Literary Insults

bitchsquealer

it is only respect for your parents that will prevent me from murdering you outright… I would rather eat dog shit full of razor blades than have anything to do with you.

“Obviously,” Tiny is saying, “she’s just a hot smoldering pile of suck.”

Furthermore, you are an asshat. That is all.

he’s as big as a house (and I’m not talking about a poor person’s house either)

- from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

If I had a dog with a face like yours, I’d shave its ass and teach it to walk backwards.

I once had a zit that looked like you. Then I popped it. And then it looked even more like you.

This one time, I ate, like, three hot dogs and a bowl of clam chowder, and then I got diarrhea all over the floor, and it looked like you.

And then you ate it.

basement mole rat

- from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

the Roman cults of Stercorius, Crepitus, and Cloacinus — respectively the divinities of filth, farts, and sewers

- from The Atheist Manifesto by Michel Onfray

“Roscoe,” Vivi told him, “when I write my memoirs, you will be much more than a marginal character.

- from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells

(That one’s actually a compliment, but I figure it could function equally well as an insult.)

She wanted to say something sensible but knew not how.

- of Mary in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

From The Shocking History Of Advertising by E. S. Turner

  • second-rate Dandy
  • retired slopseller
  • a fatal attraction for polysyllables

But the most heartfelt and effective insult I’ve heard comes from a Bob Dylan song. It moves me every time:

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand over your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.

- Masters of War

THESE WORDS WOULD MAKE EXCELLENT INSULTS TOO

midden — a dunghill or refuse heap

Related Links

1. Shakespeare’s Insults For Everyday Situations from Persephone Magazine. See also Animated Anatomy of Shakespearean Slurs at Brainpickings

2. Literary Insults For Every Occasion, collected by Flavorwire

3. 50 Best Literary Insults, collected by ShortList.com and another one by Stylist

4. Hilarious Insults, Rendered Lovingly And Mailed To Strangers from Co.Design

5. The 50 best author vs. author put-downs of all time from Examiner

6. And for the opposite of a ‘literary’ insult, YouTube Insult Generator Means None of Us Are Safe

Perfection.

The Real Difficulties In Giving Up Sugar

Yesterday I made pancakes for breakfast, and drizzled maple syrup over the top. This was to celebrate a birthday in our family. Normally for breakfast we’d be eating eggs fried in coconut oil, free range fatty bacon, with broccolini or 10 brussels sprouts.

When I say ‘normally’, we’ve been eating like this for over 2 years now: I hesitate to say the ‘Paleo Diet’ because although Loren Cordain created a longterm bestseller out of this branding, it’s too easy to poke at with the skeptic’s stick. People who eat a Paleo diet are already aware that the Paleolithic Era was very long and contained many different cultures who ate many different things, and that it’s impossible to recreate a Paleo diet these days anyhow because we don’t have access to the same seed stock etc etc.

Apparently it’s easier for a human to change religion than to change diet longterm.

So we eat a Paleo template diet, which doesn’t include added sugar, and with people I don’t know really well, these days I talk about our food choices as little as possible. That’s still quite a lot of talking, because food always comes up. Book club conversations go a little something like this:

“Would you like one of these [magnificent looking baked goods] that I made this afternoon?”

“No thanks, I’m fine. Thanks.”

“Oh that’s right. You don’t eat anything these days, do you?”

“I gave up sugar two years ago, yes. Still on it. Yes.”

“Oh, but these don’t have much sugar in them.” *sugar crystals on top of sugar biscuits glint under firelight*

“No thanks. They look delicious, though. Oh, look at that knitting. What are you knitting? Anything? Anything at all?”

“You do need a bit of sugar in your diet, you know.”

And at this point I reach a conundrum: Do I argue with this, or do I let it go? Because the fact is, humans don’t need sugar in order to live a healthy and full life. Specifically: there is no metabolic pathway which relies on fructose or glucose or any other kind of sugar in order to function properly. This sort of conversation can get uncomfortable, because first it depends on a definition of ‘sugar’. Humans may not need sugar, since our bodies can be well adapted to fat. Nor can humans avoid a bit of fructose, because fructose exists in tiny amounts in green vegetables, to let humans know that the leafy thing not poisonous. There is no fatally poisonous plant out there which includes fructose. Which explains why we like it so much. Ergo, we can’t avoid fructose because we can’t healthily avoid vegetables.

