‘Epic’ features cool heroine, celebrates matriarchy

My three daughters and I loved “Epic.” The central heroine, M.K. is smart, brave, funny, compassionate, and independent. I loved her look, too. She’s dressed in a hoodie with a messy ponytail. She doesn’t have a Barbie face, I’d recognize this girl in a crowd.

MK

M.K. narrates the movie. YAY. Do you know how rare it is to get a female narrator in an animated movie for children?

There’s more good news. Queen Tara is another brave, powerful female in this movie who is central to the narrative. Please note QUEEN, not princess. Not only that, GOOD queen, not evil. And…she’s not white. This may be a first, but let me know if there is another animated film with a good queen of color.

tara

Queen Tara is played by Beyonce, and the movie concludes with an awesome song about the matriarchy. The matriarchy, people! It’s so fitting and perfect because the whole movie is about protecting the heir. I was super worried that the next ruler would be male, especially because the evil character, Mandrake, keeps referring to said heir as his “dark prince.” Luckily, the evil dude is wrong, and just after you find that out, the matriarchy song comes on. I laughed when I heard it because I felt like Beyonce was saying to me, “Don’t worry, Margot, I got the girls covered.”

I do have some complaints. I wish M.K. was in the movie more. Much more. You cannot deny she is the protagonist– she is the narrator, she has the quest, and she goes through the transition. M.K. acts, takes risks, and makes choices. She is such a great character, but based on lines and screen time, “Epic” is pretty much an ensemble movie. Most of the other characters are male. The Queen dies early. M.K.’s mother is also dead. The central relationship in the movie is with M.K. and her father.

The evil character is male and he has an evil son. M.K. pals around with two male heroes, so in most of the action scenes, the same old Minority Feisty gender ratio is in your face. Speaking of, M.K. is riding bitch most of the time. Her position “makes sense” in the story because she’s the visitor to the tiny world, but still, writers can make anything happen. I am sick of sexism making sense in plots, and I had hope for M.K. taking the lead here. At one point, she gamely hops on a bird and says, “Come on, let’s go!” Nod, the young male hero, hops on behind her, but in the following scenes, Nod is the one in the driver’s seat again. Argh.

There’s an army of Leafmen, and from what I could tell, they are, in fact, men: 100% male. Comic relief is a male slug and his BFF, a male snail. That pair kind of reminded me of the male krills who steal the show in “Happy Feet 2” or the meerkat/ warthog duo in “Lion King” and countless other cartoon buddy boys. It would be so nice to see a couple of females being friends and being funny in an animated movie.

Finally, I wrote I love M.K.’s look and I do, but both she and Queen Tara are super skinny, and why not give her a blue hoodie, or brown, or red, or any goddam color in the entire universe but pinkpurple?

M.K. is prominently featured on many of the posters seen around San Francisco, another total rarity for children’s movies. Though I didn’t see this one, I want to order it for my kids.epic

Reel Girl rates “Epic” ***HH***

 

 

19 thoughts on “‘Epic’ features cool heroine, celebrates matriarchy

  1. I was really excited to see the film based on this post and other posts I’ve seen about it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the feminist realm. In addition to the things you’ve mentioned here, a running “thing” with M.K. and the male character was “put your arms around me” “But I barely know you!” tee hee, okay, I guess I will comply. I know the film makes some attempts at a female lead, but it would be much stronger with more female role models (Yes, there are the exchanges between the soon-to-be-queen and the queen Tara). For instance, if M.K.’s mother had been the scientist. M.K. was clumsy and weak throughout most of the film and needed men to be saving her all the time including at the end with her dad. The film ended with her seeking to break up a fight of 2 men who were vying for her attention as an object of affection, not as a collaborator. Oh well, progress?

    • HI GlassOnion,

      Sorry you were disappointed, I get what you are saying. I thought M.K> was stronger than you did, but I agree with your comments for the most part. I guess I get so happy at any progress.

