Can I express how much I hate “Escape From Planet Earth” in one post?
My daughter’s preschool had a staff development today and thus, we had three options for films showing in theaters: “Oz, the Great and Powerful,” “Jack, the Giant Slayer,” and “Escape From Planet Earth.” I picked the movie with no male in the title with the hope of seeing strong female characters. Also, my daughter is 3, so “Escape” is supposedly the best movie for her age group. This is my issue with the MPAA, by the way. This movie is terrible for kids. Note to MPAA: If you are going to make a movie about a desperate, bitter working woman vs a heroic, fulfilled stay-at-home mom, warn us. You could do what I do and slap on an ‘S’ for stereotyping.
First things first. The protagonists of “Escape” are two brothers. That’s right, brothers.
If that’s not enough of a male paradigm for you, one brother has a son, Kip.
Kip rescues his father at the end of the movie. “Escape,” like so many animated movies for kids, is a father-son story.
The evil guy of the movie, the one who wants to destroy the universe, is of course, also, a guy.
The possy of aliens that surround him include just one Minority Feisty, the one-eyed Lo.
I loved Lo, and I wish this had been her movie. There was a group of triplet aliens who didn’t speak for most of the movie. I thought they might be mute females. But, at the end of the movie, when they rescue the brothers, they talk. All three are male. We spend most of “Escape” in the company of all of these aliens and the evil guy.
OK, want to know about 3 more girl parts? After multiple characters and scenes, the first female speaking part enters into the movie. She’s our protagonist’s boss. Cool right? Except turns out Lena Thackleman is a bitter shrew. She’s furiously resentful of the central Minority Feisty, Kira Supernova, who is Gary’s wife and Kip’s mom (that’s right, wife and mom.) Kira left her job to be a stay-at-home mom where she is fulfilled and happy.
In spite of her power position, Lena is desperate, unhappy, and alone. To make matters worse for her, Lena has fallen in love with the movie’s villain who she met on-line dating. The villain doesn’t even love her, he’s using her to get material he needs to blow up the universe. How is that for humiliating? Just to rub it in, when Kira punches Lena out, she says triumphantly: “Just because a chick had a baby, doesn’t mean she can’t belt it out.” GAG. Is there anything worse than a sexist narrative marketed as a feminist one? Oh yeah, a sexist narrative marketed as a feminist one in a movie for kids.
Sexist lines continue throughout. When Kira is carrying her husband, flying through the air with her rocket boots, he says: “I feel emasculated.” Why screw up a cool scene like that? One reason I liked “Wreck-It, Ralph” is because when female characters showed their skill, they were admired by the male characters. It’s crucial to show kids that females acting strong is cool and beautiful. “Escape” communicates the opposite.
When guards are watching over Kira and Kip, one says: “A lady and a kid? What is this, daycare?” Hollywood, why put sexist jokes in your movies for children? How are girls supposed to feel when they see women laughed at for being weak and ineffectual? if it happened once in a while, that would be one thing, but its a dominating, repetitive theme in children’s movies.
Just to conclude, the final Minority Feisty is the sex-pot news reporter in love with one of the brothers. Guess who plays her? Sofia Vergara. Can you see the part now? Making it worse, if possible, the movie ends with her wedding. Isn’t that happy?
Watching “Escape From Planet Earth,” I felt like I was watching some kind of sick parody of my blog, like someone was making a joke about what a sexist movie made for kids would really look like. I can’t believe Hollywood put out this awful propaganda. Who green-lighted this? Who could possibly think these caricatured gender stereotypes are good for little kids?
Reel Girl rates “Escape From Planet Earth” ***SSS***
Just got done watching this awful movie and Googled the title + sexism and found this post. I can’t believe this movie only came out 2 years ago and not 62 years ago. When you mentioned the “feisty minority” I thought you were referring to that rat-alien. This movie is so demeaning to women. You were spot on to ask why such sexist claptrap was deemed appropriate for an animated children’s movie.
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not to mention did you even notice all of the other propagandist bullcrap regarding the racial/sexual stereotypes???
the big “strong” “pink” one eyed was displaying lesbianism(note similar to the big girl in brickleberry is a big strong “brute” and denounced her femininity by being shown more masculine (in other words more “like man”)
the “mexican” voice was played by a “wet-backed” slimy alien… hmmm… anyone pay any attention to that??
and of course the “black” stereotyped character was of course “flashy” by wearing a jumpsuit with “gold-like chain” around neck…
There’s even a scene where that alien walks right by a “purple” soda can at the end of the movie that was put in the movie as subliminal programming to these poor children watching it…
All the while unbeknownst to their poor naive brains being programmed by these stupid elitist monkeys in hollywood…
what the %@$^ is wrong with our species where they have such a stupid and desperate need to control the minds of people through media such as movies???
