Tag Archives: hero

10 Things “Tangled” Got Right

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Happy Friday, dear reader!  I hope this week has been kind to you.

Lots of us have a very strong emotional attachment to Disney films, and why not?  They tell magical stories using bright colours, silly voices and usually lots of marvellous songs.  What’s not to love?  Well, until very recently Disney seemed blissfully unaware of things like ethnic diversity, liberalism and…gosh, what was the other one?  Oh yeah.  Feminism.

Having said that, when they finally got round to it they did a great job, and Frozen is widely regarded as a triumph because it has two female protagonists AND was directed by a woman.  Nice work, Disney.  Have a biscuit.  

Having re-watched it recently, I think that Tangled actually deserves similar praise.  It might not have been as ground-breaking in terms of narrative format as Frozen, and it doesn’t have a talking snowman.  However, given that it was the retelling of a pretty grim (geddit?) fairytale about a woman being stuck in a tower, it did a pretty good job of giving little girls and boys some excellent ideas about self-belief and how love is supposed to work.  Here are some excellent lessons that Tangled teaches us:

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1) It’s always worth facing your fears, no matter how scared you are.  The alternative is being stuck forever in your isolated tower/comfort zone, where you are safe BUT nothing exciting happens.

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2) Go on an adventure for your own reasons.  Pursue things that you want.  Go and find out everything you can about stuff that fascinates you.  If you’re lucky and it’s right, a love interest will appear to accompany you, BUT they are incidental.  Your adventure is about you, not them.

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3) You can’t judge a book by its cover.  A simple lesson, but one worth reiterating.  Would you have expected this guy to be into baking?  Me neither.  But he is.

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4) True friends can communicate with just a look.  Pascal the chameleon doesn’t say a single word throughout the film, but you always know exactly what his opinion is.  It’s definitely worth paying attention to the things your friends don’t say, as well as the things they do.

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5) Don’t worry about your looks, because they seriously do not matter.  If you do worry about them too much, you can end up in a very bad place.  The villain of Tangled is consumed by her own vanity to the point where she kidnaps a royal baby.  That’s just not cool.  ALSO, (spoiler alert – although if you haven’t seen the film, I’m not sure why you’d have read this far) when Flynn/Eugene cuts off Rapunzel’s hair at the end, her looks change dramatically.  Does anybody care, or even mention the fact that her most defining physical feature is no more?  Nope.  Because it doesn’t matter.

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6) It’s always, always better to be yourself.  Even if your name is Eugene Fitzherbert.

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7) Girls – you can be the hero.  Boys – it’s ok to need rescuing.  Looking after the people you love is not a gender-specific thing.  We might not have magical hair, but we all have our own resources and traits that our loved ones rely upon.

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8) Always trust your own instincts over what your critics say.  Someone who goes to the effort of putting you down on a regular basis is clearly trying to suppress all the awesomeness you are capable of.

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9) The right person for you is the one who goes the extra mile to make you happy.  People have chequered pasts and we’ve all done things that we’re not proud of, but when people truly care about you their actions will be louder than their CVs.

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10) HAVE A DREAM.

Also, have a cracking weekend.

The Hard Logic

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Good morning, dear reader!  It’s a bit chilly today, so I hope you’ve got your scarf, gloves, etc.

Last  night some friends and I went to the Finborough Theatre to see a play called The Hard Man.  The producer is a friend of ours whose work we wanted to support, but actually it was well-worth seeing in its own right.  The story is based on the life of Jimmy Boyle, a notorious gang leader who was convicted for murder in Glasgow in 1967.  I’m not sure if this is what we were supposed to get out of it, but for me it came out as somewhere in the middle of Trainspotting, Brighton Rock and The Shawshank Redemption.  I won’t go into too much narrative detail after that baffling three-way comparison, but the performances were brilliant and the production as a whole was very compelling.

The crux of the play’s message was that people are the product of their environments.  This wasn’t so much an attempt to absolve the characters of responsibility, but an indication that there is always logic at play rather than a conscious decision to become “evil”.  If you were born into a hard life in Glasgow, you responded in kind.  If you didn’t have a father, you did what you needed to to bring money in.  If someone hit you, you hit back.  There was inevitability at play rather than a tragic downfall of the imperfect hero: in the writing and the performances, there was no tangible plea for the audience to understand or sympathise, it was just: “Here we are.  This is what we started with, so this is what we had to do.”  It was logic, not bad luck.

That may just be my opinion, and I hope that my producer friend will forgive me if I’ve interpreted the play all wrong, but it definitely struck a chord with me.  Perhaps there is an inevitability and logic to our lives, sometimes so small that we don’t even notice it.  For example, everyone in my family went to university, so I did too.  I wanted to go, but it never even occurred to me to do anything else, when of course there are hundreds of other options to take.  I loved my university, and I don’t regret my decision in any way, but it’s just a curious thought: did I apply to university on autopilot because of my environment?  What might I have done differently if no one in my family were university-educated?

The things that we believe, think, say and do are all a factor of who we are now, and who we are now is the result of years and weeks and minuscule moments that have shaped our lives.  I don’t know how many moments in your life you can point to and say “That split second changed my life”, but in a way it doesn’t matter, because they all did.  The question is what to do about it now that you are here.

In the arts sector in particular, people have found that the years, weeks and moments have led them to a place where there is no money and no certainty.  It’s all very well to say either (or both) of the following two things:

1) “We didn’t get into this business for the certainty of it; art is all about the precarious and unknown!”

2) “It’s not fair.  Why shouldn’t we be able to make theatre?  It was just dumb luck that our generation started out in the middle of a recession.”