      Margot

  2. How come when there are any female characters in most movies with both human and animal characters, the most or all of the female characters are human? For example, the main female character, MK, is human. Both the snail and the slug sidekicks, Ozzie the pet dog, and the minor toad character are male. In the case of the snail and the slug, it would make more sense for them to be hermaphrodites, which are simultaneously male and female.

    Another example is the movie Cinderella. Most of the female characters are human. There are female mice as minor characters, but the main female characters, Cinderella, Anastasia, Drizella, and Lady Tremaine, are all human.

    Pixar has movies featuring fish, rats, toys, cars, monsters, robots, and insects, but the one main female protagonist they have, Merida, is human.

    In the Dreamworks movie, Bee Movie, the main female character, Vanessa, is human. The main animal character, Barry, is male. Since he is a honeybee and most honeybees are female, it would make more sense for him to be female unless he was supposed to be a drone.

    • My assumption (with no evidence at all) is that those female characters you mention are notable. They are main characters or otherwise important. And all of the other characters are side characters or part of the background of the film. And with the trope http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MenAreGenericWomenAreSpecial and the assumption of male as default, most of your side characters are going to be male unless there’s a specific reason to make them female.

      • Hi Cat,

        yes, I think its the same reason people (kids and adults) are trained to always attribute male gender to stuffed animals. Unless it screams female (stereotyped human) it’s male.

        Margot

  3. Also, about the goddam army, we are having so much trouble with all this sexual assault in our real life army, its like, can’t we please have gender equality at least in the imaginary world????

  4. Hi Cat,

    I was hoping too, but the good news as I wrote is she IS the protag. I checked out the book the movie was based on just now, “The Leafmen and Good Bugs.” All male Leafmen there too. In fact, looks like the movie made up the MK character, thoug hthe book had an evil queen. Much more original to have a powerful, good queen. Yes, I liked the movie but its slim pickings out there!

    Margot

    • I think I heard something about one of the leaf men having a crush on the queen. How much is this emphasized (if at all) in the film? It’s very common for a powerful female character (especially a benevolent one like this queen character seems to be) to be depicted as somewhat asexual.

        • I thought the movie handled attraction pretty well. It was strong and powerful for Ronin and his queen, but not mushy, or making her subservient to him, and there was a lot of respect there, too. She’s not overly flirtatious, but she’s definitely not asexual.

  5. “She is a such a great character, but most of the others who surround her are male. The Queen dies early. M.K.’s mother is also dead. The central relationship in the movie M.K. and her father. The evil character is male and he has an evil son. M.K. pals around with two male heroes, so in most of the action scenes, the same old Minority Feisty ratio is in your face. Speaking of, M.K. is riding bitch most of the time. Her position “makes sense” in the story because she’s the visitor into the tiny world, but still, writers can make anything happen. […] There are armies of Leaf men and from what I could tell, they are, in fact, men, 100% male.”

    🙁 I was hoping the trailers would be misleading and they were hiding the female characters in the trailer because their scenes were too important to the plot and would reveal too much. Hey, a girl can hope. Why are there no women in this army? It’s not like A Bug’s Life where the story is about ants. There are no such thing as leaf men. They could have had female warriors if they really wanted to. Le sigh…

    We’ll, I’m glad you enjoyed the movie.

    • I saw some female Leafmen warriors toward the end. They’re not fighting, but you do get to see them in uniform.

      • Hi GnuMom10,

        “female leafmen” ha. Towards the end? No speaking parts? No fighting? If true, Ttat’s almost as bad.

        Margot

      • I just saw this movie last weekend, and I’m fairly certain there’s at least one fighting female. One of the ones yelling as they fly towards the bats struck me as being female. Very brief, unfortunately, but there.

    • Not sure if I’m understanding you right, but warrior ants are female in real life, and so are workers. So, really, there was no reason in A Bug’s Life for the soldiers and workers to be males.

      • Oh. Well, I guess I’ve been a little brainwashed by these movies then. I know there were female ants in the colony in A Bug’s Life but I can’t remember if they were workers or warriors. I do remember a female worker ant in Antz. I can’t remember if there were female soldier ants. Based on this clip, I’m going to say probably not. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOMbqzR06J0

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