Will the real Winnie the Pooh please stand up?

Many commenters are defending Disney’s Winnie Pooh movie, so I thought I’d respond in one post.

One commenter wrote  that the picture of the Pooh movie featured in ReelGirl’s gallery of girls gone missing from kids movies in 2011 was not the actual movie poster. The commenter wrote that the real movie poster does, in fact, include Kanga. So below is the poster that I think the commenter was referring to. You can see Kanga on the far left along with her male pals Piglet, Owl,  Pooh, Tigger, Eyeore, Rabbit, and her son Roo. (Not pictured: Christopher Robin.)

Other commenters argued the Pooh characters are androgynous. If this is true, why are they played (except for Mom Roo) by male voices? Or, are you all saying that male is the same as androgynous? If that is the point, which some commenters also made, just imagine what it would be like if you every time you read the so-called androgynous “he” you read “she” instead. It would feel strange and jarring and you’d wonder why females were privileged while males were left out. Then, after a while, you’d get so used to males being invisible, the language would seem ‘natural’; you’d stop noticing the exclusion at all.

Still more Pooh defenders wrote: The characters come out of a classic story by A. A. Milne, how can I blame Hollywood?

This point contradicts the former one that the characters are androgynous, but that aside– this is Hollywood! It’s the so-called post-feminist year of 2011. Hollywood adapts and serializes. It’s supposed to know no bounds to its awesome creativity (see interview with Ed Catmull).

Hollywood invents rats that cook (male rats) and lions that pal around with warthogs (male lions, male warthogs) Is it asking too much for Hollywood to stretch its commitment to accurate portrayal of Winnie the Pooh’s Taoist bear or moping donkey to include a few more females in the gang than A. A. Milne, perhaps, initially intended? Pooh’s own advertising on this poster reads: “An all-new story.” Obviously, the remade story is supposed to be part of the appeal. So remake it!

If it is really just asking way too much to include girls in endlessly recycled classics, could Hollywood then, perhaps, opt to create new story lines (and toys, diaper logos, and video games that follow) based on original narratives that star girls front and center not limited to princesses? Can we please stop literally programming every generation to embrace anew thousand year old gender stereotypes?

2 thoughts on “Will the real Winnie the Pooh please stand up?

  1. Wind in the Willows is a similar offender. Makes you think about how easy it was for Victorian men to be allowed, or even encouraged to not see the women around them, in their world.

    It’s the movies with recently-generated stories that absolutely obliterate the existence of women that really astonish me, though. You have to wonder how that nest of rats maintained such a healthy population without any females. And Ice Age? No wonder the saber-tooth tiger died out when the pride is entirely male, and as for the humans? Nice the baby got saved, but he’s going to be the last one.

  2. What’s amazing is how quickly these things can change if you just make a little bit of effort. I’ve always made a habit when reading to my daughter of changing male characters (especially animals) to female, using he instead of she, and she just accepted it (as she would). Now she’s learnt to read and can see the book says ‘he’ all the time, she notes it, then just decides whether she wants to change the character to female or not. She fully accepts that these animals can be male or female, as she decides. Similarly, all it would take would be very few ‘breakthrough’ films to change the perception that leads are always male and pretty soon, you’d get to a point where you couldn’t believe they used to be all male.

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