Which witch is which?

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Some witches are good and some are bad, but they’re all proficient at casting spells.

Here’s Sabrina the Teenaged Witch hoping to win a race:

Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter tries to defend Hogwarts:

Maleficent meets Sleeping Beauty:

And the Wicked Witch of the West hopes to regain those ruby red shoes:

Which witch is your favorite?

How to be a cake decorator

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What you’ll need: buttercream frosting, fondant

Songlist: Cake’s rendition of I Will Survive

Further reading: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Yummmmmmm

I already posted once before about cakes, but they’re such an important topic (right?) that I thought cakes warranted their own week.

This is a particularly good week to talk about cakes, because today I’m heading to my cousin’s wedding in Wyoming. My mom, along with three other women, has been enlisted to create a cake for the reception. Much to my pleasure, she went through a cake-making frenzy last week to find the perfect recipe, which meant that I had to be enlisted as a taste-tester. Not a problem.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for cake. Whenever I accompanied my mom on grocery shopping trips I looked forward most to the bakery aisle where, if I was lucky, someone would be decorating a cake. I loved then–and still love–the delicate sugar roses and perfectly twisted piping that decorators create out of globby tubes of icing.

One of my childhood friends still remembers my birthday parties for their unique cakes. Everyone else always got Disney princess cakes (cakes are the medium most perfect for replicating Disney stories in their bright, sugary un-wholesomeness) complete with figurines you could take off and play with. My cakes, though, were never just sheet-cakes-from-the-grocery-store. I had a cake in the shape of a butterfly one year, and my brother once got a castle complete with turrets made of ice cream cones. And, well, yes, I got a Little Mermaid cake another year, but my dad hand-drew Ariel and her friends and cut them out of cardboard.

Buddy concentrates on a wedding cake in the likeness of the Leaning Tower of Piza

My family has gotten more health-conscious over the years, and cake has been all but banished from our kitchen. However, we still get our cake thrills through the amazing show Cake Boss (yep, already wrote about this too) which takes cake decorating to a whole other level. Sure, Buddy, the eponymous Boss, can do flowers and piping. But he can also create the entire city of New York out of cake complete with fireworks or flashing lights, or replicas of prehistoric mammals, or a cake from which a person pops out or birds fly free.

We joked about what kind of cake Buddy would bring to my cousin’s wedding: probably a replica of the Tetons complete with a minuscule working chairlift and skiers coming down the mountains. Buddy surely would not make the kind of cake my mom’s bringing: vegan, gluten-free, free of processed sugar. But as much fun as cake-mountains capped with real snow would be, I can assure all the wedding-goers that my mom’s cake will be just as excellent. I should know: I taste-tested it. And then I taste-tested it again.

Disney’s dead mothers

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Disney loves the evil stepmother

When Snow White enters the Dwarves’ house she is shocked by the messiness.  Saddened, she utters, “Maybe they have no mothers.”  This being the case, the Dwarves are in good company at Disney. Snow White herself does not have a mother (only an evil step-mother), and neither do the princesses Cinderella, Ariel of “The Little Mermaid,” Belle of “Beauty and the Beast,” Jasmine of “Aladdin,” or Pocahontas.

I started looking into this topic for a Women and Gender Studies course in college and found some interesting research. In 2003, researchers coded twenty-six classic Disney films for their portrayal of families. They found that mothers are often marginalized and that love at first sight is a very prevalent theme. Love at first sight occurs in eighteen of the twenty-six films, and Mulan is the only “princess” who develops a friendly relationship first with the man she later falls in love with (and that only happens because she disguises herself as a man–heterosexuality is the unquestioned norm in Disney). Only five of the twenty-six films showed mothers as both primary caregivers and protectors, these films being “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” “101 Dalmatians,” “The Lion King,” and “Tarzan.” Interestingly, or perhaps startlingly, this means that only animal mothers are depicted as being strong influences in their children’s lives while human mothers, when they are present, are somehow flawed.

Tiana, the first Disney princess who's...black?

Disney seemed to take note of these and other criticisms when it came out with 2009′s “The Princess and the Frog.” Tiana, the eponymous princess, garnered excitement for being the first black Disney princess, but she is also the first princess with a living mother and a dead father. But how far has Disney really come? Tiana spends much of the movie as a green frog, a fact that was widely lambasted, and her dream of opening a restaurant is based on her dead father’s dream–thus, even though he’s deceased, her father is arguably a stronger influence on Tiana’s future than her living mother.

As I mentioned yesterday, Disney princesses are the primary idols for young girls in American society. These princesses, though, are forever inscribed within the male hierarchy, as they lack female role models themselves and are only saved from their often pitiable conditions by kisses from princes. What does it do to our daughters to continually expose them to the themes of impotent motherhood and male saviors?

How to be a princess

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What you’ll need: royal bloodline and/or royal boyfriend, tiara

Songlist: I Wanna Be Your Lover by Prince, ABBA’s Dancing Queen

Further reading: Knit Your Own Royal Wedding, Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries

The American Dream, as marketed to little girls

Ah, the irony of American girlhood. We are born into a capitalist democracy without need for actual princesses, yet our only role models are fictional Disney princesses. Cinderella and Belle, a maid and a bookish daughter of a poor inventor, respectively, are our paragons of upward mobility. The American Dream is strong in the hearts of young girls: we believe in the possibility of wild prosperity and success, just so long as the right prince falls in love with us.

I had a princess birthday party when I turned 6. My friends wore their princess dresses (we all had them), we watched “Sleeping Beauty,” and we played the board game Pretty Pretty Princess. The princess impulse continued through junior high: at 13 I wore my mother’s lovely, poofy-shouldered bridesmaid’s dress for Halloween and had a raging crush on Prince William.

When I confessed this crush to a friend, she sneered. You’re a commoner, she told me. And you’re American. Prince William has to marry a royal British girl (she was almost right). I was devastated at this news, but kept up hope: didn’t Disney movies teach me that love could overcome obstacles? A kinder friend of mine assured me that if things didn’t work out with Wills he would propose marriage: his family is from Palau and he is something like tenth in line for the Palauan throne.

My future Prince Charming

That friend and I have fallen out of touch (and Facebook tells me he’s got a seven-year-old daughter), Prince William is getting married on Friday, and Prince Harry is a royal cad, but maybe all hope is not yet lost. The Gloss has a helpful guide to still-eligible princes of the world and I must say that Sheik Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum looks like a real catch. He’s the next Emir of Dubai and he’s a poet. Now that I think about it, Jasmine is the only Disney princess with a tiger for a best friend. So long American Dream, hello Arabian Dream.

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