Girls gone missing from kids’ movies: “Wreck-It Ralph”

Another day of driving my three year old daughter to school, another day she gets to see, and point at, a giant animated sexist ad go past her plastered on the side of a bus. Another day that my daughter gets to learn, along with the rest of the kids in America, that boys are more important than girls.

Do you know that in 2012 Hollywood won’t allow females to be in the title of movies for children? Yet, after “ParaNorman” and “Frankenweenie,” we get “Wreck-It Ralph” making three in a row of animated movies named for their male stars? In fantasy world, children are supposed to dream big, let their imaginations go wild, and anything should be possible, unless, of course, you happen to be female.

Parents, it’s not OK that kidworld shows males front and center, while females get sidelined and represented as a minority again and again and again.

Read Reel Girl’s review of the movie “Wreck it Ralph and the Minority Feisty.”

96 thoughts on “Girls gone missing from kids’ movies: “Wreck-It Ralph”

  1. I’m more concerned about how Disney rarely has “mother” characters. If the main character’s mom isn’t dead, she plays an extremely minor part. Unless the movie is about animal, anyhow.

  2. To the writer of this article:
    I am saddened to read that you came to such a rash judgment of this film based solely on its title and movie poster. I watched “Wreck-It-Ralph” tonight. Not only was the male-to-female character ratio more or less evenly split (a few more male than female, due mostly to video game character cameos), but the major action of the story all occurs within a video game largely populated by female race car drivers. Further, the main female character (as determined based on her screen time as well as her relevance to the “A” storyline) is a self-sufficient young girl (Vanellope) who chases her dreams amidst adversity, sees the good in a character who can’t recognize it in himself, and, in the end (SPOILERS), decides to forego being a princess in favor of staying true to herself – glitches and all. Ralph’s brother/sister relationship with Vanellope is the driving force of his hero’s journey arc and without her there would be no story.
    Yes, the poster pictured with your article is entirely populated with male characters. But it is not the only promotionial piece for the film. I have seen multiple Wreck-It-Ralph posters that also feature Vanellope and Calhoun (female squad leader of Hero’s Duty) alongside the male leads. And, yes, the movie is called Wreck-It-Ralph, and he is a male character. He is also the protagonist so the film’s title is perfectly logical. I would like to point out that Sleeping Beauty is named after the female lead, even though she is sleeping for the majority of the action and the story focuses on the fairies’ and Phillip’s journey to save her.
    It is my opinion that Wreck it Ralph is in no way sexist or demeaning towards women – quite the opposite, in fact. I also believe that degrading a film for having a male lead character is just as sexist as a movie studio producing more male-centered stories for its audiences. I completely respect that you seek gender equality in Hollywood, and I think that it is an important issue. I just hope that when you are teaching your daughter the important lessons she will need as she grows, you don’t forget the one about judging a book by its cover (or a movie by its poster, as the case may be).

    • Hi jen,

      I’ve responded to the points that you bring up a lot. Please read my full review of Wreck-It Ralph, elsewhere on this blog. I dis cuss the feamel car drivers, the female in the arcade, and other issues.

      This post is a commentary on the poster. Movie posters are their own media. Even if your kids doesn’t go to the movie, she sees the poster. There are other posters you can find on Google images. This is the poster I saw all around San Francisco. The other poster I saw had Vanellope and Calhoun on it, but Ralph was still front and center.

      If “Wreck-It Raph” with its male protag was one of many films that starred females, or even half, I would have no problem with it. Unfortuantely, Wreck-It Ralph’s focus on the male star is typical of movies for children in 2012.

      MM

  3. WOW…… 0.o I think I have officially lost ALL of my decent brain cells……I think you and another blogger by the name of Helen Cleary-Escott should get together and have a spot o tea and crumpets bitching about everything WRONG with society, the world and how women are treated in this said world. It’s women like you who give all women out there a bad name!!!! I have seen THIS movie and it’s awesome…..amazing….spectacular. There are TWO female characters in the movie, both with amazing male oriented ROLES, Sargent Calhoun who leads an army troop of MEN in a fight against cy-bugs and Vanellope Von Schweets who wants to be a race car driver. How many women do you see leading in an army or racing in a car???? NOT MANY! Whenever something like this is brought to my attention, I have no choice but to voice MY opinion in my journal on DA calling you out on how STUPID you bloody are to get your panties all up in a bunch over the fact this movie like so many others have MALE oriented roles only. Gee, I guess that movie BRAVE is nothing huh! I’m sure you’re probably one of those who LOVES the hell out of Twilight….where a woman gets constantly RIDICULED and abused verbally throughout by her so called ‘loverboy fairypire’. oops, I mean Vampire. But I guess that’s ok right….it’s not sexist….and it teaches your PRECIOUS daughter the true values of being a woman…..talked down to and put in her god forsaken place by a man ten times her age. *sigh* What an idiot bitch you are!!!!

  4. This movie has both a good amount of strong male and female characters. Disney has SO many movies with female leads why can’t a boy be a lead once in a while?
    I am a 17 year old female and both me and my father enjoyed this movie very much it appealed to him and to me.
    Also I am a female and I have seen alot of movies with male leads but did not think “OH MY GOD THESE FILM MAKERS HATE WOMEN”
    Just because a male is a lead in a movie doesn’t mean its sexist,there are plenty of shows and movies with female leads you can say the same thing about.
    Might as well trash talk Hannah Montana for being to girly or Ben 10 for being to boyish.

    Watch a movie before you trash it,you may end up liking it.

  5. Dear MM,

    Did you bother to go an actually watch the movie? Or did you simply watch the trailer, read the title and make a judgment? There are four characters at the forefront of this movie. Two male characters and two female characters. Each character has a counterpoint of the opposite sex. There is Ralph and Venollipe (sp?) and Sgt. Calhoun and Felix. Each set of characters face tough obstacles and overcome them TOGETHER. I find it sad that you choose to argue the movie as sexist simply because the title character is male. You ignore all the instances in the movie which exhibit females as strong as their male counterparts. I suppose, despite the fact they showed powerless women in need of rescuing by men, that Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella were not sexist because the title character was female. An intelligent woman such as yourself should view the entire body of work before commenting on it.

