Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Heroine's Journey

Last night I watched a Barbie movie (Princess Charm School) with Sylvia and Paul. Having now spent a bit of time listening to people talk about the hero's journey, I noticed that there were definite aspects of the plot that fit that mould.
  • Our heroine, Blair, is an orphan who, at the beginning, receives a call to adventure which she initially denies before ultimately accepting (like every hero's journey ever it seems). 
  • Blair has a mentor who tutors in the feminine arts in which she's deficient, just like a good mentor is supposed to. 
  • She 'meets' her dead parents in the form of a painting of them where her mother looks a lot like her. 
  • In order to prove she is the true princess she and her friends go on a quest to look for the lost crown that will reveal Blair's true identity, eventually venturing into an underground vault.
  • The underground vault is under the control of the primary antagonist, and the girls are locked in there in the climax of the story.
  • After they escape from the vault the girls are chased by the security guard who is in cahoots with the primary antagonist.
Yeah, so I know Hollywood is basically in love with the hero's journey. In some ways I'm glad to see they use the same formula for a girl adventure. Treating Barbie/Blair as the hero(ine) with a path to struggle along in pursuit of her goals is empowering and it's exhilarating to watch Blair (and some other key characters) grow as people.

I just wish the skills Blair and the other girls have to master weren't quite so lame. Supposedly being a princess is the most important job in the realm, yet all the girls learn about in their classes is how to deport themselves in very traditionally feminine ways--with grace, beauty, and modesty. Most of what they're shown doing is learning how to walk and dance and be traditionally (and expensively) beautiful. I don't really begrudge the characters those things, but in my mind those things are the perks of being in the ruling class, not 'skills' you have to master to become part of the ruling class. There's essentially no mention of book lernin' or critical thinking or any of the other, more masculine traits that are characteristic of people truly in the ruling class.

And then there's race. Blair is, of course, blonde-haired and blue eyed ('cause she's Barbie). Anybody else with a speaking part is white. There are some darker-skinned girls shown, notably in the crowd of hopefuls at the lottery, but they're all in the background.

Anyway, not a terrible movie, but problematic in kinda predictable ways.

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