Feminism, King Arthur, and Disney come together in ‘Avalon High’

If you are a feminist and love the King Arthur legend, you will be a fan of “Avalon High.” I am so into this Disney made for TV movie. Yes, I just wrote that. I can’t believe it myself. Oh yeah, your kids will love the movie too.

avalonhigh

This weekend, my nine year old daughter had a playdate, and it was her friend recommended the movie. This particular friend recommended “A Wrinkle in Time” during the last playdate, so I trusted her opinion. My daughter loved “Avalon High” so much, she begged me to watch it with her again the next day.

The protagonist is female. Allie Pennington is smart, brave, beautiful, kind, and athletic. She has just moved to a new area because her parents, scholars of Medieval literature and experts on King Arthur, got jobs at the local university. Allie is studying the King Arthur legend in her high school class as well, and it is there that she and her friend Miles first learn about a prophecy on the reincarnation of King Arthur: The Order of the Bear. Soon, they identify their friend and star quarterback, Will Wagner, as the new King Arthur. He is “perfect” so it seems obvious that her is the famous king. The danger in the story is that there is also an incarnation of the evil Mordred who Will must be protected from. After mysteries and adventures, it turns out that it is Allie, herself, who is the reincarnation of King Arthur. I knew that only because my daughter gleefully told me in order to convince me to watch. If I had not been warned, I never would have guessed. Your kids won’t. How many times in your life have you seen a Disney¬† movie and not figured out the fabulous end? That, alone, makes “Avalon High” worth showing your kids.

Here are some more aspects I admired about the show:

Allie Though from my description– smart, beautiful, athletic, kind– may seem too perfect, Allie is a hero. Heroes are idealized. Too often, we don’t get to see idealized females except when the perfection revolves around beauty. Allie is super fast. She is a track star, ambitious, dedicated, and she knows she is good. There are several scenes in the movie where you see her running. I like that she was not cast as “plain” or an outcast/ nerd or as someone that gets a makeover in the end. Allie’s character defies the “smart” “pretty” split seen so often with female protagonists and hardly ever with male ones.

allie

No mean girls There are no mean girls in this movie! YAY. Mean girls can be well done when kids relate by sympathizing with the protag who is victorious in the end; the lesson learned is “be kind.” But we’ve seen that so many times. I’m sick of it. “Avalon High” is original. Allie is disappointed when she meets Will’s girlfriend just after meeting him, but Jen is nice to her and she is nice back, throughout the whole movie. I was so surprised seeing this kind female relationship depicted that after Allie and Jen met on screen, I turned to my daughter,¬† and said, “She’s nice?” My daughter said, “Yeah, she’s complicated.” She’s complicated, in a Disney movie. Hallelujah!

Action scenes We see Allie running, as I mentioned. We also see scenes of her galloping on a horse and battling in brutal sword fights. That said, I can’t find any pics on Google images of Allie fighting, running, or riding, while I can of Will. ARGH.

Cross-gender friendships Allie is good friends with Miles (who turns out to be the reincarnated Merlin.) Though she has a crush on Will, they are also shown as good friends.

Scenes of Allie admired by male characters for her skill There are several of these including when Allie beats Will in a race and when Will stops to watch her run, awed. Here, we see the equation we so often get with male protagonists but rarely with female ones: skill + talent = attractive

The only thing that slightly bugged me about this movie is that there are cheerleaders and Jen is one. But, then again, that casting clearly shows that Allie, our hero, is not one.

This movie made me long for an Middle Grade book that is a feminist version of King Arthur, sort of a Mists of Avalon, but for kids. Does this exist? I know its problematic because of the Arthur-Lancelot-Guinevere triangle (which is in Avalon High and well done.) This film is based on a book by Meg Cabot.

I have not liked a movie of this genre as much since “Escape to Witch Mountain.” Reel Girl rates Avalon High ***HHH***

11 thoughts on “Feminism, King Arthur, and Disney come together in ‘Avalon High’

  1. SPOILER SPOILER
    In the book, the Allie character is NOT King Arthur, but the Lady of the Lake, who gives Arthur the powerful Excalibur. Will is Arthur. The twist is that there are hints she is Elaine (her character is called “Ellie” in the book) the weepy victim of unrequited love dumped by Lancelot. So, she turns out to be a crucial element in Will’s development as king but she doesn’t become king herself.

    My daughter Callie and I both loved this movie for the same reasons you did, and we were crowing with delight at the changed ending!

    • hi Lesley,

      WOW I am so surprised Disney made the change. That change is EVERYTHING. There is even a snarky comment made by Mordred in the movie where he says something like: ” What? She’s Arthur? Maybe Lady of the Lake but not Arthur?” That was the best line in the movie! Lady of the Lake is not an empowering character to say the least. I am really surprised, I cannot think of another time a movie has made a book way more feminist.

      MM

    • Hi Giu,

      yes, i can’t get past of most cabot’s book covers/ title at the store, so I dont buy them. I know I’m judging the book by its cover but gender roles seem pretty stereotyped.

      MM

      • PS How was the book different? After watching the movie, I wen to Amazon and looked but did not click buy, mostly b/c of her other books and nothing grabbed me about the description of this one. I was thinking b/c they don’t want to give away the end. If my daughter had not told me the end, I would not have watched it (She knew that, obviously.) But her whole story about how the football player was the reincarnation of King Arthur I was like GAG, but then, she told me the twist and I saw how it coudl be cool.

        MM

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