The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Ranking the Disney Princesses

disney princesses ranked

Now I could be real fancy and do the same thing I did for the villains, using all kinds of nuanced criteria, calculated factors, and science theory. But fuck it, I’m just going with my heart. After all, that’s what the princesses did, right?

From bottom to top:

Princess Aurora

She only has seventeen minutes of screen time. And she spends that either in a trance or dancing with owls and other vermin. Maybe that’s why Maleficent gets all the reviews, because it’s so easy to overshadow the protagonist.

Pocahontas

If it wasn’t for Aurora being such a piece of cardboard, she would get the award for worst. She’s preachy, hypocritical, and does nothing within her story arc. Her whole thing is “running from the steady path”, but she gets right back on it. Refusing the smoothest course gets people killed. Nice job breaking it, hero. People applaud her for her bravery, I call it not knowing risks, like playing with a bear cub, or getting right in front of a gun (or anything that happens in Wild). Oh, and Meeko’s a jerk too.

Snow White

She just looks like a creepy kewpie doll. I give a little credit that this was Disney’s first princess and she started many of the tropes (cleaning, woodland animals, singing, princes), but she looks like a mannequin and acts like a RealDoll. And the alabaster skin isn’t helping.

Cinderella

I give points for not falling into some of the more subtle trappings of the grouping. She’s not all sunshine and happiness with a kind word for everybody. She gets irritated at the clock, potshots the cat for ruining the clean floor, comments on her sisters’ “music lesson”, and broke the rules to get to the ball. (In my head canon, Cinderella pulled a Tyler Durden and actually coach-jacked someone to get there). She didn’t even go searching for a prince, she just wanted to have a good time.

Jasmine

Most people give Jasmine credit because he helped bloom their burgeoning sexuality. I don’t give points for that. It’s nice that she has enough self-worth to consider herself not a prize to be won… but she doesn’t do anything to distinguish herself to that end. She’s still the ball that Jafar and Aladdin are bouncing back and forth. A bare midriff does not a princess make.

Anna

She just had a Five Guys burder. “DAMN-DAMN-DAMN!”

The classic little sister. All hyper and plucky and clumsiness and adorkability. But after a while, wouldn’t that just grate on you? Yeah, she’s funny, but she can only accidentally hit you in the eye so many times. Thankfully, the point of Frozen is about her maturing, but her older sister makes us forget that she still exists.

Mulan

A tight little warrior. She’s not good at being a marriageable girl, but she’s a fine knight-in-shiny-underpants. But her lack of self-confidence gets annoying. Along with her stupid donkey-dragon that won’t shut up. Why couldn’t her and Pocahontas have switched sidekicks? And, look, I’m just gonna say it — she’s not that pretty. I like her resourcefulness, but her arc still hinges on refusing the steady path. Is she just a Chinese Pocahontas?

Tiana

I might have ranked her lower, but Doug Walker’s Top Ten Hottest Animated Women introduced me to a few factors I hadn’t thought of. Most of all that she’s such a workaholic (to the point of ridiculousness). And workaholics get shit done. I bet she’d still be baking beignets as a frog if she hadn’t changed back. And even though she has no relation to the bad guy, I like the Faustian bargain she’s faced with at the end. Plus her friend Lottie is hilarious.

Rapunzel

I consider Rapunzel an artsy version of Tiana. Whereas the queen of New Orleans learned business and food services, Rapunzel honed her art skills. If they went to college, Rapunzel would have gotten a B.A. and Tiana a B.S. The long hair is cool, but it would have been cooler if it moved on its own like Spawn’s cape and chains (the first trailer implied this was going to happen — maybe I just feel lied to). She has some of the same adorkability and clumsiness that Anna has, but it’s not as obnoxious. Maybe because she’s got Flynn to temper her out.

Belle

It’s hard to say no to a Disney princess who encourages reading. She wants to escape from the tiny town she’s in and she gets just that and more. But she’s a little snooty about it, both in the town and the castle. Even when the Beast allows her access to the castle, she still gets waited on hand and foot. It’s the servants trying to manipulate the two of them to get together. She doesn’t feel like she’s the avenue of her success. Her “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere…” sounds so cheesy now, especially that her entire character arc takes place in not that.

Moana

I think she needs more time to simmer and let us all contemplate her place in the context of Disney’s animated canon. Right now, we’re being blinded by the fact we’ve got a princess that’s shiny and new.

No, I was not talking about you.

Anyway, I like her as a combinations of Elsa and Anna + a dash of Lilo. If she’s got the chops to get the respect of her village at her age, then she’s all right by me. But she’s also got a demigod in her pocket and an ocean helping her out. Oh, don’t mind me, I’ve only got three-quarters of the world with my back. My only quibble is with her “chosen one” saddle she keeps melancholy over. Not even Harry Potter was this maudlin.

Elsa

I mean come on, can I say anything that hasn’t already been said? Sure you could make an argument that she’s a queen, not a princess. But she’s power and character flaws. All the adorkability of Anna plus all the struggle of a hero. She needs to find redemption. It’s her constant goal not to give into her power, her villainy, like the dark side of the force.

Merida

Poor Merida suffered from a clash of directors and production companies, but still managed to become a memorable character. I could watch her curly red hair fly around all day, it’s so beautifully animated. There’s bears, three little brothers, thick Scottish accents, swords, differing relationships with mothers and fathers, and independence.

Ariel

I had a “Little Mermaid”-themed party for my ninth birthday. And need I remind you I’m a boy. Nuff said.

Oh, you want more? She’s got it all: free-spirited, bright, pretty, young, curious, artistic, musical, selfless, protective, loyal. She’s got great sidekicks, great theme song, high intelligence, high relatability. If she was a D&D character she’d be overpowered.

Still not enough? Fine then, let me show you Exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and most damning — I. You ain’t gonna convince me otherwise.

The Best Books I Read in 2016

heart book
lindsey stirling only pirate at the party
The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling & Brooke S. Passey

(original review)

It’s funny. It’s light-hearted. It’s not too long. It’s poignant. It’s like Felicia Day’s book. And it’s full of her voice both tragic and comic. Grim at times, cheery at most. This is not the Kim Kardashian, Tina Fey, or even the Mindy Kaling. This isn’t the girl who made it (not yet, at least). This is the girl still hacking at that creativity mountain with a pick-axe.

masters of doom david kushner
Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner

(original review)

A fascinating slice of nostalgia for anyone who played computer games during the rise of the FPS and years of shareware. Find out how it all happened, who the revolutionaries were, and what happened behind the scene to find the rise and fall of a watershed era.

rejected princesses
Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by David Porath

(original review)

Christ, are they all non-fiction this year? Either that means I picked out some crap books or I’m starting to appreciate history. My original review gushed about it for more than four hundred words. I can’t think of what else needs to be said. If you want to read about heroes or women of diverse types, this is your go-to.

The Books I Read: November – December 2016

bookshelf books

rejected princesses david porath
Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by David Porath

I fell in love with this book immediately, which has never happened to me before. I am not an early adopter, and it’s the onus of every book to entice me. Of course, by the time I know that, I’m usually victim to time sink fallacy. But look at this cover. It looks like all the books in the old Disney movies. You know, like in Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty where a live-action book opens at the beginning and closes at “the end”. Now I have a book like that. I can look like I’m reading an old timey volume of forgotten lore (quoth the raven). Look at me — I’m gushing and I haven’t even opened the book yet.

snow white book

Inside is more than fifty stories of women who kicked ass and took names, folk tales you never heard of, tribal leaders, revolutionaries, women who outrode Paul Revere, outsmarted popes, outbattled kings, and outwitted empires. Each entry is about a page or two, so no princess outstays her welcome. They’re like wikipedia entries, but don’t duplicate the dry descriptions. Many include anecdotes and details that bring them to life as real people who existed. This is not a research/reference book. It’s entertaining and informative like The Daily Show or CGPGrey or Extra Credits. The author adds a unique flavor/voice that gives away how much he loves this subject and how much he wants to share it.

