Penta, Mariya: Rejected
June 19, 2014 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Women too awesome, awful or offbeat for the movies

An artist re-imagines some of history's more interesting women in the style of Disney princesses.
posted by shino-boy (24 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Mefi's own ninapaley made Sita Sings the blues.
posted by brujita at 6:12 PM on June 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

Lolita, eh?
posted by Going To Maine at 6:15 PM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I could see Disney doing Nzinga's story. Not with scrupulous historical accuracy, no, but that is hardly their style in any case.
posted by yoink at 6:25 PM on June 19, 2014

posted by ChuraChura at 6:48 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actual link to Sita Sings the Blues download here.

I like these more than I thought I would; the art is not super-amazing but the stories are good enough it doesn't matter.
posted by emjaybee at 7:15 PM on June 19, 2014

Obligatory mention of the latest Forgotten Woman In History I discovered after watching The Last Emperor with Wikipedia at my fingertips:

Yoshiko Kawashima

Granted, I'm pretty sure she hasn't been the subject of a biopic yet because she was on the wrong side of WW2 as far as Americans are concerned, and worse yet, all wrapped up in what the Japanese did to China. But still, a life that cries out to be immortalized by Hollywood. Well, better than it was in The Last Emperor, anyway, where she's a footnote who doesn't even get a real name.
posted by Sara C. at 8:24 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mariya Oktyabrskaya, the first female tanker to ever win the Hero of the Soviet Union award, and her tank, Fighting Girlfriend, now that would be an action figure i'd have loved as a kid.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 8:42 PM on June 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

The big glowing erection on the guy eyeing Lolita (is that meant to be Humbert?) is a bit much.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:43 PM on June 19, 2014

This list skews more towards awesome/offbeat than it does towards awful. Fredegund strikes me as the only evil one. So to balance things out I would like to nominate two absolutely terrible women:

Irene of Athens, Empress of the Byzantine Empire. Originally crown regent for her son, when he grew old enough to take the throne she had him killed and declared herself Emperor. Her reign involved religious oppression, war, and torturing political opponents. There is a podcast about her at Twelve Byzantine Rulers.

Hallgerd the Petty, wife of an early Icelandic chieftan in the semi-historical Njal's saga. She was constantly feuding with her neighbors over trivial matters, often escalating to violence and murder. Her conflicts led to large battles in which many early settlers were killed and much of the island's infrastructure was destroyed.
posted by foobaz at 8:52 PM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

The big glowing erection on the guy eyeing Lolita (is that meant to be Humbert?) is a bit much.

I thought that too, but reading the description it's a very intentionally placed sandal that's she's kicked off.

These are fantastic.
posted by figurant at 9:37 PM on June 19, 2014

re: Humbert's "erection"

After really taking a closer look, I see it's Lolita's sandal that she's just flipped off her foot.
posted by shino-boy at 9:38 PM on June 19, 2014

Lolita makes no sense as a choice, and I'd rather they leave Sita alone thanks.
posted by sweetkid at 9:51 PM on June 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I don't really get the idea behind most of these choices, aside from "some historical women/female characters who are not already Disney princesses." It veers pretty sharply from mythological/folkloric characters who could be Disney princesses, but aren't, to religious figures (Sita, maybe the Corn Maiden), to fictional characters (Beloved, Lolita) to famous women in history.

I mean, I'm all for making people aware of women/female characters they don't already know about, but then again Hatshepsut and Lolita are included, so I don't even think "people you weren't already aware of" is a criterion here.

Either way, cool project. I guess?
posted by Sara C. at 10:04 PM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Tomyris would fit right in, I suspect.
posted by e-man at 11:10 PM on June 19, 2014

Wow – Sara C.'s tip to read about Yoshiko Kawashima is well worth following. What an incredible person. Daughter of a Manchu prince and of a concubine with no official identity who committed ritual suicide on his death; given in "adoption" to a Japanese spy and mercenary; raped by her adoptive grandfather; spy herself who dressed as a man and was openly bisexual. She became a Colonel General of Manchukuo, but sacrificed her own career to openly criticize "the Japanese military's exploitative policies in Manchukuo as a base of operations against China". She was arrested and tried as a traitor by China, executed at age 40.

Regarding the choices for the Tumblr, they make sense. Mythology and religion go hand-in-hand – keep in mind, "mythology" was not a derisive term until very recent history. Archetypes function as role models, if you want to boil it down a bit over-simplistically. Likewise, the archetypes a culture/subculture/class/etc. chooses to accentuate, say a lot about that culture.

The more role models you're aware of, the more potential you're aware that you yourself could fulfill. And vice versa... it's great to see ancient stories transposed into popular terms. We need more of this kind of mythological renewal.

I grew up deeply impressed by variants of the Girl With No Hands (Penta chosen by the tumblr as an example); the one that spoke most profoundly was the version where a girl refuses to give herself over to the Devil. Her father accidentally promised her to the Devil in exchange for a life of riches, and when he realizes his mistake, merely goes (paraphrasing), "oh oops! Guess Satan meant my daughter and not the apple tree – well daughter, time to give yourself over to a life of eternal torture so I can haz money." Her mother, silent, tacitly agrees. First she draws a circle around herself and prays, which holds the Devil at bay. Her father erases it. Then she cries on her hands, purifying them. At this point the Devil says to the father, "WTF dude, this is unacceptable, you want your gold or not??" So her own father then chops off her hands, in order for her to be impure enough for the Devil to take. She then proceeds to cry on her bleeding stumps, and the Devil gives up. Her father is peeved, but figures he may as well keep his daughter around, being as he didn't get his moolah. She refuses to stay, preferring to risk a solitary life without hands, to one with her parents.

