I swear, I really do like this character. A lot.
But just because you like something doesn’t mean you can’t recognize its issues, especially when it has as much influence as a Disney character does.
So buckle in. We’re going in for Round Two of the Honey Lemon Debate.
Not too long ago, I wrote about the white-washing of Honey Lemon and it quickly became my most popular post. As such, it invited a lot of debate about whether or not retroactively calling Honey Lemon a Latina character without giving any indication of such during the movie was a problem, or if my calling it a problem was the problem. A lot of people had some interesting points, and while I stand by my original article, I am thrilled with the discussion and debate it invited.
There was one part of the article, however, that I didn’t expect to draw so much controversy.
“I don’t mind that [Honey Lemon is] practically a carbon copy of Rapunzel…or that she inexplicably chooses to wear heels to a fight scene…okay I lied. These things also bother me greatly. I mean, c’mon lady, you’re seven feet tall…why do you need heels!? To make your non-existent butt look better? You have a one inch circumference! You’re gonna get your friends killed because you tripped and fell while wearing your Elton John wannabe pumps. You’re trying to take down a super-villain here; put on some sneakers.”
This comment was made to be a snarky joke, as I am wont to do, but some people did rightly point out that it did poke a little too much fun at people who are naturally very skinny. They, of course, have the right to wear heels, and I was very glad that Disney chose to depict a different body type (the “bean pole”), a body type which many women have that isn’t as celebrated as the big-boobs-small-everything-else characters depicted in animation that almost nobody in the world actually has.
However. More people objected to the idea that I was shaming Honey Lemon for wearing heels to a fight with a super-villain.
So I feel I need to clarify where my feelings about Honey Lemon’s heels come from.
It is patently ridiculous that Honey Lemon would be wearing heels to a fight against an unknown super-villain with a robot army at his disposal. I don’t care if you are the best heel-wearer on the planet. You will be compromised in heels. You will fight better in sneakers. You will easily sprain your ankle and unnecessarily hurt yourself, your mission, and your teammates, because you wore high heels instead of a more versatile footwear. When Honey Lemon is in the lab, or going out with friends, I’m thrilled for her to wear heels. I liked that the movie showed that Honey Lemon was feminine and smart, and that one trait complemented and did not negate the other. That’s great! Well done, movie. But the heels in a fight scene are still a problem.
Women need to be allowed to look and function like human beings without feeling shame, and the fact of the matter is that in any logical world – which almost every film regardless of genre does try to exist – Honey Lemon can’t function the way she needs to in a pre-meditated fight scene while wearing heels. And before you try to argue, if Katniss Everdeen can’t do it…
…then no one can.
But the animators still drew Honey Lemon in heels because it looks more visually appealing in today’s context.
Because the truth of the matter is that we have an unspoken, cultural belief that the most important thing a woman can be is attractive. Media seems to believe that if they’re not, then why are they worth watching? So we sacrifice any sort of utility in action films for the sake of looking sexy.
Think I’m making a mountain of a mole hill? Well, Honey Lemon is just one of many examples of a pervasive problem. Take one of my favorite shows, which, like Big Hero 6, is based off of Marvel comics, Agents of Shield. Besides brilliant plot lines, emotional gut wrenches, fantastic action sequences, well placed cameos and a shit ton of fantastic one liners, the show depicts many different capable, dynamic, and flawed women — including women of color. It fills me with unending joy, much like Big Hero 6. But it has a serious issue. This is what the women look like in fight scenes….
First of all, yeah, that’s Mulan kicking ass and taking names. Someone write that fanfic.
Second of all, any woman who has exercised even a little can spot the problem here. Most men probably won’t.
Here’s what women in combat actually look like:
Their hair isn’t perfectly curled into hot-girl-beach-waves. It’s pulled up and out of the way, because no matter how awesome your bangs are, your peripheral vision is better. Fake eyelashes look super cute…until they fall out during a fight, blind you, and get your entire team killed. Women in combat ain’t got time to contour their make-up. They’re saving lives.
Now, here’s what the men of Agents of Shield look like fighting:
And here’s what real men in combat look like:
Little more similar, right? True, there are still incredibly attractive men in Agents of Shield…
…but they aren’t held to the same level of “enhanced” attractiveness that can only be found when makeup and hair stylists fix you up before each take.
Yes, animators/directors have a right for things to look nice, pretty, and appealing. But, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, nothing sends messages more clearly or strongly than media. And seemingly small things, like fake eyelashes and excessively high heels during fight scenes, set an impossible beauty standard in a world that tells women that their worth is intrinsically tied into their physical beauty.
Ironically, a lot of the people defending Honey Lemon’s shoe choices were women. But I know exactly where they are coming from. I disagree with them in this instance, because I think it sends a bad message, but the women defending Honey Lemon’s footwear are doing so because they’re tired of hearing shit for caring as much about their physical appearance as society tells them to. Because the great cruel joke is that, as much as women are pressured to match this unattainable standard of beauty, we are condemned for actually making an effort to do so.
“Your feet wouldn’t hurt so much if you didn’t insist on wearing those heels. Why do you need so many shoes anyway?”
“You take forever to get ready. Stop pampering so much!”
“Oh relax, it’s just a little rain. So your hair gets wet, what are you freaking out about?”
Women are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we don’t make the extra effort to enhance our physical appearance, we will be thought of as less than. Both from society and ourselves. That whole “we like the natural look” thing is bullshit. The real story is that “we like women to naturally look the way they can only look with skillfully placed makeup.”
So it really isn’t okay Honey Lemon was drawn as wearing high heels in a high-stakes fight scene. Yes, women should have the option of donning whatever feminine accessory they desire, but it shouldn’t be required in order to be thought of as worthy, feminine, or, above all, viewable. And, once again, I think Big Hero 6 was a great step towards depicting women as team members instead of physically appealing prizes…
…sorry, that was mandatory….but that doesn’t mean we can clap our hands together and proclaim sexism over. Love the progress, but hell if we’re not gonna keep pushing until we actually have the equality we deserve free of the bullshit sexism women have to consciously and subconsciously navigate every day. That’s better for everyone, not just women.
So yeah, that’s why I had a problem with Honey Lemon’s heels.