In today’s edition of Things That Elicit Mixed Emotions, I present Thomas Czarnecki’s photoseries “From Enchantment to Down”. The haunting images depict Disney princesses meeting tragic ends. Ariel is beached on the shore, Sleeping Beauty lies abandoned on the floor of what appears to be a drug den, and Pocahontas is slung over a hunter’s shoulder in his room of taxidermic trophies. I hope Czarnecki is making a statement about the impossible standards of femininity, the frailty of the notions presented in those Disney classics. If this is the case, I can almost bring myself to applaud his photographic work.
Disney princesses famously uphold tropes of the infantilized female, the damsel in distress who relies entirely upon the benevolence of her Prince Charming. As this image that’s making the rounds on the Internet shows, the statements Disney has made regarding what makes a woman valuable are controversial at best:
A critique of these ideals would be welcome. A statement along the lines of “Women can do anything, Disney! KAPOW! TAKE THAT!” would be too awesome to handle. A call for more diversity (ethnic, occupational, visual) is a message I can almost see in Czarnecki’s series. However, what’s so troubling about the artist’s work is that his images rely on depictions of violence against women (yes, Disney princesses count as women, too). Their shoes are strewn, their faces obstructed from view, and they are ostensibly in some very tight spots. To further complicate my feelings about these photos, the cartoon ladies have been transformed into real female subjects, with violence mapped onto their three-dimensional bodies. Czarnecki seems to be attempting to push the envelope, but in my opinion, this is another example of the cultural tendency to romanticize the female as victim. According to his website, Czarnecki explores a “torture of bodies,” but his previous photographs do not evoke such a determined violence against his subjects as “From Enchantment to Down” does. In the end, the decision lies with the viewer: is this work functioning to glamorize violence or is it satirizing Disney’s notions of femininity? Consider the images for yourself below and let us know what you think!
Photos courtesy of thomasczarnecki.com