  6. You know, after watching the film, it occurred to me that the main character was really Vanellope anyway. Or really her and Ralph play about equal roles. Plus as others have said, video game nostalgia and pop culture are huge parts of this game, and there are few arcade games more iconic than Donkey Kong.

    Although I’ve always wondered why the gender of any character even matters? Like, maybe it’s just me, but it seems a little sexist how much people focus on the sexes of characters. And perhaps a little perverse given that the only difference between the sexes is their genitalia (and other assorted erogenous zones I guess). If this movie were about Ralph giving out “hot dickings” to “bitches who need to be put in their place,” then yeah, that would be incredibly sexist, but as it stands, the movie would be virtually unaffected if all the genders were flipped (Aside from 99% of the references becoming nonsensical). But then, maybe I’m just an idealist who dreams of a world where both sexes (or all, I think there are other ones like hermaphrodite and such, which I by no means intended to marginalize, I just forget the list) can live in peace, without getting their values from entertainment media (Or rather get the relevant values such as “Be yourself” and “Don’t let bullies keep you down” instead of making up their own based on an obsession with genitalia).

  7. Wow seriously stop, you are giving feminism a bad name. I am a feminist and this movie is in no way sexist. To even say that without seeing the movie just shows your ignorance. I will agree that the poster may be slightly sexist for not showing the female main character (who is equally important if not more so) but if that is your argument than take up your complaints with the advertising industry and not the movie industry. Disney and Pixar have been making great strides in trying to equal out the imbalance. Or have you not heard of the incredibles, Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Alice in Wonderland, etc? Sure there could be more movies with strong female and male character combos but you can’t go all out and say the industry is not trying, and furthermore you can’t claim a movie is sexist without seeing it.

  8. Is judging a movie by its title about the same as judging a book by its cover?

    I find Ralph really has some interesting and very non-conventional role models for girls who see it.

    One of the lead characters is a space marine. And the relationship that forms is one where she is the larger and dominant one in the relationship. She is literally a space marine. This is the first time since Mulan we had a female warrior in a Disney movie and there was no questioning her role as one like there was in Mulan. Meanwhile.. not to give too much away.. the other female lead arguably steals the show from the title character. While Ralph does get focus and the bookends, I’d argue she gets the villain and is just as central to the story. A very interesting alternative to typical ‘Disney princess’ movies. And this one had TWO strong female lead characters. I cannot think of even the princess movies that did that.

    Also.. are you implying that girls should not see something with a male lead? Should no one take their little boys to see Tangled or Frog Princess? Why can’t we enjoy movies and characters of both genders?

  9. One day I hope that people/society will no longer see sex/gender and instead see a kick ass character in a book/movie/video game/whatever. Should it matter what the sex the main characters are? Isn’t it about the moral and character of the person that defines him/her? Girls and boys both would like to be Harry Potter. Does this mean that he should have been written as a girl instead of male? No. Because it doesn’t matter. Harry Potter is awesome. That’s just an example anyway.

    I take it that when this article was written, your opinions were made about the posters of the movie and not the movie itself. Because after seeing the movie, which I loved, I noted that it had two main characters, one male and one female. As for the posters, I saw several different types of posters, showcasing numerous characters, both male, female and asexual. What was upsetting to me was that Sonic (that blue hedgehog) was featured a lot in the posters yet his role in the movie was to be in the background.

    Anyway, I don’t understand how a girl cannot dream just because a man is the lead in a game/poster/whatever. Don’t let labels and your sex stop you from dreaming and doing what you want to do. JUST BE YOU! Doesn’t matter if you’re a dude or not.

    I’m a child of the 80′s and 90′s. I watched both types of cartoons that were “made” for girls and for boys. I didn’t care who they were made for as long as I enjoyed them and I still watch cartoons to this day. Same goes for playing video games. I’ve been playing since I was four years old and I don’t care if I am playing as FemShep (Mass Effect series) or Solid Snake (Metal Gear series), I enjoy what I enjoy because I do and not because of my gender. I also write (in my spare time) on a video game website and I’m writing a book series with a female lead (also in my spare time). This is because I write and do what I know and love. I was told to “write what you know”. Me being female, it is natural for me to write about a strong female lead. We need to get more ladies into careers where they can make a difference, especially in math and science.

    Also, Disney and Pixar are one now and this was their first movie together. Disney, who brought us female heroes such as Ariel, Jasmine, Belle, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel…I can go on for a long time with this. Granted, Pixar doesn’t have the same female lead/hero track record as Disney, but that doesn’t matter. They make a good movie, then I don’t care who the lead character is.

    Your daughter is three. Let her dream and who she wants to be based on good morals and character and not the sex of the person.I’m cool with the whole “girl power” thing but we are not better than men and they are not better than us. This is a world that needs to be created, one where we are all the same. If you want strong female characters for you daughter, you might want to introduce her to real people. Woman out there that are playing football, who are astronauts, Marianne Krawczyk (who wrote the God of War series, a video game with a male lead but written by a female!), the Frag Dolls, females who are trying to change things by their actions. Its nice to look towards cartoon heroes but if you want your daughter to help shape the world for true equality, start by teaching her about strong females and males, people with a strong character.

    The reality of it all is this: boys like explosions and girls like pink glittery things. The media, the masses, society, they all think this is true and market as such. It is up to the individual to break the mold.

    But I’ve wasted too much time here. I’m going to watch some TMNT and play some Assassin’s Creed 3. And I won’t pull my hair out because there isn’t a female turtle in TMNT (which was added into the series back in 1997 and I really didn’t like it, she wasn’t needed) or that I am playing as a male character.

    One last thing, to those who are making the hate-filled posts, is that really needed. You are making your gender look bad. If you want to have your say, be constructive about it. Go make your own sandwich, I think its funny how a lot of men say that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Go tell that to all the men who are chefs as they hold their knife in their hand.

    Okay, I’m done! Take care!

    (PS, I love Fletch’s reply)

  10. You realise the majority of game players are boys/men, right? And girls who play are “TOMBOYS.”
    Also, men are just better. Don’t trust anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn’t die, that’s my motto. Men are strong and fast and smart. Women whine and bitch and moan about having to even carry their own fucking bags anywhere. It’s good men are the main characters, not women. They’d only complain about broken nails and their hair getting mussy. Stop being a stupid woman and learn a lesson. Men are just better. God made Adam first, then Eve. Because men are better. First is the best. Stupid whore.

