2016 Candidates As Disney Princesses

There was a debate last night!

Although celebrities like Kim Kardashian carry the bloodline of American royalty, our cadre of nutty politicians are the next closest thing. With the help of the courageous media, our primary season has ‘exposed’ the Presidential field as a group of spoiled, pretty people. So why not compare them to our ideal fantasy of entitlement and royal virtue, the fairest of them all, the Disney princesses?

If you like Disney, and you like gotcha! politics, this is the clickable comparison for YOU:

Jeb! Bush- (Princess) Tinker Bell

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Poor Jeb!, no matter how loud he shrieks and sprinkles pixie dust on the electorate, nobody hears him. His presence in this election has been so tiny, so unnecessary, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying. Not that he deserves our attention; when you look closely at what he says, he’s really just kind of an obnoxious bitch.

I guess it’s true what they say: every time a GOP voter says “I don’t believe in Bushes”, there’s a little Jeb! somewhere that falls right down dead.

 

Ben Carson- Princess Aurora

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Otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty. That was easy.

Hilary Clinton- Princess Elsa

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Yeah, I think she’s a bit of an ice queen. That’s not all bad. Princess Clinton’s got impressive skills! She’s also gotten an unfair rap in the past from the kingdom at large, and she’s mostly taken it in stride. This election season Hilary’s been willing to “let it go” and freeze all of her would-be opponents with phantom debates on a Saturday night, and a strong sense of entitlement to boot. She’s played the cynical older sister to Bernie’s naive waif (more on that below), which is…well, it’s disappointing.

Chris Christie- The Red Queen

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A nasty bully who makes ridiculous threats. Sentence first, verdict afterward: Christie would blow up Russian planes before risking not starting World War III. We’re already in World War III! Paint all the states red! Not really a Disney princess, but then again, Christie is not really a Presidential candidate.

Ted Cruz- Princess Ariel, The Little Mermaid

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An extremely vain creature, Cruz longs to be human but something is missing. But he’s certainly the most theatrical of the Presidential candidates; everybody agrees his obnoxious voice is a…quality of some kind. Prone to temper tantrums, his cleverness is undermined by a radical solipsism (says the NYT) which has all of his sisters in the GOP leering with hatred (and jealousy). And I guess in this metaphor King Triton is…Mitch McConnell? Yuck.

Jim Gilmore- Princess Kidagakash
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Yup, that’s a real princess!

Jon Kasich- Princess Megara

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Kasich seems to have made a foolish Faustian bargain in his bid for the Presidency, begrudgingly adopting GOP policy points he probably doesn’t believe in (here he is waffling on climate change) and its made him bitter and cynical. He’s better than this and he knows it. But that won’t help him win. In this sense he is a tragic figure and that only makes him more beautiful.

Martin O’Malley- (Princess) Alice

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Just kind of an observer to the whole nutty affair.

Rand Paul- Princess Jasmine

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Rand Paul is NOT a prize to be won!…but only because not enough people like him. Feisty and combative on the debate stage, Randy Rand secretly longs for America to sweep him off his feet on a magic carpet ride to the White House. His father, who people consider a well-meaning libertarian sultan, nevertheless has a nefarious voice in his ear telling him stupid things about the Gold Standard and such. Also like his father, sometimes Princess Rand likes to dress up like a commoner and say agreeable things about foreign policy, enough that if you’re not paying attention, you might even fall in love.

Marco Rubio- Princess Leia in a slave bikini

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Marco Rubio was supposed to be the future of politics or something, but it turns out he’s just a slave of the corpulent 1%, chained to the slobbering menace of the Koch brothers and their ilk. However, you get the feeling that this pin-up candidate secretly likes playing the submissive, pouty eye-candy of the GOP. Reciting lame stump speeches and talking points suits him a little too well.

From the way they talk about Rubio and the “Gang of 8”, you’d think those guys blew up the Death Star. But, no, they just tried to legislate a path to citizenship. Carrie Fisher could do much better.

