Film Corner: Descendants


Are the Descendants movies good? They seem like the sort of thing that can't possibly be good but I kinda want to watch them anyway?

We watched the Hades song (from movie #3?) today by accident while ADHD-browsing through YouTube and what struck me the most was that, yes yes Greek god and all that, but even so he should probably not have quite so much sexual chemistry with his daughter. This is why it's so very important to vet actors properly and make sure they know how to do things OTHER than smoulder if they're going to be acting across from a character who is their child/mentee.

-Descendants 1-

Ok, so Evil Island got all the colors in the kingdom. That seems kinda right, to be honest. The first song IS a banger, but it also feels like a song you'd strip to? Which feels kinda wrong for Disney! I have conflicted feelings! We've decided that the white-haired boy is wonderfully gay and Jafar's son is transition goals. The Cruella boy has a lot of "feral Peter Pan" vibes, so I'm interested in learning who his dad is.

.....Kristin brought a lot of Glinda to this Maleficent and I'm not sure how I feel about that. That...does not look like Jafar at all. I am confused. Is this perhaps a kindly uncle who is standing in for Jafar during this scene? While Jafar is off doing something appropriately sinister? I would like to speak to the casting department just, like, in general so far.

Kissmate has had to pause to take a phone call, so I've disappeared into the wiki. I find it both mnemonically helpful and narratively satisfying that these selfish, self-absorbed villains named their children after themselves. Ok, we're back! There's a girl in a wheelchair at the prep school. I'm very invested in her!

Why is Jay a thief, this is so confusing to me. Is Aladdin his parent instead of Jafar? Did Jafar raise him to be a street rat on purpose in the hopes that he'd qualify for another lamp? I realize Mal has doubts about her mother's plan, but. This....vaudeville song and dance routine feels deeply out of place here, tonally speaking.

Jay just owned the field in Death Lacrosse and I'm so happy for him. Jane is good and pure and adorable and I love- why did she think she's ugly? That's a- why did they- huh. Carlos is precious and must be protected and also might be having a moment with this boy, Ben, I'm not sure. Can't believe we gotta break quarantine to go murder Chad, Prince Charming's son.

"Even villains love their kids...?" Oh, Lonnie.

I.....kinda wish the bitchy Mean Girl wasn't the only Black girl. Probably why they added Uma in the next one? Looking forward to that. Man, would've loved to be in the room when someone at Disney was like "it's gonna be High School Musical but with Disney Villains and some of that sweet Hogwarts private school angst." You'd think the royals would be pretty suspicious of the prince falling hard in love with one of the new villainous transfer students.

Surprisingly deep dive on having abusive parents in this movie.

Haha, welcome to Parents Day, mom! Here's a song to remind you of the time you were captive in a scary castle while certain you'd never see your father again! I feel like Belle wouldn't have all these class prejudices against the villain kids? She didn't have the same friction with her dad that Ariel had, of course, but like. She also wasn't born into the whole princess thing.

"How have you remained looking so young?" asks Aurora's mother of a powerful faery.

.....Well, shit, I love Prince Ben now.

Wait, why are they four free (and the dog) but everyone else is still frozen? Disney being brave out here, giving children the dream. I, too, would like to keep my mother in a terrarium and feed her little mealworms.

Ok, maybe this is explained in the spin-off novels or something, but how are "all the kingdoms united" and Beast was "elected" their leader, but we still have a hereditary monarchy and also Princess Audrey and Prince Chad? It can't be a courtesy title, because Audrey made a big point of being a Real Princess unlike Evie, so-

Well, the nameless wheelchair user reappeared for the final song. We'll miss you, nameless disabled girl! We'll watch the next one tomorrow, probably. I DID really like how they handled the love potion. That's about the best way to do that kind of plot, I feel!

Waiting for my pain doctor and I find myself preoccupied with how the villains were not I would have done them in this movie. Even allowing for a degree of defanged-ness for the children, there are some questionable choices here!

I'll start with Jafar. Disney tried to go back to the 1001 Nights by having him as a second-hand goods dealer in the New Lamps For Old sense, but Jafar ISN'T in the source Aladdin story. Disney created him from OTHER 1001 Nights stories (the Vizier archetype) and put him in. Disney Jafar simply doesn't have the patience for the "common people" to own a pawn shop. The Disney Jafar would quickly make himself indispensable to the island's ruler and install himself as second in command, the power behind the throne, designated opportunistic back-stabber.

Speaking of rulers, why Maleficent? She was a powerful faery who fiercely valued her independence! She should be raising Mal in a Rapunzelesque tower, not ruling the island. (And with what power? She has no magic...can she still dragon-shift, maybe?) Surely in the Hobbesian hell of a magicless island of Disney Villains, Gaston (or Clayton in a pinch) would be nominal king of the people ("He's the strongest of us! And the most handsome!") with Jafar doing the actual ruling behind the handsome figurehead.

Evil Queen would convince Gaston to marry her and then carefully ignore his affairs ("They're not prettier than me! A man's eye just wanders for something new.") unless the girl got too ambitious, then agreed arrange an assassination and eat her heart. (I honestly can't imagine Evil Queen raising a daughter without killing her in a fit of jealousy; better to give her a son that she leaches off for emotional validation. Like Cruella does Carlos. I'd give Cruella the daughter/Evie.)

Honestly if Disney weren't such cowards about adding The Gay, I'd make Gothel and Maleficent partnered in a tower and neglecting their kids. (How do they conceive? They still have a shadow of their former magic. Bite me.)

Judge Frollo would also glom onto the new ruler (again, probably Gaston) and create a cult of the crown so he could consolidate power investigating the masses for wrongthink against the kingly representation of God on earth. (Frollo would HATE the two "witches" in their tower, but Gaston always waves him off as Too Serious whenever Frollo tries to urge him into a holy war against the women.)

With a king and priest-class installed, Cruella now has a reason to exist: they're going to need a fashion designer in order to look intimidating and fabulous. She would shine at this. Cruella didn't kill puppies because she was obsessed with pinning dead skin to her body! She killed puppies because it was socially fashionable! Why is she walking around looking like a patchy Grizabella from the Cats musical???

So of the main cast, we'd have:
- Mal: Rapunzelesque shut-in, not princess of the isle.
- Evie: Cruella's daughter, schooled in how to dress to impress the masses.
- Jay: Son of the vizier, taught to be calculating, cunning, and USEFUL to important people.
- Carlos: Evil and Gaston's son. Island Prince, but utterly emotionally drained from reassuring both his parents that they're the Best. Internal wreck, no self-esteem. Dressed to kill but just wants to crawl into a hole and hide. Sweet mess in need of hugs.

I assume they held back Ursula for the sequel (I noticed they were very careful to never mention Ariel or anything related) but if she's sea-witching off the island coast, put her in a coven with Maleficent and Gothel and give the witches' tower a sea-access tunnel.

@IMJackRudd. [Cruella]'d also probably be designing for the military, which would be under the control of John Ratcliffe. Partly because he clearly has a military background, and partly because none of the others would like him and that would get him out of the way.

This is absolutely correct. Gaston would want a shiny standing army. Kind of feels like Disney didn't want to portray an oppressive patriarchal government with a ruling priest-class and a military-obsession for SOME REASON.

@doordoxofficial. Where would the villainous animals from Jungle Book fit in?

Ooh. Between King Gaston, Captain of the Guard Clayton, and Royal Fashion Advisor Cruella, they're gonna be in dire straits. I'd write a "wild" corner of the island where they survive and are hunted (and hunt the hunters in turn) as part of island life.

-Descendants 2-

Alright! It's time for Descendants 2! I'm already confused by the messaging, lol. Descendants 1 ended with "I wanna be good!" and this one is starting with a dance routine on the advantages of being Wicked. Oh, it was a day dream.

