“Is Mary Melancholy a terrible feminist and does she set the feminist movement back to the Snow White 1930s era?”
This is a tricky question to answer. Mary is a parody of a Disney princess and is thereby, inhabiting the same anti-feminist qualities as Snow White, Belle, Ariel and Jasmine. Belle tolerated violent outbursts and manipulative behavior from the Beast. Jasmine tolerated Aladdin’s chronic lying. Ariel figured it was better to seduce a man with looks and body language than to talk and show her personality. And Snow White and Sleeping Beauty…well, let’s just say they thought rape was kind of romantic.
Of course, being an anti-feminist character didn’t make these princesses unwatchable or uninteresting . It simply made them complicated heroes. Keep in mind that more modern Disney feminists—like Pocahontas, Mulan and Merida—are evolutions of the old Disney princess archetype. They are socially-aware improvements made over time, something that we only now have the environment in which they can thrive.
This original Disney Princess archetype was based on stories from the Brothers Grimm, who didn’t understand modern feminism in the 21st century, but simply created a fictitious world of horror and lore, along with moralistic stories that were intended to scare children—not promote positive role models. It is a very trendy thing today to paint every female character as intelligent, confident and kick-ass; a world conquering, Amazonian female that just happens to look beautiful and be 17 or 18 years old.
In that respect, Mary Melancholy was conceived as an anti-hero, one that would be polarizing because she wore her weaknesses in plain view and tolerated great injustice from other people. In addition to being self-conscious, self-loathing and depressive, she is also socially awkward, in a time where every mainstream female character knows exactly the right thing to say. In other words, Mary is a fairly realistic character in an imaginary world, and the type that many will find provoking because she hits far too close to home.
She represents everyone’s worst social fear—people laughing at you, pushing you around and dominating your life because they’re so smart and you’re so stupid. It’s not true but it’s the illusion that you buy into, if you trust people too much. Mary, much like my other literary anti-heroes, is a woman you will instantly despise or admire, because there is something very Christ-like about her. She is the feminine Jesus Christ. A prophetess. A Gandhi-esque figure, living in the shadow of her Goddess, who was the perfect representation of feminism and falling short of that.
To say that Mary should be more of a feminist is…
(1) Not realistic, because very few teenagers have a full sense of their identity or where their own unique feminism will take them in life. It’s a gradual learning process that culminates in their 20s or 30s.
(2) Is contrary to the suffering of Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and other righteous figures (or self righteous, if you’re a cynic), who tolerated violence from humanity so that they could teach a lesson in showing great mercy.
(3) Is taking for granted that in modern society we have the gift of mass communication, an age of tolerance, and a politically-correct mafia that will come to your aid whenever you are being oppressed. This was not always the case in human history; certainly not in medieval times or the renaissance, where many Disney films are set. Even growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I can definitely say many minority lifestyles were oppressed by the mainstream and it did seem that when you “came out”, you really didn’t have a friend in the world. To me, feminism is not about society coming together to help you because it’s the right thing to do…it’s about you, standing alone, and realizing that you can be better than them. You can be stronger than you think you are. And you can aim higher.
(4) To misunderstand the nature of the “Anti-Hero”. The Evil Princess is a literary work and an impostor genre piece. To be anyone else but Mary would be untrue to her character.
In episode 2 of the “The End of the Magical Kingdom: The Saint of Science”, Mary will continue to grow as a moral activist and pacifist, and will continue to provoke people who stubbornly see morality as black or white.