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June 20 2008

Firefly Geekery or Disney Princesses? WebComic InkTank ponders proper way to raise children.

Personally, I think Disney and Whedon can peacefully coexist :-)

I agree. My nearly-4-year-old is as passionate about Transformers, trucks and trains as she is about Dora and Ariel. And she kicks serious ass in her little pink cowgirl boots too. :-)
My niece used to walk around in her pink tutu and black leather jacket with a doll in one hand and a six-shooter in another...

But her dad and mom didn't particularly care one way or another which products she was drawn towards - and whatever else they represent, Spidey-dolls and Disney princesses are products - as long as she learned positive human traits, and got out of the house now and then.

The cartoon as drawn seems to represent butch and femme as much as geek-and-mainstream, and a good combo of all four seemed to work just fine for my sister's kids...
I played with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as much as I did Barbies, back in the day. Though I'd be slightly hesitant to let my kid watch Firefly. Hell, I was scared by the Crypt-Keeper as a child. ;)
I played with Barbies, Action Man, My Little Pony and Thomas the Tank Engine as a child. As long as your child knows that Disney stories are just stories and doesn't believe they are destined to be princesses/princes* then there's nothing wrong with letting them watch the films or buy the products.

* I have met and been scared by many children who truly believe they are princesses destined to marry a fabulous prince and live happily ever after - it never ends well.
What I found a little disturbing about the whole Disney Princess thing is that they are almost done phasing out all of the witches - and the rest of the "evils" - as products. I was at Disneyland recently for the first time in about twenty years ('cause that's just how fond I am of Mouseville) and I couldn't find a witch figure or product for love nor money.

I mean, there are about a kajillion stores at Disneyland, as you may know, and each one I passed, I went in and asked if they had any witches or evils as figures or jewelry or anything, and finally two or three store attendants told me (as if it was a Big Secret) that they were "done" with those kinds of figures as products - although there was one store (shhhhh) in Old Fake New Orleans that might have something... and in a Fake Town where you might expect at least some Fake Witches and Fake Voodoo there were only a couple of Tim Burton snakey-and-Nightmare-Before-Christmas-Things.

I find the Pink Princess-i-fication of Disney products both a little sad and a little sicky sweet... I mean, it's not like they were bastions of the balance of light and dark or kickass female figures of power to begin with, but at least there was frikkin' Maleficent - and the Fairy Godmother...
That saddens me greatly, QuoterGal. They used to have a store dedicated specifically to villains last time I was there, but that was a few years ago- I recall because they had a really great Maleficent t-shirt I wanted to buy for my wife. Guess I should have bought it then.
QuoterGal, Disney recently had a whole line of Stationery (and I think clothing) products based on the witches and villains like Maleficent, Ursula, Cruella De Ville, the evil queen from Snow White. They even branded it like "Disney Princess" is branded and called it "Disney Villains". It didn't perform very well in the market, but they definitely put it out there.
Joss's love for composer Stephen Sondheim touches this exact subject. "Moral ambiguity" is a phrase often used to describe Joss's characters -- they aren't 100% good or 100% bad... they make judgements on how to handle a situation based more on THE MISSION than on a fixed notion of good & evil.

Sondheim's show Into the Woods has a song titled "Moments in the Woods" where a female character expresses this dilemma over needing to make black-or-white decisions, singing:

Must it all be either less or more,
Either plain or grand?
Is it always "or"?
Is it never "and"?

Disney princesses lack this essential human element.
And of course, my favorites:

You're so nice.
You're not good,
You're not bad,
You're just nice.
I'm not good,
I'm not nice,
I'm just right.
I'm the Witch.
You're the world.

I'm the hitch.
I'm what no one believes,
I'm the Witch.
You're all liars and thieves,
Like his father,
Like his son will be, too-
Oh, why bother?
You'll just do what you do..."


"Witches can be right, Giants can be good."

Um, not that I identify with witches or anything...

(Tamara, I wonder what happened with that line? - why it didn't do better? - 'cause much of the Villain/Witch stuff online now is very collectible-pricey... although maybe it was the items chosen for the line... not so sure I would want a Witchy-tee or Maleficent mouse ears or a Cruella notepad, but I would shell out for figures and wands and mirrors and poisoned apples and stuff...

And maybe it's got something to do with the fact that Orange County is - well, for the most part, very Orange County... I swear that two of the salespeople lowered their voices and looked around when they had to say the word "witch" - which I found quite funny.)
Firefly over Disney, it teaches important defensive skills that will come in use in Kindergarten.
You know, I love Sondheim and Into the Woods more every time I hear it.

Didn't there used to be a Villains Store in Disneyland? What happened to that one?
This is one of the few webcomics posted here that has made me laugh. Cheers for that.
heh - My 8yr old girl has both in her bedroom (although she kind of prefers the Buffy figures to the Firefly ones....)

We're off to Disney World this year - I shall definitely look out for some villain merchandise.
We're off to Disney World this year -

If you're staying at the Pop Century Resort, look for the 90s montage in the hotel lobby. There's a Buffy and Xander pic in it.

I took a pic of it (apologies for the quality).
I think it's important to give kids a taste of the hopeful belief in happy endings before they are introduced to Joss and his "your favorite character will die tragically, muahahahaha" version of life. That said, I don't think kids should have to wait too long before being exposed to the Whedonverse. And I think the Disney princesses should also be taken with more than a grain of salt.

