What is the problem with these girls?

They got mad because they didn’t get invited to the party
Hell hath no fury like a female Disney villain scorned. On May 30, Angelina Jolie will turn into a fire-breathing dragon to punish the court that didn’t invite her to Princess Aurora’s christening in Maleficent. Seems like an overreaction to being socially snubbed? Not in the land of Disney where attempting to murder someone over not getting an invite is the norm.

That’s right. All that drama with Ariel’s voice and Cinderella’s shoe and Aurora’s long nap could have been avoided had someone just extended Ursula, Lady Tremaine and Maleficent a little hospitality and social grace. While male villains get to scheme and murder in an attempt to become king (Scar, Jafar, Hades), to win a woman’s heart (Gaston) or to avenge the loss of their hand (Captain Hook), women villains go ballistic because of social anxieties.

Though this may seem sexist — okay, it is actually sexist — there is a kernel of truth in what motivates a bad guy versus a bad gal. Studies in cortisol production (the stress hormone) have shown that men become more stressed over achievement, whereas women tend to become more stressed over social rejection. Take that social stress to its greatest extreme, and you’ve got a Disney villainness. Here are some prime examples:

Ursula

We first meet Ursula as she watches Ariel heading to a party and bemoans the fact that she’s no longer invited to such events. She’ll show them for snubbing her!

Lady Tremaine

When Cinderella’s step mom and sisters think Cinderella will attend the royal ball (and outshine them), they tear her dress to bits and pieces. To be fair, Lady Tremaine and her two daughters were invited to the party, they just might as well not have been. Prince Charming completely ignores them in favor of Cinderella. So the effect of social rejection ends up being the same.

Maleficent

We will presumably learn more about the ill-will between Maleficent and King Stephan (Aurora’s father) in Maleficent this weekend. But in the 1959 Disney cartoon, Maleficent curses Aurora after not being invited to her christening.

And it’s not just these ladies. All Disney villainesses turn bad for vain reasons: the Evil Queen in Snow White can’t stand that she’s no longer the “fairest one of all”; Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians wants to make herself a fur coat; the Red Queen is jealous of her sister the White Queen’s benevolence and beauty in the 2010 version of Alice and Wonderland; and mother Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel in Tangled because she wants to stay youthful and Rapunzel’s hair has magical properties.

Luckily, Disney may finally have realized that more motivates women than parties and beauty: Elsa from Frozen was originally supposed to be an antagonist but was rewritten to be more sympathetic.

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Be a feminist, be the best father

The label doesn’t have to mean either perfection or rigidity, so don’t be afraid to embrace it.

I was raised by a second-wave feminist leader and attended countless feminist rallies, marches and readings as a boy. Last I checked the movement didn’t give out cards; it dispensed ideas that have changed the world and each of us.

For me, feminism is tradition and family legacy, but also a movement I have chosen to embrace. I am a feminist and I am a better dad for it. So are we all.

Whether one calls oneself a feminist, it is undeniable that feminism and feminists have made the modern dad possible. Feminism taught me to be comfortable and proud of who I am, and encouraged self-determination. These are traits we all want to pass along to our kids. But, more significantly, feminism benefited us dads greatly by encouraging increased involvement in our children’s lives, and forever changed our roles.

If you believe that dads are capable of diapering, feeding and raising children as well as women can, you might be a feminist. If you are a stay-at-home dad and your wife (or husband) is the family breadwinner, you might be a feminist. And if you believe that dads deserve better paternity leave policies, you might be a feminist.

Yet using the term “feminist” is questioned even by those, like Dave Lesser, who, to his credit, believes that his daughter should be able to take leadership positions, earn as much as a man doing the same job and be free from sexual harassment, challenges his daughter’s gender norms and wants to ensure that she will never be limited by her gender (I wonder what movement gave him those ideas?).

While I don’t insist that anyone label themselves, and I understand it’s easier to not use a label that comes with a lot of baggage and misconception, it’s obvious to me that the only reason “feminist” remains a bad word is that women (and anything associated with them) are still discriminated against. And, the fact that stereotypes of man-hating feminists persist (not to mention the visceral anger the word inspires) proves the point. Feminist is the only appropriate word for those that believe in the radical notion that women should be equal to men, and who understand that we live in a world of historically and culturally inscribed female disadvantage.

