Every time I see a poster around town advertising the upcoming animated movie “Planes,” my heart sinks. A couple months ago, I posted the sexist preview for the movie on Reel Girl where the fastest plane refers to the slower planes as “ladies.” Here’s part of the dialogue:
Plane One: What’s taking this guy so long? Is he really as good as he says he is?
Plane Two: No, better.
Plane One: Whoa! Who was that?
Plane Three: (Descending fast on top of the other two) Well, hello ladies. Ready to lose?
Plane Three goes on to leave the “ladies” in the dust. There are no female characters in this preview at all.
Here it is if you’d like to watch for yourself. You may want to ask your children to leave the room.
The message to kids who watch this mini-movie is that females are losers, not leaders. They can’t compete. Why does my 4 year old have to see a movie made for children where characters are mocked as female to indicate their inferiority?
Is the justification for this sexism that it’s just “true:” the fastest men in the world are faster than the fastest women, and my daughter should know that? The joke “makes sense,” it’s “realistic.” Is it also realistic that planes talk to each other? Why, when it comes to sexism, do people suddenly become so concerned about realism?
Here’s the problem with the repeated pattern of sexism in movies for kids. Narratives involve a hero who goes through challenges to reach a goal. Every kid– and every person– is the hero of her own life. At the most basic level, heroes act, make choices, and take risks. Narratives (and art in general) inspires us. Maybe my daughter’s big risk today will be reaching out for that elusive fourth monkey bar, trying a potsticker for the first time, or telling another kid to stop teasing her. Any of those acts will feel huge to her, just as sitting down at my desk and starting the next chapter of my novel feels huge to me. If I were to show my emotion, I might put myself at the foot of Mount Everest. Narratives are metaphors. They aren’t just a life compacted, but a moment, expanded. Sexism has no part in that story, especially as a repeated pattern, marketed to little kids, where males, again and again, are font and center, while females get stuck in supporting roles, on the sidelines.
I googled the “Planes” quote when I started watching it. I can’t believe that there would be such an obviously sexist quote in such a new movie. Well, I kind of can, but it’s still disappointing. That said, I’m watching the rest of the movie now and so far they do have at least one other female, and she’s a mechanic… So, it’s not all bad.
That’s our fascist militarized culture for you.
“Misogyny and male-domination are EXCITING AND ENTERTAINING. Anything nonviolent or feminine is boring and weak.”
UGH, that drives me crazy where kids see males compete, be strong and brave to impress a female, whereas females are supposed to do the opposite: act small. This sexist message, I really believe, is one of the basic premises that holds women, especially young women, back b/c if they succeed, they have to give up their attractiveness. Women are taught they must choose: sexual power or career power. You can’t have both. You can’t be pretty and smart. Males athletic skill makes them sexy whereas females may be considered attractive IN SPITE of any skill. Evolutionary psychologists argue this is because women seek out strong males to provide, but it seems clear that its really about a male dominated world keeping women– quite effectively– in their place.
When I saw the preview (in front of the equally problematic Monsters University), there was a female plane. For about half a second. She was pink, never spoke, or moved, or did anything, merely stood in a golden ray of light preening, followed by several seconds of the “male” planes talking about how hot she was, and what they were going to do for her. The length of time it took the males to admire her was much much much longer than any screen presence she actually had.
Which was bad. But the ad for the movie with the snails that go fast came right after and it was the *exact same thing*. One female, pink, never said or did anything, flashed on the screen just long enough to set up the male snails doing a va-va-voom schtick.