Last, we were watching the “Beach Ball” episode of Bubble Guppies, a little romp in which Cinderella’s a bartender lobster at a beachside cabana, and her name is Sandy.
The evil brunette lobsters don’t want her to go to the Beach Ball.
As the episode commenced, we had this conversation.
Three-year-old: “Who’s Sandy?”
Five-year-old: “Sandy is that girl in the real-people movie. Grease.”
Me: “Yes… Yes, she is.”
FYO: “She was good except when she went all curly-haired and wore black. That was weird. Why did she do that?”
Me: “Well, that was weird. Because she was trying to be something she wasn’t for a boy.”
FYO: “But maybe she really liked that.”
Me: “That’s true… In which case, it’s OK. If she really did, deep down, want curly hair and to wear all black. But if she did it just for a boy or anyone else, that’s not OK. But if she really did like it…”
Me: “Is that too much?”
When I was five and watching Grease, I thought Sandy’s transformation totally kicked, because she got a great song out of it, and clearly John Travolta liked it, so it must be right. Then I turned twenty and was all, WTF, what’d she do that for? She went all slutty just to get a guy. So uncool. And now, my five-year-old has me realizing I’ve been judging Sandy’s life choice too harshly.
It reminded me of a blog (to which I will not link) on Slate, I think, where the writer had deep reservations about Elsa’s makeover at the end of “Let It Go.” It sexualized her, it said, and it also was expressing that for a girl to get her power, she has to have a slinky little walk and let her hair down in a way that the boys will totally love. (This writer also said the song is setting up Elsa to be the film’s villain, which makes me wonder if we watched the same movie.)
After two theater viewings, multiple DVD viewings and countless “Let It Go” YouTube replays, I have come to the satisfying conclusion that Elsa got into her bangin’ slink-dress because she could. She spent her whole life barricaded away by sucky parents, her hair all scrinched up on her head, wearing giant regal dresses that probably weighed a ton, covering up every bare inch of her body so she didn’t accidentally shame the family with her horrible secret. So what’s she do when she busts out of that? Gets herself a light, flattering, dramatic gown that allows her freedom of movement and doesn’t make her feel like a prisoner in her own body. I’d have done it, too. In fact, I did do it.
Elsa’s physical manifestation is her final fuck-you to her parents and fear: I will be who I want, do what I want, and I will look how I want to look. She’s not just exhibiting her talents, she’s wearing them out there, plain as day. It’s the equivalent of the emo teenager finally having the nerve to wear eyeliner to school, the man who finally busts out the high heels, the woman who realizes she can wear anything she fucking wants because it’s her body, and she can.
So I offer my sincere apologies to Sandy. I’ve been slut-shaming you all these years, and it took a five-year-old to expose it. You wear whatever the hell you want. After all, I never judged Danny for lettering in track. Shame on me.