Ice PrincessGo FigureMaterial Girls, and Cow Belles have been on my mind for a week. It started when I played/sang Aly & AJ’s “No One” (no connection to Cow Belles; they sang it for Ice Princess and had it on their first album). Then I made an Instagram reel paying homage to Material Girls with Hilary and Haylie’s cover of the Madonna song.

I often consider these four movies in groups of two: Cow Belles and Material GirlsGo Figure and Ice Princess. Here are the basic similarities within those two groupings.

Ice Princess Go Figure

  • Disney figure skating movies
  • Released in 2005
  • Protagonists are female and in high school
  • Protagonists are passionate about two different (but somewhat related) things throughout their movies
  • Protagonists find cute boys at their respective rinks
  • Equations are used to improve skating (physics and geometry)
  • There are Zambonis
  • Awesome cameos from professional figure skaters–Michelle Kwan in Ice Princess and Kristy Yamaguchi in Go Figure

Material Girls + Cow Belles

  • Riches-to-rags movies
  • Released in 2006
  • Stars of movies sing for movie soundtracks
  • Protagonists are female and are played by real-life sisters
  • Protagonists must become less self-centered after causing house fires
  • Protagonists find boyfriends who are not as snobby as them
  • Both films take cues from The Simple Life
  • There is some investigating
  • Both make the father’s closest friend/business associate the bad guy

Within the four-quadrant spread, Cow Belles and Go Figure are Disney Channel Original Movies. Go Figure was pre-High School Musical while Cow Belles was post-High School Musical. Ice Princess and Material Girls were both theatrically released, but Material Girls is not a Disney movie. Here are other basic differences for our two pairings.

Material Girls + Cow Belles

  • Protagonists are older (presumably both finished with high school) in Material Girls
  • Both are still in high school in Cow Belles
  • The dad is alive and mom is deceased in Cow Belles, the mom is alive and dad is deceased in Material Girls
  • Cow Belles’ dad is absent for most of the movie but still has a big presence in his daughters’ lives
  • Material Girls’ mom has almost no presence in her daughters’ lives and is never seen
  • Material Girls involves more detective work than Cow Belles
  • Cow Belles involves more concern for other humans than Material Girls

Ice Princess + Go Figure

  • Go Figure’s protagonist goes to boarding school; Ice Princess’ does not
  • Ice Princess has decent body doubles and makes it look like the actors are doing pretty much everything
  • Go Figure zooms in so much on the lead’s body double (who looks very different on profile from the actress) that it feels like watching two different people skate
  • Ice Princess’ protagonist is torn between academics and figure skating
  • Go Figure’s protagonist is eventually torn between ice hockey and figure skating

That last bullet point is an excellent place to start for further analysis. Go Figure has never been my favorite DCOM, but it really doesn’t sit well with me now due to the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal that blew up in March 2019. Katelin Kingsford can only train with her dream ice skating instructor if she goes to the boarding school where said trainer, Natasha, works. Natasha is also made fun of in this movie for being Russian, and I’m disappointed that Disney leaned into stereotypes for the character.

Katelin’s family doesn’t have enough money, so Natasha cheats the system and gets Katelin in on a hockey scholarship. Katelin has never played ice hockey!!! Here’s a bit of dialogue between the head hockey coach (aka the dad from The Luck of the Irish) and Katelin that has not aged well:

Coach: You’re on the team until I say you’re not.

Katelin: You can’t be serious.

Coach: Oh I am serious. I broke a lot of rules to get you that scholarship, and if you quit now, people start asking questions, and if people ask questions, people get answers. And if people get the right answers, I could be in a lot of trouble. You follow?

When Katelin doesn’t understand, the coach boils it down to: “You keep coming to practice, I keep my job.” He also tells her that if she plays her cards right, she won’t be playing any games. Yikes.

Katelin isn’t exactly a natural at ice hockey when she gives it a try. Her teammates don’t know that she’s a figure skater (although her roommate, “Hollywood,” finds out quickly). The hockey girls can’t stand ice skaters and call them “twirl girls.”

Figure skating is much more respected in Ice Princess, unless you’re Casey Carlyle’s mom for most of the movie. The mom encourages Casey to stick to physics because there’s “no shelf life” on her mind. Casey explains to her mother that ice skating is “a thrilling and beautiful sport.” Most of the other characters in the film would respect that statement. Casey seems way more committed to figure skating than Katelin does. Casey lies to her mom to attend ballet classes, gym sessions, and training times on top of working concessions at the rink to fund her skating. Casey also risks her success by trusting one of the toughest, greatest, and least trustworthy trainers in the business. Katelin, on the other hand, unknowingly gives up a lesson with Kristy Yamaguchi just to go to a party. The mean girl traps Katelin in the closet, but really, Katelin should have known better. Casey is much more responsible about her partying. As Casey falls more in love with figure skating, Katelin falls more in love with ice hockey, or with her teammates, anyway.

