Feminisney: “Lady and the Tramp” and “101 Dalmatians”

Disney’s going to the dogs in the best way possible.

To answer the Baja Men’s gripping question: Disney. Disney let the dogs out.

New to this series? Figure out what’s going on here!

In this pairing, we see two different styles of puppy love: One romantic, one parental. Both of these movies are apparently based at least partially on other stories: Happy Dan, The Whistling Dog by Ward Greene and The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. The interesting thing is that these were both huge commercial successes… while the film between, Sleeping Beauty, was a box office failure and got Disney to stop making fairy tale-based films for 30 years. But more on that film next week. For now, some h*ckin good dogs, Brent.

Lady and the Tramp

Look, I’ll rag on the movie a bit, but this might be Disney’s single sweetest scene.

While I mentioned the random story this was partly based on, Disney’d been working on this basically a The Prince and The Pauper-style Romeo and Juliet story for a bit. Not warring families so much as different classes and expectations. Oh, and also they’re dogs. Lady’s the pampered rich girl, Tramp is… the tramp. And the plot is them becoming romantically involved. Fancy couple has Lady, then a baby, dumb woman babysitter hates dogs, muzzles Lady because of her evil cats, Tramp saves her, more bad, more Tramp proving he’s a Good Doggo, puppies abound. Also, this movie is why I fell in love with Scotty dogs (Scottish Terriers). On with furry feminism!

Number of named characters with speaking lines: 11 (The cats are named in the credits as Si and Am, but their names are never said aloud.)
Number of named female characters with speaking lines: 4
Does the film pass the Bechdel Test? Nope. Two female characters talk, but they talk about Tramp or the baby.
Number of named non-white characters:
There are 2 Italians, but that’s still considered white.
Number of named non-white female characters:
0
Number of openly non-heterosexual characters:
0
Number of openly transsexual characters:
0
Is there a heterosexual romance?
2: Lady and Tramp/Darling and Jim
True Love’s Kiss?
No.
Number of female mentors or rulers?
0
Number of named female characters wearing “men’s clothes” (pants instead of dresses):
0 (With 0 men wearing “women’s clothes”.)
Main character male or female?
This one is a co-billing between Lady and the Tramp, though we spend more time with Lady.
Number of named female characters saved from peril by male characters:
1: Lady (Tramp saves lady from three rabid dogs) (Tramp save lady from the muzzle)
Number of times named female characters saved from peril by male characters:
2: Tramp saves Lady from three rabid dogs and from the muzzle.
Number of named male characters saved from peril by female characters: 0 (Though Lady helps save the baby.)
Number of times named male characters saved from peril by female characters:
0
Number of named female characters breaking gender stereotypes with their actions (performing “masculine” feats):
0
Number of named male characters breaking gender stereotypes with their actions (performing “feminine” feats):
0

Okay, first thing first: The human couple’s names are Darling and Jim, most often called Jim Dear. You think Darling is just something he calls her, but no. When they have the baby shower, the women all call her Darling, and not in a way that makes sense as an affectionate.

That weird naming convention out of the way, the film doesn’t have much to talk about in the way of feminism. There’s some strange sexual stuff going on with Peg acting almost like a vaudeville burlesque girl during her song “He’s a Tramp,” which is definitely an odd choice, and it’d be great to have more female characters, but there’s not much to discuss.

Except the weird racial stereotypes.

The cockney British bulldog, the Mexican chihuahua, the Russian philosopher Borzoi… I get all that, sure. But the Italian restaurateurs are incredible stereotypes vocally and in action… and the way the Siamese cats are drawn and voiced is even worse. Like caricatures of already racist propaganda from World War II. It’s kinda uncomfortable if you’re looking for these types of troubling trends, and combined with the other stereotypes planted throughout, it’s just… odd. And distracting from the film.

It’s not great.

That said, and we’ll dig more into it when I get to Hunchback of Notre Dame, but Trusty, who supposedly lost his sense of smell, is the first disabled character in Disney animated movies as far as I can tell.

Fun Notes:

Funny how they think a new puppy will understand what the newspaper (that magically disappeared) is intended for.

Am I wrong for thinking it’s kinda a dick move to get a brand new puppy and then immediately leave her alone for the night? Seriously. Show some affection, “Jim Dear”. Also known as the guy who didn’t appear to put air holes in the Christmas box she was packed in.

Watermelon and chop suey. Fascinating pregnancy cravings.

The thing I like least about this movie is the idea that dogs and their owners are sweet, while cats and their owners are dicks. But that’s a subject for a feline feminism column.

The cruelty of the muzzle is much more thoroughly covered in Zootopia, but it’s still pretty clear that Aunt Sarah is a crap person.

