I like to watch familiar movies to help me fall asleep, and I've been watching a ton of Disney movies lately. I grew up watching Disney princess movies, and I still love them. When I was a kid, I just enjoyed the pretty dresses, fun songs, and inspiring plots. I still enjoy those things, but recently, I've thought more deeply about these movies while lying awake at night, and I've noticed a common trend: most of the princesses are very sheltered and naive about the world around them.
I'm ranking all of the official Disney princesses (sorry Elsa and Anna, you aren't qualified) from least to most sheltered. There's no real criteria for these rankings; it's based on what I've noticed while watching and my opinions. Some of these ladies were tricky to place, but I think we can all agree on the top two along with the first on the list.
Tiana was definitely not sheltered at all. Tiana is the only princess who works in the (mostly) modern world, and she even works more than one job. Her mother brought little Tiana to work with her and her father always talked about working hard to achieve your dreams. The family lived in a modest home among average people, unlike the princesses living in lavish castles. Yes, Tiana did kiss a talking frog, but she had a lot of reservations about this and was clearly living in the real world up until that point.
Mulan is the only official Disney princess that is not royal by blood or marriage. Like Tiana, Mulan was an average girl with a normal upbringing. She was very aware that she would have an arranged marriage and what was expected of women in her culture. She might not have fit in with what society expected of her, but Mulan was well aware of this. Mulan was in a little bit over her head when she took her father's place in the army, but for the most part, she knew what she was getting into and what was at stake if she failed.
Image from Pocahontas's page on Disney Princess Official Site
Pocahontas is the chief's daughter, but she still helps in the fields and isn't cooped up inside. Pocahontas is very much aware of the world around her and is one with nature. She's a bit naive when it comes to forming a relationship with John Smith, but she is cautious at first. Her father warns her to stay away from the dangerous white men, and unlike other fathers with vague warnings on this list, he is right! Nothing has been sugar coated for Pocahontas, and like Mulan, she was aware that she was supposed to marry someone chosen for her. Pocahontas wasn't sheltered and any naivety she has comes from the dangers of greed and weapons never being present before.
Belle wasn't exactly sheltered, but she did live in the same small, idyllic village for her whole life and she didn't leave until she had to look for her father. Belle is an avid reader, but she only has access to her town's little book store and seems to favor fantasy, so it seems she doesn't have much of an education of the outside world. Her lack of fear towards the snarling Beast and her stalker Gaston is a bit concerning and supports this idea. Belle is smart and brave, but she must have been sheltered to some degree to be so naive at times.
Merida is the first princess on this list to grow up in a castle away from average people. Living the life of a royal is bound to come with some level of being sheltered. At the beginning of Brave, Merida complains that her mother controls every single day of Merida's life and that her whole future is planned for her. Merida does get to galavant around the Scottish countryside and practice archery in her free time, but the rest of her life is spent preparing to be a monarch. Despite this, Merida is shocked when she learns that she's going to be in an arranged marriage. Most people would be upset about this, but it seems odd that a princess like Merida wouldn't have seen this coming. Maybe her parents kept this information from her to maintain the peace within the family. For the most part, Merida knows what's expected from her and hasn't been sheltered nearly as much as the princesses after her on this list, but she certainly doesn't have a difficult life.
Ariel lives in a beautiful underwater castle with her father and six sisters. Even though she lives a luxurious life as a mermaid, all Ariel wants is to be a human. She collects human artifacts in a cave and naively glamorizes human life despite her father's numerous warnings about humans being dangerous. King Triton never really elaborates on why humans are dangerous; he just yells that they are. Sweet, naive Ariel catches one glimpse of a human and decides she's in love and that they'll end up together (she isn't wrong, but still). So, Ariel goes to a terrifying sea-witch and exchanges her voice for a set of legs. This is absolutely insane, and no one with any sort of real knowledge about the world would do something so reckless. Instead of trying to protect her from humans in the laziest way possible, Ariel's father should have educated her about the real issues with humans and the other dangers lurking in the ocean.
