Questions to ask when considering a movie for your kids

These are questions considered in Reel Girl’s rating system when deciding how appropriate a movie is for kids. Reel Girl rates kids media with 1 – 3 S’s for Stereotyping and 1 – 3 G’s for Girlpower. Obviously the male dominated MPAA has different standards.

 

Is the movie titled for a male star?

Is the movie centered around the quest of a male?

Are the females in the movie helping the male achieve his goal?

Which character goes through a transition?

What is the ratio of males to females? Main roles? Crowd scenes?

What are the females wearing? Does their clothing expose belly buttons and other body parts?

How many lines do the female characters have?

How many of the females’ lines have to do with what they’re wearing, what they look like, romantic relationships, or shopping?

How many of the males refer to the females only in reference to romance and how they look?

How do the females in the movie interact with each other? Do they interact at all?

How are female friendships depicted in the movie? Are there any?

Is a female character rescued by a male character?

Does a female character make a rescue?

What heroic acts or acts of bravery do the female characters perform?

22 thoughts on “Questions to ask when considering a movie for your kids

  1. Ok, but the actual title of the post and the first sentence suggest otherwise. ‘Considering a movie’ and ‘deciding how appropriate it is’ communicates that the parent uses the questions to decide whether the movie should be watched by the child in the first place.

  2. This sounds like an incredibly complicated system to impose unnecessary censorship. Any movie can be excellent basis for conversation with children.

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  7. Back to “transitions’ for my last comment. We can continue the discussion with e-mail if you like, Margot.

    Again, will the audience on SFGate understand ‘transition’ as a literary term? Many will not. Here is a tip when using technical terms. substitute the term’s definition for the actual term.

    For example,

    Before:
    Which character goes through a transition?

    After:
    Which character changes as a result of choices s/he makes?

    Fred

  8. “Other body parts meaning cleavage, short skirts, outfits like Tinker Bell’s or Ariel’s or Kim Possible.”

    A short skirt is not a ‘body part.’??? My point is that the writing was imprecise – ‘body parts’ is vague – thereby garbling your point. Specificity is to be preferred.

    “Transition is a literary term. The main character in a narrative must go through a transition, meaning she must change as a result of the choices she makes”

    Yes, you and I know that but will the readers on SFGate understand the word? Some will, yes. They are your choir. Are you not preaching to the unconverted to your point of view? Is it not they whose opinion you want to change?. To them, a literary term such as transition will often not be understood to have your meaning.

    Your audience of SFGate is much bigger than here. Write there for that audience when you publish there.

    Step-mother, like step-sister, is hyphenated. Best to use a conservative writing style for SFGate.

    “Too often, the female is the prize won by the male hero at the
    end of his quest.” Both win a prize, do they not? (grin).

    Enough for now; time to go bash the OWSers.

    Fred.

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  10. “What are the females wearing? Does their clothing expose belly buttons and other body parts?”

    Body parts, such as noses, elbows, and chins???

    Compared to male characters, are the females depicted as less intelligent, less worldly, more naive, more foolish?

    What female characters, from cartoons in the last 10 years, represent the right role model, in your opinion?

    Does the female use her intelligence to overcome her physical weakness compared to male characters?

    “Which character goes through a transition?” What is a transition? Some kind of girly talk that; which suggests another question: do the females talk like airheads?

    “romantic relationships”, nothing wrong with them; men have romantic relationships, too, you know?

    “How do the females in the movie interact with each other? ” What is a proper interaction between girl types?

    • “What female characters, from cartoons in the last 10 years, represent the right role model, in your opinion?”

      I’m not Margot, but let me nominate “Friendship is Magic”. The core message is essentially “there are more than one way to be a girl” (from frilly Rarity to tomboyish Rainbow Dash), and it’s great.

      • Hi Paul,

        I haven’t seen Friendship is Magic but the ponies freak me out. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by a few Barbie movie. When I can get past the way they look, there are strong female characters being brave and having adventures. I just wish they didn’t have to be so frilly.

        MM

      • For what its worth, majority of the online fanbase for the new “Pony” cartoon are men in their 20s and 30s, collectively known as “Bronies”

        …that just makes it even creepier, huh?

    • Hi Fred,

      Answers to your questions:

      “What are the females wearing? Does their clothing expose belly buttons and other body parts?”

      Body parts, such as noses, elbows, and chins???”