    • BUNK. There are plenty of female gamers. Different games, maybe, but plenty of female gamers. Heck. Many times you go to conventions and you see more girls dressing up as game characters than guys.

      Congratulations on continuing to propagate a total bullshit myth.

      And if what God made first is best.. then are you arguing that Satan was better than mankind? .. ’cause Satan and the other angels came first.

      Oh. Wait.. excuse me.. it’s pronounced.. Sateen.

  11. Honestly, if we’re speaking from the perspective of games that were thirty years old at the time of this movie – which was the point of the movie: the cast has existed for thirty years in their game machines, and the movie takes place on the thirtieth anniversary of Fix-It Felix Jr’s installation – you’d be lucky to find games that starred female characters. It’s to the credit of the movie that they did, and the game that’s featured as being just as important and just as old as Fix-It Felix Jr, Sugar Rush, is a candy-covered racing game with female characters that outnumber the male characters at least 2:1, probably more like 3:1.

    I honestly get the vibe that you haven’t seen or looked into this movie at all. There’s a reason it’s not called “Wreck-It Ralph” in Japan – the title was changed to “Sugar Rush” for reasons that’d be clear to you if you saw the movie itself. Like Paul already told you, the movie isn’t what you appear to be scapegoating it as; Sarah Silverman’s character is what the entire plot of the movie revolves around, quite honestly. Jane Lynch is more competent at saving the day because she’s the Sergeant, the one in command and the main character of a game called Hero’s Duty – a futuristic shooting game – and she does not come off as contrived or like a shoehorned strong female character. Their characters have strengths and weaknesses, just like the two main male characters, and it’s honestly disappointing that you would write them off under the assumption that they’d be sexist.

    In the end, Wreck-It Ralph was a game about an arcade that a) featured a female gamer as the main person playing video games, b) had three video games of different genres, where two of them had female main characters, c) is a movie where the female characters aren’t relegated to sex objects, and d) the plot of the entire movie ended up hinging on elements relating to all four characters’ backgrounds and stories. The male main character resolves his emotional problems by talking to one of his friends about them – the female main character resolves her issues by physically confronting the people who’ve been bullying her and making her life miserable. It managed to bring the video game and gaming world to life realistically without relying on sexist tropes as much as you seem to be operating under the assumption that it does.

    Ralph is the main character, but if anyone walked out of that theater thinking what went down in Sugar Rush was unimportant, thinking that Vanellope’s storyline didn’t matter, then they just didn’t see the movie – like you clearly haven’t. The girls are gross, tough, and save the day. The boys are awkward, clumsy, and are right there with the girls. Your daughter could take a lot away from the female characters and morals of Wreck-It Ralph, if she were older – it’s not a movie for young children, there are some scary parts, but ultimately it’s up to you – and I highly suggest that you look more into this movie and see it yourself before ultimately condemning it as being entirely genre-conforming.

    • Hi Fletch,

      I have not seen the movie. My post was about the poster which is typical of almost all animated movie posters: males are front and center, females are sidelined, in the minority, or not there at all.

      Once again, movie posters and ads for movies are there own media. I live in San Francisco. Ralph is all over my city. My kids– and everyones else’s — see him every day. Even if you don’t take your kid to the movie, she sees teh posters again and again and again.

      “Ralph is the main character, but…” you write.

      I hear this all the time. But there are a couple strong females, but so-and-so isnt sexualized. I understand that you think I should be grateful for this, but this is fantasy world and kid world. Half of kids are girls. Why can’t females star in half of the movies made for kids?

      MM

      • Whoa, I didn’t say you should be grateful for this – not by any means of the imagination. I’d love to see more women and minorities in general in movies, especially given recent trend. The movie industry is a very sexist industry – my complaint is that you picked Wreck-It Ralph specifically and made arching assumptions about the content of the film, calling it another movie about boys for boys, despite not having seen the movie itself and having no impression of the positive representation for women it provides.

        You gave no indication that you were only talking about the advertising, especially because you referenced talked about trends in movie titling and protagonist choices, things within and about movies themselves. You deliberately ignored that there are posters featuring Calhoun, Vanellope, and the Sugar Rush racers – where I live, there are just as many as those featuring Ralph, Felix, or the assortment of famous video game characters, the latter of which is what’s pictured above. This was a campaign I deliberately noticed as being better at representation than most other movies, and holding up to the movie’s positive representation of women. You can buy just as much merchandise, if not more, of Vanellope and her game than you can Ralph, Felix and their game.

        Media representation is something that, I agree, does need to be addressed. I’d love to see more characters like me in movies! Kids who grow up the way I did would benefit greatly from that! But Wreck-It Ralph is a poor choice to target, which you did with your title, much of your article, and your using one of its posters as the headlining image. The girls in Wreck-It Ralph aren’t missing – they’re very real and very important, in both the movie and the advertisements. You’re doing a disservice to their characters and the lessons kids can learn from them by pretending otherwise.

  12. I despise people who think that just because there arent girls in the title of kids movies that automatically they call it sexist. now i understand what you mean by what your saying. im just stating my opinion. (rude replies shall be ignored)

    • Hi Preston,

      Once again, if this were one of many, no problem. It’s typical and I’m sick of it. Check out my blog. Look at the posters from 2011. Posters from 2012 will, most likely, will be as bad.

      MM

  13. While I do think it’s awesome that you pay attention to how the media portrays women (or lack there of) I think calling Wreck it Ralph sexist completely glosses over the fact that two major characters (characters who are on screen just as much as Ralph) are awesome, tough, wonderful ladies. Ralph also did something which made my heart sing, aka having the ‘human’ character who is playing the games in the arcade being a young girl. By calling Wreck it Ralph sexist we’re ignoring the strides we ARE making with well thought out/designed female characters. As a young woman going into the animation industry with hopes to work on television I sincerely hope my future projects aren’t judged solely by the promo art or posters. (especially when one considers that the directors/artists themselves might not get say on how their works are promoted)

    If I remember correctly, ‘Brave’ also had promo posters featuring the clan leaders and their sons, as well as Merida’s younger brothers, but that obviously had NOTHING to do with screen time or plot since Merida and her mother are in fact the main characters and are on screen the entire film.

