Monday, 3 October 2011

Where have all the girls gone?

Studio Ghibli's latest film 'Arietty' is a new take on Mary Norton's 'The Borrowers', Arrietty is the daughter and the new film tells the story from her point of view (as of yet I haven't seen it, waiting for the DVD). The trailer for Pixar's next film 'Brave' is also out. The film's female protagonist is a Celtic princess, but not the usual Disney kind - needing to be rescued.
I like films with a feisty females taking the lead. I love 40s comedies like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday, where the women have roles as big as the men and are funny, clever and capable.
I never really loved the princesses, maybe Beauty & The Beast's Belle when I was 8, telling Gaston to get lost, but I was more interested in Roald Dahl's Matilda or Boudicca, the Iceni warrior queen. I read Tamora Pierce's Tortall books, all featuring some seriously cool and powerful girls growing into Lady Knights, King's Champions and heroes. Yet sadly none have yet been adapted for the screen.
There is a time and a place for cheesy rom coms; curled up on the sofa or chilling with your friends, not taking it remotely seriously.
But it would be nice to have more films made with strong, independent women in the lead. Not needing a man to rescue them and where the plot doesn't revolve around finding and getting a man.
I haven't seen Bridesmaids, I'm intrigued by the concept, but since I'm not a huge fan of spending a small fortune to sit in a dark room full of people coughing and fidgeting all the way through the film, I'll have to wait. Although from what I've read, it has a love story subplot because we simply can't do without one!
I liked Whip It!, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, a lot. It was funny, had a mostly female cast, was smartly written and the love interest could largely be ignored. We need more films like this. Especially animated ones, little girls need to know there's more out there than princesses.
Growing up I watched all the Disney films, my favourites were probably The Aristocats and Robin Hood. In terms of princesses, I had a phase, I recovered.
I wish I'd known about Studio Ghibli's feisty girls then. It's been said that Hayao Miyazaki is a bit of a feminist, and certainly in most of his films, it's the girls saving the day. His Princess Mononoke is first seen raging against the factory killing her forest and then sucking infected blood from a giant wolf's wound. Nausicaa (of the Valley of the Wind) is another heroine who's determined to save her people her way, fighting off giant destructive insects and invading armies.
Even the lighter films have spunky heroines, Porco Rosso may have a flying ace as it's protagonist, but his red-headed engineer is not a girl to be messed with, and even helps defeat a load of sky pirates.
The studio's most famous film, Oscar winning Spirited Away, has a girl at it's centre too. One trying to find her way home.
All of these girls know what they want and are willing to work to get it. So let's celebrate the heroic young women and hope the princesses have had their day.

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