The singer and rapper Lizzo, from Minneapolis, set Twitter’s amateur casting agency ablaze when she posted her “audition tape” to play Ursula in Disney’s forthcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. “Bye bitch,” she waves, as she’s driven away from the camera wearing a dreamlike rainbow dress, chuckling in such an Ursula-esque manner that it will be an outrage worthy of mass protest if she isn’t at least considered.
In the frantic gossip factory of the internet, Lady Gaga has been rumoured to be in line for Ursula, but there has been concern that it would be slimming down the part. Actually, it may be one of the rare situations where Gaga might not be camp enough – the look of the original 1989 Ursula was based on the drag queen Divine and Disney, apparently, couldn’t decide whether to reach out to Joan Collins or Bea Arthur for the role. (She was played, in the end, with an inimitable fag-ash croon by Pat Carroll.)
Lizzo would be a perfect new Ursula, though it remains to be seen how Disney will update the not-very-2018 plotline of a 16-year-old girl giving up her voice and ability to swim efficiently in order to marry a prince. It’s an issue that Keira Knightley, who has some live action Disney experience of her own, brought up on Ellen DeGeneres’s chatshow, when talking about the children’s films her three-year-old daughter is not allowed to watch. The Little Mermaid is out, for the reasons above, as is Cinderella, who “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her. Don’t! Rescue yourself. Obviously,” she said.
In a veritable uprising of Disney women, Kristen Bell, who voiced Frozen’s Princess Anna, has been explaining that she teaches her children to ask questions about Snow White, such as why she takes the apple from the witch or why the prince is allowed to kiss her as she’s sleeping.
As with Knightley, this has led to a generic “PC gone mad” kind of grumbling, when, really, both appear to be simply teaching their kids to think about what they’re seeing. With the endless success of the still-inescapable Frozen, which turned the swooning-over-a-prince storyline on its head, there’s a strong case to be made that, by showing just how much the new-mould heroines such as Anna and her sister, Elsa, appeal to them, kids are arguing the exact same points for themselves.
Did Jo Brand’s humour really have a period charm?
When Jo Brand was first on TV in the 90s, she sent herself up as the kind of comedian who did jokes about man-hating, food and, notoriously, periods. I don’t entirely trust a vague memory I have of her doing a joke about periods, as it has been a long time since the 90s, so I’ve had a good trawl of the internet, but can’t find any surviving remnants of those gags. These days, as well as writing books, Brand hosts Bake Off: Extra Slice and she’s not really doing that kind of joke on there, which is probably fine for everyone. I did find an interview from 2001, though, in which she busted the myth that all she did was period jokes. “I went back through my material to see exactly how long I’d got on periods. It was actually just one and a half minutes out of my whole comedy career,” she said.
Nevertheless, she’s still being asked about them. In an interview with the BBC, she said: “I think people kind of laughed because they couldn’t quite believe I said it. But I thought, ‘I’ve said it, well, good.’” She also mentioned that around 10 years ago, she’d noticed male comedians doing jokes about periods, too. “I thought it was nicking stuff off women really. A bit of bandwagon jumping. ‘You’ve run out of Star Trek jokes, have you?’”
At the Edinburgh fringe this year, I saw so many comedians doing jokes that involved talking about periods (rather than, and this seems to be a key difference, jokes about periods) that it was almost as ubiquitous as Brexit and sexism; the idea of it once being seen as a taboo subject seemed ridiculous and remote.
In other menstruation news, the rights to Judy Blume’s getting-your-period bible, Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret?, have been bought by Hollywood producers. It’s about bloody time, etc.
Bella Thorne, a true devotee of life in la-la land
Occasionally, a celebrity profile throws up eccentric gold in the unlikeliest of quarters. Bella Thorne, 21, a tabloid magnet type of famous person who was in a Disney series, Shake It Up, as a young teenager, is now a film actor.
She is experiencing her obligatory “Miley Cyrus smoking weed and making an album with the Flaming Lips” era of rebellion, if an LA Times interview is anything to go by. Usually, in pieces such as this, there are one or two wonderful details to be savoured, but this is a cornucopia of decorating delights and it makes her house sound as if it’s ripe for the documentary treatment: Grey Gardens 2: This Time It’s Pink?
Thorne has a 12ft, hand-painted statue of a unicorn, hundreds of felt roses glued to the wall, an area of her kitchen dedicated to marijuana, “tooth jewellery”, inspirational notes in the bathroom and, incredibly, 19 cats, all descended from her original cat, Lola, because she thought having her spayed would be barbaric. Celebrities try the “we’re just like you” thing far too often to be believable, but it’s an absolute treat to stumble into a world like Thorne’s, where there’s not even a hint of fake-humble.
• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist