Why is female protagonist of ‘Home’ missing from promotional short?

I’ve seen the animated short “Almost Home” twice, before “Rio 2″ and “Peabody and Mr. Sherman.” Both times, it pissed me off that there were no female characters with speaking parts in this mini-movie.

While I meant to blog about the silent females, I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. So, imagine my surprise today when on “Jezebel” I read that “Home” will be Deamworks first animated movie to star a black character, Tip. She also happens to be female.

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So here’s my question, Dreamworks: Why is Tip missing from the promotional short? Please, don’t give me the reason it “makes sense” that she’s gone because in the sequence shown, she wouldn’t be in the story yet. Writers and producers make up the story, they can put anything they want out there, so why did they choose an all male narrative showcasing Steve Martin?

It’s kind of like how the two female stars of “Frozen” were missing from the movie’s first preview which featured the Olaf, the snowman, and Sven the reindeer.

Also, in the posters for “Frozen,” Olaf, once again, gets the front and center position, while the female stars are buried in snow.

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Recently, Valentina Perez wrote “Judging a Movie by its Trailer” for Harvard Political Review, about sexism in marketing for children’s movies:

While later trailers did show Anna, even the title distanced itself from any fairy tale or princess story audiences might already be familiar with. Disney did this intentionally to appeal to boys, basing their decision on past Disney research reporting that boys do not want to watch movies with the word “princess” in the title…

Disney’s marketing strategy for Frozen reflects a longstanding belief of movie studios that boys will not watch movies with female leads. This has contributed to the scarcity of movies with speaking, leading, or complex female characters. According to a study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, just 28.4 percent of speaking characters in the 100 highest-grossing American films of 2012 were female, a five-year low…

This change in Disney film content reflects the wider Hollywood belief that women and girls are a niche market, meaning that the longstanding, male-focused business model for movies persists as the standard.

 

Women and girls are not a “niche market.” We are 50% of the population. Not only that, as “Frozen” and “Catching Fire” show movies with female protagonists make money. Hollywood, please stop hiding the girls. You’re teaching sexism to our kids, to expect and accept a world where girls go missing. It’s not kids that won’t see movies starring girls, but sexist parents who don’t read their kids narratives or show their kids movies where girls star. Right now, the group Let Toys Be Toys For Girls and Boys is running a campaign to convince publishers not to create or market books “for boys” or “for girls.” Stories are for everyone. Why don’t we market them that way?

 

‘Rio 2′ is 5th kids’ movie of 2014 to star male protagonist

Before I saw “Rio 2,” I was holding out hope that Jewel, the bird played by Anne Hathaway, and her husband, Blu, played by Jesse Eisenberg, would be equals in the movie, meaning actual costars. I stuck with this possibility partly based on what I saw in the movie poster.

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While Jewel is posed coyly with a submissive head tilt and a pink flower on her head, she’s still front and center, right there with Blu. (All the other characters pictured on this poster are male.) I checked the synopsis for “Rio 2″ on imdb.com:

It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids in RIO 2, after they’re hurtled from that magical city to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets the most fearsome adversary of all – his father-in-law.

 

Not as promising as the poster, but still, when I counted 18 children’s movies in 2014 starring males, while just 6 star females for my annual Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies, I initially put “Rio 2″ in its own category.

Well, I’m sorry to report that I’ve seen the movie with my kids and “Rio 2″ is Blu’s story. He’s clearly the star with all the screen time, he goes through the transition, and it’s his wits that save the world. So make that 19 children’s movies in 2014 that star males.

I have three daughters, ages 5, 7, and 10, and they’ve seen 5 movies so far this year: The Nut Job, The Lego Movie, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Muppets Most Wanted, and Rio 2– Every single one features a male protagonist. Just in case you were wondering, only 5 children’s movies have come out so far this year. So once again, when our children go to the movies, they’re learning that males star while females belong in supporting roles. And — surprise, surprise– each children’s movie so far this year features Minority Feisty: female characters whose number are in the minority compared to males, but they’re allowed to be “strong” in these supporting roles. Usually, that means the females play a crucial part in helping the male complete his quest. That is, in kidworld, females are permitted power as long as its circumscribed. If you read Reel Girl, you know I call these female characters Minority Feisty because not only are they in the minority, but they are always referred to by critics as “feisty,” a seriously diminutive adjective. “Feisty” doesn’t describe anyone who is really strong but someone who plays at being strong. Would you ever call Superman feisty? How would he feel if you did?

To wit, in an article about Anne Hathaway in last week’s people magazine, the journalist writes:

There have been other big changes as well for the actress who reprises her role as the feisty macaw Jewel in the new animated film ‘Rio 2.’

 

Here it is in black and white.

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I make this point because the sexism in children’s movies is a ridiculously repetitive pattern, yet hardly anyone calls it out. The sexism is so obvious that paradoxically, it’s become invisible, the pink elephant of kidworld that gets ignored. If males starring and females supporting happened just sometimes, or even half the time, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but this sexism is relentless in narratives are created for kids.

Once again, I ask: In the imaginary world, anything is possible, so why is it so sexist? Why can’t we show children a magical world where there’s gender equality?