The most mind-blowing part of Go Figure for me is when Katelin decides to go through with the big hockey game at the end and doesn’t even give the figure skating competition a second thought anymore. There’s no grand DCOM-style rush to be in two places at once until Katelin’s family and teammates conspire to stall the skating schedule for her. Katelin drops one of her ice skates on the way out of the hockey arena and thinks she can do her routine wearing her hockey skates. With a rousing “Let her skate, Let her skate,” Katelin’s friends get the crowd rooting for her, and she does get to try again with the proper footwear. Casey’s skating is handled with much more decorum. Sure, Katelin’s parents are there for her from the beginning and her brother comes around, but when Casey’s mom finally goes to see Casey skate, it’s the most magical moment. I genuinely teared up watching it.

I don’t think I’ve ever teared up while watching Material Girls or Cow Belles. Material Girls brings two sisters closer together and forces them to learn to live without wealth. I’ll never understand why they don’t grab a fire extinguisher or use water to put out the fire they cause at their mansion, but anyway…they don’t help anyone but themselves by the end of the movie. They clear their father’s name and get to keep their company. All that investigating, all those phone calls to the people who tested Marchetta cosmetics…it’s really not for anyone but Tanzie and Ava Marchetta (and very peripherally, the people employed by their company). Cow Belles is a different, maybe more heartwarming, story.

Courtney and Taylor Callum are just as self-absorbed as Tanzie and Ava are, but every step of personal growth in Cow Belles points to an effort for the greater good. The dad requires the girls to work all summer at the dairy while he’s in a jungle looking for butterflies, and Taylor is the one to soften her heart first. When the dairy is in trouble, Taylor wants to use her family’s resources to help everyone keep their jobs. Courtney pitches a fit because Taylor uses Courtney’s debutante ball fund to pay the dairy employees. Taylor has to sacrifice, too, though. She sells her car to continue providing money for everyone’s paychecks. Courtney gets the message and realizes that helping people is important.

There’s one more topic I want to bring to light, and it pertains to all four of these movies. Body image is what ties them together. Ice Princess emphasizes the skater’s diet. Gen, Nikki, and Tiffany are all on restrictive eating plans because of their skating. Gen wants a lot of things, but she’d especially like to enjoy a burger without worrying about it. Go Figure is helmed by petite young woman who notices the build of the hockey players around her. Katelin tells herself that the ice hockey girls are just like her, except “bigger and meaner.” Regardless of the intentions, I take issue with that line. I don’t think something like that would fly today.

Body image is probably least spoken about in Cow Belles, but it’s still there. Ever notice how thin most of the female characters are? They don’t restrict their food choices or put down others’ appearances, but looks do matter to them. Obviously, Material Girls has the more overt emphasis on appearance. Its protagonists are in the makeup business and focus quite a bit on the external. The dialogue that speaks to that in this movie is when Tommy Katzenbach (the mole) tells Ava and Tanzie that they’re “too thin.” Ava then tells Tommy that he’s “too nice.”

I’m not the first to criticize the glorification of thinness in tween 2000s movies, and I certainly won’t be the last. But I never realized how obvious it is in the grouping of these four movies, specifically. Seeing these women on TV and in theaters certainly influenced the way that I wanted to look and dress and act growing up. I’ve had my share of struggles with body image, and I know that other people have, too.

So where does that leave me? Can I still love certain things about these films? I think so! I love the music, for example. Hilary and Haylie, Aly & AJ, Natasha Bedingfield, Everlife, Hope 7, Superchick…so much Superchick (“Get Up” in Ice Princess and “Anthem” in Go Figure). Many of the songs from these movies are special to me. Though it’s not that realistic or practical for me, I love some of the fashion, too. I’ve always enjoyed sparkly, shimmery clothing and accessories.

Finally, I don’t think I would have revisited all four of these films if I wasn’t compelled by some aspects of their stories. My Instagram poll results favored Cow Belles out of the riches-to-rags movies and Ice Princess out of the figure skating movies. I believe that those of us who grew up watching any combination of the four can have any number of feelings about them. Perhaps it’s okay to hold reservations about some pieces of the puzzle and have happy memories about others.

Nostalgia can be complicated, but I know where these movies land for me as an adult now. I can’t wait until my next 2000s tween movie day!

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