Posts Tagged 'the last unicorn'

Gender Roles in Last Unicorn

Often it is during endings that the message of the movie is conveyed. Taken together does the ending of Last Unicorn reinforce gender roles, or does it subvert them?

Discussion: What we Think

“I am really torn about the ending. On the one hand, Amalthea refuses to do what she must until she is forced. First, she refuses to return to being a unicorn to save the others until she is forced by Schmendrick’s magic when the Red Bull attacks. Second, when she is a unicorn, she only fights back when Prince Lir is wounded/killed. This part seems to strongly reinforce the notion that women are naturally gentle and only fight back when the their loved ones are threatened. On the other hand, for a movie made in 1982, the heroine is quite active, she does fight her battle and the ending is bittersweet. She doesn’t stay with her beloved, she returns to the forest, to her former life. The lack of a pairing at the ending is amazing. It subverts the notion that lovers need to always be together regardless of their other dreams and obligations. In the Last Unicorn, love is important but it doesn’t take precedence over other important things and that in itself is very subversive to the notion that love is the most important thing in a woman’s life.”

“I think that the ending of the last unicorn is really gendered in the sense that once she has turned into a unicorn, she goes back to the forest and doesn’t live in the “wild” anymore or what not. I mean if it were the prince that turned into the horse he’d end up staying around the castle and what not. It seemed as the unicorn went off to the quiet forest where she will be accepted”

“It appears that this both subverts and reinforces gender norms simultaneously. On the one hand, the hero breaks out of the norm by telling the heroine that this doesn’t have to be their “happily ever after”. Also, SHE appears to rescue HIM, and defeats the red bull, however the issue with this is the idea that the female character defers to the male character for guidance and becomes more attached to him than he is to her.”

“That is very true Mina. There was something that bothered me about that exchange but I could not put my finger on it. Now I can. The exchange was very paternalistic. The men (Lir and Schmendrick) were both telling Amalthea what she should do, what has to be done. I did not like that either, that she could not come to her own conclusion that saving the unicorns is important; instead she need a man to point it out to her.”

Continue the Discussion: Tell us What you Think


Masculinity in the Last Unicorn

Lir: The Traditional Hero

Lir represents the traditional hero: he falls in love at first sight with the fair Amalthea, tries to court her by killing a dragon and later writing poetry. He does all in his power to be of “use” to Amalthea.

Lir represents the very old archetype of hero and the belief that men should woo the women that they love. If she ignores you, you just got to keep trying to win her love. Note the implicit notion of passivity in the female and the activeness of the male.

Also recall Mina’s comment from the previous post: “The idea that the heroine’s falling in love has caused her to “forget who she is” is tied to a very antiquated notion.” This is further reinforced here, when Amalthea urges Lir to make her forget what the dreams keep telling her to remember. And when she finally does forget, she falls in love with Lir.

Furthermore, Lir’s total devotion to Amalthea is very romanticized notion of manhood. A romanticized notion that often appears in media aimed primarily at young girls. Think of the prince’s total devotion to Cinderella or Aurora. Girls are shown very unrealistic images of manhood (as well as womanhood), which paints unrealistic notions of themselves and boys. This likewise happens to boys.

Are such romanticized images good for either sex? Is there something true about the view that falling in love means forgetting your own dreams or has this arisen from the assumption that women have to conform to men when they choose mutual life (i.e. fall in love and start a family)?

Masculinity in the Red Bull

The Red Bull is another representation of masculinity. Firstly, he is a bull and therefore male in nature. Second, he is aggressive and large and relentlessly chases the feminine Unicorn.

It’s interesting that the negative side of masculinity is shown when we have the idealization of manhood present in the character of Lir. Ultimately, however, the Red Bull only reinforces the notions that men are violent and aggressive, while women are not.

Schmendrick: The other Man

What is curious about “The Last Unicorn” is Schmendrick, who is quite unlike any male hero one would normally find in a children’s movie. First off, he has trouble rescuing the Unicorn and being a magician. He doesn’t think much of himself or his magic yet tries his hardest. He’s very pessimistic yet still tries to do what he feels he should. But most importantly, he is paired with Molly, the middle-aged ex-wife of a bandit. The two of them aren’t seen doing anything “romantic”, and the viewer only realizes the two are together in the last moments of the film when Schmendrick helps Molly onto a horse and the two of them leave together. Their love is shown to have arisen through mutual exchanges, slow and gradual. A much more realistic notion than love at first sight.

It is interesting that him and Molly are present in the film, almost parallel to the idealistic relationship of Lir and Amalthea. However, even still, the focus is on Amalthea and Lir as the main relationship. In the end, I cannot but wonder why such an unusual pair and a far more realistic duo was even present in the film.

Is the Last Unicorn attempting to subvert the idealized relationship of Amalthea and Lir? Or are Schmendrick and Molly more tacked on? But even if they are tacked on, is the presence of a more realistic relationship revolutionary in itself? What is the significance of idealized masculinity in Lir and brutish masculinity of the Bull?

The Last Unicorn: Amalthea’s Eyes

Also consider Amalthea’s song:

Discussion: What we Think

“There is a close link between loss of innocence and adulthood (as King Haggard mentions Lir’s eyes are the same) that is expressed in the change in Lady Amalthea’s eyes.  While this and a few other images do express a romanticism of innocence and in turn childhood, there is competing imagery that expresses the need to grow up; after all the Unicorn’s journey is a coming of age story. In the end, what the Last Unicorn stumbles upon is the assumption that childhood is an age of innocence. That innocent creatures do not know what love or regret is. Thus while it doesn’t romanticize childhood to the degree of Peter Pan, there are still some western presuppositions of what childhood is about present in the film.”

“The idea that falling in love with a man/ being physical with a man tie a woman to him is seen here. The idea that the heroine’s falling in love has caused her to “forget who she is” is tied to a very antiquated notion. This idea, therefore, reinforces traditional gender binaries within the context of a children’s film, which may cause them to perpetuate this stereotype in later life.”

“the message is clear when you see this clip, women are the beholders of innocence and once that is lost, they are nothing. At least that’s what I got from it. The Evil king seemed like he was angry when he found “no innocence” in amalthea’s eyes. I think this is really sad because it should be the same for men and it’s not. Only women are looked down upon or looked at a different way when the innocence is gone.”

Continue the Discussion: Tell us What You Think

The Last Unicorn: Introduction

Basic Information:

Title: The Last Unicorn
Country of Origin: United States (based on a novel)
Licensed by: ITC Entertainment/ Granada
First Aired: 1982

Basic Synopsis:

When two hunters pass by her woods, the unicorn hears that she is the last of her kind. Bewildered by this, she sets out to find the others with only the knowledge that their disappearance has something to do with the Red Bull. On her journey she meets an assortment of characters, some who want to use her, others who just want to help her. However, when accidentally turned into a human woman, the unicorn’s fate is changed forever.

Why The Last Unicorn?

There are some really interesting imagery present in the Last Unicorn, especially in regards to childhood and womanhood/manhood. Some may have been intended, some may not have been; either way, there is a lot to deconstruct and interesting ways to interpret.  Furthermore, for a movie made in 1982, it was quite revolutionary as the female heroine was way above her Disney counterparts at the time. The Unicorn/ Lady Amalthea is a very active heroine: she goes on her own journey, fights, and even helps out a few people.