I did a lot of research before changing our diet completely. The following fact resonates with me the most, and I keep coming back to it:

There are many different healthy diets around the world, from cultures who eat very little besides sweet potatoes, and others who eat little other than goat’s milk and blood. But there are two things which unite all healthy diets, transcending time and space. Healthy diets are:

1. High in fibre

2. Low in sugar.

SO LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE GIVING UP SUGAR NOW

And we are part of the zeitgeist and not at all hipster. Indeed, we are the cliche.

People do mean different things when they say, “I’m giving up sugar”, from

  1. “I’m no longer adding sucrose to my hot beverages,
  2. to “I switched from sucrose to artificial sweeteners in everything” to
  3. “I kicked sugar out of the house but I’ll still eat it if it’s offered to me, to celebrate some special occasion, or National Catfish Day” to
  4. “I’m giving up added sugars but also refined carbohydrates, which break down to glucose in the body and elevate the blood sugars in the same way table sugars do”
  5. to “The only sugar I ingest comes in the form of green vegetables, which I eat alongside organic, freerange meat, because I’m living in ketosis for health reasons.”

We started off closer to 4, but have settled between 3 and 4, with celebratory food limited to the birthdays of immediate family members and Christmas.

Yesterday’s pancake celebration was appreciated mostly by the resident 6 year old, who demonstrates a very human need for rituals which surround celebrations — this is something we all seem to need — but since this family eats (super expensive) free range bacon on a regular basis, switching to any other kind of food for celebratory purposes actually means a lowering of nutritional standards, and in our case the pancakes feel like the food people have survived on in times of need. Indeed, the Disney version of Little House On The Prairie shows the family stopping on their journey west to eat pancakes, which they only ate because they had nothing else. Flour products start to feel like the food of peasants. (And for much of the world, pancakes would be a step up. Acknowledged.)

Anyway, I had a slight bellyache after eating those pancakes, which is super common for those of us who have switched to eating nothing but whole foods.

A woman called Eve O. Schaub wrote a memoir called Year Of No Sugar, and in this article she explains the feeling you get when you’ve been eating really well for ages then you suddenly eat something highly processed: You really, really do feel like crap. I don’t care if it’s placebo — it’s a thing.

I could write a book-length memoir about this topic, too. But I can’t be bothered and apparently it’s already been done, so here are the main things I’d like to say about giving up sugar in Australia. These are different things I might say about giving up sugar in Japan. In Japan it would be easier, especially if you live in the north, where there is no tradition of adding sugar to everything. In fact, I did by default give up sugar when I lived in Japan some years ago.

The situation is much different in Australia.

WE CELEBRATE EVERYTHING WITH SUGAR

About 2 years ago I approached the director of our daughter’s preschool and asked if they might reconsider their birthday cake tradition. With a roll  of 70 kids, there was cake dished out every week, and that’s on top of the ‘cooking lessons’ they get — gingerbread men, easter eggs made of cheap ‘chocolate’ products, flavoured milk (to teach stirring) etc. I was asked to write a letter about this to formalise my complaint, so I did, and a year after that the director finally got around to putting a stop to the cake tradition. (Coincidentally, she had given up sugar herself, because the nutritionist had put her on an exclusion diet to remedy a skin complaint). By that stage our kid was due to leave preschool anyhow. (For all I know, the birthday cake tradition started up once me with the gob left.)

The start of primary school was celebrated with gingerbread men, because it’s apparently impossible just to read a classic tale about a gingerbread man without also eating one. Every fundraising meal deal includes food which is not only full of sugar, but of ethically dubious dinosaur shaped chicken-meat, fried in damaged oils. Almost everything from the school tuck-shop includes sugar. When the students volunteer to do an important job such as MC assembly, they are rewarded with a chocolate brownie. I first noticed this school culture when attending their information session, so at the interview I told the principal that we’re a sugar-free family and I don’t agree with sugar being used as reward. He told me I didn’t have a thing to worry about, that their reward system involves blue stars blah blah blah, but sure enough, sugar features highly each week in class. I pack no sugar in our daughter’s lunchbox but she gets it not only from birthday parties but from the place where she is required to be every day of term, and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

ON THE TOPIC OF SCHOOL LUNCHES

You won’t find an Australian school which allows peanuts or tree nuts — these are common anaphylactic allergies in Australia. So the Paleo recipes you find online which rely on nut flour aren’t permissible as part of a lunchbox. Nor is dairy, sometimes. Well, my daughter can take dairy, but she has to sit on the ‘dairy seat’, which is hot in summer and freezing cold in winter, and so if I do pack berries with heavy whipping cream, the kid chooses not to eat it.