Joseph Goebbels of the nazi party would be so proud of what has become of modern film and television…
just after reading my initial post so there is further clarification of reason… as i didnt want any misinterpretation occurring…
there is nothing wrong with being attracted to the same sex… i.e. lesbianism…
i happen to be a heterosexual male who has seen and observed this bad animal behaviour in our species, since i first became a teenager…
And now, for the last 17 yrs of my life i have studied it quite intently, in which i have found it to be quite silly and nonsensical for us “both male and female” to act in a manner which is not conducive to us being successful as a species…
However, it must be noted that again (another distinguishing factor) directly relating to the plight of women in this day and age, is how a “woman” is only shown as “strong” if she is attracted to other women and again shown through the “male or female’s” propagandist eye’s as the only way a woman could have “true power” or “equality” is by showing her attributes both physical and emotionally to be “like a man”…
and that is wrong…
that couldnt be further from the truth…
a woman is actually not equal to a man…
the truth is that women are superior to men in every aspect possible other than “average size and strength”
men cannot procreate… and females are completely necessary for that and subconsciously in our biological desire for such reproduction…
Women hold ALL of the power…
sadly a vast majority.. if not almost all men, see this as a “threat of dominance” and thus the putting down and sick and reprehensible nature of the male ego, with the continuation of the lack of women’s equality over the ages…
(not to give a biology lesson) but…
we are all women in the first stages of biological processes and then genes and alleles then dictate which chromosome will be present and thus the only difference in our “sexes” is simply the amount of genetic information putting “male traits” on a female embryo…
hollywood’s monkey train, of writers and or whichever dumb (or fiendishly clever people writing this crap to feed everyone on must be so determined to make manipulation of minds their #1 priority rather than putting out a good movie with just a great story… rather they just put crap together and fill in the “subtleties” which are rather blatant to me…
great…(light happy sarcasm)…
now i have to clarify something else… geesh i guess i should read the post and add clarity to statements as writing is hard and doesnt always convey precise “meaning” which is why the english language is rather difficult and leaves for much misinterpretation….
didnt see it before i finished typing, but to which i was referring about “bad animal behaviour” was not at all directed towards “attraction to the same sex”
that comment “bad animal behaviour”…
was “solely” directed our species at a whole with specific regard to manipulation through control and propaganda…
sorry for not making that clear in previous post either… as there is no other way to edit the previous posts…
Bravo, Reel Girl! Just tried watching the movie tonight and couldn’t get past the first half-hour. The sexism was just jumping off the screen! I just don’t understand – who makes these movies? Seriously, they can’t think of any better story lines with better roles for women? It’s just painful to watch. And why the heck would Sarah Jessica Parker agree to voice that role? Can she really find no other parts to play these days?
The studio execs and animators are probably thinking the same old b.s. that boys won’t watch these films if there are strong female (and leading!) characters in them. But they’re teaching such negative lessons about a woman’s place in the world to our sons and daughters. It’s 2013, why haven’t we moved beyond these stupid stereotypes!
Thanks for your comment. I write about sexism in kids’ media all the time, and still, the stereotypes and misogyny in “Escape” shocked me. Ugh. As far as boys not watching girls in the lead, talk about creating a self-fulfilling prophecy!
Thank you again for writing this. It inspired me to write my own blog post about the poor portrayal of women in Hollywood action and adventure films, including in children’s cartoons. I would love to hear your thoughts on it:
I also mention your post on Escape from Planet Earth and link out to your blog. You’re also mentioned under the references section. I hope you enjoy it!
Love your post and your blog! Will share on Reel Girl’s FB page.
Wow, thank you so much! I’m thrilled 🙂
Margot, I’m afraid this is a little off topic of Escape from Planet Earth, but I knew it would be something you would appreciate. I saw this post on Upworthy about a father of a daughter who hacked an old school Donkey Kong to make it Pauline who is rescuing Mario because the 3-year-old little girl was upset that the game only offered the opposite option: http://www.upworthy.com/this-cool-and-nerdy-dad-is-doing-parenting-for-his-daughter-so-so-right-3?c=ufb1
It’s disturbing that this must be done on the individual hacker level, rather than through the major video game manufacturers and animation studios, but here’s hoping that these sorts of stories start a groundswell.
I saw this story. I love this dad. And yes, it sucks that this is what we have to do to get a female protagonist.
Watched the video. One thing I liked was that it is that female character and she doesn’t have to change anything about what she looks like or what she wears or who she is to save the guy. She doesn’t suddenly become “feisty” or a female version of a male character. She is just capable and does what needs to be done.
I have a question for you, though. When Peach climbs the final rung in the ladder you can see up her skirt. Should we celebrate female characters who are strong but still “feminine”. Or should we want her to be able to wear something more practical?
As a mother of 2 little boys I’m constantly struggling to find movies for them to watch that aren’t completely sexist. And it is frustrating because he is too young to have an opinion on what girls can or can’t achieve. I want him to grow up knowing girls an be strong leaders, smart and funny, not just pretty to look at. But hardly any kids movies give you a decent female protagonist worth bothering with. For me “Brave” was embarrassing as Pixar’s first female lead movie. Despite the film having a stereotypically “feisty” heroine (when is that word ever used to describe a boy/man?) it is still all about whether Merida will marry or not. Merida is seen as subversive, difficult because she won’t do as her mother asks and get engaged, but why not a movie where strong, independent Merida has a great adventure that’s nothing to do with romance like any number f her Pixar lead character counterparts? Also as Merida seems to be a young teen the whole idea of marriage is particularly creepy.
