The Victorian cult of sentiment is a studied phenomenon with many faces; today, the relevant face is in play-going. Women and men alike faint, cry out, weep openly, in a deeply performative shared experience of moral development—this is the Victorian sentiment to which this work refers.
In the modern day, the cult of sentiment is subsumed by other cults, other acceptibilities and demonstrations of our moral selves. Our sole public-sphere shared emotion (expressable at least in the same performative scope as was the play-going emotions of the Victorians) is laughter. In movie-going, we are not encouraged to share tears or faint. Our acceptable emotion consists of performative joy, which the audience is sometimes strong-armed into—we have all heard a laugh track, and recognize it for the implacable force it truly is.
Here, this face-swap draws attention to this performance of joy. What is the source of the rictus grin? Does it originate or echo on the face of Le Fou? (and yes, a more telling name could hardly be imagined.) If it originates there, then the use of bodily force to influence Gaston shows the imposition of joy which might be alikened to the societal pressures to display joy overtly—this is a mandatory performance. If Le Fou’s grin is an echo of Gaston’s, then it shows the sympathetic forces at work that feed and perpetuate the cycle of performative joy. The fool forces Gaston to smile, and the sight triggers an unstoppable mirroring urge on his own part. We are left with two frozen and distorted mockeries of smiles, and an utter lack of genuine, spontaneous pleasure.
Is there a divide between human and animal? The jarring nature of this faceswap suggests that there must be. After all, the simplicity of the swap (a nose for a nose, equivalent exchange) should in itself not create such angst. And yet, this image is deeply unsettling. Examining the figure on the left (it would be daring to declare this figure the “boy”), we see that his feet are elongated, his hair is coiffed, his eyebrows coquettishly raised, and his trunk quite small. This trunk also has some suggestive significance; the impending onset of adulthood, for one, and its missingness from the figure on the right (“elephant”?) invites comparison to the Freudian anxiety of castration.
But is this creature so different from the figure on the right? On a first glance, yes. In more detail, however, we see that the right-most figure also has many left-like characteristics. The elongated feet, not seen in natural elephants. The ill-fittingness of the skin, comparable to the ill-fitting red garment. The cheery eyebrows. The coiffed hair. And most strikingly, the knowing, cameradric smiles.
Overlooking the mundane (colour, tail vs. probable absence of tail), these two figures are in essence, twins. This is a very bold message advanced by the faceswap. It invites the viewer-victim character to pose themself certain questions. What difference does one nose, a small thing really, make? How did the elephant get eyebrows, and what happened to its feet? Why does the elephant have a pixie cut? How many fingers does the human have? The answer, we may venture to posit, is yes.
Lipstick is used in our society as a vibrant symbol of femininity, sexuality, and magnetism. Beards, conversely and concurrently, symbolize masculinity, virility, and strength. This particular face swap is subversive on a socio-sexual level. It showcases the dual and dueling feminine-masculine paradigms brought to physicality in one, shared body. In doing so, it erases boundaries and bridges gaps.
The frame never lets us forget the spectre of Snow White, here representing the cast-offs of this sexual being. If Grumpy is the extraneously-sexual, then Snow White may be the desexualized; negligible breasts, no lipstick, no beard, contorted face with grossly distended nose. She is a creature of excess (nose) and absence (beard, lipstick, breasts), lacking balance. Lacking her delicate features, her form becomes a reminder of the marginalization of those who fail to comply with the demands for physical sexual symbols.
Are you watching, world? This is a story waiting to be told.
The tension in this scene holds you like a tender embrace, like a python, like a baseball glove. It is a brand of perfection in a faceswap: this tension springs from the juxtaposition of the absurd both in content (the righteous and determined woman, the buffoonish man) and in composition (the distracting and bewitchingly disparate fields of vision).
This particular example is another drawn from the oeuvre 101 Dalmatians, and all I have to say is that Roger is far more alluring with this visage.
The consummate face swap: by the simple act of exchanging one face for another, the entire premise of the scene is twisted and refracted. Ariel’s display of concern and tenderness has now become some sinister gesture, Prince Erik seemingly willing himself into another plane entirely. Is he delighted? Is he horrified? Am I?
This submission is primarily due to personal fondness for the Dodie Smith masterpiece 101 Dalmatians, and fondness for this face swap in particular. There is something telling about Roger’s utter shock and rage that I believe speaks to something universal.
Today, we are all Roger.
And here we have a fine example of a very productive relationship between two faces that are meant to be swapped, constantly: children and inanimate objects. Other relationships that are equally majestic are animals and bearded men, though each may claim its own subtle charm.
I feel like this is an appropriate beginning to “Best of Disney Face Swaps.” All onlookers gaze in horror at this beautiful, terrifying beast. Someday, he will rule us all.