“[Apes] wouldn’t understand. Too closely related to humans.” Subtle evolution reference. Nice.

The real villain in this movie is stupidity and general dickishness. Specifically Aunt Sarah’s.

In Disney, if your nose is longer than your fingers, you’re probably evil. And ignorant.

101 Dalmatians

It’s funny because now they both have spots.

This story may even be simpler than the last. Dog sets up a meet-cute for “his pet” partly to get with the sexy lady dog. Puppies ensue. Evil woman wants to make fur coats out of them. Kidnaps puppies. Dogs and friends save puppies, plus some. Rejoice. This film actually saved Disney a lot of money as they used newer and far cheaper animation tactics like xerography (which explains why some of the backgrounds look hella lazy).

Number of named characters with speaking lines: 16 (excluding Nanny, the Captain, and the Colonel) 
Number of named female characters with speaking lines: 6
Does the film pass the Bechdel Test? Yes. Cruella and Anita talk about the puppies.
Number of named non-white characters:
0
Number of named non-white female characters:
0
Number of openly non-heterosexual characters:
0
Number of openly transsexual characters:
0
Is there a heterosexual romance?
2: Roger and Anita/Pongo and Perdita
True Love’s Kiss?
No.
Number of female mentors or rulers?
0
Number of named female characters wearing “men’s clothes” (pants instead of dresses):
0 (With 0 men wearing “women’s clothes”.)
Main character male or female?
Pongo plays the role of narrator, so male.
Number of named female characters saved from peril by male characters:
While some of the puppies are named, we won’t count their rescue (as there are male and female puppies saved by male and female characters), so 0.
Number of times named female characters saved from peril by male characters:
0
Number of named male characters saved from peril by female characters: 0
Number of times named male characters saved from peril by female characters:
0
Number of named female characters breaking gender stereotypes with their actions (performing “masculine” feats):
0
Number of named male characters breaking gender stereotypes with their actions (performing “feminine” feats):
0

While I actually think this film is better (the pacing is garbage, but the story is simpler and has an easier emotional arc to follow), there isn’t really anything to discuss with feminism. The film takes place almost entirely in the animal realm. I will say that it was nice to see Pongo and Perdita, our two dog protagonists, treated on equal footing… and I’ll also say I prefer the live-action 1996 film with Glenn Close even if just because they give both Anita and Cruella actual occupations. But other than one line 5 minutes to the end of the film — “Crazy woman driver.” She’d be a crazy driver were she a dude, too. — the film is fairly inoffensive and does a couple positive things.

Fun Notes:

In 2015, Disney decided to ban on-screen smoking in all of their movies intended for kids. Not a coincidence a picture from this film was used in the Variety article about it.

I was originally going to note that this film had the first villain song (insofar as it’s a song about a villain, not quite like the Disney Renaissance songs sung by the villain) for a Disney movie, but I was negligent last week. Peter Pan actually has the first villain song, if we accept those about villains.

Still, this one is a classic. And it’s frankly better than Hook’s song.

Cruella first reveals her evil nature not through her name or the noxiously evil-looking green cigarette smoke, but by putting out her cigarette in a cupcake. Who does that.

Perdita has 15 puppies. About 3 times the average litter. And Pongo and Roger look excited. Crazy peeps. Cruella has a point. How in the heck are these poor people supposed to pay for 17 dogs, themselves, and a nanny? Seriously. How.

Whose use of magic hand-rubbing is better? Mr. Miyagi saving Daniel-san’s leg in The Karate Kid or Roger saving Lucky’s life? Polls are open now!

Cruella literally has a Satan phone. The woman named Cruel Devil has a Satan phone. This may be a bit heavy handed.

I mean, look at that thing. There was some detail put into the “I AM THE VILLAIN IN CASE YOU FORGOT” phone.

Imagine if the Twilight Bark was real and got every single dog in a major city to start barking. In this way, cats are FAR superior.

At least three dogs in this movie are reused from Lady and the Tramp. Gonna see a lot of reused animation during this era of Disney films.

There is a ridiculous amount of time spent on this Twilight Bark sequence. 8 minutes just to get the message out of town.

What in God’s name was Jasper drinking that caused an explosion on contact with flame?

The puppies were definitely saved by a cat. This feels like an apology for how cats were treated in the last movie.

101 dogs. Forget the dog food. Think of the doggie bags you’d have on your walks.

No amount of newspapers being laid down will prevent this place from smelling of pee forever.

Next week, it’ll be time to look at the fairy tale movie that nearly killed fairy tales for the studio… best known for its fairy tales. Until then!

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