    Posters =/= Entire Movie

    I guess my point here is it would be great if you’d see the films first before making assumptions based on promo posters, especially considering Ralph also has posters that DO display Sgt. Calhoun and Vanellope.

    • Hi Brittany,

      I am happy that there are 2 strong females in this movie but that is pretty standard now in animated film: the movies star a male, the movie is his story and his quest, and most of the characters are male; there are usually 1 – 3 strong females, they are almost always fewer than the male, rarely the protag, and rarely in the title. They are usually there to help the male on his quest. We are making strides, but slowly. The Geena Davis Institute reports that at the rate we are going it will be hundreds of years before there is parity.

      I don’t judge works solely by posters and ads, but you’ve got to realize, those are influential media in and of themselves. Even if you don’t take your kid to the movie, she is likely to see posters and ads. It made sucha huge difference to my daughters when tehy saw BRAVE posters all over town. It is so rare for kids to see a female be front and center. BRAVE did have others in the posters, but Merida was always front and center.

      I will see the movie and review it as well.

      MM

  14. Whoa I forgot only females can be movie stars.
    I don’t think little girls going to see wreck it Ralph are going to go home disappointed because the movie follows a male character.
    I don’t think they really care.
    but anyway
    Vanellope is just as much a main character as Ralph is.

    The movie is very balanced in my opinion.

    You need to get over what characters Disney choose to be their main character.
    you can’t expect every movie to come out be /all/ about girls.

    .

    • Hi Panda,

      Girls do care. Kids are self-centered and they want to see themselves up there on the big screen. Imagine if the ratio was reversed and the majority of characters in all these movies were female. Do you think you’d notice?

      MM

      • See but, most disney films have mainly girls.
        And it sure doesn’t make me feel bad, nor did it ever.
        These movies are for people’s enjoyment.
        When I went to see wreck it ralph, there were more little girls than little boys. And they sure didn’t leave sad.
        This is a very good movie for any gender or age.

        And I still don’t think little girls care in the end, I’m speaking for this movie specifically.
        [SPOILERS]
        Since they followed a little girl just as much, who didn’t need to be saved, but ended up saving someone she cared for.
        She overcame and brushed off being essentially shunned and mocked.
        And was still happy and proud of herself in the end.
        But I’m sure you still think its sexist to girls.
        And that’s pretty sad.

  15. Can’t tell if troll, or stupid.

    But anyways,
    ITS SEXIST, that you think since a boy is the title IT IS AUTOMATICALLY DEGRADING TO WOMEN. If I were you, I would tell my daughter that the genders ARE EQUAL, therefore it shouldn’t MATTER that a male is the main character in a movie. If you are so concerned, and you want your kid to grow up just like the “feminist” you pretend to be, why don’t you brainwash her with some old fashioned Disney Princess movies?

    • Hi Esther,

      I don’t think because a boy is in the title, its automatically degrading to women. My issue is that most movies made for kids star males, that females are sidelined and represented a minority again and again and again. This teaches children that boys are more important than girls.

      I guess that Disney princess comment shows that you really are missing my point.

      MM

      • You say this even though in Wreck-It Ralph there is a gruff FEMALE commander in a shoot-em-up game (played by a little girl) and a couple of GROWN MEN are absorbed in a racing game with a full cast of little girls that don’t come off as prissy or stereotypical despite the game’s candy setting.

        And despite the fact that earlier this year we had an animated film all about a girl who refuses the pampered lifestyle of a princess and wants to become independent.

        And despite the fact that 2 years ago we got an animated film about a girl who wanted to see the world and learned how to become independent.

        And despite the fact that 3 years ago we got an animated film about another girl who is determined to work hard and achieve her dream despite any and all circumstances of race, wealth (or species).

        So you’re upset that Wreck-It Ralph, Paranorman and Frankenweenie have male protagonists. Does this honestly mean girls cannot enjoy these things too? How the hell does it teach girls that boys are more important when we’ve been seeing an increase in strong female roles either as the starring character, or co-starring character?

        Let me also add that I noticed in another of your comments that YOU HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN THE MOVIE YET. What the hell? How can you even complain about Ralph when you haven’t seen it? Even if you base your complaint on the commercials, there has been PLENTY of screen time for the female leads. You don’t even have a right to complain when you haven’t seen the material you’re referencing in your complaint!

  16. Good lord women/feminists can NEVER be happy. I constantly hear women complain about the portrayal of women in films directed at them, and now that Disney has begun their attempt to regain the young male audience (which they stated years ago http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/disney-announces-end-of-princess-movies/) we now get complaints that the young female demographic is being IGNORED despite the fact that Wreck-It Ralph has not one, but TWO strong main female characters. Oh, and we just had BRAVE come out earlier this year with TANGLED and PRINCESS AND THE FROG before that! This complaint is completely baseless and ridiculous.

  17. Who fucking cares. It’s a kids movie. Nobody bitches about Nemo’s mom being dead. Nobody said shit about how the Grinch didn’t have a girlfriend. Who fucking cares.

    • Hi Brett,

      I actually did “bitch” about Nemo quite a bit. Another male protag in a movie titled for him. It’s a father-son story. Almost all of the characters (many, many) are male.

      MM

  18. The movie is called Sugar Rush in Japan, and to me it was mostly about Vanellope than Ralph anyway…
    Its not sexist, its a homage to older games, and guess what, every older game was about a princess in distress.
    You had Coraline tought.
    Sorry if my english is not that good.

  19. Honestly, one of the things that I think was unintentionally clever of the movie was the way that Sergeant Calhoun’s backstory is referenced – another (male, naturally) character excuses her gruff exterior because “she was programmed with the most tragic backstory.” Says a lot more than it intends to, that line; it struck me as a nifty way to lampshade the treatment that many female characters get in video games. I don’t know that there’s support for disapproval of that trope in the text – but they at least mention it, which seems huge to me.