6. Snow White
Snow White is sweet and naive like Ariel, but she's probably a bit more naive. She frolics around a castle all day, blissfully unaware of how much her stepmother hates her and wishes her dead. The queen orders a hit on Snow White, but thankfully, the would-be assassin got cold feet and let her go. Snow White runs away through the forest and stumbles upon a filthy little cottage that is clearly occupied by numerous men and decides it's the perfect place for her to settle down. These strangers thankfully aren't dangerous, but the queen still wants her dead. Even though she knows this, Snow White takes a poisoned apple from a very suspicious looking woman wearing a spooky black cloak. Snow White knows nothing about the dangers of life and must have been extremely sheltered growing up.
Moana is being trained to be the next chief of her island kingdom, but she doesn't live a life of luxury like most princesses. Moana lives life similarly to her people, just with a bit more responsibility. All of this doesn't make Moana sheltered, but the fact that she lives on a tropical island and isn't allowed to go in the ocean does. Not only is Moana not allowed to go sailing or swimming, she gets scolded for even going near the water! This poor girl lives on a beautiful beach and can't even enjoy it because her father is afraid something horrible will happen if she steps foot in the water. Even when the island's food supplies are threatened, Moana's dad refuses to entertain the idea of the fishers sailing a little bit past the shallows to find more food. This anti-ocean stance goes way beyond being a protective parent.
Cinderella is horribly mistreated and sheltered by her stepfamily so they can keep her as a servant. Cinderella spends all day doing chores and waiting on her stepmother and stepsisters. It doesn't seem like Cinderella is allowed to leave the house, but she probably wouldn't even have the time because she's so busy cleaning and maintaining such a large house all by herself. For the most part, Cinderella seems to be unbothered by being a servant, and I have to assume it's because her stepfamily started brainwashing her at a young age. Unlike most princesses, Cinderella is no stranger to hard work, but there's no way she has any knowledge about anything other than housework.
Jasmine also isn't allowed to leave her house, but unlike Cinderella, her "house" is actually a giant, luxurious palace. Jasmine lounges around her beautiful palace and its gardens all day while wearing fancy clothes and gold jewelry. She complains about not being allowed to leave and finally decides to sneak out to see what it's like in the outside world. Jasmine immediately gets in trouble for stealing because she doesn't know that you have to pay for things! This princess is so sheltered from the real world that she doesn't know about the concept of money!
Aurora is extremely sheltered, even by Disney princess standards. Maleficent curses little baby Aurora to prick her finger and die, and in response, she's whisked away to a little cottage in the middle of nowhere and is hidden away from the rest of the world. It's understandable that Aurora's parents were afraid of their new baby being killed by such a powerful and evil entity and wanted to hide her from Maleficent, but I think they took this way too far. Aurora only has contact with her three "aunts" and doesn't know anything about her family or that she's a princess. Heck, Aurora doesn't even know her real name! The fairies called her Briar Rose and raised her to frolic with cute woodland creatures and pick berries. The first time Aurora encounters another person she's shocked, but immediately falls in love with him. When the fairies finally tell Aurora about her true identity, she's reasonably devastated. Aurora's sheltered life was meant to keep her safe, but I doubt she'll be well-adjusted after being lied to about everything she ever knew.
Rapunzel is definitely the most sheltered Disney princess. When I was planning out this list, I wasn't sure if Aurora or Rapunzel should be number one, but then I remembered that Rapunzel had never touched grass before. Both princesses were hidden away from other people and lied to about their true identities, but Rapunzel couldn't even go outside. Gothel stole Rapunzel as a baby and kept her sheltered so she could use Rapunzel's magical hair to stay young forever. Rapunzel is told that evil people are looking for her to use her for her hair (ironic, isn't it?), and is forbidden from leaving her tower for her own safety. Flynn Rider is the first person Rapunzel ever sees besides her "mother," and she immediately suspects him of trying to steal her for her hair. Everything Rapunzel knows comes from whatever Mother Gothel tells her, along with a few books that she gave to Rapunzel. Gothel lies to Rapunzel about so much and doesn't care enough about her to even take her outside, so who knows how much is actually kept from Rapunzel. Like many other princesses, Rapunzel doesn't know anything about the world outside of her home, but her lack of knowledge about everything goes beyond the rest.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had a very hard time putting this book down. The story is compelling, and Mafi’s writing is as beautiful as ever.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a YA romance novel, but not a typical one. It focuses on real social issues and has a main character unlike one you’d typically hear from. Shirin is a 16-year-old Muslim girl starting at a new school in 2002. Islamophobia is at an all-time high post 9/11 America, but it’s nothing new for a hijabi like Shirin.
