Friday, July 31, 2009

Reminder: Burgundians in the Mist

Just a little reminder that, from time to time, I do update my more "scholarly" Burgundians in the Mist blog. For those interested in Late Antiquity/Early Middle Ages, it may be worth a look. The centerpiece of it is my research into the Burgundians up to c. 540 AD, but I intend on touching upon other matters too (at least eventually!).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fairy Tales are for Girls

Scott Nokes recently went to Disney World and it got him wondering if "fairy tales necessarily gendered feminine". Why? Well...
Cinderella's castle does not dominate Fantasyland as you might expect. Instead, it is the centerpiece of the entire park, the hub around which everything else revolves. Main Street, then, does not open up onto the county courthouse, but onto a medieval castle.

It would be wrong, however, to over-read this as a medieval image. Instead, I think the dominant idea is one of the fairy tale, which is then associated with medieval architecture. The park is innundated with fairies and princesses, but you're hard pressed to find a knight, or happy peasants working the fields, or a monastery, or any of the other popular images associated with the Middle Ages. Fantasyland does have Excalibur in a stone that you can pose with, but there is little else Arthurian.

Consider too the cosplay. Little girls are dressed like fairies and princesses, but little boys dress as pirates -- not princes or knights or kings. Swords are either clearly pirate cutlasses or lightsabers (for nighttime play) -- but consider all the various Prince Charmings, and Robin Hoods, and other fairytale male characters that boys could be dressed as.
I noticed the same thing last year when my family was there, but I attributed it to Disney marketing its relatively current Pirates of the Carribean movies to boys. Unless and until they start cranking out movies about knights, it'll be pirate toys that attract the boys (aaargghhhh!!!).

Disney almost exclusively (and successfully) uses the princess motif to portray heroic girls/women in their movies and the easiest primary source from which to cull ideas to keep the revenue stream flowing is in fairy tales. Some of the best known fairy tales revolve around princesses and the themes of those tales still appeal to a broad audience (and I've got two of them!).

But I wonder what Disney's parks would look like had they developed Shrek? I know I've seen a lot of boys with the Shrek masks and, though not necessarily a role model for kids, I bet Disney's marketing department could have had some success with Puss-in-boots. So, maybe its only Disney-fied fairy tales that are for girls.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Southern Unionists

I guess intuitively I figured there must have been some southerners (even in the "Deep South") who didn't support secession or the Confederate cause. But there were more than I thought and one of them was Mississippi's Newton Knight (h/t):

The recovery of the life of a Mississippi farmer who fought for his country is an important story. The fact that southern Unionists existed, and in very large numbers, is largely unknown to many Americans, who grew up with textbooks that perpetuated the myth of the Confederacy as a heroic Lost Cause, with its romanticized vision of the antebellum South. Some historians have even palpably sympathized with Confederate cavaliers while minimizing—and robbing of credit—the actions of southerners who remained loyal to the Union at desperate cost.

One would never know that the majority of white Southerners had opposed secession, and that many Southern whites fought for the Union. In Tennessee, for example, somewhere around 31,000 white men joined the Union army. In Arkansas more than 8,000 men eventually served in Union regiments. And in Mississippi, Newton Knight and his band of guerillas launched a virtual insurrection against the Confederacy in Jefferson Davis’ own home state.

“There’s lots of ways I’d rather die than being scared to death,” Knight said, and it was a defining statement. At almost every stage of his life this yeoman from the hill country of Jones County, Miss., took courageous stands. The grandson of a slave owner who never owned slaves, he voted against secession, deserted from the Confederate Army into which he was unwillingly impressed, and formed a band called the Jones County Scouts devoted to undermining the Rebel cause locally. Working with runaway slaves and fellow Unionists and Federal soldiers caught behind enemy lines, Knight conducted such an effective running gun battle that at the height of the war he and his allies controlled the entire lower third of the state. This "southern Yankee,” as one Rebel general termed him, remained unconquered until the end of the war. His resistance hampered the Confederate Army’s ability to operate, forced it to conduct a third-front war at home, and eroded its morale and will to fight.

Apparently, the story of Knight is "soon to be a major motion picture."

UPDATE: Apparently, there is a scholarly controversy over the matter.