Ok, so this is less High School Musical than the first and more Princess Diaries. Mal is overwhelmed by all the princessy decisions that normally wouldn't be left to her anyway, because...well, it would be overwhelming! Mal is stressed that her whole life is on display and her future planned out she supposed to be a normal American girl?? Mal was born the heir to a powerful dragon-faery-queen, this sensation of ultra-exposure to the public should

I kinda feel like the writers of Descendants 2 didn't get Descendants 1? Mal wasn't nervous riding with Ben at the coronation because she's an Average Girl, she was nervous because she had to decide whether to betray her boyfriend or her mother. Now she's frightened by cameras!

WHY IS EVIE HELPING CHAD?! Lonnie gonna kill Chad and I'm here for it. Go Lonnie, Go Lonnie, Go Lonnie! They have a talking dog. They have a talking toxic masculinity dog. Why. This movie feels less populated than the first one somehow. The lost island doesn't have the same...color. Chaos. Creativity.

Uma has a good song, though. I would've started with this one, actually. It's strangely paced to just plop this down after the talking dog scene. Ok, I like her and Hook's boy being together. The son of a pirate infatuated with the daughter of a sea witch is very good and right with the world. And the way they turned her name into a chant was just. *chef's kiss* I wish she had a motivation other than hating Mal for getting out. The barrier was broken last time, why not use that!? Let them be motivated by freedom, not jealousy of the super-white ultra-blonde girl?

Kissmate: "...didn't most of these villains die at the end of their movies?"
Ana: "I guess that's why people keep warning me not to think about the world-building."

Oh no, they ruined Ben. She's clearly trying so hard to please him and be perfect and he's yelling at her for not being organically hand-crafted perfect and buying her perfect at the magic store instead. Asshole.

Poor unfortunate bangs! Wasn't all this part of an initiative to let MORE children out? With Mal and the others being a test case?? Why are there little hungry moppets robbing Evie?

"Ben, if you can't act a little less goody two-shoes, you'll get us caught! And definitely not our incredibly famous faces that grew up around here and are known by everyone." So Evie, Jay, and Carlos are going to drop everything to help Mal and not talk about the part where she left them forever without saying goodbye. Huh.


Maybe they shouldn't have given the girls a love song together if I'm supposed to be worried about Ben and Mal's relationship being saved.

THAT'S the plot???? That after the successful test case, Ben just "forgot" to bring more kids over??? Oh, cool, the rest of the plot is where Mal "forgets" her most precious possession, the magic spellbook. Our entire plot is people just forgetting important things they would never.

The writers can't decide what flavor of queer Carlos is. I thought he was a queer boy in D1 but now I think he might be a trans girl in D2.


.....ok, I do like the Lonnie solution.


Cons: Once again, the Black girl is the villain.

Pros: Mal has a secret puberty dragon form that Maleficent apparently never prepared her for. This is why Prince Eric should've been invited. He knows how to handle sea monsters. Everyone is surprisingly chill about Maleficent's daughter having a secret dragon form.

How did this not end with Uma being friends with them??? That's breaking the After School Special RULE. Ben was supposed to make her see that he cared about the island, and she'd join them. But no, she turned away so EVIE could make the plea that was Uma's to make. I am sad. We'll do Descendants 3 tomorrow and figure out why Mal has a duet with Hades.

-Descendants 3-

Okay, get in, we're doing Descendants 3. Mal is hand selecting 4 more villain kids to come to Auradon. That seems...really insufficient given that there are now approximately 6,000 innocent kids on the island, best I can count from crowd shots.

I'm having complicated feelings about how this series has moved from "you're not defined by your parents or birth and can be whatever you want" to, like, "you're either born on the preppy side of the tracks or the colorful poor queer side". Really this is part of my problem with the Disney fandom in general: a lot of people start seeing the villains as an aesthetic and forget the fascism of Scar or the Stormtroopers or whatever, and just treat it as a design choice: pink vs interesting.

