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Reworking the Disney myths

I think it began with “Mulan,” an animated feature about a young Chinese woman who defies her culture’s strictures, dresses up as a man, and joins the Emperor’s army—mainly to save her aging father from having to take up arms.

Most recently, we saw the tweaking of the fairy tale about the Snow Queen, in which the hero who saves the kingdom from an eternity of winters and ice turns out to be, not some gallant knight, but the Snow Queen’s plucky sister.

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And now, here comes “Maleficent,” which turns the tale of Sleeping Beauty and how she is saved by “true love’s kiss” on its head. We all remember the “wicked witch” who breaks up the christening celebration of Princess Aurora to wreak vengeance for not being invited to the feast. How were to know that in our lifetime, that witch would be played by Angelina Jolie?

That all three films—the first two being cartoon movies, the last a live action feature—were made by Disney is all the more ironic. Can it be that the world’s foremost purveyor of fantasy and romance has turned feminist?

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But what a wonderful thought that is. How gratifying to think that today’s girls would grow up, not fantasizing the arrival of some dashing prince to rescue them from an ordinary existence, but realizing their own empowerment, seizing their own chances, altering their fates.

And it’s really gratifying to learn that “Maleficent” has toppled all its rivals in the box-office charts, despite the current crop (the latest “X-Men” movie and “Godzilla,” to mention two) of testosterone-powered vehicles that used to walk all over women’s films. Maybe there’s hope yet for Hollywood, if even Disney can change its mind and rethink the ways it portrays girls and boys, princes and princesses.

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IT’S no fairy tale, but “The Edge of Tomorrow” offers its own twist to reality and perception.

Based on a Japanese sci-fi novel, the movie tells the story of a military man better versed in propaganda than battle, who finds himself “gifted” with a strange gift of premonition as Earth battles an alien race of monstrous invaders.

But to prevail over the invading force, our soldier with hardly any battle experience must “die” many times over, usually at the hands of his partner, the world force’s prime warrior who happens to be female.

Tom Cruise seems younger and more energetic in his role as an incongruous hero, and Emily Blunt is satisfyingly low-key in her dominatrix role. It’s great fun, with plenty for audiences to chew on.

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DESPITE our efforts, the representative of the Gaston family, Msgr. Guillermo Gaston, and I haven’t managed to meet up or even hold a conversation. So the Gastons’ “side” in the controversy over the revocation of their donation to the government of their ancestral home in Silay City in Negros Occidental will have to be based on a letter the monsignor sent to me.

The controversy concerns “Balay Negrense,” a museum devoted to the genteel lifestyle of the Negrense elite, that is located in the Gaston home. In 1990, the Gaston mansion, then in a state of disrepair, was restored and transformed into a museum. The Gaston family then agreed in 1992 to donate the structure to the national government, through the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA), now known as the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza).

In turn, the then PTA provided a grant of P5 million for the repair and rehabilitation of the Gaston home (which had been damaged by a typhoon) under the joint management of the Negros Cultural Foundation Inc. (NCFI) and the city government of Silay. But recently, the Gastons, with the consent of the Tieza officers, rescinded their donation of the house, although the action is now the subject of a case filed with the Ombudsman by the NCFI and the Silay city government against Tieza.

Monsignor Gaston says he was initially part of the board of the NCFI but that he has not been part of the Foundation “for many years now.”

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AMONG the points raised in a previous column that the monsignor seeks to clarify is my claim that the Gastons wanted to take the structure back so they could turn it into a “bed and breakfast.” This he stoutly denies. “We are committed to maintain the house as a museum open to the public and to further enhance its role as a center for the preservation, promotion and development of Negrense culture, traditions and history,” Monsignor Gaston writes. “We will renovate and restore the house and also upgrade the museum facilities,” he declares, all “in strict compliance with the National Historical Commission’s standards and guidelines for declared heritage house.”

Monsignor Gaston disputes the contention of an NCFI official that the family did not contribute anything to the upkeep of Balay Negrense. Over the years, he claims, “family members have made modest financial donations.” But aside from the donation of the house, Monsignor Gaston says the family’s “major post-donation contribution to the operation of the Museum” has been “freedom of access and rent-free grounds,” all 4,000 square meters of Gaston property on which the Balay Negrense stands, giving the NCFI “unhindered access and use of the property as Museum grounds completely free of charge.”

This, “even while we paid all real property taxes, including for the house and the land it stands on.”

The Gastons decided to take back their donation of their ancestral home, says the monsignor, so they could take a more active role in its management and preservation, given their “concern over further deterioration of the house.” But, he makes clear, “a condition of the revocation is that the house shall always be a Museum… This is our commitment.”

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TAGS: “Maleficent”, “The Edge of Tomorrow”, Angelina Jolie, Balay Negrense, Gaston Family, Gaston Mansion, NCFI, Negros Cultural Foundation Inc., Philippine Tourism Authority, PTA, Sleeping Beauty, Tieza, Tom Cruise, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority
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