Plus, each entry has a beautiful illustration of the lady therein, rendered as a kind of Dreamworks/Disney princess. Like each woman has her own movie poster. It even includes notes on how the art includes culture and tidbits not in the story.

Now this volume does have a fault: there are maturity ratings and content warnings for each story, ranging from one to five. But even the tamest wasn’t appropriate for kids under ten (IMHO). In fact, just about all of them… well, this makes me sound like the most conservative of parents, but they acknowledge the existence of sex, use words like “plastered”, and assume some historical knowledge. It’s not that the content is vulgar or adult. It just brings up questions that I don’t need to answers yet. Which makes it kind of strange that this book wants to highlight famous influential women, but the content is too old for when girls are their most influenced. Maybe they can release a PG version for the younglings? I want them to learn about these people too. The earlier the better.

hollow city peregrine peculiar children random riggs
Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I dunno. It’s a basic quest story. The Peculiars need to get from Point A to Point B and they come up against obstacles in-between. The bulk of those obstacles take place in WWII London during the firebombings. It’s hard to get invested in the characters again because they never stay in one place for long. There are no “quiet moments” where they talk about what they’re feeling or their reactions or how they feel about each other. The kids bicker among themselves about where to go and what to do, but never about their relationships. They don’t use their powers much, except for invisible kid, so I have trouble telling any of them apart.

It’s more like exploring the “expanded universe” of peculiars. And this time around, the events are even more aimless. Like the author pulled out a photograph at random and had to write about it. As a result, this seems like random stuff that happened. Because by the end, it seems like it was all forced filler. No one has a plot arc and no one feels changed at the end. The bulk of what they learned is that World War II sucks (which I already knew).

neil gaiman view from the cheap seats
The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman

These are all the speeches, articles, blog entries, and forewords Neil Gaiman has written over the years. A lot of them were about stuff I know nothing about — old authors that he admired, music I don’t listen to, stories from his youth I’m too young to appreciate. It’s not a memoir, it’s a series of essays. Most of them are gushes about someone. There’s nothing about the writing process or creation in here, except the “Make Good Art” speech which everyone knows.

And it’s long. His writing style is unchanged — full of comfort and warmth, like when Luke Skywalker meets Obi-Wan Kenobi for the first time, and you know that this guy is one of the good ones. But I am not the kind of guy who has found solace in any of Gaiman’s influencers — Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, Will Eisner, etc. There are a few memorable ones, but as a whole, this is only for the most diehard Gaiman fan.

fuzzy tom angleberger
Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger

It’s… all right. It’s perfectly average. There are no groundbreaking ideas, no new techniques. It’s aimed at a younger age group than YA (Percy Jackson, Underland Chronicles, et al). There’s nothing controversial or gaspworthy inside. It’s less about the robot and more about everything surrounding him. Like the AI that runs the school being super Big Brother. It’s kind of like 1984 meets Double Dare.

There are some plot threads that taper off into nothingness, as if there were already sequels planned, which make me disgusted. I hate when marketers plan a series before anyone’s seen it. The robot doesn’t act much like a robot (I say that about every robot book, don’t I?). There was a perfectly serviceable opportunity to present some interesting STEM topics here, like “what IS fuzzy logic?” “how does/could AI work?” WWW: Wake is a book that better explores these ideas, and I had no inclination to continue that series (too metaphysical).

I know I’m complaining more than praising, but the things that the book does right are basic and safe. Harmless. I could really only recommend this book if you’ve got nothing else that’s flipping your cookie at the moment.

Reprise: A Disney Princess Adventure

reprise cover ariel elsa rapunzel princesses disney

So today is the premiere of what I was working on writing-wise for the past year/year-and-a-half.

Behold!

Reprise

by Eric J. Juneau

A Frozen/Tangled/The Little Mermaid crossover

Three princesses. Three curses. One adventure.