Bernie Sanders- Princess Ana

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Bernie is considered the lesser Princess of the Democrats because he doesn’t have superPAC powers like his crazy-face ‘sister’ in the race. But while Hilary warns of threats abroad, Bernie asks us if we want to build something. They say he’s naive, that the political coalition he hopes to marry into will turn their back on him. Is his liberal optimism beautiful or worthy of ridicule? Maybe we ‘need’ Princess Elsa, but we ‘want’ Princess Ana. Without Bernie, the Presidential race would feel a little soulless.

Rick Santorum- Princess Snow White

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An outdated, bleached and bland Princess of yesteryear who hangs around by virtue of being codified into the established royalty of the GOP. Not much personality, not much charisma, but he’s re-released for public consumption every election cycle to drum up some revenue and make people feel nostalgic.

Donald Trump- Princess Cinderella

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Donald Trump’s American Dream is a noise your fart makes.

You can fool some of the people all of the time; people figured a trashy celeb sweeping up the garbage ratings of reality TV wouldn’t be taken seriously as anything other than a bad SNL sketch, but before you can say “bippity boppity boob”, he’s a Presidential Princess! Before the clock strikes midnight on November 8, enough people might continue to see a tough Alpha male who speaks his mind and gets things done. Just don’t forget to ask him how he’s doing in the polls. So this is love. The rats who run his campaign are counting on a wave of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant fervor to seize the silent majority. You can already see the cracks forming on those glass slippers; he gets irritable.  Judging by his toupe, he really doesn’t have far to go to turn back into a pumpkin. Any minute now. Any minute………

AND DON’T FORGET:

Sarah Palin- Fairy Godmother

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She makes stupid feel like magic.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:

Nobody is Belle. Which is a shame since Belle in her golden gown is the prettiest princess. But if I had to pick someone (and I kind of hate myself for this…)

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“Star Wars” vs “Go Set a Watchman”

Comparing the two most hotly anticipated reboots of 2015

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In the year 2015 we saw an amazing phenomenon: a world-renowned artist sold their intellectual property under dubious circumstances and an exciting sequel was released which takes place several decades after the original story, promising a fresh look at familiar characters. A shocking twist was guaranteed.

But am I talking about “Star Wars” or am I talking about “Go Set a Watchman”???????

Although I have not actually read the sequel to “Mockingbird”, that isn’t going to stop me from offering some essential critical commentary about the ‘year of the sequel’ and these two very similar but very different stories. Let’s take a look!

The “Fresh Take”

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Let’s be cynical here for a moment. This is about two very popular twentieth century films (or books) being strip-mined for nostalgic moneymaking purposes even long after there is no story to tell. People may have wanted another Star Wars movie but where do you go (other than backwards) from the redemption of Darth Vader and the heroic ascent of Luke Skywalker? And I don’t think there were many clamoring for the further adventures of Jean Louise Finch (although did we even know that was a possibility)?

The ultimate results seem to bear this out. However, both sequels did promise to offer a new or different look at what came before. JJ Abrams says he was moved to direct Episode 7 by the tantalizing existential question “Who is Luke Skywalker?” and Harper Lee…didn’t say anything because she’s kind of old and not paying much attention to the world around her these days. But her publisher promised readers the exciting discovery of a long-lost manuscript which would expand and deepen our understand of the principle protagonists of “Mockingbird.”

Here’s some confusing irony: although “Watchman” was written as a draft before “Mockingbird”, it “The Force Awakens” didn’t even use Lucas’ story pre-written story treatments–Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan slapped together a screenplay in six weeks. And yet what they came up with is nearly beat-for-beat the same story as the original “Star Wars”, including an obnoxious planet destroying weapon which must be vanquished. There are “twists” in terms of familial relations and tragic deaths and whatnot but overall the plot and characters are back to square one. No evil Luke Skywalker (more on that below), no intergalactic cold war post-Vader, just bad guys fighting good guys without much context. Only this time the hero is a…

Female Protagonists

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…pretty lady! Hooray for female protagonists. And “boo” on people for calling Rey _____ a “Mary Sue” character. It’s not her fault JJ Abrams wrote her dialogue! Daisy Ridley is very likable and I don’t mind she (spoilerspoilerspoiler) easily beat Kylo Ren because that guy is a stupid asshole. But is she as likable as…Scout Finch?

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Scout is a great literary heroine and has the added benefit of being semi-pseudoautobiographical. In “Mockingbird”, she’s a snappy tomboy who learns how to open her mind to alternate perspectives and sympathies, culminating in the scene with Boo Radley.

