aren’t you okay with the fact that my topless mermaid friend just tried to kill you? 😀 ” (If it weren’t for the sexist “Squa get um firewood”, I’d almost say that the uber-stereotyped indians were one of the less offensive parts of movie, for what that’s worth.)

The thing that irks me is that I almost feel like there is a character arc for Wendy that could be completed in a satisfactory way, until it’s torpedoed in the last scene. For a minute, let’s look at Peter Pan through the lense of Wendy as the protagonist. The bone we’re given to chew on in Peter Pan is the idea of growing up. Wendy doesn’t want to grow up, John and Michael don’t want to grow up, Peter Pan and the Lost Boys don’t want to grow up. From what we see of Wendy’s parents, being a grownup is a life of responsibility, disappointment, anger and frustration. Peter Pan takes Wendy to a place she’ll never grow up, seemingly fulfilling her wish… And proceeds to be a colossal dick to her the entire time.

Not growing up means not only not having responsibilities or being responsible for your actions, but having the freedom to be childish and self-centered without real consequence. Children in Neverland simply get to feed their Id with no thoughts to the consequences or feelings of others (don’t forget how quickly, and with smiling faces, the Lost Boys were about to rush and sign up to be Pirates with Hook after they’d been captured), and this is where the actual tension of the story mounts: Wendy, who had proclaimed she didn’t want to grow up, is beginning to see how harmful the selfishness of childhood can be, and she herself feels responsibility for John and Michael, whose heads she filled with stories of Peter Pan and Pirates. She wants to go home. Neverland is a crappy place full of crappy people and she’s done with it. No one in Neverland has a shred of empathy. When Wendy gets home, she says that she’s finally ready to start growing up… And that Peter Pan is absolutely wonderful.

If you are with a girl and you show off how close you are with a bunch of half-naked women who treat her like crap, have a female best friend who hates her, and make kissies with another girl in front of her, she’s going to be out on you faster than Cybil Shepherd walked out on DiNiro in Taxi Driver, not proclaiming how wonderful you are.