But saying these things is not going to get your play produced or your your novel published.  Saying those words is just repeating what we all know already, so don’t waste your time.  We are where we are, and there’s nothing we can do to go back in time and stop the recession, so we will just have to use it.  I’m not saying that making theatre is going to pull this country out of its financial canyon (although you never know), but the fact is that people who want to paint, write, act, direct, dance and every other artistic discipline under the sun have to take what the world gives them and use it to make their work better.  You can’t fix it, so use it.

The recession is not going to go away just because we don’t like it, and arts funding is not going to magically increase just because we want it to.  Those might be nice side effects of our work in the future, but for now we should be looking at the world around us, accepting what we cannot change and using it to our advantage.  On a very basic, impetuous level, we should take every opportunity to defy the asshats who lost our money by becoming stronger, better and more active artists.  Think about the logic: if the country’s wealth hadn’t been so skew-whiff in the sixties, John McGrath would never have formed 7:84 Theatre Company.

I think what I’m trying to say is that we should be ruthless and realistic when it comes to facing the odds.  Even if they are stacked so highly against us that they’re starting to wobble a bit, we should always, always be looking at situations as opportunities to become better artists.

I got on my soapbox a bit there, didn’t I?  I’ll clamber down now and make us some coffee.  D’you take sugar?

Wise Words, Walt

Good morning, reader!  How was your weekend?

Today ‘s blog is about some unexpected sources of wisdom: Disney characters.  Those of you who have read this post will already know that I reckon Disney heroes are actually pretty similar to modern men, but the relevance to contemporary (and indeed real) life doesn’t end there.  Disney movies are, in general, liberally sprinkled with cute quotations and heart-warming characters.  Since Frozen came out at the end of last year, I have been asked the question “do you wanna build a snowman?”  dozens of times, and fans of Despicable Me will be very familiar with the cry “IT’S SO FLUFFY I’M GONNA DIE!!”  These are both lovely and amusing, but they don’t really mean anything if you haven’t seen the films.

However, there are some quotations from Disney movies which, when taken slightly out of context, are very good advice for those of us who are not animated and/or living in an enchanted castle.  Here are my favourites:

1) “I’m afraid being famous isn’t the same as being a true hero.” – Zeus, Hercules

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YES.  Tell that to every reality television star who thinks that their very  existence warrants an enormous pay cheque and unquestioning adoration from the public.  Particularly in a day and age when you can become famous for doing nothing except stand on a stage in front of Simon Cowell and do something – anything – atrociously, people should remember that being famous doesn’t make you superior to anyone else.  In many cases, the people who get fame and fortune don’t deserve it.  Do you remember when J. K. Rowling made the news for donating so much of her wealth to charity that she lost her billionaire status?  That’s a wonderful thing for her to have done, BUT it should be the norm, not newsworthy.

2) “Maleficent doesn’t know anything about love, or kindness, or the joy of helping others. You know, sometimes I don’t think she’s really very happy.” – Fauna, Sleeping Beauty

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It is easy to dismiss people who seem a bit moody/miserable/prone to casting evil spells as simply bad human beings, but it’s worth stopping to think about why they are that way inclined.  Happy people don’t hate the world around them, and even though it’s not an easy thing to do, it’s probably a good idea to try to relate to them.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (especially when you don’t like them very much) can be a massive eye-opener.

3) “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” – Emperor, Mulan

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If you can achieve success, happiness and other lovely things without really having to struggle for them, they are not devalued as such, but they are less satisfying.  It’s a very British thing to begrudge people a public school education, because we think that they have been handed the tools to obtain their ambitions without having to earn them.  We love the rags-to-riches stories of poor people making their dreams come true, and we went crazy for the Paralympics because the athletes were achieving greatness from a disadvantaged starting position.  It’s not a bad thing to respect people who can make lemonade out of lemons (although I would have gone for a lemon drizzle cake, myself), but the important thing is to remember to apply it to your own life when necessary.  Making successes out of failures and opportunities out of crises, however small they might be, is a good way to grow.  Or bloom, as His Excellency would have it.

4) “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.” – Rafiki, The Lion King

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It’s one of the most universal experiences known to humanity: the involuntary groan and uncomfortable squirm when you remember something embarrassing you did months or even years ago.  These memories can come back to bite you when you are falling asleep, walking along perfectly happily or operating heavy machinery (which is obviously not ideal for safety reasons as well as emotional ones).  Like most people, I get pretty bogged down by those unhappy thoughts, and usually fairly indignant: WHY did I just remember that?  What the hell does my brain think it’s doing?!  It’s a very uncomfortable process, but for the sake of our sanity we should probably try to look at the memory, work out why we behaved the way we did, and go about fixing the problem.  The other thing is (and I owe a huge thank you to friends of mine who have reiterated this next bit for me), the chances of anyone else remembering the incident with as much displeasure as you do is unlikely.  You remember it so vividly because you’re still beating yourself up about it, but anyone else who was there won’t have thought about it nearly as much, if at all.  Think about it: do you lie awake at night thinking about embarrassing things your loved ones have done, and despising them?  Of course not.  So logically, they’re not going to be doing the same thing about your misdemeanours.

5) “Life’s not a spectator sport. If watching is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without you.” – Laverne, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Get involved.  Go and talk to that attractive person at the bar.  Take up a hobby.  Go on adventures.  If you don’t ask you don’t get, and you lose one hundred percent of the Monopoly games you don’t play.  Sure, you might end up embarrassing yourself some more, but we’ve already covered how to cope with that.

And last but not least:

6) “Some people are worth melting for.” – Olaf, Frozen

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Some, not all.  Use your common sense.

Have a spectacular day, everyone.