Since treating refined carbohydrates as sugar means giving up bread, no bread. I can see why bread became popular, though. Sandwiches are really convenient.

Obviously, school lunches need to be brought from home when you’re a sugar-free family. The thermos is your best friend. You end up making large dinners, and sending leftovers for lunch. You’re rewarded with a healthy kid who never has a day sick, but it does all take time, and time is a resource that many people don’t have much of. Summers in Australia are hot — our child’s school isn’t air-conditioned(!) and so you’ll need to include freezer packs around the salads and meats and boiled eggs. (Though you’d need to do that anyway. That said, we never had freezer packs and we turned out all right. *taps cane angrily*)

SOME PEOPLE GIVE UP SUGAR FOR AGES THEN START EATING IT AGAIN DESPITE THE HEALTH BENEFITS. WHY?

Before I got rid of sugar I was seriously worried that I might not be able to do it. I figured I was addicted (in the broad sense of the term), that I just liked it too much, that eating life would be unsustainably boring, and I already don’t smoke or drink… I figured I might, if I were lucky, be able to give it up for a few months, and I’d see how I felt, then keep going if it were worth it. (People on the Internet and in books said that it was.)

Sure enough, it is worth it, for all the reasons that many others have already gone into. But in hindsight, my worries were misplaced: I thought that giving up sugar would be like going onto a permanent restriction diet, constantly salivating over things I could no longer eat. In fact, what happens about a week after giving up sugar is that your taste starts to change. Fruits start tasting sweeter. Carrots start tasting sweet like fruits. Feta cheese started (weirdly) tasting like Russian fudge. (It was after making a shit tin of Russian fudge — and obviously scoffing way too much of it — that I started this whole ‘journey’, as they say.)

If you keep with it, you’ll probably end up making other dietary improvements, such as replacing damaging fats with healthy ones, or switching flour products for starchy vegetables, or taking up a sport or buying kettle bells… (It has taken two years, but I’ve now done all of these things) so it’s hard to know how much of any health improvement can be attributed to the elimination of sugar. Commonly reported, and true of me: you won’t get colds very often, and when you do it won’t be for long. Minor health complaints you didn’t really know you had will miraculously disappear. You’ll be able to work with your brain all morning AND all afternoon without thinking of food or sweets or coffee (assuming you also gave up coffee… as I had to do *sniff* in reluctant acknowledgement that heart palpitations are not a Good Thing). Your brain, in short, works better. And the brain is really quite important and something you should look after. You are your brain.

And anyone who has given up sugar for any length of time already knows this, but here’s why it’s hard:

  1. Sugar is in every damn thing. Even in supermarket meats. WHY DO THEY PUT SUGAR IN ALL THE SAUSAGES? Sugar with meat? If you’ve given up sugar, you know this combo is just wrong. I even found sugar in tinned corn. And in sauerkraut. (That stuff is meant to be sour.)
  2. You can’t get sugar free fast food anywhere. If you’re at the mall, don’t rely on the sushi bar, either. That shit’s full of damn sugar. The Japanese eat it on special occasions for a reason.
  3. People are always forcing sugar onto you, and more so, onto your kid. We even got stopped by the rubbish truck driver one year because he wanted to give my kid a big bag of lollies at Christmas time (which lasts an entire month — an entire month of nothing but high fructose corn syrup). She loved it, and it was nice and well-intentioned and everything, and she still remembers that part of the footpath very fondly, but people don’t realise: Other people are giving your kid sugar All. The. Time. Stage whispering “Is it all right if I give her a lolly?” doesn’t cut it, either.
  4. We live in a drinking culture. Beer and wine is hyper-sugar. That’s the way to think of it. You can’t really cut out sugar unless you cut out drinking, or at least switch to hard spirits. I never drank in the first place so for me it was a non issue. But if you ‘give up sugar’ and continue to drink, you may not get that wonderful effect of a change of tastebuds (which is probably a change in the brain not on the tongue but heigh-ho), in which everything else tastes sweet, in which case you have lost something.
  5. And this brings me to the most important difficulty: Cutting out sugar is flat out antisocial. Until you change your diet to something which is radically different from that of your friends and family you may underestimate how important food is to socialising and friend-making. No one wants to invite the non-drinking, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free people to dinner. You probably haven’t been to a social gathering lately which didn’t involve food. Hell, I just got invited by cold-call to a solar panel information session at Yass Soldiers’ Club and they wanted me to tell them if I was going or not ‘for catering purposes’. (I don’t think they were offering spicy lamb bites.)

IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING GIVING UP SUGAR, HERE ARE SOME POINTERS FROM SOMEONE WHO’S KEPT WITH IT FOR OVER TWO YEARS, AND PLANS TO KEEP GOING FOR LIFE

1. Read up about fats, and eat a bunch of healthy ones. (Fatty fruits like avocados and olives; coconut oil and good quality butter for garnish and frying; avoid transfats and seed oils — there, I just saved you a whole bunch of reading.) Unless you increase your fat intake (assuming you’re following the government’s low fat recommendations) you’ll have real trouble subsisting on a sugar-free diet. You do need to get your calories from somewhere.

2. Pick your conversations. Be aware that food is a very political thing. You might as well talk about religion or abortion rights, really. Women especially — we all have some sort of relationship with weight-loss diets, which gets enmeshed with body image issues, which is conflated with self-worth. Women have absorbed the low-fat, high-carb (by default) message more thoroughly than men have, and you won’t be persuading anyone who isn’t ready to listen. This includes correcting people who are straight out wrong: A wise person once said, you don’t have to turn up to every argument you’re invited to. You can just say, “Gotta die of something,” when people point out, again, that putting cream in your coffee is going to kill you dead. (My husband works in a big office and they’re used to him now, and to his cream clogging up a space in the communal fridge, but he had months of that.)

3. Your friends will be the ones who like you even without the food and alcohol lubrication. So you may end up with fewer friends, but better ones. Some of them may even change their diets along with you. Birds of a feather, and all that.

4. You can’t support different diets under the same roof. Not long term. My husband needs to be milk and gluten free, so we all are. Gluten is particularly insidious, because even a tiny amount makes a difference and spends at least 6 months in the body (though I’ve heard varying times around this length.) So we can’t have bread crumbs floating around on the bench. (Besides the fact lots of people who advocate sugar elimination also advocate elimination of gluten products, and I’m inclined to believe those people now.)

5. Health improvements are rapid at first, but keep on keeping on. If you’ve given up sugar, you’ve probably given up processed food. If you’ve given up processed food you’ve probably given up man-made transfats (I say ‘man-made’ because they do actually occur in nature), and it takes 2 years for the body to get rid of those, because our tissues use them as building blocks. So if you go on an elimination diet for six weeks and your particular health complain doesn’t improve, try it for two years and then see. (Though six weeks is pretty magical, mostly.)

6. Eating well is expensive. People say it’s not. In Australia, it is. If you compare eating well to buying all your foods in the form of Big Macs, then yes, you’ll come out better off eating whole foods, because Big Macs are expensive last time I checked. But if you are sensible, budget-wise, and have been bulking your meals up with pasta and other flour products then yes, switching from flours to sweet potatoes, and from crackers to tree nuts, and doubling your vegetable intake, you’re going to be spending more on your food bill. (But less at the doctor’s, and less on medications.) It may seem like you’re spending way more at the supermarket/butcher’s because you’re no longer splashing out on incidentals at fast-food venues, because you never thought to include those in the food bill in the first place.

7. Find a doctor who’s on board with this stuff or who at least doesn’t try and get you off it. I don’t actually know how my doctor feels about my switching to a so-called high fat diet because I HAVEN’T HAD TO GO SEE HIM YET. Hooray me. I can tell you what the dentist said, though. Fantastic gum health. (And I hadn’t actually been in for a pro clean in almost two years.) This is particularly gratifying because I have severe gingivitis in my recent ancestry, which is apparently a window into heart health.

