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By Frederica Mathewes-Green


The Women of Disney

In the middle of my life's journey I came to myself alone in a dark plastic poncho at the Haircuttery.

It was a few days after my forty-third birthday, and I had not received a Cinderella watch packaged in a tiny, clear-plastic glass slipper. For a while there I received one every birthday, because I kept losing them. That was some years ago. At that time, I intended to be a grown-up lady one day and wear a crown and a long, fancy dress. Everything about me would get bigger, except my feet; these would get smaller and smaller until they were the same size as Cinderella's, and I could wear her tiny shoes. I think I kept losing the watches in secret hope of collecting two shoes and making a pair. However, I kept losing the shoes, too, so my plans were dashed.

In the middle of my life's journey I see in the big black-framed mirror a grown-up lady getting an E-Z Kare haircut, wearing E-Z Kare clothes, which conceal an E-Z Kare figure. I had forgotten my plan to be Cinderella about now, and at this point, it's probably too much trouble.

Like an army of other little girls over several generations, my idea of female loveliness was shaped by the women of Disney. I imagine that cohort resembling the star-stables maintained by the big movie studios of the thirties: glamorous women lunching ostentatiously together, sipping champagne, flipping cigarette ashes in each other's feather boas.

The Disney women, ageless, still meet covertly in a private club overlooking the Pacific. The waves crash on the rocks below, and they lift toasts in their little three-fingered hands. To us. We taught a million little girls what womanhood is like. Too bad none of them could make it. Then they snicker.

With these thoughts in mind, I sat down with my teenage daughter, Megan, to review the oeuvre produced by these women over the years. The first full-length Disney animation feature was Snow White, released in 1937. Such an extended stretch of animation, a particularly labor-exhaustive form of filmmaking, ...

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