Rapunzel’s magic hair spontaneously grows back, Ariel regains her mermaid tail, and winter returns to Arendelle. One year after their most meaningful trials and triumphs, something has taken away what they worked so hard to gain. As they leave the safety of their own kingdoms, fate is about to drive these strangers together across oceans, over mountains, into the depths of the sea, and even through the river of time itself. But will their differences stop them before the curse can?

Pick your poison:

So you know that fan theory that Tangled, Frozen, and The Little Mermaid take place in the same world? Well, I ran with it.

The plot proper came to me when I was watching Frozen for the fifth time with my daughter. All of the sudden, the ideas came fast and furious. The problem? It’s fan fiction, and I need to be writing something publishable. But in the end, I thought “writing should be fun. It would be fun to write this. If it’s not fun, what’s the point?”

I intended to let it just be something I tinkered with between downtimes at work (like Gatecrash) but suddenly I was dedicating my lunch hour to it. Why? I guess after finishing “Defender” and trying so hard to make it publish-worthy, I needed something where I didn’t have to care what the world thought of it. I could just write like I wanted and not have to worry about rejection-resistance. Plus I wasn’t jonesing about any of my other novel ideas at the time.

The first draft was 200,000 words, so in the interest of time, I only did two drafts. I usually do four, with critiques in the middle (even when it’s fan fiction). As a result, it’s not as polished as it would usually be (see above comment about keeping it fun). I can’t name any off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are plot holes and continuity errors left in there. And that ending I was struggling with to the very end. It’s not 100% cohesive or ironclad, but it’s a serial. It’s more about the journey than the destination, n’est pas? (I don’t know what that phrase means, but it sounded right.)

So now what? Onto regular stuff. Publishable stuff, I mean. (At least writing with the intent to be published). It was nice not to have to think about “the Industry” for a while. And like I said, I’ve been in a slump lately. But I’m hoping that slump was burnout from this beast. Now that it’s in the world, let’s see what happens.

Princess Peach in Punch-Out? Preposterous!

boxing princess peach punch-out

I just saw on Punch-Out!! – Did You Know Gaming? (relevant section) that Princess Peach was planned to be in Wii Punch-Out. That fired all kinds of neurons in my brain, since it’s been thinking about women and stories and video games.

It can’t be denied that there a lot of video games out there that are unkind towards women. There are lots of games with good women too — well-rounded characters that exist beyond a simple goal to be obtained. Princess Peach is not one of them.

She has a presence in nearly every Mario game, but when she’s not a simple option for Mario Kart or placeholder, she’s simpering in a castle. Rosalina has more personality than her. She wasn’t even in the first New Super Mario Bros, and games where she has been playable and fleshed-out… have their flaws.

But if she was in Punch-Out, what would that mean? Is it feminist? Anti-feminist? I almost regret it not being included because the analysts would have a field day with that one, all for some silly in-game bonus. The equivalent of Marvel’s post-credits scenes.

Now on one hand, we’re clearly dealing with a man punching a woman. And there’s no doubt that, traditionally and visually, this is an unfair fight. A well-trained boxer versus a twiggy-armed princess. No count. One punch would cause a concussion.



On the other hand, this isn’t real life. This is a video game. Besides Princess Peach, you’re also fighting a flamenco dancer, a literal “turban-head” from India who wears Bengal tiger pants, a Russian who is LITERALLY chugging a bottle of vodka in his corner, and an obese island king who may or may not be totally human. Like Insane Clown Posse, you would have to be a moron to take this seriously. It’s cartoon violence.

But it’s still violence. And none of these characters are women. This is Nintendo. Not Mortal Kombat, not Tekken, not even Street Fighter. Any fighting females are doing it with parasols and frying pans against turtles and mushrooms*. You would NEVER see Princess Toadstool strapping on a set of boxing gloves. It’s not her identity. Which is probably another reason the feature was cut.

I’m hoping the real version would have had less cleavage than this.  Not practical.  Ask Ronda Rousey.