Rey is a tomboy as well, although she’s kind of a babe. I suppose it’s to the film’s credit that she’s never positioned as a romantic interest, although as Mr. Plinkett noted of Padme and Episode II, shouldn’t these women be on the prowl? But if it means avoiding some dopey Liam Hemsworth side-character beefcake, that’s probably for the best. Her scene with Maz Kanata passes the Bechdel test, but fails the bullshit-plot-contrivance test, so that’s a bit of a wash.

In “Go Set a Watchman”, Scout gets a boyfriend, and…actually I don’t know. This is point at which I admit I haven’t read the book and just barely skimmed through the wikipedia summary. I’ve read at least a half dozen articles about the bizarre publication of the book, and potential reasons why, but as far as Scout goes I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Please forgive me. None of the reviewers cared about Scout anyway. They all wanted to talk about Atticus Finch.

Luke Skywalker vs Atticus Finch

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Who knows what Harper Lee wanted, but the publisher of “Watchman” and producer of “Star Wars” were far more interested in milking the intrigue of a ‘fresh take’ on two of the greatest heroes of the twentieth century. They each do so in opposite ways. Which is kind of interesting.

“Watchman” sells itself by twisting our understanding of Atticus Finch on its head; the man who we thought was a paragon of moral virtue grows, in his old age, to become a ranting racist lunatic, attending Klan meetings and supporting continued segregation. How is this even possible? Supposedly that is the crux of the new book, which explores how a grown adult reconciles the sad reality of her father with the idealized image she had of him as a child. Which makes her a surrogate for the reader.

(fun fact, if you haven’t clicked the links above: “Watchman” was the ORIGINAL draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Harper Lee’s editors told her to take what was just a small part of that book–memories of the trial–and turn that into a full-fledged novel, which she did)

I don’t like this take at all, but mostly for the meta-reasons that it seems like a cynical strategy to push readers’ buttons.

If Atticus, in the book and film, is an ‘unrealistic’ role model, that’s fine. I don’t care. Generations of readers haven’t seemed to care either. As evidenced by the successful campaigns of Donald Trump and the irrational hatred of Barack Obama and lots of other things, racism is alive and well in America and a “white ally” like Atticus Finch is an important model as a champion against irrational bigotry. There’s also–and this is key–not a whole lot in the original story that would indicate this is a man who, in his later years, would “turn to the dark side.” Gregory Peck plays him like a thoughtful and righteous individual, someone with measured and careful opinions. It’s very difficult (without having read the book) to even understand the motivations for why someone would fall back on communal prejudices after fighting the good fight for most of his life.

He’s also not someone you really want or need to see become “evil” (or bigoted). That in and of itself may make for a provocative reason to do exactly that, but it says more about our REAL culture than it does about racism in the book itself (or so I hear). As evidenced by the “dark”, “gritty” post-911 bent in popular film, the trend is towards tearing down our heroes. You can’t trust the government. You can’t trust anyone. There are no heroes. Everything must be deconstructed. It’s a very cynical, bleak look at the world.

This is why, somehow, some way, I’m actually quite pleased at how “Star Wars” avoided this trap (so far). Many speculated that Luke Skywalker was missing from promotional material and trailers because the big reveal of “The Force Awakens” was that he had turned evil. But not so! The reason that Luke Skywalker was missing from the toys and trailers and posters was because he was missing from the movie! He (spoiler spoiler) shows up for a non-speaking cameo at the end, teasing a Yoda-like role as mentor to Rey in the upcoming films.

The idea of archetypal heroes as “missing” rather than “turnt” from our modern age is far more compelling to me. Luke’s redemption in the new trilogy will not come from some heinous, unconvincing character betrayal, but rather from the difficulties and challenges faced from the cold, cruel galaxy. The new film contends that rather than bringing on a new age of Jedi Knights, Luke was foiled by his own nephew and essentially feels responsible for creating a new Darth Vader. There’s also rumors that the new iteration of Luke Skywalker feels more ‘powerful’ than ‘wise’ and is uncomfortable with his role as sole champion of the Force. This all feels like a genuine and ‘correct’ way to continue Luke’s storyline.