17 January 2012

you look like belle, you know

The conversation started innocently enough: with talking about Margaret Thatcher and the new movie The Iron Lady.

Actually, when discussing Margaret Thatcher with people from England and Ireland, the conversation isn't exactly innocent. There are Very Strong Opinions and Reactions from people who were old enough to appreciate or suffer from her policies.

While previews for The Iron Lady have made me want to learn more about Margaret Thatcher, I certainly didn't know enough on Saturday night to discuss it with my boss {the English man} and the girlfriend of one of the surgeons I work with {the Irish woman}.

We were in the bar at The Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek, Colorado, where my company was running a medical education meeting for spine surgeons. The first day's sessions were over, and we were passing the time until our dinner reservations at Beano's Cabin—this rustic-sounding restaurant high up on the mountain that is anything but rustic {as many things in richly quaint Beaver Creek are}. Remember this: Any restaurant where the prices aren't printed on the menu is not rustic.

"When I first watched The Iron Lady, I was shocked at how churned up I got," the Irish woman was saying to the English man as I took a sip of my hot buttered rum. I will order pretty much anything that has butter in the name, and a hot buttered rum sounds so perfectly ski resort-y.

"Is that right? I haven't seen it yet, but how interesting that it would bring that all up in you," the English man responded.

My contributions to the conversation at this point could've been:
  • "When he says 'bring all that up in you,' what is he referring to?" Yes, I could've asked an Irish person to explain the complicated relationship of the English and the Irish over a drink with butter in it—all in time for us to make our dinner reservation.
  • "I saw the musical Billy Elliot, and there's a song in there called 'Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher.' A giant puppet caricature of Margaret Thatcher comes out on stage as kids dance around it singing, 'Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher / We all celebrate today / 'Cause it's one day closer to your death!' Can you explain the miners' strike and the role Margaret Thatcher played in it?"
  • "I love Meryl Streep, who plays Margaret Thatcher in the movie. Did you see her as Julia Child?"
  • "I read once that Margaret Thatcher went through some sort of image makeover where she was told to give up her Tory hats. Why are Tories associated with hats?"

None of those seemed like good conversation-producing questions, so I went with the most obvious: "But The Iron Lady just came out yesterday, and I was at a reception with you last night—I know you couldn't have seen it already."

"Oh, I got a screener of it," the Irish woman told me.

"A screener? That means you're part of that guild that gets to vote on the Oscars. I've never known anyone who's in a guild—perhaps because they went out with the Middle Ages, along with chivalrous knights and people dying from the plague. But you're in THAT guild. What do you do?"

I was thinking she looked like someone who could've played a friend of Minnie Driver's in Circle of Friends. She could've been in the circle and the guild.

Maybe the Irish woman would introduce me to Minnie, and then I would say to her, "Oh, hey, Minnie! When Good Will Hunting came out, I was in high school and everybody said I looked like you. Can we be best friends?"

And she'd say, "Sure! And you can be best friends with Bonnie Hunt, too—ever since we worked together on Return to Me, we go out for dinner and watch girly movies and drink red wine together all the time."

I couldn't believe my luck: two new best friends, and I wasn't even finished with my hot buttered rum yet.

The Irish woman said, "I worked for Disney."

Minnie and Bonnie were immediately forgotten, along with how I'd have to change my name to Kaminnie to fit in their group.

I started gauging the Irish woman's age and guessing when she would've worked at Disney. Could it possibly have been during the Golden Age?

I'm sure every generation thinks that the Disney Golden Age was during their childhood {except for now, when Disney seems more focused on churning out laugh-tracked shows of teenagers with crazy hair, houses on beaches, and a lot of free time on their hands}.

And when Walt Disney was running the show probably should be considered the Golden Age of Disney.

But can we all just agree that the mid-90s will never be surpassed when it comes to Disney? They will also, for the record, never be surpassed when it comes to stonewashed and tight-rolled jeans, kinked hair, and shoulder pads. {In other words: no one should ever try to make the mid-90s retro cool.}

The mid-90s saw Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King coming out of Disney.

In my hometown—before the movie theater moved out to the mall from its downtown spot on Third Street—the line for a Disney movie on opening weekend stretched around the block. Considering that all of downtown is only a few blocks long, I consider this major scientific evidence that the Golden Age of Disney was in the mid-90s, at least in Iowa.

Reaching across the table toward the snack mix, I casually asked the Irish woman, "So, did you work on, say, Beauty and the Beast?"

"I animated Belle. Do you know how annoying it was to do that ballroom scene?"

I didn't have a good answer for that because the ballroom scene—when Belle and the Beast twirl around that room with windows as tall as the Eiffel Tower—was how I, as a little girl in elementary school, imagined Prom would be.

Thankfully, I'd let go of that misconception by the time I actually went to Prom, which was held in my high school's gym. Forget soaring windows; this was where I did sit-ups and played dodgeball and where I once refused to rappel down a tower the National Guard had brought in.

"It's all that twirling, around and around with her hair flying and dress going back and forth. Then she smiles and looks up at him. Every little movement, another little drawing."

Oh, yes, every little movement and the twirling and the smiling and the dress with the full skirt. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Belle because:
  • She lived in France.
  • She lived in a castle that had a library where I'd never get bored.
  • She had brown hair, just like me. This was important: both Belle and Ariel {The Little Mermaid} shared a longing for a different life, which, for some reason, as a child in Iowa, I resonated with. But Ariel had red hair {and hung around sea creatures all day}. How could I relate to red hair {and the smell of lobster}?
  • She got to twirl around in a yellow dress with puffed sleeves.

The Irish woman stopped talking about the ballroom scene and looked at me. "You look a lot like her, you know, love. You could've been the model for Belle."

And with that—the third best compliment I've ever received—I was suddenly twirling in that ballroom, wearing that yellow dress, and singing about how I want adventure in the great wide somewhere.

I realize it shouldn't affect me so much to be compared to a cartoon character.

I realize that I'm 30 and not a little girl anymore who's standing in line on Third Street in Burlington, waiting to get into the newest Disney movie.

I realize that there are lots of issues tied up in how Disney presents female characters: dependent on men, smart but usually more known for their looks, impossibly small waists.

But none of that mattered at that moment: the lady who animated Belle said I looked like her.


I will now start looking for a cottage in France to call my own, and I'm going to start wearing bows all the time.

Or maybe I'll just watch this over and over: a video of "Belle."

1 comment:

  1. How has no one commented on this?! I would have melted down into drivel and just giggled like a fangirl.



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