But when I think of the weirdness and novelty of competing with Princess Peach, I feel a small pang of regret for what could have been. When I think of what kind of girlish squeals she’d make (see Mario Power Tennis) or her twiggy arms power-punching, I can’t help but smile. And that’s right — I said “competing”. It’s not just a Grand Theft Auto-style beatdown. You’re on equal footing in a sports arena. In fact, moreso, because she would be a bonus character. A challenge.

The idea/theme of Punch-Out is that these characters are stronger than you. You’re a little guy taking on giant Turks and ‘roided out Dwayne “The Rock” Johnsons. And you beat them. That’s the charm of Punch-Out. But that charm is not present with Princess Peach. It is with Donkey Kong, which is why he fits.

So my big question is — is this okay? It’s a fair fight. You’re competing, not striking out of anger. For some reason, we have a thing in our culture where girls fight girls, boys fight boys. But god help you if a boy fights a girl, even if circumstances demand it. It’s kind of unfortunate because when it is provoked, it leads to some fascinating results.

There is truth to the fact that, by law of averages (for very wide definitions of average) men have more upper body strength.  Which by some odd corollary translates to “all women are weaker”. In honorable fighting situations, that makes sense. But sometimes, it’s against moral code for any manly heroes to fight someone weaker.  So it’s up to the woman to take out her equal, toe to toe.  While warriors on both sides to sit back and watch the “catfight”.

But this is a video game. And in nearly every video game, it’s you against the world. Everyone else, whether by virtue of strength, magic, or number, is stronger than you. And it’s your job to rise from underdog to champion. The human can think beyond logic, so programmers give all video game opponents an unfair advantage. If Princess Peach is one of those opponents, does that not make it fair? Does that not make gender an irrelevant issue?

I wonder Sarkeesian would say about that.

*Some exceptions, like Samus Aran and Super Smash Brothers, may apply. But Samus is wearing a genderless, identity-less power suit, and the other is the digital equivalent of smashing toys together.

Cinderella’s Ending is Bullshit

castle icon

Am I the only one who realizes that the ending to Cinderella is bullshit? I’m talking about the Disney movie. There’s no way that shit would hold up in any court.

You know what happens? Cinderella is the last person in the kingdom. Lady Tremaine trips the bumbling assistant. He stumbles and the glass slipper goes crashing into a million, billion pieces. That should be the end of the story. We can’t try the slipper on anyone else.

But then Cinderella says everything’s all right. “You see, I have the other one.” And they put it on her and it fits and happily ever after.

Why, look at this conveniently duplicated slipper I happen to have with me.

How do they know she didn’t have that glass slipper all along? Why couldn’t she have her glassmaker friend whip up something, knowing her exact dimensions and slip it to her for a piece of land and a few serfs to be named later? But no one questions it. No one wonders why she has a perfect duplicate of the glass slipper that EVERYONE in the kingdom knows that the prince is looking for. Hasn’t the prince ever heard of forgery? There’s no better con than the long con.

You know what would work better as a legal defense? Since Cinderella’s the last person in the kingdom who hasn’t tried on the slipper, by process of elimination, she must be the one.

And by the way, what would this even feel like?  Aren’t heels bad enough?  I imagine glass sneakers wouldn’t feel very good.

Update

ariel rapunzel elsa drawing disney

Do you know what I’m writing now? Outlines. You know what for? Fan fiction. Know what it’s about? Disney princesses. You know why? I don’t. It just seems to be where my brain wants to go right now.

And I’m going to let it, because the short stories have been a disaster lately, and I have nothing to right. When I look at my list of potential story ideas, I just see a bunch of dead ends. Cool concepts, but nothing really fleshed out. Nothing that says “This is something that could appear in Clarkesworld or Asimov’s”. It’s just goofy shit that’s not fun to write. I don’t even feel like writing “Gun x Sword” anymore. I’ve reached the point near the climax where it feels like drudgery to get to. Where the story falls apart at the seams.

So what then? Princesses. Sure, why not? It seems to be what I want to write right now. Sometimes it’s better to let a story pour out of you than trying to force something. Besides, writing should be fun. And if it’s not fun, then there’s no reason to do it.