Thursday, June 19, 2014

Atlantis: The Lost Movie--Why People Are Wrong About Disney

    So, a while back, I watched this video by cracked about how Disney has ingrained the idea that ugly is bad.  This gets Disney a lot of hate very often, but as I look closer, I noticed something interesting--this is not the case in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.  You all might remember this post of my dearest Milo Thatch's creepy face.  If you couldn't tell, I love this movie and watch it on Netflix CONSTANTLY.  I was home sick one day and decided to watch it again.  That's when I noticed something odd--Helga Sinclair and Commander Rourke are not bad to look at.  You know about my Disney Villains segment, so this won't be a study of their character, but instead, their appearance and the movie as a whole and it's connection to other Disney baddies!  Don't worry, this dastardly duo will get a Disney Villain's segment very soon, but first, disproving the theory.
     One quick rule:  I'm not including any of the animal or animalistic characters such as Scar from The Lion King or Long John Silver (plus I don't consider him the main bad guy) from Treasure Planet because they are not exactly part of the human ideal of beauty that I'll be discussing. It's sort of hard to say "man is that an ugly lion" or "what a weird lookin cat-dog cyborg."

     Let's start with Lyle Rourke.  Oddly, male villains have an exception to this rule.  Take Rourke and Clayton from Tarzan.  Both are the chiseled, "ideal" man whereas the heroes of the flicks are skinnier and more focused on brain than their brute strength.  This can be seen by Milo's...well...everything and Tarzan's invention of a spear and tendency to use speed and skill to avoid rather than attack.  However, the villains are not "unattractive" by most standards.  This also applies to the hunky Gaston of Beauty and the Beast who is "perfect, a pure paragon."  And if you ask me, Prince Adam (Beast) is uglier than Gaston when turned human!  Another grand example is Captain James Hook who has no real problems aside from the obvious hook-for-a-hand.  This could be seen as his "ugly-ness," but that would also put Luke Skywalker in the ugly category.  I could get into a huge archetype debate but I'll spare you and I'll talk more about Hook in a Disney Villains segment soon.

He is why I have trust issues
   Dr. Facilier also is not necessarily bad looking either, giving off a Gambit sort of vibe.  The most noticeable exception to the rule however, is the latest baddie, Hans.  Let's be blunt.  Hans is hot.  He can sing and dance and at first seems great, a perfect Disney prince, but he is sooo evil.   Also, looking at Ralph from Wreck-it-Ralph, a movie all about not judging a book by its cover, Ralph is a big guy!  He's bulky with giant hands and looks much less appealing than Fix-it-Felix.  Ralph is the hero though, and breaks the rule that Hunchback of Notre Dame put forth and ends up happy.  There was no girl to win so we can't debunk that part of the anger towards Hunchback, but Ralph is still loved by the end of the movie.  And let's be honest, Hunchback of Notre Dame could have ended a lot worse so don't get me started on that one. Now, these are the latest additions to the Disney family, so it's understandable that changes are being made and they came out AFTER this video.  However, Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, and Atlantis were over a decade ago!

    Not to mention, Mole from Atlantis is not handsome by any stretch of the imagination.  He is intentionally portrayed as dirty, gross, and sleazy, and yet he is a good guy!  Vinny is also a scraggly looking guy, but good none the less (just don't let him near the dynamite).  Other supporting male characters often fall into this role, such as many of the main character's fathers (Belle, Jane, Charlotte, Prince Phillip, Jazmin, etc), who are all larger, older men.  This isn't to say that arguments like this aren't valid, but I don't see what's wrong with a bigger father figure.  Personally, Fergus from Brave and Lotte's dad from The Princess and the Frog remind me of my father.  They do not have to be ugly to be the bad guy.  So, maybe there's an exception for men in Disney?  Well, let's move on to Helga Sinclair.

"I came down the chimney.  Ho-ho-ho"
    Take a look at a picture of her but whatever you do, don't do a google search for her!  Helga has quite the following with the fans.  Helga represents the classic femme fatale--beauty mark and all.  She comes in a scandalously thin strapped dress and...floofy white coat thingy.  She is sexualized and at first, seems like a potential love interest for Milo or something.  She is, by most standards, beautiful.  Blonde, tall, long hair, skinny, and yet sassy and savvy.  But here lies the catch: she's evil.  TRUE, she does show remorse that there are people in Atlantis and states that it "changes everything," but she is equally responsible for getting Kida in the crate and heading towards the surface.  At this point, all the other main characters had sided with Milo, not Rourke.  She is past her chance at redemption.  Some could argue "well, she tries to kill Rourke with her last breathe, so she was trying to help!"  Well, as she states herself, "it's just business."  She killed him out of revenge, not out of a sudden will to do good.  The lady in the video says "Disney couldn't allow a pretty woman to commit murder" but that's exactly what she tried and very nearly succeeded in doing.  That's not to say I don't like her!  In fact, she's one of my favorite Disney characters because she is so strong and interesting!  The point?  Helga is a beautiful baddie!

