Thursday, 28 January 2010

Failed almost-feminist Odette.




This has been buzzing around my brain since I watched The Swan Princess all the way through, last. I'm not a "raging" feminist as such, as I've said in a previous blog, but this actually annoyed me, marginally. It's almost as though Richard Rich, the director, wants to create a strong, courageous sort of femme fatale, but remembers, after spending all that time on the scenes prior to kidnap, that according to Swan Lake, upon which this is based, she must love Derek whatever, and take his love for whatever naffness it is, otherwise the entire plot goes belly up.

The modernised version of Tchaikovsky's Odette showed promise in the early part of the film; as a child she was fiesty, showing that she does indeed, 'wrestle, fight or box', rather than some prissy little girl in a pink dress with a matching Alice-band. She comments that Derek is 'conceited', and proceeds to dislike him as mutually as he dislikes her as they grow up, wrecking their 'boys only' treehouse, beating him at cards every game, and at the same time maintaining the stereotypical beauty befitting a princess; tall, slim, curves, thick blonde hair. Nice.
On the ''realisation scene'', where Derek and Odette realise their feelings for each other, the lyrics sung are thus:

"I see his smile and my knees start buckling. I see inside him and my doubts are gone"
"She started out as such an ugly duckling and has suddenly became a swan".

Quite clear which of the two is shallower - which is further emphasised by Derek's (hilarious) stammer "what else is there?" in reply to Odette's short inquisition into whether beauty is all that matters to him. She has ignored her father's urge to not question her would-be fiancé, and even refused to marry him on grounds that she ''need[s] to know that he loves [her] for just being [her]". Sock it to em, girl.

However this all goes down the pan in a short interval: She is a part-time swan for a few months, and suddenly all the shallowness of Derek (which is never clearly resolved) counts for 0, for despite that, she loves him and he's the only male around in the vicinity that knows her non-swan identity.

At least she does take the initiative to find Derek, since he can't find her, and maintains a frosty, rebellious demeanour towards her captor, Rothbart, and even calls him names. She even, yes, she even has a go at manipulating him (but it's a spectacular failure).

 ****

For some reason that has annoyed me more than perhaps it would normally. Perhaps it's because on some level I know the only reason they made her so cool as a child was to gain pro-Odette teams from viewers, as well as pro-Derek, and to make her seem more likeable, but then again, it ruins it for me in some ways, because at least with every other cartoonised classic or fairytale, the female protagonist is at least neutral or more obviously pathetic from the start rather than half-way through, without backing down from what should be quite moralistic principles for a children's film.

Maybe this is why it's considered one of those films which you do eventually grow out of, purely because of the inadequate inconsistencies...  (Personally, I'll probably keep singing all the songs. And watch it. I mean, the growing up song is great.)


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