However, being a feminist doesn’t mean either perfection or rigidity. Like Lesser, I encourage my 4-year-old daughter to wear multiple colors, play with blocks and basketballs and limit her exposure to princess culture. And, like Lesser, I am faced with a daughter who likes princesses, purple dresses and painting her nails. I have also allowed her to watch a number of Disney movies, including Cinderella (gasp!). On the other hand, I don’t let my daughter play with a toy vacuum cleaner. But, that’s because neither my wife nor I use one in real life. We avoid cleaning equally.

The crux of feminism is analysis and awareness. Even feminists have internalized the pervasive sexism in our culture and exhibit contradictions in their lives (I love rap music, much of which contains misogynist lyrics, and I’ve objectified women I’ve passed on the street).

While I recognize that my daughter also “loves all the crap that is shamelessly marketed to girls her age,” I will challenge her when she repeats ideas about gender norms or limits the roles we can each occupy during pretend play. I will never let her limit her vision of who she can become. And I will continue to analyze and dissect the rigid gender roles placed on children’s clothes, toys, and cartoons and in popular culture.

Feminism is also crucial for dads raising boys. If you care about ensuring that boys aren’t denied their full humanity and aren’t stunted in their emotional development, you might want to thank feminism for recognizing that boys and men have feelings too. If we truly care about boys, we can acknowledge, as feminists have, that placing them in a limiting “man box” hurts them deeply and releasing them from it will improve their lives.

Just as being a parent includes a learning curve and requires constant effort, and sometimes trial and error, feminism recognizes that we are works in progress and need to challenge our children and ourselves as we grow together. Mistakes will be made. Sometimes we will succumb to our culture’s sexism. But we can rise to challenge it the next day.

So while I want equality of the sexes and safety for all our daughters and try to resist gender limitations for my daughter, I sometimes buy my daughter clothes and toys that make me cringe because I know that they will make her happy. I buy her those things to respect her choices, even if I might make different ones. And, what could be more feminist than that?

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Smurfs in Spain

In 2011, live action and animation came together on the silver screen in the form of The Smurfs movie. The film featured six Smurfs — Papa and Smurfette, of course, but also Brainy, Grouchy, Clumsy, and new addition Gutsy — who, in a failed attempt to flee from Gargamel, found themselves sucked into some sort of vortex and deposited into Manhattan. Madcap antics and smurfy smurfness ensued, with — well, let’s not ruin the ending, just in case.

Like most movies, The Smurfs had a lot of money behind it. (To be clear, the movie needed money. The real Smurfs have little need for money, but this isn’t the time or place to go address the economy or politics of Smurf Village.) Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film, invested $110 million in production and untold additional amounts in marketing.

Some of that money was sent to the small town of Juzcar, Spain, a village of about 250 people located an hour and a half drive north-ish from Gibraltar. Sony picked the town to host the movie’s world premiere and to turn it into a real-life Smurf village of sorts. Each building, including the local church, historical buildings, and even gravestones (gravestones!) were painted baby — er, Smurf — blue. A dozen painters using 4,000 liters (about 1,000 gallons, if you’re in the U.S.) completed the task over the course of a few weeks, covering the 175 buildings before the June 16th premiere.

Sony, not wanting to leave a permanent mark on the town, offered to pay the cost of returning Juzcar to its former white. But six months after the film’s debut, the town voted 141 to 33 to stay blue. The reason? While most of Spain was going through a major economic recession, money was flowing into Juzcar. In years prior to becoming the world’s only Smurf village, Juzcar saw around 300 tourists. In the six months after The Smurfs hit theaters, 80,000 people came by the Spanish Smurf town. Juzcar’s citizens began hosting Smurf festivals, trade fairs, and if you want Smurf-themed wedding? There’s no better place.

The popularity of the unintentional tourist trap hasn’t abated much since. In the summer of 2013, two years after The Smurfs debuted, NBC News checked back in. A total of 210,000 tourists came to town over the period.

640px-Júzcar_Málaga_Andalusia_Spain_smurf_town

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