Shirin is used to keeping her head down and telling ignorant people to go to hell, especially because she’s gone to so many different schools. She’s given up on making connections beyond shallow friendships. Despite this, a boy named Ocean wants something more with Shirin. Does Shirin feel the same way?
When a boy named “Ocean” appears in a YA novel with the word “sea” in the title, he’s obviously going to be the love interest. That being said, the rest of the book isn’t predictable. And this book isn’t just a love story; it’s the story of a young girl who loves fashion and breakdancing and faces persecution.
Reading this book feels like being in the head of an actual teen girl. Shirin is very realistic as a character and her story is an important one. It’s fictional, but for so many Muslims, it isn’t. This book helps the reader understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of racism and bigotry (of course reading about it isn’t the same as experiencing it) and more books like this need to be written.
While we’re here, I have to address the love story aspect of this book. Yes, A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a great story about facing adversity, but it’s also a great YA romance. If you enjoy fuzzy feelings along with a little heartache, you will enjoy this book.
I couldn’t help but feel so much empathy and heartbreak for Shirin for different reasons throughout the book, but there were moments that made me smile and laugh. This book will make you feel so many different emotions and is definitely worth picking up.
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After watching all of the shows that piqued my interest on Netflix and Hulu, I started watching an obscene amount of YouTube. I love being recommended random videos on YouTube's homepage and love it even more when these random videos lead me to discovering new channels. Some of the channels I'm subscribed to I only watch from time to time, others I binge all available content I possibly can. These are the channels I'm obsessed with right now:
I discovered Emmy this past December when she made a video about blending Little Debbies into a dip, The content was ridiculous enough to get me to click, and Emmy's bubbly and charming personality got me to binge all of her content. I was delighted to find a ton of other wacky recipes along with more serious recipes, taste tests, kitchen gadget reviews and more. The whole Emmymade channel is super wholesome and has so many different types of videos to enjoy. I follow a couple of other food-related channels, but Emmy's is by far the best.
When the Among Us craze started, I watched a lot of gameplay videos and even spent a whole 5 dollars on the game. The game was way too stressful for me, but I still liked to watch other people play. The main person I watched was 5up, and he's the only one I still watch. He's so good at Among Us, it's ridiculous. I love watching his big brain plays and rooting for him to defeat all of the crew mates. 5up uploads nearly everyday and I get so excited to watch his most recent upload every night while I eat dinner.
I saw a viral video from Swell Entertainment in the fall and rediscovered the channel a few months ago. I'm a big fan of commentary channels, but most of them end up covering the same topics, and it gets old. I still end up watching them, but still, I would like some fresh and different content. Amanda from Swell Entertainment covers unique topics, and despite insisting she's not a journalist, I think she's a great investigative journalist. Most YouTubers seem to regurgitate the same information, but Amanda gets involved with things to get a fresh take. I don't know of any other commentators who actually went to TanaCon or who managed to be in the audience of A Little Late with Lilly Singh. I really love Amanda's "I Tried It So You Don't Have To" series and highly recommend it to anyone who's seen weird product ads or just wants to laugh.
If you like watching commentary on movies, TV, music and more, you need to check out Nick DiRamio's channel. Nick plays clips from both new and nostalgic content while making funny remarks and actual, thoughtful production notes about the questionable content. He has a background in film, so he knows what he's talking about and notices things that most people normally wouldn't. Yes, we can all see when a movie or video is bad, but Nick tells us what the actual issue is and advice on how it could've been done better. Nick has a super bubbly personality and is very witty, so even if media critiques seem like they might be boring, his definitely are not. Nick is so incredibly hilarious and charming that I watch his videos on topics I don't even care about.