D1 was can be born "good" and still evil (Audrey) and you can be born a "villain" and still be good (Mal). Now it feels are you from the pink boring side of town or the interesting queer side and I'm having complicated feelings about that change.

Dizzy is taking up one of the precious 4 slots, which makes me irritated because she was supposed to go over in D2. The next two slots are a set of twins who will never speak or do anything interesting, I'm calling it now. Last and most interesting is Celia, Facilier's daughter.

Ben performs a public proposal to Mal and Audrey and her grandmother are evil and pink about it.

They've made the previously-faceless off-screen screaming Lady Tremaine an East Asian woman which...uh...isn't much of a diversity win and has unfortunate implications with her running a hair and nail salon?? I don't feel qualified to comment on this! But! I want to like this, I'm genuinely not trying to be contrary, and I'm REALLY happy that they added Celia as a Black girl who isn't evil, but every time I try to sink into it there's these really unfortunate racial issues that Disney keeps slapping my face. I'm sorry.

HADES is trapped on the island??! A Greek GOD?? Mal blows Hades back into the barrier and he stalks off.

I- You know what? I feel like this series could be a brilliant deconstruction--and maybe we're headed there with this movie!!--about how money and power corrupts even the most good-hearted. Because you have all these lovely good royal kids, Auradon- and Island-born both, going "oh, thank god, we're safe. Hades is again trapped on the island of helpless orphans. Back into our limo with the custom paint job and plates, tallyho" and I'm screaming in horror. I hope we're going there, I pray we're heading in that direction: that Mal and Ben are evil because they've been prioritizing Auradon's comfort over the freedom of all the unfairly imprisoned kids. Please, Disney, I know you can do this.

I find it interesting that Audrey is starting to dress like the VKs she hates so much. Blue in her hair, fingerless gloves, external corset, leather arm cuff. I really wish they'd made Audrey's grandmother white. We'd have one less villainous Black woman (we have 3 right now) and I feel like this...entitlement plot of "I played nice, where's my reward" would fit a white woman better.

Mal decides that they need to close the barrier for good and strand the children there forever. Because the security of Auradon is more important than freedom. So, hey, maybe Disney IS going the "power corrupts" route!

Ok, they did good with Facilier.

"For 16 years I had nothing!!" says the girl who grew up as princess of the island, lol. Like, yes, it's hard having an abusive mother. But you still ate regularly, Mal. I still think there is an inappropriate amount of sexual tension in this song between Mal and Hades.

The talking dog still exists. Why.

Evie is about to get into a smack-down with Mal and Uma if they can't get along and I'm shipping it as a triad. WE HAVE ACHIEVED BATTLE DANCE-OFF. Jay and Gil and Harry are forming a nice little triad, too. This movie is very gay. I approve of that. C'mon, Carlos, Disney Princess at him. You got this!

Ben got a glow-up with fangs and a Riker beard.

Ok, so. I both did and didn't get my wish. They do confront Mal about her actions, but it's less about power corrupting her and more about, well, her being a confused and frightened teenager who shouldn't be in charge of a country. Seriously? The moral is "you can't live in fear because you don't know where the bad will come from"? Not "incarceration is bad"? So they just...unilaterally take the barrier down. Which seems a little, uh, ok, you know what? If Disney wants to radicalize kids against incarceration, I'm ok with that. It was a little hasty at the end but ok.

I wish the moral had been less about "living in fear" (which is messy with terrorism rhetoric and covid and and and) and more about how it's not ok to protect white upper class land values by locking up everything which threatens it, but. And they took Ben's toothy glow-up away, which seems unkind to the fanbase.

I wish Celia had a song, though. How do you cast Facilier's daughter and not give her a song?

It was a nice pretty poppy ending. 4 of 5 stars. No major complaints besides all my little nitpicks. Here's hoping they destroy that magic staff and stop putting it in a museum with one sleepy guard.


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