The following cartoons were taken from David Trumble’s collection of 10 real life female role models drawn through a “Disney Filter.” Using his artistry, Trumble was responding to the supposed conflict between the representation of heroines in Disney films and the reality of how heroines have actually looked historically. In Disney’s craft, the heroines are classically depicted as beautiful, modelesque young women, all with “the same sparkly fashion, the same tiny figures, and the same homogenized plastic smile.” Trumble believed this was a faux reality and wanted to create an ironic depiction of real-life role models with a Disney filter to emphasize the ‘ridiculousness’ of heroines both intelligent and ‘overly’ beautified. He took famous, highly intelligent women throughout history -including Malala Yousafzai, Susan B. Anthony, and Marie Curie- and took a “superficial brush” in painting them more attractive than they were in real life. There was a great amount of controversy in reaction to this creation, varying from jokes, to disagreement, to applause and desire for doll versions of his cartoons. One thing was for certain, a great amount of controversy surrounded the depiction of women as both scholastic and sexually attractive. Trumble’s response in Today [see here] can be likened to a verbal shrug:
“I feel like good satire shouldn’t be understood by everybody,” he said. “Some people [women] were angry at me because they thought I was reducing the women, which was obviously the point. But if it gets children interested in these real women and what they do, is it so bad?”
The answer is: yes, it is unfortunately bad. While his intention in getting children interested in real heroines was noble, the means with which he called attention to them speaks to the greater problem women face today: the dilemma that one cannot realistically be both beautiful and highly intelligent. The very word he used in describing the response to his work, “reducing,” highlights this unfortunate stigma that women themselves have had a heavy hand in creating.
Dina Goldstein, prominent Canadian visual artist, is a startling example of women’s role in contributing to the social conception of beautiful, smart, happy women as a “fairy tale.” In her collection, “Fallen Princesses,” Dina says that she “began to imagine Disney’s perfect Princesses juxtaposed with real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction and self-image issues” [see here]. She has created a series of photos in which disney princesses are shown through a ‘reality’ filter, resulting in imagery of Rapunzel ridden with cancer, Belle cut and injected with silicone, and Little Red Riding Hood morphed by obesity. (Click the images below for more).
While Goldstein’s claims that the pictures force viewers to contemplate “real life”: failed dreams, pollution and ocean degradation, war, obesity, the extinction of indigenous cultures, cancer and the fallacy of chasing eternal youth, [see here], they also make an unfortunate contribution to the idea that ‘real’ heroines cannot be beautiful, modelesque characters, and likewise, that highly intelligent women who care about these ‘real life’ issues cannot be either.
Dina Goldstein and David Trumble make a fair point that the consistent portrayal of heroines as thin, sparkling, attractive women by Walt Disney with no variation beyond race or ethnicity is, to a point, unrealistic. However, their means for discussing this largely overcompensates for the problem and corroborates the Catch 22 identity crisis for young girls that they must either choose to grow up as primarily scholastic, or primarily attractive.