    And I did really, really love that the gamer we see most frequently on the other side of the arcade glass is a nerdy girl, pink glasses and all. Some dude gamers get lines, but only to put her down – they come off looking real douchey. She just kinda shrugs it off, it ain’t even worth her time.

    The film does pass Bechdel, toward the end – the other racers from Sugar Rush are all talking to Vanellope about the plot twist that just happened. It’s a pity it doesn’t do so more often though; I definitely got the sense that Calhoun and Vanellope would get on like firecrackers, and they deserved the chance.

    …I realize that as I’m writing this it might look like I’m trying to say that the movie is no way no how problematic/sexist. I’m not – I agree that it’s part of a larger problematic pattern (Tangled, I’m looking at you!) of newer children’s movies that films like Brave have only begun to address (and even that was called Brave, not Merida).

    • Hi jaqbuncad,

      “it struck me as a nifty way to lampshade the treatment that many female characters get in video games.”

      This is a relatively new tactic that comes up as a way of dealing with the sexism in animated films and its drives me crazy. It’s throwing girls a bone, justifying the sexism in the movie. For example, in “Ratatouille,” Colette in the Minority Feisty (token female) chef and she has a whole speech about how sexist French kitchens are. And they are. But this is a movie about a rat that can cook, OK? It is a fantasy movie. Why, when it comes to sexism, must the imaginary world reflect the real world. Why not just make a movie where there are multiple female chefs and there is no sexism? Why not make a movie about a female rat that can cook?

      MM

      • That’s a really good point. I think I was probably just so glad that her backstory wasn’t full of rape (years of media culture have given me low expectations, what can I say) that I overlooked the rest of its existence: the fact that she even has that kind of backstory is, yeah, they could’ve just not done that. It wasn’t necessary, even, to the plot of the film – they could’ve just as easily let her be gruff and snarky because of the game world she lives in, which is rough enough already without the added problem of the virus.

        I’d like to ask a clarifying question, though: were there specific instances of the movie that you found to be particularly sexist, or is your critique more generally about the way that children’s animation tends to privilege male/masculine-centered narratives and characters over female/feminine-centered ones? I ask because my original comment brought up specific instances of things I felt the film did right, or at least, better than others have done, and I would be interested in hearing more of your perspective with regards to the specifics of the movie.

        I do still think that there is plenty of room for growth of female characters and female-centered (and the rest: trans*, poc, disabled, etc.) for children’s stories – more Paper Bag Princess, less Disney Princesses! What I think I’d most like to see at this point is a story about a female character’s development that doesn’t hinge on a dude; even Brave to an extent relied on King Fergus’ thing about bears to drive the plot, along with the impending forced (heterosexual) marriage, and as much as I appreciated that film and how it centered Merida’s relationship with her mother, it would have been great to see that conflict without having it spurred on by dudes. (Gods know I had plenty of conflict with my mama over things that were not dude-related, surely a fictional character can?)

        Long comment is long! ;-;

  20. The narrative is from Ralph’s perspective, so it makes sense for the movie to be titled after him. Still, it should be noted that other countries might not feel the same. Japan, for instance, titled the movie “Sugar Rush”. In this case, I think it’s not a matter of sexism, but of culture.

    In America, the game Fix-It Felix Jr. has a legacy among older gamers and among fans of the arcade classics, two principle demographics for this movie, so highlighting the video game homage makes sense.

    Meanwhile in Japan you have the so-called “culture of cute,” which would lend itself to advertising the super saccharine Sugar Rush setting, and in addition you have the fact that the theme music for Sugar Rush was done by a currently popular all-girl Japanese band (AKB48).

    In both cases I don’t really see an argument for deliberate sexism so much as an argument for cultural mores and savvy marketing. Whether those things are inherently sexist I leave to you.

    • Hi JLend,

      “The narrative is from Ralph’s perspective, so it makes sense for the movie to be titled after him.”

      Exactly. That’s the problem. The story revolves around the male protag, his quest, his transition. And again, this would not be a problem if it were one movie or half of the movies made for kids but its practically all of them.

      I’m happy to know the movie is called “Sugar Rush” in Japan. Unfortunately, American culture dominates. In the poster in Japan, is Ralph front and center with the other characters smaller and behind him?

      “Cultural mores” and sexism are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are often the same. Also, calling attributing sexist issues to “culture” while racist issues are “political” IS sexism. For example, the gender Apartheid of the Taliban, radically different laws for women and men, is still referred to as culture. Can you imagine the world regarding Apartheid in South Africa as a “cutural issue”?

      MM

  21. I understand (although I do not agree with) why you may think the poster is sexist, however having have seen the movie I can say that it most defintly is not sexist. Of the 4 main characters, 2 are strong, powerful female characters who do much, much more then sit in the background as the male characters take center stage.

      • About as close as your going to get in a movie where the lead character is a male, the other thing this movie does really well is that at no point are the two female leads just standing around in the background doing nothing, they are essntial to the plot and the outcome to the movie. Not to mention that (spoiler warning) at the end of the movie the main female lead is put in a position where she can live the rest of her life as the prototypical 50′s era disney princess and instead rejects it so she can stay true to herself.

        Now I have a feeling that your next argument is going to be that the main character is a male, however as others have pointed out the movie is based on a game that is supposed to be 30 years old. This movie does do a great job of showing that modern games are starting to have strong female characters as the lead more often as both new games they showed starred female characters. Not to mention the person actually playing these games in the arcade in the movie is a young girl.

  22. I don’t understand. What would you have preferred?

    See, here’s the thing: guys like video games more than girls do. why? because they do. If you were to ask 100 men and 100 women if they enjoy video games, the men would be in a higher percentage. This is why Video games pander to the males. because of that, they make the characters relatable to their target audience by also making them males. The movie is appealing to fans of video games, which are males, thus the main character is a male. Lets not forget, Ralph’s game supposedly came out 30 years ago. Because of this, they followed the 1980s style of male good guy and male bad guy. They made this movie about a male character because in the 1980s video games were appealing to male players because females weren’t interested in video games. If you want to blame someone for the movie being about a male character, blame the girls of the 1980s for not liking video games more.