Keep in mind this was told over periods of time when successfully surviving as a young girl without a family meant living in the wilderness.

After many more traumatic experiences, love and betrayals, but remaining faithful to her own sense of morality, her hands eventually grow back on their own. In the end, she has her own life, and has earned the now-unbreakable trust of those she chose to love.
posted by fraula at 2:31 AM on June 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

And yeah, regarding scary, criminal types – this is why "role model" is an oversimplification. They do show diversity and give us the chance to put ourselves in their shoes – and say "erm yeah don't think I'll go that route, eek", empathize with their victims, wonder how things could have turned out differently, that sort of thing.
posted by fraula at 2:51 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, that Mental Floss listicle really mischaracterizes Hallgerd -- she is trouble, yeah, but not much more than Berthora or Gunnar. Teally, go read Njal's Saga -- Hallgerd is a really complex character who does good or evil based on her environment -- she has three husbands, the first disrespects her badly, the second trusts and works with her, and the third (Gunnar seems pretty much all about the sex. In the first one, Hallgerd is pretty rotten, in the second she's a pillar of the community, and, in the third, things spiral out of control. All in all, for a Medieval depiction of a woman, Hallgerd is a complex, nuanced character with a really tangled set of circumstances.

And Gunnar -- when you a marry a woman whose previous two husbands have died after slapping her, maybe lay off the wife-slapping, 'k?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:18 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

"From there, it gets EVEN WEIRDER. Joe goes searching all over the world for Corn Maiden, but nobody has seen her, not even God."

This. This is the point where I finally lost it.
posted by neckro23 at 3:33 AM on June 20, 2014

foobaz - "This list skews more towards awesome/offbeat than it does towards awful. Fredegund strikes me as the only evil one."

Did you read the bio for Nzinga Mbande?
posted by tdismukes at 8:00 AM on June 20, 2014

Fraula, I separated out religion from mythology because I think most people would agree it would be strange to have Disney princesses based on the Virgin Mary, the Biblical Matriarchs, Khadija, Fatima, etc. But when you get out of Judeo-Christian/"people of the book" religions, suddenly comparable religious figures are fairytale characters who should be friends with birds and have song and dance numbers.
posted by Sara C. at 9:08 AM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Mariya Oktyabrskaya, the first female tanker to ever win the Hero of the Soviet Union award, and her tank, Fighting Girlfriend

This lady is amazing. How has this not been made into a feature film, anime or otherwise? It has so much going for it - love, loss, war, revenge, determination, courage... it's a fascinating mix of the sentiment behind Cave Johnson's Lemon Speech and an epic Soviet tale with a female lead, set in the bleak, deadly serious world of the eastern front of WWII.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko's tale also needs to be told - she is regarded as the most successful female sniper in history, with 309 confirmed kills. She received the Gold Star, the USSR's highest honor, and was sent to the US to tour with Eleanor Roosevelt to tell her tales, and her bafflement at the reaction of Americans and their perception of gender roles during that tour is just as relevant today.
posted by chambers at 9:11 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Did you read the bio for Nzinga Mbande?

That bio pretty much accepts all the most lurid sexist and racist myths about Nzinga as established "fact." A better summary of her life can be found here.
posted by yoink at 9:51 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm hoping the references to 10,000 Horses in the latest text post refers to Khutulun, because EEEEEEE
posted by divabat at 11:12 AM on June 20, 2014

The most recent post (on Khutulun as divabat deduced) addresses the inaccuracies, especially the treatment of Nzinga, which have apparently been getting called out around the web. I think this is pretty exemplary as far as responses to this sort of callout go:
Like I’d said earlier, I’ve made corrections to almost all of the entries since initially launching this last Wednesday. I highly recommend going back to read, at bare minimum, the entries for Nzinga, Fredegund, and Sita. Many thanks to those who wrote in with additional information.

A word specifically on Nzinga. No other way to put it, I fucked up her writeup. I knew a fair bit of the more outlandish claims should be treated as rumor, and thought I’d indicated as such on the page. It was not until it had been up for maybe 3 or 4 days that I realized the language didn’t indicate that at all. It took me that long because nobody wrote me about it — maybe you reblogged me, but I’m new to tumblr, and trying to keep up with stuff here is like drinking from a firehose. I found out about this by stumbling upon communities of people (understandably) angrily talking about it, and about me, which was a bummer. I fixed it once I realized that and am trying to get to the bottom of the historical source of those rumors for future edits to her entry. If you take one thing from this, it’s that, if you see inaccuracies, let me know. If you take another thing from it, it’s that history’s hard to get right. I cover a bit of this in an interview here.

This site was originally just some cute doodles I did for my friends about some stories I’d read about online and poked around with at the library. I put it on tumblr so my friends could share with their friends, and suddenly it’s on Huffington Post and I’m being held up to a professional standards. I’m doing my best to meet them (I hope that shows in the incredibly long post about Khutulun). However, I should have done better from the get-go.

From the bottom of my heart, I apologize for getting her entry wrong. I want this to be a place where people can trust the information portrayed, and get interested in history themselves. From here out, I’m going to try and provide sources wherever possible. I hope that you’ll forgive me this inaccuracy and keep reading in the future.
posted by polymath at 11:28 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

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