I've been playing The Sims for a very long time and love the game. I don't play all that often, but I do watch a good amount of Sims videos and follow a few Sims YouTubers. Plumbella is by far my favorite Sims personality. Jesse has been playing the Sims for even longer than I have and has a strong passion for the franchise. She also has a strong (and slightly chaotic) personality that makes her videos very entertaining. When new Sims content comes out, there are tons of videos from every Simmer reviewing it, but I put more emphasis on Jesse's reviews and comments than anyone else's. She's super honest and upfront on what she's excited about and things she doesn't like. I agree with most of her opinions and appreciate that she also loves the old games and knows the lore.
I only knew two things about Soul before watching: it was produced by Pixar and it was criticized soon after it was announced.
Back in July, I saw Tweets and Tumblr posts from Disney fans upset that the film is part of the recent trend of turning black leads in animated films into an animal or, in this case, a blue blob. I am not the right person to say if the representation in Soul and Disney/Pixar films in general is adequate or problematic, but it absolutely is worth mentioning before going any further.
Despite not knowing anything else about Soul, I was excited when I saw it would be available on Disney+ on Christmas Day. As a massive Disney and Pixar fan, I had to watch it even if I wasn't sure if I'd like it. There have been a few recent (and not so recent) Pixar movies I didn't like, but I recently watched Onward and liked it, so I had hope for Soul. Plus, I've been struggling lately and though it would cheer me up. Boy, was I wrong.
Soul starts by introducing us to Joe Gardner, a middle-aged black jazz musician working as a middle school band director. For years, Joe struggled to get gigs and never got his big break. The kids he teaches are horrible (as all middle school band kids are) and his mom keeps telling him to stick with his real job as a band teacher and give up on his dreams. Still, Joe remains positive and never gives up. His optimism and perseverance pay off and he gets the gig of a lifetime! Finally, things are going Joe's way and he's so happy. Joe dances through the streets, just barely avoiding danger like an old-timey cartoon character, until he falls into a manhole. BOOM! Joe's dead.
Just as his life is taking a turn, Joe dies before achieving his dream. The title of the film and the promo photos made it pretty clear that Joe would turn into a "soul," but for some reason, his death really caught me off guard. After his untimely and jarring death, Joe's soul falls onto a conveyor belt in a black void leading to a bright white light.
Ominous music plays as Joe is taken closer and closer to the light. He tries to run backwards on the belt and comes across other souls of various ages speaking different languages. The people on the belt were staggered, suggesting that they are in line based on the time they died. Everyone is accepting their fate, but Joe has to get out of there. Of course, Joe manages to escape his fate and the movie can start with its out-of-the-box plot. Joe leaves the scene, but I'm still stuck on that conveyor belt.
I found this scene so incredibly haunting and disturbing. We never find out what that bright light called "the Great Beyond" actually leads to, but the void surrounding the conveyor belt and the white light along with the overall vibe of the scene caused me to believe it was the end for the souls. I'm afraid that death will be nothingness, so this probably has something to do with the conclusion I came to. It could've been the writers' intent for the Great Beyond to be whatever the viewer wants it to be. I couldn't find any information about what the afterlife in Soul was meant to be with a quick Google search, so we're just going to assume it's meant to be up to interpretation. I don't know about you, but when I watch a bright Disney movie I don't want to be reminded of my own mortality.
The film leaves the afterlife ambiguous, but we get a clear look at the before-life. Joe finds himself in the Great Before after escaping his fate. The Great Before is filled with rolling hills and tall grass and has some funky white structures. Its inhabitants are new souls and their guardians. The imagery is light, airy and calming, but I am still unsettled.
