Taming The Unicorns

If you’ve visited the girls’ section of a chain store recently you’ll have noticed that unicorns are in this season. These 2020 unicorns are a particular type of unicorn — coloured in soft pastel colours and with their eyes closed. It’s not just unicorns with their eyes closed this year — all the cute animals seem to be sleeping. Below are three of the products available at Target Australia this season:

There is quite a bit of commentary around this, as in, is this an example of retrograde feminism? Over at Think or Blue, Catherine makes the following point about the sleepiness of modern cartoon characters marketed at girls:

Over the course of history, women and girls, especially women and girls of color, have been told to relax. Don’t be hysterical. Anger isn’t flattering. Stop being so over-emotional.

We expect girls to sit nicely, behave, smile, and speak politely. As if that weren’t enough, we now expect them to sleepwalk; go about life in a dreamy daze.

Think or Blue

Pair this article with this week’s episode (42) of the Fuckbois of Literature podcast: “Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today” and with the entire corpus of feminist literature and the sleepiness of these femme coded unicorns does feel a bit icky. Why are we still hung up on unironic “Sleeping Beauty” narratives, with the implication that girls are waiting around for things to happen to them?

Though this is not necessarily a defence of all the sleeping characters marketed at girls, I believe the closed eyes are an aesthetic from UwU culture. The exonym for this is ‘soft culture’. This article from The Guardian asks if this so-called ‘Soft Girl’ version of femininity is a form of empowerment (a word I am beginning to despise).

The impulse to dismiss the soft girl as silly may overlook the deeply felt vulnerability of girlhood, and the desire to reckon with it on one’s own terms. In 2015, the author Lucy Ellman described teenage girls as living “in terror of the society in which they find themselves … their main aim is to reach adulthood without being raped, shot, manhandled, or murdered.” It’s a dark statement, but not an inaccurate one. Teen girls are often discredited and exploited for being pretty and eager to please others, characteristics dominant culture pressures them to have. Girls are disproportionately penalized by school attire policies, body-shamed, and blamed for “inviting” sexual harassment, which most begin experiencing at about 14.

The Guardian

If you’ve spent much time around adolescent girls, you’ll be familiar with the phenomenon in which girls (not all girls, but many) revert to faux-babytalk for a brief period, as a way of coping with the terrors of adolescence. I noticed while teaching in a girls’ high school that some teachers responded by talking back in this way, thereby encouraging it, while other teachers had no patience for it at all. However it’s treated, the vast majority of girls grow out of it within months.

I have wondered how many boys feel similarly vulnerable and toddler-like at adolescence, because in a patriarchal culture young men are denied any form of vulnerable expression. I welcome softboi as a subculture for this very reason. If I am prepared to embrace soft, UwU culture for boys, I must therefore embrace it as an option for girls.

Another important point: Not all cute-looking creatures need to behave in a cute way.

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The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Storytelling

NARNIA LAMPPOST LUCY

So much has been said about Narnia already. Can I add a single thing to the corpus by blogging about storytelling techniques in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe?

Probably not, but my 10-year-old is studying this novel at school. She’s home sick today. I know the rest of her class is watching the 2005 film adaptation this afternoon for a compare and contrast exercise, because they send home permission slips for PG rated material. (Honestly, heh, I showed this to my kid when she was about 5.) It’s been a while since we cracked open the DVD, so today we are rewatching The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, together at home, under a blanket.

This blog post is mainly about the 2005 film adaptation, not about the novel. I haven’t read the novel since I was in my late teens, though I keep meaning to go back. I bought myself a beautiful illustrated version for my 30th birthday. What’s keeping me from dusting it off? Probably all the commentary around it, and knowing how problematic it is as a vehicle for certain ideas.

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The Happy Hypocrite by Max Beerbohm

Mask of Apollo

The Happy Hypocrite” is a short story by Max Beerbohm first published 1897. Basically, in this misogynistic tale, a man who won’t take no for an answer pursues a much younger girl anyway. Her goodness improves his countenance for real, and he is rewarded by owning her forever after.

Lest you think “The Happy Hypocrite” is a story of its time, there have been many popular stories since in which a boy or a man who won’t take no for an answer pursues the girl anyway, and is rewarded with her at the end after undergoing an improving character arc.

Apparently, this sotry is a more humorous version of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, but since I haven’t read that this isn’t part of my response.

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Inside Out Story Structure

Inside Out

Inside Out is a Pixar animated film released 2015. It was an instant worldwide hit. Inside Out is fascinating from a writing point of view because it  an example of the female myth form, which we haven’t seen much of over the last 2000 years but which is now making a comeback.

Inside Out And Neurodiversity

All children must learn at some stage how to recognise and name their own emotions. This is harder for some than others. Even among the neurotypical population, a surprisingly large number of people have difficulty identifying how they feel.

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