Monday, 20 April 2015

Cinderella the Movie: Why Do We Hate Ourselves?

I recently blogged about three things a romance writer can learned from the 2015 Cinderella Movie. That covered some ground but not all. With Maleficent heralded as a feminist triumph, and Frozen welcomed as move away from Waiting-For-The-Prince-To-Save-Me to focusing on family bonds and the power of love, it was interesting that Disney chose to make a super faithful live action version of the 1950 Cinderella movie.

The 1950s aren't precisely known as an era for female empowerment. The prevailing rhetoric had women firmly back in the kitchen preparing highballs for their menfolk and ensuring they had their lipstick straight for the moment he got back from work. Cinderella challenged that... not at all. No, she merrily swept out the house without resentment and as a reward got treated to a night out and met a monied fella who swept her off her feet without so much as a Bibbity Bobbitty Boo to a woman's traditional reward: marriage. 

Roll on 65 years - have things changed?

Well er, no. Not especially. This movie is very faithful to the cartoon. I already mentioned the mouse thing, but the thing which really bothered me - and which came through even more strongly than in the 1950 version - was Cinderella's lack of self worth. 

Here's the way it goes. 

Cinderella has a golden childhood dancing with her doting dad and being told to believe in EVERYTHING by her golden mum. Then her mum tucks her into bed, breaks out in a sweat and promptly keels over (check out Disney's mummy mortuary and why you should care about it). 




Side note: my seven year old immediately wanted to know what she'd died of. Turns out that was the first thing my 49 year old big sister wanted to know too. Was it plague she asked? Fast growing tumour, I thought. Anyways, back to the blog...

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Three Writing Tips from Disney's 2015 Cinderella



Despite the success of the awe-inspiring Maleficent, Disney must be sick of revisionist fairytale movies because the 2015 live action Cinderella is anything but. So closely have the film-makers stuck to the story depicted in the 1950 version that the eponymous heroine even chats to and has tea parties with mice. Obviously Cinders has never heard that urban myth about mice having no bladders or indeed found one dead under the toaster or I doubt she would greet them dancing around her bedchamber with such equanimity.

Still, mice aside, Cinderella is visually sumptuous. The vaguely Victorian period costumes are gorgeous and if every now and then you wonder why Cinders sticks to her pale blue party frock for cleaning out the grate or wish there were one or two less butterflies on her ballgown, it's more than made up for by the wicked stepmother's (Cate Blanchett) awesome wardrobe. 

Gratuitous Cate Blanchet dress picture - because she is awesome
Unfortunately, although Cate Blanchett is as awesome as her stylish shirt-waisters and Helena Bonham-Carter turns in a star role as an eccentric high camp fairy godmother, Cinderella, whilst engaging enough, left me feeling a bit bleurgh.  And it wasn't just me. My seven year old who had eaten up Frozen and loved Malificent thought it was no better than average giving it a lowly 5/10/ 

But why?  WHY?  It's a visual feast (the best makeover - and makeunder scenes ever), it has a stellar cast... where did this film fall short? 

And it's one of the best makeover scenes EVER


What I Learned About Storytelling From Watching Cinderella. 

Characterisation: for a character to be interesting it has to be three dimensional. And I'm not talking about the green and red glasses here.  Maleficient worked because there were shades of grey in every character, good or bad. Maleficent was a pure-of-heart, generously loving imp who was scarred by her experiences, became very dark indeed and then struggled her way towards redemption. Her nemesis, the king, was an imaginative, open-minded boy who also happened to be dangerously opportunistic and ruthless. Aurora herself was no mild-mannered sweetheart. Sunny natured, she displayed anger, behaved rashly but ultimately had a great deal of discernment. Every single character went on a journey. It was interesting. Compelling, even.

Magnificent Maleficent

Monday, 26 January 2015

Storytelling for Kids - A Guide to Plot


My daughter is a drama queen. Literally.

She's been part of  a drama group since she was four years old, acing parts like Grumpy in Snow White, Mrs Twit in The Twits and the eponymous Rafunzel. Her drama teacher joked that she'd be directing them herself soon. As it turns out, she's not far wrong. At seven, writing plays is her latest thing.

When I say writing plays, it mostly comprises writing out lists of "caricters" (sic), drawing colourful and elaborate costumes and recruiting her mates into a secret drama society and assigning them parts. Then she asks me to type it all out.

But she is thinking about what happens too. So I told her, start with a story. And to help her, I wrote out some questions which I have found useful myself. These questions give her the bones of her plot.

So just in case your child genius is a budding Shakespeare, here they are. Plunder as you will:

Your hero/heroine(s) is/are...
Winter, Autumn, Spring and Summer are four sisters who each possesses an amazing – and potentially deadly power.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Leaving 2014, Starting 2015: Resolutions


New year, new start.

This year I had a real new start feeling. It's not that I'm desperate to leave 2014 behind. For many amongst my friends and family it's been an exceptionally tough year that has included loved ones grappling with cancer, fertility issues, career problems and emotional ups and downs. My year was okay and for that I'm enormously grateful.

If 2014 has taught me anything it's be grateful. Be appreciative of what you have, when you have it. Don't take anything for granted, because life can change in the blink of an eye.

But I always knew that, I think.

So, resolutions.

In previous years To Chill has been been a major resolution. Also Balance in All Things. I actually think I've made some progress on that. 2014 was the year of mostly getting a reasonable amount of sleep, if cat-related insomnia, the lure of an excellent book and the vagaries of having a child who won't stay in her own bed are taken out of the equation.



Saturday, 3 January 2015

Feminist Romance Novels - a discovery of riches

Scotland loves new year - or Hogmanay as it's called here. It loves it so much it awards not one, but two bank holidays. That's one more than Christmas and it means that people can really party.  There are tons of traditions associated with Hogmanay. Cleaning out your house. First footing. Shortbread. Coal. Auld Lang Syne. Brisk walks on New Year's Day.



Confession: I am a terrible Hogmanay-celebrator. It's the memories of queues, I think. Queuing is known to be a great British tradition, but it's not one I embrace. Not when you're wearing heels. Not when it's sleeting. Not when you're waiting three hours for a taxi and paying twice the fare you normally would.  So this year we had a gathering at our house and there were no queues at all. 

I welcomed the New Year in the neighbour's front garden and New Year's Day well, there was no walk. New Year's Day was all about new authors - new to me that is. 

I welcomed the dawn of 2015 in fantastic literary company with two new-to-me authors, Sherry Thomas and Courtney Milan. And I came across them, in a 2014-ish sort of way, via Pinterest because of pin description which read: "9 Surprisingly Feminist Romances."

Well, I'm a feminist. And I love romance. The nine books cited included Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne, which has one of my favourite ever spy-heroes, and Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer, which has one of my favourite ever Heyer heroines. Also an Elizabeth Hoyt, which is frankly, always good.