8. On that note, you can’t just switch your diet without a good intellectual understanding of why you’re doing so. I read a bunch of books (Gary Taubes, William Davis, Udo Erasmus, Nora Gedgaudas, Sally Fallon et al) and listened to a heap of Paleo related podcasts before a switch flicked over in my head. Some of these people are anti-vaccinations. I just thought I’d mention that, because I am pro-vaccination. Strongly. Long story short, use your thinky things, do a lot of reading, and practice skepticism as best you can, given your level of philosophy and science training. Rule for life, that.

I am stoked with our high fat, low carb way of eating. It has been a bit hard, but not in the ways I expected. We gave up nothing and gained so much*.

 

*Mainly, my husband now controls his severe asthma without 2x daily Seretide. This has been the most obvious health improvement of all.

 

 

 

 

The Easiest Time Of Your Life

Our six year old gets on the bus at the end of our street, along with a number of other kids from the village.

One of the fathers is off work this week due to rain, and said to his daughters as he ushered them onto the coach yesterday, “See you, girls. And remember, this is the easiest time of your life!”

I shook my  head and said, partly under my breath, “No, it isn’t.” But he said exactly the same thing to them again this morning. It’s just something he says. He glanced at me, perhaps expecting another disagreement this morning, but I can’t be bothered. You see, it’s a long story, and no one wants to hang around windy bus stops at the time of year.

Thing is, that throwaway line reminded me of something my own father often said to us when we were kids: “Childhood is the best time of your life.” He explained that childhood is the only true freedom, that everything gets worse once you endure the responsibility of adulthood, that I should make the most of every day of sunny childhood before the depths of despair known as the rest of my entire life.

My mother did a slightly different thing. Whenever an adult asked me if I liked school I would answer with a fairly lacklustre response, and my mother would always correct me. She’d inform me, and the adult, that in fact I loved school. I’m pretty sure she convinced me, too. If the uninspired structure and discipline of primary school was something I ‘loved’, then I wasn’t to hope for anything more.

It was a great surprise to me, therefore, that my life grew immeasurably better almost immediately after leaving school. Turns out, childhood wasn’t the best/easiest/sunniest time of my life. I happen to be one of those fortunate people who enjoy the freedoms along with the responsibilities of adulthood.

Telling our kids that life is only going to get worse is a damn shitty thing to teach them, don’t you think? Everyone’s life pans out differently and no doubt for some, those few years of childhood are in fact the only decent ones. Then there’s this thing called rose tinted glasses, or amelioration in hindsight, or perhaps it’s just looking at the lives of your own kids, thinking how nice it would be to not have the worry of bills and bosses. But kids have different worries. They have canteen lines and teachers and school rules and they spend all day alongside other partially formed individuals who say thoughtless things.

When I had a pregnant belly, and later when I had a newborn and a toddler, strangers would often tell me that these are the best years and although they feel lengthy, they go by so quickly, so I was urged to make the most of them. This, to me, was another version of pointless regret for time passed. Sure, it’s true. You only get one chance at those early years, but the fact is, you only get one chance at every single day.

Besides, does anyone really know how to make the most of every single moment? What exactly does it mean I should be doing?

In the meantime, I’ll do my best in the moment, remember times past with fondness where possible and look forward to the future.

I’m Not Sure Which Is Worse

The gender essentialism or the lack of apostrophes?

Big W Toy Sale

Big W Toy Sale

Or maybe it’s that in order to get the odd ten dollar discount at Woolworths Australia I have to get these emails every second day, and then ‘activate’ my offers.

Every now and then the checkout operator says, after scanning my Everyday Rewards card, ‘Oh wow, that’s wonderful. You just saved ten dollars!’ and I say something along the lines of, ‘No, your company just paid me ten dollars for the private details of my shopping habits.’

But then I am a glass half empty sort of consumer.

New Gumboots

I recently splashed out and bought myself a new pair of gumboots for my birthday. I’m over all this chicken poo being tramped through the house. I also got a new schmick new Apple Mac and a pair of actual lace up winter boots for my  birthday this year, but I don’t want to be a cliche and wax lyrical about migration from PC to Mac because I’m sure you’ve heard all that before. However, I think the gumboots are worth blogging about.

This is them:

women's gumboots

There was surprisingly little choice at Big W considering it’s the middle of winter. It was black, black or black.