    Also, if the main character was a female, are you saying you wouldnt be complaining because she was obese? Are you saying you wouldnt be calling her a negative metaphor about women in that she destroys just about everything she touches? You couldnt have made it any more obvious you are calling this movie sexist because a) you looked for a reason to make this movie sexist and b) you like the attention doing so gets you.

    • Hi Lawrence,

      More men like video games because they have male characters, male stories, and are created by men and marketed to men.

      I get that “Wreck-It Ralph” is derivative. Most movies in 2012 are. A major part of the problem is that we keep recycling the same sexist stories/ formula.

      I would not complain if the female protag were obese. I think that would be great. I’ve written quite a bit about the lack of fat protags. If you read my blog, I am not looking for “perfect” females, I am looking for females to stop being invisible. I would have no problem with the princess or the skinny supermodel, if they were a couple of a multitude of female characters. It is the dominance of a couple characters to the exclusion of all others that is the problem.

      MM

      • but Video games were marketed to males in the first place because they were the ones who liked it. Video games started with stuff like pong. little boys played, little girls didnt. Thus from this stemmed them aiming their marketing at the boys who played the games. This movie, based on games, thus would have to appeal to males.

        What I guess I’d like to know is what would you have preferred from a movie like this?

        • Hi Lawrence,

          Boys play and little girls don’t. There are MANY reasons for this, see last post on “Bananas in Pyjamas.”

          What would I have preferred? Half of the characters in movies be female.

          MM

      • I meant what would you have rather had them do specifically in this movie. And when you think about it, there’s a reason guys are more prominent in kids movies-they’re easier to relate to. A little boy has difficulties relating to girls in movies, but everyone can relate to a character like Wreck-It Ralph or Shrek or Woody or Buzz. Because little boys look at a girl in a movie and go “ew” while a girl can look at a boy in a movie and feel the same way (typically feeling rejected in these kinds of movies, only to rise above it) the movie business makes the movies they know will work. Movies like Tangled or Brave mostly attract female viewers because a little boy doesnt want to go see a movie about a girl. But little girls go see movies about male characters all the time. “Hollywood” just plays to their audience. For things to change, Boys would need to start liking girl movies or girls would need to boycott boy movies. Neither of which will happen, as those boys and girls likely dont even know what boycott means.

    • Not so. There are plenty of women who play video games, and the gender ratios are actually pretty equal. Your perception is skewed by that way that the games that women play and enjoy are frequently not seen as “real” games – because women on average prefer stuff like Sims over Call of Duty – and also the way that mainstream gaming communities are frequently hostile to women, and sexism is such a problem on multiplayer games like Halo that Microsoft has threatened to permanently ban players for sexist statements.

      ~A lady-shaped person who’s been gaming since the 80s, thank you.

  23. I could argue that not enough disabled people are represented well in movies, even worse so… But then there’s more bigger real life prejudices which disabled folk has to still endure which puts modern feminist problems right at the back. You don’t see them complain too loudly, and definitely not about silly trivial childish things such as this.

    Feminazis, about time they grew some. Double standards at it’s finest.

    • Sonnesun,

      The problem with your argument is that half of children are females. Half. Yet, they are consistently represented as a tiny minority in children’s films. So, why is that? Sexism. Accepted, ubiquitous sexism. There is no good reason for fantasy world to be sexist. Why its important beyond movies is because if you can’t imagine it, you can’t be it. Only 16% of protagonists in movies are female. In the real world, in most professions in America, women at the top don’t make it past 16%.

      MM

      • Honestly, its because of the old saying “write what you know.” Looking at the writers, there’s one male and one female. Looking at the characters, the men and women are both well written-which is why this movie comes out more balanced than you make it out to be. But most Hollywood movies have male writers. They need to be able to relate to the characters, and males relate to other males better, unless they have deep insight into women psyche, like Joss Whedon. Only way you get strong female characters is likely female writers.

        • Hi Lawrence,

          I totally agree and I’ve written about that a lot. Most of the writers, throughout history, are men. For thousands of years, women have existed in narratives created by men. Like all humans, men are self-centered. If all of the stories were written by women, men would also be sidelined and marginalized. That is why we need diversity, and yes, I believe the sexism can only be solved by more women writers, and filmmmakers, and artists, getting their visions out into the world.

          MM

  24. It’s just a fricking fun kids movie which doesn’t touch on any issues at all.

    Only dumb bitter feminazi militants look into things deeper than what they actually are who quickly cry prejudice so too easily.

    If you think women are so hard done by from this movie, then how would you think beaten down women in Afghanistan would make of your whiney “We’re not equal” views?.

    There’s probably more chick flicks than action guy movies. But for some trivial reason feminists complain about anything male orientated. It’s nothing about equality, it’s just anti-male all the way.

    Get over it. Maybe take a trip into Afghan territory to witness some real inequality, then you wouldn’t complain so much over a daft children’s movie which isn’t trying to be political or representative of anyone at all.

    Jeez lol.

    • Hi Sonnesun,

      The Taliban in Afghanistan and sexism in America as part of a global problem of sexism. All over world, countries are losing out by restricting the potential of a valuable resource: women. I’ve blogged a lot about the Taliban on this site and also the hypocrisy of America, supposedly the country of the free and the brave, not giving women reproductive rights, not covering basic health care for women. Sexism is America’s mass media, which influences the culture of the whole world, is one of many ways America sells itself and the world short.

      MM

  25. Hi Goodness,

    Feminazi, dumb broad, bitch, fat ass, and ugly Kunt. Did I miss anything I was called? All in response to a blog post about rampant sexism in the gaming world and animation, claiming that sexism doesn’t actually exist there. Wow.

    MM

  26. This blog is the perfect example for feminazis taking it all way too far. Grow up and get a life. I guess you didn’t complain about a movie like “Brave” with a female main character while most of the males (all sidekicks) just act stupidly.

  27. Dumb broads… LOOK AT THE POSTER!

    It’s Q-Bert, Sonic, a Pac-man ghost and others (including one beefy mohawk man) that he’s towering over, not a bunch of girls. How is that sexist? There are no females down there… just a bunch of video game characters — mostly bad guys and asexual villains, which is what Ralph is trying to rise above in this movie.