    Let's take a look at the other ladies in the movie. Let's start with the lady with an attitude off the charts:  Wilhelmina Packard.  I honestly didn't know her name until I looked it up, but her character is great.  She's funny and has ridiculous radio announcements that are easy to miss but result in chuckles for the observant few.  Her Wikipedia entry describes her as "an elderly, sarcastic, chain-smoking radio operator."  One of the arguments in the video is that the Evil Queen in Snow White turns ugly and old when she commits her crimes.  Wilhelmina was old the entire movie!  They even make a joke about how you want sleep masks because she sleepwalks naked, alluding that she is not a lovely sight.  She smokes, which is frowned upon by a lot of people and perhaps even by Disney itself, but she is a period character and it fits her personality so well!  Wilhelmina also gets caught up in Rourke's plot and sides with Milo in the end.  She is not only a good gal, but she is a very interesting character!  She has so many points that make her great!  Her appearance only lends her as a character of comic relief rather than a villain.  This also applies to the male character, Cookie, who is also older and portrayed as well....just look at him.
Not my idea of "Hunkules"
    Then of course, there's Audrey.  I have to say, as I look back, Audrey is the "revolutionary character" all people complain about Disney not having.  She is a 16 year old prodigy Peurto Rican mechanic and "at the age of 18 months she could disassemble and reassemble any clock in the Ramirez household."  Her sister is a heavy weight boxing champion and she works at her father's shop, replacing the two sons he wanted instead.  I can't believe no one talks about her, because she is AMAZING!  Her character is sweet and yet spunky and has so many cool characteristics.  Yes, she is not the MAIN character, but why should she (or really any of the cast of Atlantis who make up a mixture of many ethnicity, ages, genders, and personalities) be overlooked just for being the secondary character?
      Visually, Audrey is much different than Helga.  She is younger with a much more modest outfit and less of a figure over all.  She's not as slender and sports baggier clothing.  She also has larger lips and a single tooth thing going on; but Audrey is still cute.  She looks 16, she plays an adorable character with a sweet personality, and doesn't feel the need to look like the average girl.  She doesn't wear dresses (until the end when she becomes rich) and isn't your standard character.  Not only that, but Audrey is also the first to get out of the car and go to Milo's side: before any of the male characters change their minds.  She is nothing but good!  Just because a character is not up to someone else's standards of beauty doesn't make them evil.
        On a quick note, Kida is also a forgotten princess.  Kida is smart, knowing a huge list of languages, she is eager to learn how to read her own from Milo, and she is a fierce fighter and is able to actually fight back.  She is even a sort of religious goddess in a way, since the crystal picks her as essentially a host.  YES, Kida does have to be saved by Milo, but why is that such a bad thing?  Milo is not your standard big buff hero, he is a dorky little cartographer who gets to save the day.  Kida wants what is best for her people, trying to get Milo's help to restore Atlantis to its former glory, and I personally think she will be a wonderful Queen.  It's also notable that no one ever calls him King Milo, but she is Princess and Queen Kidagakash.  
Her Queen and Princess outfits

    In the end, it bothers me that people look over this movie so easily.  Yes. there is a lot wrong with Disney and its portrayals of characters and people, and yes, this is only a very VERY small cut of the Disney villain cake, but it's a slice none the less.  When people say EVERY Disney movie is the same, they have not seen Atlantis.  Disney was started in a different time and YES Disney was racist and had some messed up morals, but they are slowly trying to amend their flaws and it is taking time.  They are integrating characters--male and female--of all body types and ethnicity to their movies like they did in Frozen.
     Let's be honest: there will always be people who hate Disney.  People hate Frozen, people hate Tangled, people hate Fantasia and Cinderella and all the good oldies.  I'll admit I personally hate Snow White because of her voice and because it scared me as a kid and I haven't watched it since.  But I love Disney.  I was raised watching Disney movies and I've heard people say doing so makes girls have "unrealistic ideas of how men are and how they will get a man" but I call bull.  I watched Sleeping Beauty everyday I went to my Nonnie's house, but never once did I think "huh, if I go to sleep maybe some hot guy will come in and kiss me and we'll get married!"  I watched it because it was a beautiful movie with good music and I just like it.
    Disney is not perfect and they have made a million mistakes, but Atlantis was not one of them.  It breaks my heart that this movie is over looked by those searching for a strong female character or an adorably dorky male lead or just an over all diverse and interesting cast in a fantastic movie.  I'm by no means saying it can counter every point made by those with really valid points about Disney's past faults, but I wish they could at least enjoy this one movie as a little break from the fray.  

    And that, dear readers, is why Atlantis is the movie Disney and its audience forgot.  (Probably because of the fact that about 200 people die pretty gruesome deaths....yaaaa i'll talk about that another day)