They cost $25.

The rest of the crew also needed new gumboots. The six year old found pink shiny ones (which she hasn’t taken off since, except for a mandatory few hours of school athletics, for which she begrudgingly wore trainers) and the girls’ gumboots were only $10. This seems about right, because there is less overall gumboot required for such tiny feet.

My husband also needed gumboots. The men’s gumboots were on the shelf above the women’s gumboots.

men's gumboots

As you can see, the men’s gumboots are pretty similar to the women’s gumboots, except women’s gumboots have a dinky little strap on the side. I’m not sure what this is for, because if I want to feel pretty, I’m generally not in the mood for wearing gumboots (though I did just wear my gumboots to the supermarket which is a new low of slovenly country living, even for me.)

As you may also note, there is more overall ‘gum’ in a man’s gumboot owing to their larger feet.

So I ask you, why were the men’s black gumboots $10 while the women’s black gumboots $25?

You may then wonder why I bought the women’s gumboots and not the men’s, because what the hey. Except even the smallest of the men’s gumboots were still too wide for my feet, so it wasn’t really an option.

This experience takes me back to the start of the month, when Aldi had their annual sale of ski gear. I don’t actually ski, but snow wear comes in handy around here. I bought a bunch of woollen socks (irrelevant to this discussion) and also two zip up jacket type things. One is for men and the other is for women. They were exactly the same price. Five cents short of forty dollars, if I remember correctly.

It wasn’t until my husband put his on that I realised the ‘men’s’ version has an extra zip up pocket on the chest. The women’s jacket is identical in every other way, except for the more ‘feminine colours’ (yes, pink). If a man wanted to buy a man’s jacket in pink he was fresh out of luck.

I’m going to feel more sorry for myself than for pink-loving men, however, because I find pockets with zips on them very handy. They’re good for keeping an iPod in, or a bit of change, or a receipt.

One might argue that women don’t really suit breast pockets owing to the fact that we have breasts. This is one argument, and I’m pretty sure the designer would argue that way, but if the man’s version was going to come with an extra pocket, I would have expected it to cost an extra few dollars, to account for the cost of the zipper. But no. These jackets are exactly the same price, and you know what that means in effect? It means that when women buy clothes, we are subsidising the men, who get more overall value for less money.

I’m not yet sure what I can do about this state of affairs. In the meantime, when my  husband and I are out in public, in our (almost) matching black gumboots and our (almost) matching zip-up cardies from Aldi, then I will ask him to hold the little annoying shit that tends to accumulate on outings. He has an extra pocket, after all.

 

Ah, Boggle

I’m going to stop playing you. I keep saying this, and then I keep playing.

You allow the word ‘tit’ (presumably because it’s a bird) but not ‘tits’ (because two birds would be offensive).

You don’t allow the word ‘queer’, because (obviously!) being gay is offensive. Double sorry, Peter and Paul.

However, you do allow ‘altar’.

boggle-screenshot

Feminist Film Review: Frozen

Frozen

The thing about all things for kids: We think a lot more about whether it’s good for them. We don’t tend to think so much about the merits of pop movies for adults. We just let them be. By writing posts such as this, I’m another one of the handwringers. I’d be more inclined to give animated films like this one little thought and webspace if films such as Tangled weren’t so consistently held up as examples of feminist films, simply for featuring a female protagonist. In fact, the animated films which are more frequently held up as examples of feminist ideology are no such thing.

A film with female protagonists is not necessarily feminist. Whatever else is said about Frozen, it’s still a Disney Princess movie.

WILL THIS FILM ANNOY A FEMINIST?

There is at least one line of dialogue that annoys me in almost every animated film I watch, but I genuinely thought this one was not going to do that. I mean, they surely weren’t going to put in any ‘girl stuff is dumb” jokes in it, were they?

No, they didn’t. This film has an active feminist message in the sense that two (very obvious) fairytale tropes were subverted:

1. Love at first sight is bullshit

2. A validating type of love doesn’t have to come from a male love interest such as a prince, but can come equally from a significant female in your life; in this case, your sister.