    • Hi Barney,

      Your question answers itself: “There are no females down there”

      Females go missing from movies for kids and show up only as a minority. They aren’t bad “guys” or good guys, they aren’t villains or heroes; they are hardly there at all.

      MM

  28. More whine and cheese from lazy people who can complain but can’t get off of their asses and get themselves a career that would put them in a position to write and make movies at a major mainstream film studio, as usual.

    Where is it said that every animated movie has to have a female protagonist as the lead character (for that matter, who says that animated movies have to be for boys and girls, and that the female characters have to be paragons of virtue with no flaws?) And, in a nation going through a ton of problems that require people’s utmost attention, is it too much to ask why people can’t be focused on the serious issues rather than on what happens in an animated movie?

    • Hi Neville,

      Every movie does not have to have a female protagonist, but right now just 16% of movies do. Animated movies are important because they play a large role in shaping the games, toys, clothing, and imaginary play of children, There is no good reason for the imaginary world to be sexist. If you can’t imagine it, you can’t be it. If we can see talking rats who can cook, unicorns, and witches, why can’t we have gender equality?

      MM

  29. Geez, arguing sexism in a kids movie that clearly has two strong female leads? Absurd. And if you want a movie that specifically has the spot light on on a female character, then there’s Brave from earlier this year. Of course, you’re probably blind to the “sexism” in that one.

    • Hi KMB,

      “Brave” is a great movie and also the only movie in Pixar’s history with a female protagonist.

      Leads? When you see it, compare face time and speaking lines of females to males in this movie. I have no doubt from the poster, the ad, and fro what I know of animated movies, there will be a radical gender discrepancy. If not, I’ll eat my words but here they are.

      MM

  30. Still crying over spilled milk. Tomb Raider had a strong female lead as does the Resident Evil movies and not to mention movies where there are females who appear strong like Black Widow in The Avengers. Did you forget about the Alien movies? *Sigourny Weaver*

    Is it not enough that you have the “Lifetime” channel to watch all your terrible “women” movies? Or crappy Twilight?

    You are a minority lady.

    • Hi A.J.,

      1. I’m talking about movies for little kids
      2. Alien is a great movie– for adults– and in a tiny minority of action movies with strong, female stars
      3. Avengers has one female to 4 males
      4. Lifetime sucks and is all about gender stereotypes for women and men
      5. Minority is movies starring strong females, not me

      MM

      • Oh but the Avengers had a great female villain, a sassy single mother who just wanted to make the world a better place in their own way.

  31. Heya MM,

    Without contesting that cinema in general is a medium largely directed at a male audience, I think it’s worth pointing out both that Frankenweenie is the name of a male dog, not a man.

    But that Frankenweenie, Wreck-It Raph, How to Train your Dragon and brave all contain strong female characters who have prominence during the story. Whilst I think there’s a valid argument in there being a drastic minority in animated female leads, I also think that’s it’s mistaken to react to a movies title, rather than its content.

    Coraline, Brave and Tangled are all recent movies with female leads, though I agree that the portrayal isn’t as problem free as could be hoped for. There remains a disparity, and part of its reason is that there are less than 15 films with female leads to make over $200 million, and several of them belong to the Twilight Saga which is not even nearing an ideal female role model (in terms of being valued/defined by their suiting a male character).

    A friend linked me to your post expecting me to be outraged, I think it’s backfired on him a little bit!

    Regards,
    BZ

    • Hi BlinkingZeroes,

      Frankenweenie is a dog, and that’s the prolem. It doesn’t matter if the characters in the movie are toys, fish, rats: they get gendered and the males are the stars and the females get sidelined.

      Most animated movies feature one or a couple strong female character. This is what I call the “minority feisty,” because these females are always called “feisty”– a word that would sound silly and demeaning applied to a character like Superman– and they are always in the minority. In kids’ movies, females are represented as a minority. When you have fewer females, its easy to stereotype them because you need to come up with fewer narratives. Females in the minority also normalizes kids to a world where females ARE in the minority: the real-life power structures. When female roles are stereotyped and limited, kids imaginations get limited as well.

      Coraline is great. Brave is great, these films are in the minority. I’ve written a about the sexism in “Tangled”

      I don’t think its fair to talk about how much money has been earned when so few films get made. Also, sexist parents don’t take sons to movies staring females the way they take daughters to movies starring males. Also, I’ve heard a lot of dispute about how much $ movies make, for example, I’ve read stuff that Tangled was a success.

      MM

      • Yes – Tangled was a success, making $200.8 million dollars. It’s one of the few, even though Coraline was brilliant!

        Thanks for your reply – I believe you’re right. Whilst there are more than there were, with female characters getting a better treatment in male centric movies than they did, there’s still an undeniable disparity.

        Problematically, I think that disparity is part of the reasoning at a studio level for there continuing to be so few. Studios do view it as a risk. But it’s changing – Successes like the Twilight saga demonstrate (if not healthy gender dynamics) that there is a female audience.

        Perhaps it’s time the other studios paid attention, and maybe films like Brave, Perks of being a wallflower are examples that some, are.

        p.s. Superman is problematic, but please allow me to detour from descending too far into the “what about the men?!” hole.

  32. Margotmagowan, you seem like a pretty sexist person. It’s a movie about video games. Now, i’m aware that a lot of females play games too and I can tell you first hand that when I get on a headset to have a good time the majority of gamers online are MALES.

    It makes sense that this movie also targets the male audience. You are complaining over spilled milk. It seems that if a movie doesn’t have a strong female character or a female on the cover of the box you are upset over it. Was Brave not good enough for you? I bet you didn’t’ see our boyfriend or husband complain when you wanted to see Magic Mike did you?

    You seem like a pretty stuck up bitch who likes to complain over stupid shit like this. I tell you what, if you don’t like it then get off your fat ass and make your own damn movies.

    • Hi A.J.

      Your comment is reminiscent of all the sexism is the gaming world. It’s also a big issue that video games are so male dominated.

      I did see Brave. I liked it. It is the only movie with a female protagonist in Pixar’s entire history. When Pixar spoke of it and how the company likes to take risks, they referred to how made a movie about a rat that can cook, why not a female protag, as if the two are equally rare. Which, in fact, they are.

      I don’t think this shit is stupid. Kids media creates much of my children’s world and girls go missing.

