Last night, “Adventures of Tintin” won the Golden Globe for best animated film. Director Steven Spielberg thanked the studio for taking a chance on an “80 year old comic book series;” he didn’t add a series whose creator believed females didn’t belong in his imaginary world.
Other nominations in the best animation category? Rango, Puss In Boots, Arthur Christmas, and Cars 2. Out of five nominations, four were named for the male star of the movie. This after Disney switched the movie title from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled” to hide its female star. Not a single clip shown in the animated film category during the Golden Globes ceremony featured a female voice.
Best Director win? Martin Scorsese for “Hugo,” yet another kids film titled for its male star.
Parents, this sexism in kids’ films is not OK. Girls have gone missing.
Wow. I love your blog. It’s spot on! I’m a writer trying to get my scripts out there, all of them featuring female protagonists. I include them as something that just happens to be natural to the story, because in my Utopian world, it should be natural, not unusual. Also, I found it interesting that J.K. Rowling was advised to use her initials because publishers thought that boys might not read the Harry Potter books (even though the main character is a boy), if they thought it was written by a woman. So we did a test. When our 10-year-old boy came into the room and saw an interview with J.K. Rowling, we told him, “That’s the author of Harry Potter. Did you know that?” He automatically ASSUMED the creator was a man! He was surprised. We asked if he’d still watch the movies/read the books if he’d known that she was a woman and without hesitation he said, “Yes.” Interesting.
Wow, I have always wondered about J.K. Rowling using her initials. I have also complained about her putting Harry as the protagonist instead of Hermione. About that, I have heard that she said Harry came to her as a boy. But that is probably conditioning, too, right? Still, if her choices were strategic, she went from struggling single mom to billionaire and got her characters and stories into mainstream media and influencing the world. We all have to make choices and compromises, and now that she’s got such a huge platform, maybe a female centered series?
Good luck with your writing! I’m so happy to hear you are working on it. Keep putting your stories out there. And I love that you are presenting female protagonists as natural. I think that’s so important. I was about to tear out my hair when I saw “ratatouille” and there was this whole monologue by the token “feisty” feminist about how females never get to be in professional kitchens ha ha ha. Why not just make the rat a girl?
Oh, don’t get me started! Even in a film like Wall-E, where the characters are ROBOTS, you still have the main character as male and Eva is the “love interest.” I often wonder how many women are tired of going to the movies and seeing the only role for women is “love interest” over and over.
When it’s a film with female characters, it gets the disparaging label, “Chick Flick.” If you took a drama like Steel Magnolias and replaced the characters with men, it would be a serious Oscar film.
You may have already mentioned this in your blog, which I’m so glad I discovered, by the way, but there’s an amazing documentary called Miss Representation, about how women are viewed in the media. There are so many startling statistics in it. I already assumed some of them, but in 2012, it’s kind of sad we still have to fight these battles.
Your article about children’s films shines an important spotlight on a growing, pervasive problem. If it isn’t stopped, it will continue to cause widespread damage. It’s not only the young girls who find their world more limited by these films, which is a tragedy, but also young boys are affected by how they come to view females—as supporting characters in life, too.
I can’t speak for J.K. Rowling, but I think conditioning does play a large part. Even with the first animation script I did, I had my central character as male (which I later changed). But I thought, me of all people, why would I do that? Seeing repeated images, no matter how subtle, of a male flanked by two females on each side, or a male at the “head” of a dinner table—it gets into your subconscious as the norm. That’s why we have to make conscious decisions in our stories, to present females on equal footing with males, whether they’re girls, boys, birds, giraffes. . .you get the point!
Sorry so long-winded. But I want to spread the word about your blog and the documentary I mentioned to get more women, and hopefully men as well, on board to speak out against this blatant sexism that’s been allowed to go on far too long. Thanks for doing this blog!
The robots in Wall-E got me so frustrated. It’s especially disturbing that they are promoting gender stereotypes with kids movies. I am hoping that when more parents notice it, they will get more upset. The bias is really shocking.
No its not enough that Spielburg works with a female. We need some female producers/ directors and we need movies and books written showing Female Presidents! Wehn we do show girls being powerful – they are in roles being aggressive rather than assertive and physically powerful rather than mentally and occupationally powerful. I don’t particurally want to see them running around with guns and jumping off clifts or behaving like boys- I want to see them behaving as women!
How about some role models for our females that inspire them to lead companies and our state houses and congress and white house?
Mike, the thing I noticed first off about _Tangled_ is that it’s told from the male character’s point of view. Finn narrates, and the first few scenes after the prologue are all about his roguish adventures. And although Rapunzel is a great character, her “sacrifice” at the end is a somewhat stereotypical one: she agrees to give up her freedom for love, and then her tears passively heal Finn, (she is not aware of this and takes no action to make it happen). Finn on the other hand heroically and actively slashes off her hair which destroys the bad old stepmother.
RE _Brave_: the problem is that movies which start off telling girls that society doesn’t want them to behave a certain way are likely counterproductive. There’s a recent study showing that women and minority groups do WORSE on standardized tests when they are reminded beforehand that…girls and minorities do worse on standardized tests.
What I would like to see more of are films like Miyazaki’s _Spirited Away_, or _Kiki’s Delivery Service_: movies about heroic girls which simply assume that being a strong girl is normal and natural, but don’t drive home the idea that they will be ostracized if they act contrary to gender stereotypes.
And Elizabeth: My 10 year old daughter wrote an impassioned letter to the Lego company!
I’ll concede that there are more male characters than female ones in animated films, and I agree it should be addressed.
However, “Tangled” wasn’t so named to hide its female lead. That is insane. The posters are all pink and have a cute blonde girl on them. The title doesn’t have to be her name to address it as being targeted primarily for girls.
Also, as for Tintin, it was historically a boy’s comic. I’m sure you’d have no problem with something being a girl’s comic.
As for Bianca Castafiore (who appears in at least a third of the Tintin books) you link to your quote that “The only woman character of importance is Bianca Castafiore, who is potrayed to be foolish and nearly oblivious to all negative reactions to her behaviour.”
You have clearly never read the Tintin books, because Calculus also has terrible hearing and is oblivious to everyone, and therefore played as the fool in every scene he’s in. Haddock is often played as the drunken fool. Thompson and Thomson are the dumbest detectives in history. Herge is only treating his female character the same way he does his male ones.
I agree there’s a problem, but reading through your blog posts, you don’t come across as someone who wants equality so much as someone who would prefer women’s entertainment to be the majority.
Let’s try and strike a true balance.
I hope you don’t completely disregard my point. Best wishes.
Did you read the link? Tangled was renamed to appeal to boys. Disney execs said that to the LA Times.
Tintin is a boys comic but practically ALL comics are boys comics. Tintin isn’t just one of a diverse group, its typical.
I know all the blundering characters in Tintin, I wrote about that– Herge did not include women because he thinks they should be treated differently, I suppose.
I don’t want “women’s entertainment” to be the majority, I want heroic girls to be front and center in half of the movies made for kids.
I didn’t read the link for Tangled, my mistake. (I also think it couldn’t possibly have worked in the way they hoped as no advertising made any attempt to dilute the girl-factor.) But it’s a terrific film with a lead female.
Also the next 2 Pixar films will feature female leads, so progress is being made, at least.
(Pixar’s next 2 are Brave [http://www.traileraddict.com/trailer/brave/trailer], and the as-yet-untitled Peter Docter project that takes place in a girl’s mind. [http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=84889])
If Spielberg thinks girls are important, why would he make a movie that excludes females? Would he ever make a movie with no males for kids? Would anyone in Hollywood? My guess is Spielberg didn’t think about it at all because girls aren’t important to him. Whether he did or didn’t, the message his movie sends to kids is that girls are not important. Other commenters have also suggested I be grateful Spielberg works with Kathleen Kennedy and that she’s one of the producers on the film. It’s not enough.
Thanks for this good article and information. Let’s not forget reminding librarians, teachers, and caregivers that we also need to read books to our children that feature tough, smart, female protagonists! Those books are available, but as long as libraries and schools continue to stock outdated Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, and other books in which male characters dominate the action, our girls are not going to get the message we want them to hear.
Great question! First, have you signed the petition against the girl Legos on Change.org?
With sexism in kids movies, it’s really important to talk about it and acknowledge it. It’s so ubiquitous that, ironically, it’s become invisible. Talk about sexism in kids movies– with your kids, with your peers, on Facebook, on blogs.
Women need to write their own stories. Men are not going to do it for us. They can’t. So women, write!
To get their narratives out into the world to influence people, more women need to get in more positions of power (directors, producers, media moguls, and women with means in the financial world– stats for women “at the top” are dreadful in politics, the economy, and the arts) Support women and women causes by donating money. For kids media, the Geena Davis Institute is a great non profit.
Hope that helps as an action list. Please, share you ideas for action as well.
Thank you for your comment and for visiting Reel Girl.
I agree women need to write their own stories. More diversity in storytelling is always needed to keep the industry fresh.
This is so discouraging. I would like to be able to do something about the increasing sexism in our society. What can we do?