Also, I can quote Sondheim's characters too! And this one's on topic an everything!

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me"
Children will listen

This game is fun.
Wow... If Disney has no more villain figures, what do all the hero figures do? Go to dances? That sure sounds fun to play with...

I liked replaying the stories with action figures as a child: re-inventing those battles of good vs. evil. I played with transformers, g.i.joe, voltron, starwars, barbie, my little pony... often all at the same time. Barbie always worked as sleeper agents for Cobra. I can't imagine only playing with "good guy" figures... How incredibly uninspiring. How soul-killingly dull.
Ha. I had my Barbie wrapped in tin foil armor and I was just about to burn her as a witch after watching Ingrid Bergman as Joan of Arc on TV in the weekday afternoon movie, when I got busted by my mom for playing with matches and sent to my room for the rest of the day.

I had set up this neat little stake in the backyard by the rose garden with twigs and popsicle sticks and my troll dolls as the English guards, and Barbie/Joan was just delivering a mighty fine death speech, when my Mom swooped down and obliterated the whole terribly moving scene - thus sparing Barbie from a melty death.

Barbie would go on to play such demanding roles as "Honey West Climbs a Tree" and "Jane of the Jungle Gets Menaced by a Cat" but I still think getting burned at the stake could have been her defining role.
You were a warped child, QG. ;)

For some reason I always put my Kens in danger, so Barbie could come rescue him. Rabid dogs (thanks, To Kill a Mockingbird), and hunchbacks were always trapping Ken.

I have a Wicked Queen (Snow White) sequined purse.

Willow has the hopeful, romantic notions of the current (Jasmine, Ariel, Mulan) princesses in her room via posters and videos. But I tend to like them better because they are stronger - Ariel saves Eric from drowning before he kills Ursula to save her, and Mulan just plain ol' saves China! Jasmine hates the BS that all the royal princes are dishing her, until she meets the adventurous 'street rat' and falls in love.

The others are sweet and so 'olde'-fashioned, and she doesn't have much interest in them, but she's seen the movies. Right now her favorites are Emperor's New Groove, Monsters Inc., and Fern Gully. Oh yes, and whenever I ask her to be brave, I say "Who are you strong like?" Her reply, since age 2? "BUFFY!"

I'm cool with that.
Not Disney, but related to the lack of villian presence: back when people bought VHS tapes of their favorite movies, my sister bought her daughter the 50th Anniversary Edition of Wizard of Oz. We watched it with her and had that glowy feeling of nostalgia until the very very end, right after Dorothy throws a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch. We both got a good lungfull of air ready to sing Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is dead, but it was gone. They edited it out! We were stunned. Then annoyed. Then downright angry. The Wizard of Oz isn't The Wizard of Oz unless you get to vocalize joy at the melty demise of the green one. *harumpf*

However, most of the witches I personally know I'd never throw a bucket of water on. Good folks, they. Just sayin'.

PS I believe Barbie will be the fall of Western Civilization. Mark my words. ;)
If you're staying at the Pop Century Resort, look for the 90s montage in the hotel lobby. There's a Buffy and Xander pic in it.

I took a pic of it (apologies for the quality).

And there's also The Simpsons. Buffy and Homer, that pretty much sums up my DVD collection.
Quotergal and Willowy, what adventures your Barbies and Kens had! Those posts really made me laugh. I only ever had two barbie dolls. I think I was too young for them because they both became rapidly headless and my parents never got me any more after that. I didn't really need dolls, though--my younger brother was always my favorite toy, and I used to dress him up and play games with him. At age 5 he was declaring to one and all that he wanted to be a princess when he grew up (I don't know why, but that was always his role, while I played all the other roles). He is very grown up now, and not a princess.
Ah, I would torture my poor sister's Barbies. "Barbie drowns in the whirlpool (toilet)" was one of the better games, as was "Barbie visits Sweeney Todd," and "Barbie's parachute won't open." I blame my 11-year older brother for teaching me such concepts at a young age.

I was, however, in love with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I had all of the action figures, all of the accessories, and even a RC Turtlemobile and the Technodrome. I hated dolls, but I loved action figures.

I grew up watching and loving Disney movies, James Bond movies, the Turtles live action movies, and Animal House. I will say that BtVS the movie gave me a nightmare when I was 4. But I grew up just fine, regardless of what I watched. From this experience, I figure that kids will enjoy things on their level, and that which they cannot understand will just zoom over their heads anyway. I'm not a huge believer in "sheltering" children from movies.

My (nonexistent at this point) children will probably be watching Buffy at a very young age. Firefly will probably be around ages 8-10, as I do think it might be a bit much for really little kids.

Oh yes, and whenever I ask her to be brave, I say "Who are you strong like?" Her reply, since age 2? "BUFFY!"
Willowy, wanna adopt me? You seriously rock.
I find the Pink Princess-i-fication of Disney products both a little sad and a little sicky sweet... I mean, it's not like they were bastions of the balance of light and dark or kickass female figures of power to begin with, but at least there was frikkin' Maleficent - and the Fairy Godmother...

Me too. But I mostly see Maleficent and the Queen from Snow White as models of how not to manage projects. Ursula on the other hand was awesome. Wasn't there once a big book of Disney villains? I remember it as being particularly awesome.

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