Friday, January 25, 2013

Preschooler Media: Disney

As we slowly ease Sidney into watching television more regularly, we usually sit with her and share the experience.  Despite having a large existing Disney collection that I amassed well before her conception, she only watches a few select movies.  And when I say few, I mean three: Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh Movie and (newcomer) Cinderella.

We have also screened Curious George (series & feature film), The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, Elmo in Grouchland and Beauty & the Beast.  Surprisingly, what all these have in common is "too much peril" which has caused a good deal of upset.  It goes like this: crying at the conflict point in the story, then after calming down: a litany of questions about the character who caused such upset and finally: a proclamation of never wanting to watch it again. This reaction has relegated them to the back of the movie cabinet.  Also because Calvin's room is Star Wars themed, she will occasionally express interest in knowing more about it.  But there is NO way she'll be watching that now.  If she thinks Ursala is bad, wait til she sees Jabba the Hut...

With Sidney's relatively small media preference, I have become intimately familiar with the three favorite movies.  It's to the point that I analyze them to give myself something to do when stuck watching them yet again.

In principle, I always disliked the cliche ending of Cinderella from a modern woman's stand point but it wasn't until I bought this DVD for Sidney that I finally watched this movie all the way through.  (It struck me as one of the few Disney movies benign enough for her i.e. nobody dies) I had only seen parts of it as a child and as an adult, wasn't enamored with it enough to add it to my collection.  But now having really watched this film, damn, there is some hard core psychological (& physical) abuse, indentured servitude, an arranged marriage and some very bad singing (by the step sisters).  It was that servitude coupled with abuse that made me wonder if this would also be relegated to the back of the video cabinet also.  But wouldn't you know it, the only part that "concerned" Sidney was when the cat was trying to catch those mice in the kitchen.  Indeed, there were some questions from her about why the sisters rip parts of Cinderella's homemade dress but still the cat remains the only area of focus.

Ultimately, the whole guise of the ball is because the king wants his son to have babies.  (Because the prince is quite busy doing "something else" up to that point.)  So basically Cinderella's continual purpose is to be of service to someone.  I understand how she's rewarded with a seemingly better life for her ever present faith in the goodness of the world--that's an honorable quality--but it also seems like someone who just lets things happen to them rather than standing up for one's self.  The nauseating and strangely endearing concept of being saved by someone (rather than making it happen yourself) has I'm sure inspired many-a feminist dissertation on how the story warps little girls' perception of relationships and self-worth.  It is after all, the basis for most rom-coms.

As for Mary Poppins, I have often mused that Bert and Mary must be "doing it" given their undeniable chemistry.  But that "practically perfect in every way" schtick always bothers me.  She's so not practically perfect.  Mary puts Bert down all the time to make herself look better.  Meanwhile all Bert wants to do is help her and be there for the children--he's such an affable guy!  And make no mistake, Mary Poppins is one jealous b**ch.  She becomes so unhinged during "Jolly Holiday" when Bert lists all the other women's names.  It makes me want to smack the sooty mustache right off of her face.  (Did you notice that when they are doing the chimney sweep dance up on the rooftops and she powders her nose?) I'd like to give a shout out to Up Yours, Downstairs Podcast that usually evaluates Downton Abbey episodes but did an in-depth look at Mary Poppins due to it's Edwardian backdrop.  It inspired my critique.  Anyway.

And lastly Winnie the Pooh...that dude has food issues.  Seriously.  Always eating honey.  Always in search of honey.  Always hungry for honey.  How does that bear not have diabetes?  And the others, Piglet: Co-dependent.  Eeyore: Depression.  Rabbit: OCD.   

Definitely need more media in the rotation...

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Unicycle Diaries and other stuff

The end of December is a bit of a blur, as per usual.  But today I finally de-Christmasfied our house and it feels strangely good to officially start 2013.  As I was putting things away, I was thinking about the effort it takes to put all that stuff up and how in my childhood we used to hate to take decorations down because it meant another 11 month slog to the next Christmas.  Sidney seemed rather disappointed that the Christmas stuff wasn't permanent.

This year we did it a bit differently by staying in Seattle and not heading down to Portland.  I've only spent 3 Christmas Eves elsewhere: once in London, once in Virginia and this year.  So it's a big deal for me to break from the tradition I have done since I was born.  But I have to say it was nice to be in our own house and to try a few new things.  One of them was having Ken's brother, Ed, up for the holiday.  It was the first time he'd met Calvin and of course Sidney couldn't wait to hang out with Uncle Ed.  He was up last year to celebrate Thanksgiving and run the Seattle Half Marathon.  Another new experience was spending Christmas Eve with our good friends the Wallers + grandparents & the Atteberys.  Sarah & Mika made a lovely meal, we sang carols, read a Christmas story and Santa even stopped by.

Christmas Night we braved the elements and walked through the Bellevue Botanical Garden that is way LIT UP for the holidays.  So cool.

And finally what Christmas would be complete without some brotherly challenge and risk-taking?  In a throw-back to their youth, Ken and Ed bought each other unicycles for Christmas and promptly (as in hours after Ed landed) started practicing their unicycling skills so they can run off and join the circus someday.  (Or something like that.)   With Seattle's notorious weather, places to practice were a little harder to find but I'm told covered parking lots are the best practice areas.  I was just grateful that we had no trips to the emergency room.  Helmets, people!

I'm looking forward to 2013 as kind of a blank slate.  I don't have a big agenda but I feel poised to be able to make something of it on all levels.  With the child-bearing behind me and my body being mine again, I really look forward to getting back in shape and moving around.  I also look forward to writing more and experiencing/reading/knowing more.  Lastly I am also hoping with some of the tragic and confounding events of 2012 behind us that this year will represent a turning point with thoughtful reflection, healing and positive action for this country, for this world.