I’m a Gemini. Not that I set a lot of stock by astrology, but I have often found myself conflicted by what I think of the dual sides of my nature: goal driven workplace overachiever versus creative artist, gym rat versus sweets lover, and—the subject of this particular entry—princess versus witch.
It is no secret that I love clothes, fashion, and costume. If you didn’t know that, NOW it’s no secret. And be warned: one of the things I’m going to do is develop a fashion part of this column, available to folks who have paid subscriptions, in order to live up to my promise to be age inappropriate in a visual way. This is going to kick off with pictures of my Queen Hippolyta armor, which I will snap at Convergence over the 4th of July weekend. Free subscribers will get one picture, and I’ll have a few more for paid subscribers. Mind, I’ll try to do a decent photo shoot once a month from July on, again, maybe more, with commentary.
Again, I love clothes, fashion and costume. Part of this comes from my own mother, who would do fashion shows for me out of her own wardrobe when I was very young. She would also order dresses from the Sears catalogue for me: pink, frilly dresses, a blue polka-dotted dress so I matched Mrs. Beasley from Family Affair, and lots of other cute girly clothes. I loved clothes, and I wanted what some other little girls wanted, to be a princess, or a ballerina.
However, as I grew up, I didn’t turn into a princess or a ballerina. I became an outcast child: overweight, from another place, and with a short term memory that made people think I was smarter than I was. I was also an abused kid, which meant my social abilities were dubious at best. At this time in my life, I was attracted to a couple of different role model types. The first was the action adventure role model: Mrs. Peel from The Avengers, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman. These were pretty strong role models for their time, and at the age of 8, they rocked my world. I continue to love these types of characters.
The other character archetype attraction for me was unusual and brainy atypical Disney characters. Mary Poppins from her Disney film enchanted me during my frilly dress phase. I was responsible for breaking at least 5 umbrellas in her name. I love the film Sleeping Beauty, but my Gemini reaction is strong in that film. Aurora is lovely, but yes, I was more attracted to Malificent. I didn’t think I could be Aurora, but I knew I could be Malificent, and I understood her outsider nature. I also identified with the three good fairies. I was indeed a crone in the making.
Some of the female villains in Disney films are vilified because they are smart, nonconforming women. They also have bad traits. Malificent wants to be revenged upon a social slight. Snow White’s stepmom is aging out, and is envious of youth she can’t have. Ursula the Sea Witch has the bad excesses of a Roman emperor. But, I argue that society in these films has stacked the deck against these women, because they are OLD and/or SMART as well. They are the embodiment of the stereotype of the crone. Cue the cackling.
Yet, it could not be helped. They were cooler, and I wanted to be them. Not to, you know, poison princesses or kill Prince Phillip, but because the alternative, to be a beautiful and not necessarily bright princess, who instilled in the viewer conforming and accepting behaviors of the patriarchy, was not for me as a child, and although I could not articulate my feelings in such terms as a kid, this concept was instinctively there.
Disney was not my only point of dissent. Bewitched was also a show that made me think things through. Let’s just get this out there right now: what the hell, Darrin? Let Samantha be your life partner. Changing her into a homemaker? Not cool. I liked Samantha, but I loved Endora, who was right, by the way, about Darrin.
What has this walk down role model memory lane taught me? Well, first of all, smart, old, and/or powerful women are often vilified in media. Power is meant to be quashed by the patriarchy. Losing beauty and social grace can lead to villainy and death.
Mary Poppins transcends this bullshit, but don’t go reading those P.L. Travers books unless you want a side of racism with your Mary Poppins, which you don’t. And yes, she is young in the film. But, is she really though?
Now that I am of an age to think these things through, I realize crones are more interesting to me than the conformity of femininity we are bombarded with in culture and media. I wish I’d been a little more savvy in my younger years, but wisdom is an older person thing. Maybe it’s not wisdom. It’s no longer giving a damn about what other people think.