Thanks so much for your email. It’s good to hear from a mom of a son because you are so right that this repetitive sexism affect all of our kids.
Maybe if the general public would stop shoving animation into the “animation is only for kids” box like they’ve been doing for the last fifty years, we’d get some more diverse entertainment here in the states.
Working in animation, I can tell you that studio heads don’t give two craps about what some person on a blog says. They care about marketing trends and what’s successful. The people who made this movie are copying the Dreamworks formula we’ve seen a million times before because that’s what gets butts in seats. It’s as simple as that.
Animation has so much potential to tell amazing stories and blow live-action out of the water and it pisses me off to no end that the American public will not LET animated movies aimed at older audiences get made. Shane Acker tried it with 9, Gore Verbinski tried it with RANGO, and Wes Anderson tried it with FANTASTIC MR. FOX.
All three of those are good movies that treat animation as an artform instead of marketing bullshit but very few people outside of animation fans like myself went to see them. The American public at the moment will not tolerate an adult animated film, let alone one with a strong female protagonist.
Why do you think great movies like PERSEPOLIS, TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE, and the various Miyazaki movies that have adult subject matter don’t get wide releases here in the states? It’s because no one would go see them. In the “animation is only for kids” world, no one is going to see a PG-13, let alone an R-rated animated movie. They won’t LET movies like that become successful because in the mind of the American public, animation can’t tell R-rated stories because animation is only for children.
But if people keep shoving animation into the “kids only” box, it’s never going to go anywhere.
I can only spread the word as an animator, it’s YOU, the readers of this blog, and the rest of the American public that can actually DO something about the situation!
There is a whole movement going on in animation right now I like to call the “Kickstarter” movement. Through crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, animators can now do their own projects outside of studio control. They have complete creative freedom and there are some amazing shorts and feature films being made right now that have been funded via these sites.
The only problem is distribution… again, because no studio now-a-days will touch anything if it doesn’t copy the big-studio formula. Quirky independent projects are not “safe”.
So sorry for the long semi-off topic rant, but my point is people here in North America need to stop treating animation like it’s a “kiddie genre” and look at it as an artform. Only then will it actually move forward.
As a cartoonist and animator working on a pilot on his own resources (which, BTW, has a female protagonist), all I can say is…bravo. Bravo, indeed.
A pox on anyone who says cartoons is a kids medium.
Funny thing, there are adult animations on TV (South Park, Family Guy, everything on Adult Swim), but hardly any for features. And adult animation in TV has its own problems (being offensive for the sake of being “adult”, etc.).
I’m having hard time pitching my pilot because main characters and designs are perceived as being too kiddy, but at the same time the content is too adult; it has gun fights, characters getting shot in Looney Tunes fashion, all played for laughs. There’s no in-between. It has to be strictly for kids or (in TV) strictly for adults. You can’t be in the middle.
Which is why I’m producing it myself. I’m gonna try to raise funds for it.
I’m a big Disney fan and say what you will about the possibly problematic messages those films might send, for the most part those romances of the Disney Renaissance worked for adults and didn’t talk down to children. I would argue, animator, that the films you mentioned might have had a smaller audience regardless of the medium. How well do the majority of Wes Anderson films do in theaters? How well would a live action foreign film with the subject matter of Persepolis do? I think what I enjoy about animation is that it forces both the creators and the audience to think about the craft of telling a story through visuals and it allows people to make really creative choices.
I recently saw a great documentary called Girl Rising that integrated a bit of animation pretty effectively.
I think it is a real shame that there aren’t more “adult” animated movies. I’m in my mid-twenties, and some of my favourite movies are animated. I think in part I’m loving them even more now because I am deaf, and growing up just didn’t have access to captions or subtitles on the movies (either they were too fast for little me to read or they weren’t available at all). Spirited Away and Spirit are two of my most favourite movies, and I like just about anything that comes out of Pixar. I also thought Rango was a great film, and that was from seeing it in the theatre without subtitles – so judging it solely on how much of the storyline I could understand from the visual, since I couldn’t understand any of the dialogue.
I at least will go see animated films, and recommend them too. I think most people I know are similarly inclined.
That said, I don’t think that having more animated films for adults is a prerequisite for gender diversity in the animated films that exist now. I love animated movies, but I also recognize the messages some of them are sending, which would have me seriously thinking about which should be shown to my future children. There are already excellent, popular movies with strong female characters out there that have shown that they ARE marketable, so that is no excuse either.
I listened to a review for this movie that complained about how the visuals and some of the jokes were clearly intended for very small children but how some of the other jokes would only make sense for adults (e.g. all of the references to famous movie directors). Reading your analysis, I’m struck by how much the film seems to rely on bad romantic comedy/sitcom stereotypes. Why is this being marketed to children? Children should be taught to dream and imagine possibilities and different social structures, not how to reinforce the harmful dominant narratives society already spews at adults.