Grotesque and Monroesque by Amanda McAfee

When women make themselves a spectacle or grotesques then they can challenge the social and “symbolic systems that would keep women in their place” according to Rowe (Rowe, 3).  Such subversions and transgressions are made possible through the different modes of laughter that can transfer unto the character both a vulnerability to ridicule as well as demonic quality.  The interplay between vulnerability and demonic properties of laughter lend comic characters the ability oscillate between these states.  In The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements, 2009, USA) Charlotte La Bouff alternates between a grotesque state and one a Marlyn- Monroe-esque desirable object.   

In this scene she begins as an object of affection.  She becomes a grotesque spectacle with rivers of mascara running down her face whose form is lost under voluminous skirts. Charlotte is the most cartoonish of all the characters, which is lends itself to the grotesque quite well.  Even though there are tears, a trait of melodrama, they add to her grotesque image as a meta, since this is a self- reflexive commentary about Disney princesses by Disney, and the idea that one can put no work in and expect their dreams to come true.  This is a very complex grotesque character as she is can don and shed her grotesque state.  There is no diegetic laughter to signify the shifts from coy seductress to a demonic, her crazy eyes, to her weeping vulnerability and subsequent grotesque appearance.  Here crying functions as laughter does but still in a comedic form because we are inclined to laugh at her “plight.”  


Kathleen Rowe, “Feminist Film Theory and the Question of Laughter,” The Unruly Woman: Gender and the Genres of Laughter (Austin: Texas, 1995), 1-22.

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