Feminist Films that I Love: a hopefully continuing series#1: Legally Blonde
#2: Lilo and Stitch
Lilo and Stitch (2002) is my favorite Disney film because of its strong story, excellent characters, humor, and themes. I was inspired to rewatch this film after downloading kuwdora’s VividCon vid Love Letter
. It is the only Disney animated film I’d call a feminist film without hesitation, and that is largely in comparison to the other films I’ve seen, that rely on heterocentrist tropes and narrower definitions of family than this film does. But rather than tear those films down for their flaws, I’d rather concentrate on what I love about Lilo and Stitch:
--Found family. One of my favorite tropes! Stitch explicitly learns about family. "O'hana means family, family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten." I love how he learns from The Ugly Duckling
--Bodies: We see a variation in bodies, human and alien. I especially love the scene where Lilo looks at her wall of people photos and says, “Aren’t they beautiful
?” She has pictures of all kinds of people on her wall. If you look at the way Nani is drawn, she has big, powerful legs, and relatively small breasts. Image at IMDb
Nani, Lilo, David, and Mr. Bubbles are all people of color. We see bodies in action-- Nani runs a lot, uses tools and carries things; all of the family surf; David twirls and breathes fire; Lilo hula dances; and also there is hugging and singing. Stitch is constantly in motion, climbing, destroying, playing a ukelele.
--Domesticity. This in particular reminds me of Miyazaki films, which I’ve also been consuming lately: images of the house and household tasks, laundry, cooking, toys, books. This may be a far-out adventure tale, but it is one that takes place at home. And fighting! When Lilo and Nani fight, it is domestic and familiar. The way this film integrates science fiction with the everyday familiar is really quite remarkable.
--Lilo and Stitch are similar characters: destructive misfits, both in need of socialization, both in need of security, belonging, and love. Neither of them fit in, but they find family with each other.
--I like how everyone tries
so hard in this movie, and yet still sometimes (often) they fail. That feels so true to life. Nani is trying as hard as she can but still failing. David and Lilo, and even Pleakley and Jumba, all characters trying really hard but still failing. Sometimes life just does not go your way.
--Consider the women/girls/female characters: starting with the grand Councilwoman, stately, imposing, this woman gets shit done. Lilo and her so-called friends, who are cliquish and catty just like I remember from my own elementary school days. Nani, who is responsible for a home, a job, a family, and who might like to have a social life sometime; who is desperately trying to keep her little family together.
--This film is feminist not only because we see women and girls doing a variety of things and getting to be realistic people, but also because we see male characters getting the same treatment: not having to conform to stereotypical male roles. Mr. Bubbles the social worker; David, the earnest friend with the surf board; and the male aliens, only one of whom (Captain Gantu) is ever villified. Pleakley seems kind of queer to me.
--It’s also worth pointing out that Stitch is a research project, thought to be a monster by his society, totally thrown away by people who were supposed to be responsible for him. I like what the film says about him, I like that Lilo is the one who sees something in him, one outcast to another, one lonely person in need of a friend. A movie about platonic friendship like this is often about male bonding or a boy's journey, but in this movie it's about a girl and a monster. And I like what the film is saying about science here, or creation-- what we create is out of our hands, unpredictable, autonomous. What do you get when you've created a monster? Maybe not a monster at all.