      I didn’t see Magic Mike and it would be great to make my own movies. I am writing a middle grade book with many strong female characters.

      MM

  33. I love this website because it openly exposes sexism in the film industry, especialy children’s films.

    With that said, I was wondering if you can help me out.

    Being a critic of masculinity, and its interplay with femininity, I have noticed a strong LACK of scrutiny regarding the overly-testosterone-loving state our society wallows in. For example, unwritten rules deem it OK for girls to dress up like Jack Sparrow from Disney’s Pirates, but the same rules make it immoral for girls to dress up like Britney Spears or (heavens forbids!) for a boy to dress up like Wonder Woman.

    In order for our society to heal, we must get over the mentality that men=strength and women=weakness. I recently read an article about the new toy lines released by Lego, called “Friends,” which is basically small girl dolls in pink, pretty settings. Feminists hate this new toy line. While I can understand their concern (girls can like things other than pink!) I was alarmed when the author suggested that girls should be content playing with the currently-available Lego toy lines out there: (ie Lego Star Wars, Lego Ninjago, Lego Batman) …. Uh, hello? Am I the only one who sees the flaw in this reasoning? Why is it OK for boys to be the “default” in all toys? If feminists are criticizing the overly pink and overly-domestic Friends toys, isn’t it just as stereotypical and unfair to portrey boys as big-muscled, dominating entities who like to blow things up and rescue girls as if females are brainless losers? I am disgusted how individuals can’t seem to comprehend how they are allowing masculinity to win.

    Keep up these great articles; however, like today’s article on “Wreck it Ralph,” I would love to see more critique about the overt acceptance of masculinity in society. Remember, it’s not just that Princess-y movies are unhealthy for girls, but Superhero movies are also unhealthy for boys…. and girls. (And who criticizes Superhero movies? Not nearly as many as there should be.)

    Thanks for reading.

    • hi jake,

      i get your points and i strongly believe that rigid gender boxes hurt all kids and people…boys lose out from this bullshit as well…but that said, muscles often symbolize strength and power. The Superheroes save the world, take action. Female toys are all about how they look but boyworld toys are about what they do. Superman isn’t always brushing his hair, he is brave and courageous, something all kids should aspire to be. He takes risks.

      I’ve also blogged quite a bit about violence. I am not anti-all-violence in kidworld. I don’t like gore, but I think that art depicts emotions, makes our emotions visible. Our emotional life is intense, and so is the emotional life of kids. Dramatic, too. Kids have to share and feel like the walls are falling down around them. A children’s story shows the walls actually falling down, the world actually caving in. You feel like everyone is against you, or you are being attacked, or the wind was knocked out of you. Stories and art show that. For me, cleaning out my closet is emotionally a big deal. But if I were to write a story to show how it feels, a closet would be something boring or something everyone doesn’t feel overwhelmed by. I would raise the stakes, pick something dramatic to evoke the universal emotion like the story of Psyche sorting seeds.

      Does that answer your question?

      MM

  34. You’re Reply amuses me. I admire your intelligence, maybe i was wrong to call you a sexist pig, sorry.. The true route towards equality doesn’t stem from notification, or documentation about the segregation medias display on females, or males for that matter. There’s this thing my teacher said to me a lot that comes to mind, i guarantee you I’m saying some of it wrong.(it was five years ago) “one should educate. Never indoctrinate.”
    I apologize for my blatant name calling. I left my manners on 4Chan.org. Have a nice day.

  35. You are a sexist pig, it disgusts me i read this article hoping for some display of a perspective that is right minded and notion towards equal rights. Nope. Just you. Complaining. Be the change. Don’t raise a bigot like you. children are the future. Educate you’re children

    • Hi Brandon,

      If “Wreck-It Ralph”– the way it features a majority of males, stars a male, and is named for that male– was unusual, or even the case of half of the movies for kids out there, there would not be anything sexist about this poster. Unfortunately, the cast and title of “Wreck-It Ralph” is typical of animated movies for kids. I wish I were the sexist pig.

      MM

  36. fuck bitches get money

    know why all the world leaders are men and not women?
    know why males lead in managerial jobs which women even dominate?
    know why men invent the important stuff while women dominate the kitchen?
    know why women are generally paid less?
    know why us men just sit back and let you cry ur ways into victory?
    know why most movies are lead by male actors and it’s been this way since the begining of movies?

    Cause men rule the world and women are only good for cooking, cleaning and suckin dick

    Yeah u mad

    Bet most of you are fatass ugly kunts who are divorced or too fat to be liked by a man, the ugly ones out that got harassed in school and blamed men for your failures

    again, stay safe and please take ur multi and lift heavy

    may the zyzz bird of peace keep you fat kunts safe

    and remember to post your thick solid and tight progress pics, keep us updated you cheeky gangas!

      • Hey, Camel Jockey.

        I am a man, and you are wrong. Dead-wrong.

        You are shooting yourself in the foot by claiming that men are best at ruling the world. Using this logic, men should rightfully take “credit” for all the millions of deaths and genocides through the ages. Some splendid ruling, huh? They also control the political system; so I guess men should also take the blame for the horrible economic situation we are in right now.

        What you fail to understand is that when a man messes up, it’s considered “OK,” “excusable;” their mistakes are often swept under the rug. But when a woman messes up, it’s all attributed to her sex, and the media (which is also dominated by men) never lets the public forget. Example: ever notice how Prince Harry’s nude vegas videos have faded, and yet everyone still remembers Madonna’s “indecent” costumes of 20 years ago?

        You need to grow up.

      • Well to start, Ralph is a video game villain. How often is it that we see a female video game villain? Well I play alot of videogames, and there are few that I’ve seen. Not to mention in the arcade style games that are portrayed in this movie. I would have written this argument of this movie being sexist off this fact. What you can say is that Video games are sexist, but she would be portrayed as a vilian, and is that what you want? Everyone thinking that women are all evil and full of bad intentions? Is that what kind of sexisim you want? For us to think your nothing but violent bad people? That women are always aggressive and the bad guy? *ahem*

  37. Pity, cause it’s got two good women voice actors. Although it appears that Jane Lynch might be playing a male character anyway, Sergeant Calhoun.

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