My three daughters review ‘Turbo’

You’ve heard it all from me before. Basically, if you added up all of the speaking time of the female characters in “Turbo,” you might get 5 minutes of dialogue. “Turbo” reminds me of “Ratatouille” in that animators really seem to believe that it’s easier to convince audiences a talking rat can cook, or a snail can win the Indy 500, than a female character can be a great chef, a champion racer, or the star of her own movie.

Here are my three daughters reviewing “Turbo.”

Reel Girl rates “Turbo” ***SS*** for gender stereotyping

A note on Reel Girl’s ratings and gender stereotyping. I’ve seen comments about movies I gave a high S rating to (“Monster University” and “Despicable Me 2” most recently) that the male characters in these movies are not typical males. They are complex. Therefore, the gender stereotyping isn’t that bad. I strongly disagree with that assessment. I don’t see the lack of complex male characters as a problem in animated movies for kids. From “Toy Story” to “The Lion King” to “Ratatouille,” there are great male protagonists. Not only that, there are so many male characters in these movies, heroes and villains, cool dudes and geeks, athletes and artists, on and on, that kids get to see all kinds of male representation. Female characters, on the other hand, are barely there, passive, and sexualized. Females are erased and seeing that repeated pattern negatively affects both girls and boys. I can’t think of a better way to address stereotyping of male characters than to show kids strong females who are the stars of their own movies, with males helping and supporting them on their quests.

7 thoughts on “My three daughters review ‘Turbo’

  1. if I was to ask other 4, 6, and 9 year olds their thoughts on a film, I would say that very few would comment on gender stereotyping. I actually believe that most would not know what gender stereotyping is, so was surprised to see all of them comment about the lack of females in the film instantly when being asked ‘what did you think of the film?’. Did they come to this conclusion themselves, or were they looking for this before beginning the film?

    Racing is taken as an interest in a higher proportion among young boys (I’m not saying that this is how it should be, I’m also unsure as to whether this would be different if there were more female racing role models), so couldn’t you also argue that this film’s target market is male, hence would have male protagonists to make it more relatable?

    • Hi Questions,

      I disagree. I think most kids know “stereotype.” When I was touring kindergartens, I saw a teacher asking her class about it while reading them a book about girls not being allowed to play baseball. I am not the kind of mom that only lets her kids play with wooden toys and doesn’t allow barbie in the house. From my experience, forbidding things makes them more attractive. I try to teach my kids to be critical thinkers. I do censor some stuff, obviously, what they are too young for at different stages: death, sex, gore, etc. Before we see a movie, I always tell my kids to look for what the girls are doing,how many girls they are, who gets to talk, etc. I have a list of questions I suggest you ask your kids about a movie on this blog, reprinted on the Ms blog.


  2. There are some orange male cat protagonists and characters that aren’t paired with white-furred female cats, including Puss in Boots (Shrek), Garfield (Garfield), Azrael (The Smurfs), Toulouse (The Aristocats), and Oliver (Oliver and Company). Many orange cats in fiction are portrayed as humble and/or heroic. Garfield and Azrael are snarky rather than humble, and Azrael is antagonistic and not all heroic.

    However, there are a few orange and cream cats in fiction that are female, including Cleo (Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats), Alice (Chi’s Sweet Home), Perla (Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos), Poppy Cat (Poppy Cat), and Olive (Olive and the Bad Mood, Olive and the Big Secret).

    Many white-furred cats in fiction are female and portrayed as elegant, showy, and upper class. One subversion to this is Artemis (Sailor Moon). He has all-white fur, but he is male. Also, he is neither elegant nor showy. He is paired with a black-furred female cat named Luna. If a black (or black and white) cat and a white cat are paired with each other, the black (or black and white) one is usually male and the white one is usually female. In this case, the white cat is male and the black cat is female.

    Black cats in fiction are often portrayed as bad luck, a witch’s familiar, or evil, but Felix is lucky and Luna is good and neither are witch’s familiars.

  3. Cats in fiction have coat color stereotypes that are connected to their gender.

    Many female cats in cartoons have all-white fur. Examples include Duchess and Marie (The Aristocats), Mewsette (Gay Purr-ee), Sonja (Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats), and Sawyer (Cats Don’t Dance).

    Often when a female cat is paired with a male cat, the female cat is all white and the male cat is orange or orange and white.

    Orange Male Cat and White Female Cat Examples:
    1) Thomas O’Malley and Duchess (The Aristocats)
    2) Danny and Sawyer (Cats Don’t Dance)
    3) Heathcliff and Sonja (Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats)

    In silent and Golden Age cartoons, the male cat the usually all-white furred female cat is paired with is often black or black and white. For example, Felix the cat has black fur, while his girlfriend has all white fur.

    The Journal of Cartoon Overanalyzations has a blogpost talking about this called Chromatic Sexism and Animated Felines.

    Chromatic Sexism and Animated Felines link:

  4. Speaking of animal characters in fiction, some animals (like walruses and gorillas) are disproportionately male, some are more often female (like hippos and ladybugs), and some (like rabbits and foxes) are either/or.

    Cats (except lions) are often portrayed as female and are often female when paired with a dog, yet the majority of cat protagonists are male. Some of the few female cat protagonists around are Chi (Chi’s Sweet Home), Poppy Cat (Poppy Cat), Sagwa (Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat), and Olive (Olive and the Bad Mood, Olive and the Big Secret). Krazy Kat of the old Krazy Kat comic may count as a female feline protagonist, but his/her gender is ambiguous.

    Dogs in fiction are usually male except for poodles, Salukis, and other graceful or showy dogs. Some of the few female dog protagonists include Olive (Olive the Other Reindeer) and Blue (Blue’s Clues).

  5. Hi Amy,

    They are 4, 6, and 9 (almost 7 & 10.) You are so right about the youngest, I was thinking that too. I wrote this on Reel Girl’s FB page but yeah, talk about raw/ un-edited video, did you catch the oedipal moment where the youngest says she wanted to marry pops? Too funny.


  6. Margot, what are their ages? It’s fascinating to get their ‘raw/uncut’ takes on the film and watch the youngest one morph into group think…so indicative of why we need to be aware of sibling influences/looking up to older kids, opportunities to leverage mentoring, peer to peer knowledge sharing, etc. Thanks for the ‘peek behind the scenes of the household! Fun!

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