Here are my issues with the film in bulletpoint form, because I’m sure this has been discussed at length elsewhere:

  • A lot of people have pointed out the ridiculousness of anatomy: That the young women’s eyes are bigger than their wrists. To those who argue that these are stylised characters that should not be taken literally — that is true — but the real-human template from which these stylised versions are modelled are obviously slim and white. So a stylised version or not, this is the same old Western Beauty Standard we’re working with here. One thing I hadn’t seen before were freckled shoulders (on Anna, not on Elsa. Freckles are more in keeping with Anna’s less-perfect quirky personality.) I wonder if the character developers thought that freckled shoulders were somehow transgressive, though? I really do wonder that.
  • Quick, quick, what are the things that Women Like? Answer: Shoes, handbags and chocolate. There were several references to chocolate — one in a song and the other in decontextualised dialogue between the sisters — which seemed completely random in this film, and I’m guessing they existed to convey the message that girls are allowed to eat chocolate and enjoy food too, you know. This is just more of that Maybelline type of idea (which I wrote about in my review of Gilmore girls) that you can be pretty and skinny and eat a heap of sugar at the same time… if you’re special enough and live inside a Pinterest board. I find it irritating that Women Like sweet things like Chocolate (and men like manly things like chargrilled meat). I mean, I like chocolate but I don’t regard eating it as some sort of feminist statement. It is what it is. And in this film the out-of-context references to chocolate were nothing short of bizarre.
  • There is a paucity of stories about female friendships, in film as well as in books. (Ooh, found one!) Frozen could have been a story about two sisters, but it wasn’t. (Stephen Metcalf at Slate’s Culture Gabfest also thought that more could’ve been made of the sister relationship. He has daughters, and the relationship didn’t ring true for him.There was very little dialogue between the young women. For an animated film which really does explore the relationship between two sisters, see Lilo and Stitch, another of my daughter’s favourites. (That film is also notable for having a female baddie.)
  • One exchange stood out to me for being annoying, though. The sisters compliment each other on their looks (because, ya know, that’s the most effective way to brighten a gal’s day), and Anna tells her older sister that she may look beautiful but the older sister looks ‘beautifuller’. Realising that this is not a word, she self-corrects and says, ‘Oh I don’t mean fuller‘. Except she’s not really correcting her grammar, is she. She’s worried that she just called her sister a semi-euphemistic version of ‘fat’ — and along with the wrists-being-bigger-than-the-eyes visual cues, little girls learn once again that being a version of large — taking up your due space in this world — is one of the worst things you could possibly be. There’s a dumb joke just like that in one of those crappy Ice Age movies. About a female mammoth having a big butt, and taking it as a compliment, which is meant to be hilarious, because (white) women in real life don’t tend to take that as a compliment.
  • Anna is a klutz, in the Zooey Deschenel kind of way. A goofy, klutzy character with Freudian slips — a character whom adult audiences, at least, will have seen many times before. I must remind myself that this film is for kids. What this main character is not: Poised, self-assured and forward-thinking. This is a particular brand of femininity which little girls are perhaps seeing too much of.. at the expense of the other kind.
  • The Mary Sue didn’t like Frozen all that much. I felt the same way about it.

In short, long-time feminists may go meh about Frozen. Though people completely new to feminism may see this film as a triumph in its own way. I like to think that this film signals a change in the Disney Princess culture, but honestly, it’s just as likely that every single animated film that comes out over the next year is right-wing, conservative and poorly done in respect to girls. Folk at the Onion obviously think this too.

DOES IT PASS THE BECHDEL TEST?

Someone on a podcast made the tongue-in-cheek comment that she wondered if this film was going to even pass the Bechdel test if the sisters were going to spend the entire film singing about a snowman.

It did strike me, too, that all of the promotional material features the male characters (posters, trailers) to a disproportionate degree given that this is a film about young women, and that the first characters we see are male ice-cutters, and that the first line of dialogue goes to a little boy who is either not seen ever again or is otherwise so unmemorable that I don’t remember seeing him again.

Although this film does pass the Bechdel test, as mentioned above, ONLY JUST, ACTUALLY, and it passes the test partly because the girls are complimenting each other on their looks.