      Other body parts meaning cleavage, short skirts, outfits like Tinker Bell’s or Ariel’s or Kim Possible. The Geena Davis Institute did a study quoted in the film Miss Representation that female characters in G movies are just as likely to wear revealing clothing as female characters in R movies.

      “Compared to male characters, are the females depicted as less intelligent, less worldly, more naive, more foolish?”

      Mostly, the female characters are depicted LESS with smaller roles. Their lines and roles are more focused on appearance, shopping, and romance. Men get more facetime and also get to be heroic: brave, adventurous, cool.

      “What female characters, from cartoons in the last 10 years, represent the right role model, in your opinion?”

      My favorite animated movies that feature strong female characters are Hiyao Miyazaki’s. I love Ponyo, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Tutoro. Many animated movies have a token strong female character. I recently blogged about Kitty Softpaws in Puss In Boots as a character I admire. But her part in the movie is small compared to Puss In Boots. She is relegated to a supporting role as female characters in kids animated films usually are.

      “Does the female use her intelligence to overcome her physical weakness compared to male characters?”

      Males in movies have superpowers and magical powers. There is no reason for females to be portrayed as less powerful, including physical strength. Animals talk, kids fly, yet people get very concerned about imposing limits when it comes to gender roles. Powers are often metaphors but girls are left out.

      “Which character goes through a transition?” What is a transition? Some kind of girly talk that; which suggests another question: do the females talk like airheads?”

      Transition is a literary term. The main character in a narrative must go through a transition, meaning she must change as a result of the choices she makes.

      ““romantic relationships”, nothing wrong with them; men have romantic relationships, too, you know?”

      Nothing is wrong with romantic relationships, but its wrong to limit female experience to finding one and keeping one, leaving out all kinds of adventures. Too often, the female is the prize won by the male hero at the
      end of his quest.

      “How do the females in the movie interact with each other? ” What is a proper interaction between girl types?”

      Often, in animated movies there is a token strong female. If there is more than onethey usually do not interact with eachother at all. In Puss In Boots, Kitty Softpaws doesn’t interact with Imelda. Yet, the relationship between two males– Puss and Humpty– is the basis for the film. Male characters in movies often have positive relationships with each other where they share adventures– buddy movies, father-son sagas. Female characters often are relegated to competive relationships over beauty and men, the ubiquitous, jealous wicked stepmother, stepsisters who are cruel to Cinderella, mother jealous of Rapunzel’s youth and beauty in “tangled.”

      Margot

  11. Harry Potter doesn’t deserve to be on the list. Hermione constantly had to rescue Harry. It was clear that Harry’s Mom was more important than his dad. Mrs. Wesley killed Bellatrix, the strongest evil woman character I’ve seen. Prof McGonagall chased off Snape. Snape was in love with Harry’s Mom, but not in a sexual way at all. Actually none of the relationships were sexualized, except maybe Bellatrix to Voldermort. Also I think if you had played Harry as a girl with a boy friend that helps her beat Voldermort, everyone would be crying “why are you saying girls can’t do anything without a boy’s help!” Ginny was wonderful strong and independent and played quidditch probably better than Harry. I love the scene where Harry is trying to get the team to listen to him and she just raises her voice and they all shut up. You have Tonks who was independent and wouldn’t take no from the man she loved. I think these books and movies had great female characters all with depth of personality and all could kick A$$.

    • Hi shac,

      Completely agree on all the strong females– not juts one (hermione) but multiples and I get why I are you saying which is why I did not include Potter the first time. BUT, as written, there is a lack of female stars, female being front and center, movies for kids named for that female. As a result, girls and boys leearn that girls are restricted to supporting roles. If we want girls to be healthy risk takers, to achieve, to live up to their potential, their goal should not be how to support a guy’s a goal, but to determine and realize their own. I would not complain about a bot helping a girl achieve her quest. I would love to see it.

      Thanks for visiting Reel Girl.

      MM

  12. I love your rating system! Having raised 2 daughters who are both architects and being an architect myself I find myself aware of the often unwitting and ingrained (but sometimes cynically intentional) bias in media directed to our kids.

    Keep up the great work.

  13. Seriously? So, like no “Kidnapped” or “Three Musketeers” for your family? What if they just remake the films and substitute women for men, then would it be okay?

    • Hi Tyree,

      I’d rather teach my kids to watch media critically rather than say “no.” These are questions to talk about, on some level, with my kids, what to teach them and other parents to look out for. The reason I started this blog is because I’m not one of those moms that only lets my kids play with wooden toys and watch PBS (and I have issues with PBS!)

      MM