In the Great Before, all new souls are given the personality traits they'll have in life. After they are assigned traits, the souls must attend a seminar and be mentored by the soul of a dead person. This mentor helps the soul find their spark, which will complete its Earth Pass and allow the soul to be born. The only way to get to Earth is to have one of these passes, and Joe needs one so he can return to his life and make it to his gig. Conveniently, there's a soul named 22 that's been in the Great Before for thousands of years and refuses to be born and forced to live. Joe is paired up with 22 and they form a plan to finally find 22's spark and give Joe her pass. Joe shows 22 snapshots of his life to help inspire her.
Both 22 and Joe see that Joe's life was boring and, frankly, a bit pathetic. Where greatest hits and big moments would be for those selected to be mentors, all we see is mundane and insignificant moments for Joe. There are snapshots of Joe eating alone in a diner, sitting on the subway, and conducting a middle school band. The summary of Joe's life is so sad, but it just motivates him to get to his gig and finally make something of himself.
Without knowing whether or not Joe will make it back to his life, I'm left thinking, "What if this is it for Joe? What of this is all his life amounts to? How many other real people have lives like this, and what if I end up like this?" The prospect of having a life without meaning is worrying, especially at this stage in my life where I'm not really doing anything. I also relate to 22 more than I would like to admit. I don't believe in the concept of souls, but what if my "soul" wasn't not ready for this world? It feels like that sometimes.
After 22 and Joe leave the seminar, the rest of the movie chronicles the duo on their mission to save Joe's life and 22's non-life. The bulk of the movie is Pixar fun mixed with a heavy plot, but none of it made me feel the way the first 30 minutes did, so I'm not going to talk about it here. The beginning of Soul made me think a lot about life and death and it was terrifying. Even though Soul is a cartoon with blob characters, the concepts behind it are too real. Coco is another Pixar film centered around death, but the plot and scenery is removed far enough from reality that I can enjoy it without thinking about my own mortality. I've rewatched Coco many times, but I think once was enough for Soul. It was objectively a good movie, but I would rather not think about how successful my life may or may not be and what comes after death when I'm watching a Disney movie.
Fruitcake is a big part of Christmas in the U.S. but it's also wildly unpopular. Still, these brick-like cakes start popping up in grocery stores every December without fail. Fruitcake has been around for centuries and was passed to the U.S. from English traditions. Fruitcake has a positive reputation in the U.K. (fruitcake is traditionally the flavor of choice for royal weddings), so why do Americans despise this treat so much?
Image from Claxton Fruit Cake
Fruitcake is basically just a dense cake filled with candied fruit and nuts. No one really takes issue with these separate elements, but many people are not happy with this combination. A lot of fruitcake haters have never even tried it because of its bad reputation, so some of the negativity comes from word of mouth.
One of the strange things about fruitcake is its shelf life. When you compare the shelf lives of fruitcake and a regular cake, the difference is pretty extreme. freshly baked fruitcake can last about one month in a cupboard and up to six months in the fridge. A lot of people don't leave cake around long enough to find out how long it will be good for, but for comparison, a chocolate cake will only last for a couple of days sitting out and one week in the fridge.
Six months is a very long time for a baked good to last, but fruitcakes have been known to last for much longer than this. One family has kept a fruitcake for well over 100 years for sentimental reasons and occasionally samples it. As proven by panics over fast food not decomposing, people tend to be suspicious of food that doesn't go bad. People tend to think that for a food to last so long it must contain dangerous chemicals.
Image from Good Nature Travel
Some people blame a 1985 Johnny Carson joke for fruitcake's reputation. Carson joked about fruitcake always being regifted and said that there was really only one fruitcake in the world that people kept giving away. For this joke to be memorable it must have held some truth at the time, so it's safe to assume that fruitcake already had a bad rap.
Cake and a little bit of fruit (usually only one kind) can pair together very nicely, but adding a bunch of different kinds in large quantities seems a bit overwhelming. The fact that it's super sugary candied fruit definitely doesn't help fruitcake out. Tastes and preferences evolve over time, so this must have been an appealing way to make cake at one point in time that just fell out of favor after the tradition was already set. Even though we joke about how terrible it is, bakeries that make fruitcake are still in business, so there must be some people who actually look forward to this part of Christmas.