Ironically, in order to subvert the tropes of princess stories, the story must be largely about the relationships between the young women and the men who come into their lives, which involves much conversation across genders, and therefore little between the sisters. This film has an active feminist ideology which sets out to quash a few ancient ideas about womanhood, but if it set out to make a story about a relationship between two sisters, it fails; one film can’t do everything. This film is one step forward in the Disney Princess Story evolution, but I am still waiting for a story like Frankenweenie or Paranorman which just happens to star a girl rather than shit all over them. I’m waiting for that big-budget animated box office feature film that stars a girl without starring a girl because it has an active feminist ideology. The white-skinned, middle-class boy protagonists of Frankenweenie and Paranorman were on no such bandwagon. Hayao Miyazaki has demonstrated that girls can star in animated movies without the story being ‘about girl stuff’. But the West is not there yet.

AND IS IT ANY GOOD?

My six-year-old daughter really loves Frozen, and is particularly engaged by the slapstick comedy and the Olaf the snowman. I enjoyed the snowman and the wacky dance by the old man from Weasletown as well. The scene of a reindeer giving back the snowman’s carrot nose is especially adorable.

Will my six-year-old understand that this film subverts tropes? I’m not expecting her to know the word ‘subvert’ or even to understand the concept. I mean, Will she get that a when she watches nothing but girl-films about princesses, that being a beautiful princess isn’t the be-all and end-all? That Anna’s relationship with Kristoff isn’t the actual point? (I mean, they did get together romantically at the end. They didn’t have to have that one extra romantic kiss. They could have left it at a friendly peck, thereby demonstrating that young men and women can actually be friends.)

For all its feminist agenda — so damn obvious and didactic to a thinking adult audience — I’m not so sure that this story will work as we hope it will. This film relies on a background of fairytales, in order to understand that these tropes exist in the first place. More and more modern princess stories are not actually of the folkloric kind: a modern six-year-old may well have been brought up with the Babette Cole Princess Smartypants form of princess — the grubby-kneed version.

In all honesty, that, my daughter probably gets, despite my reluctance to read Rapunzel too many times. She may not realise, however, that the first third of the film, in which Anna looks set to fulfill the typical princess dream of finding a handsome prince and settling down, is completely ironic, including the lyrics to the songs. The lyrics to Fixer Upper are a case in point. Disney songs have a habit of being sung outside the movies (*shiver*) in which case we’d better hope the little kids singing along have seen the film and understand the song’s context.

The Mary Sue article (linked above) said: “I’ve been noticing a lot of films lately just meandering along. Not really concerned about a beginning, middle, and end, or at least what should happen in between all of those.” I think I know what is meant by this. Like the random chocolate references (the rule of Chekhov’s Gun applies — if chocolate ain’t gonna ‘go off’, don’t include it), and the extra characters, some of whom didn’t really need to be there (the little boy at the beginning, who followed a rather Moby Dick like fate, in which the character we see first disappears forever), and the romantic kiss at the end, when everything about Anna and Kristoff’s relationship suggested they were going to be just friends for now… The plot was actually a bit of a mess, especially considering how much these big budget films follow a template. An interesting question to ask ourselves: Is this sense of ‘looseness’ to do with the fact that the story doesn’t follow the trajectory we expect? This is a question worth asking of any film which subverts our expectations, but I think my examples are specific enough that there really was a bit of loose, random dialogue and characterisation.

In short, this is a big-budget story which will appeal to little kids, and it has the visual appeal we’ve come to expect of modern animation, but as an example of magnificent storytelling, not so much. As a film to hold up as an example of feminist storytelling, not at all, really. For that, look to the less self-conscious films. The ones no one would ever accuse of being ‘empowering’. If you hear someone use the phrase ‘girl power’ in relation to a film or book, you know it’s probably not.

RELATED BUT NOT NECESSARILY WORTH CLICKING ON

Frozen Turned My Son Gay (oh boy, the headline is enough for me. People think these things.)

Pro Gay? Disney is pro-being yourself from Film School Rejects is a response. Because apparently more than one person somewhere said that Frozen has a gay agenda. All of this just goes to show how much these normative traditional stories need to be challenged.

Why ‘Frozen’ Is Also the Perfect Movie for Overprotective Fathers, at Pajiba creeps me out

Honest Films Trailer of Frozen

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour thought it was okay, but they liked Tangled, too (I didn’t.) Their discussion made me want to watch Wreck-It Ralph.

Frozen has a score of 7.9 at IMDb. I’ve noticed across the web that fans of Frozen really are huge fans.