Reel Girl rates “Rio 2″ ***H***

See Reel Girl’s Galleries of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies:

2014 http://reelgirl.com/2014/01/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2014/

2013 http://reelgirl.com/2013/01/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2013/

2012 http://reelgirl.com/2012/12/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2012/

2011 http://reelgirl.com/2011/07/heres-a-visual/

 

Damsel in distress in ‘Legend of Zelda’ irritates my 5 yr old daughter

My three kids see the Mario Brothers everywhere, but I dislike this pair of brothers for  obvious reasons (but pointed out so well by Anita Sarkeseesian in this video about the perpetual damsel in distress trope played by Princess Peach.) Last night, I decided to let my kids try the also highly advertised  “Legend of Zelda.” Both shows/ games are created by the same guy, Shigeru Miyamoto, and often appear together in marketing. Today, while I was making dinner, my 5 year old daughter went on rant about how disappointing “Zelda” was for her. One reason I created Reel Girl, to rate kids’ media for girl empowerment, is because titles can be so misleading to parents. I’m posting this video so that you can be more informed than I was. I’m listening to my daughter and staying away from “Legend of Zelda.” I hope you do too.

Just looked it up, here’s the diamond she’s talking about:

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Reel Girl rates Legend of Zelda ***SS***

‘Children learn most from what they see going on around them’

You’ve got to read the entire, excellent post about John Abbott, the director of the 21st Learning Initiative. Abbot basically is saying that we’ve got to turn education on its head. Right now, schools are training kids to be dependent on authority figures.

Research has confirmed what most parents of young children can already see for themselves — that children are born to learn, rather than to be taught, as Abbott puts it. Driven by an inborn desire to make sense of the world and find purpose in life, they naturally observe, deconstruct, piece together and create their own knowledge. They learn best when this intrinsic motivation is harnessed in what he calls “highly challenging but low-threat environments.”…

Children learn most from what they see going on around them,” he explains. “We become who we are based on things around us that we admire or not. Children don’t just turn their brains on when they go to school.”

 

Ok, now, really, back to writing…

Rape culture affects every man, woman, and child

Did you see the photos of the so-called comedian Remi Gallard having simulated “air sex” with unaware women? Ha ha ha.

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On Salon, Amanda Marcotte writes:

I hate to be nitpicky, but: Since the point of the joke is that the women are nonconsenting, then it’s not really simulated sex so much as simulated rape. Funny!

 

And all this time, I thought women were the ones who weren’t funny.

This morning I went for a walk.  It’s a beautiful, sunny day. My body felt powerful, fast, and strong, and I was getting all of these great ideas about the next chapter of my book. Then, I stopped to tie my shoe, and this picture popped into my head. All of a sudden, my experience of my body totally changed. I felt frightened, humiliated, and exposed. I tried to shake off the image. I kept walking, and the feeling faded, but I never got back the high I had before I bent to tie my shoe. It makes me so mad that women have see ourselves, experience ourselves, how men see us and experience us. As the great art critic John Berger wrote: Men watch. Women watch themselves being watched. This state of being is not because “men are visual” (total bullshit– humans are visual) but because men have created the culture and reality that dominates our lives. I’m sick of it.

Here’s the Berger quote:

“To be born a woman has to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men. The social presence of women is developed as a result of their ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a limited space. But this has been at the cost of a woman’s self being split into two. A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another….One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”

Back to writing that chapter now…

Play ‘Find the Girls on the Cereal Box’ featuring…Captain Crunch!

Today, we had Captain Crunch with crunch berries for breakfast. (Not the healthiest choice, I know, blaming my husband who loved the “food” as a kid.) There are no female mascots on children’s cereal. That’s right, zero. You may not think that’s a big deal but it’s one more space in kidworld where girls go missing. Children spend hours studying these cereal boxes and playing the games on them. They’re like newspapers for children, and just like newspapers for adults, males dominate the stories. What if there were no male mascots on children’s cereal? Do you think anyone would notice that?

A while back, in an effort to help my kids learn not to take missing females for granted, as something expected and normal, we invented a new game: Find the Girls on the Cereal Box. It’s actually fun because it’s challenging, and you can have some great discussions about what makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl, according to cereal box creators.

Try it yourself. Here’s my 5 year old daughter with the back of a box of Captain Crunch.

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The answer is: 4 girls and 9 boys including Captain Crunch on this box. The photo is not great, and details are key so don’t be too hard on yourself if you got it wrong.

Here’s a close up of the girls we found.

Girl #1 is a girl because her hair is pink, has long curls, and she has eyelashes.

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Girl #2 also has…. pony tails and eyelashes! She’s our favorite because she’s winning the race. That’s pretty cool and almost makes it forgivable that there are more than twice as many boys than girls on this box. Almost. But see, that’s the thing: girls are allowed to win sometimes in kidworld as long as they are shown in the minority and their power is sufficiently circumscribed.girl2

Girl #3 is the smallest and hardest to find, discovered by my keen-eyed 8 year old daughter. We know this girl is a girl because… you guessed it: eyelashes and ponytails.

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Girl #4: pony tail and eyelashes.

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Play with your kids. Please, share your photos here or on Reel Girl’s Facebook page.

Feminism: the pink elephant in America’s living room

In 12 step programs, people talk about the pink elephant in the living room.That phrase, you probably know, refers to the experience of seeing something totally fucking obvious, right there in front of you, in your living room, but no one else acknowledges it.

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What you experience isn’t real. What you see isn’t happening. At best, later in life, those people who were in the living room might say: OK, maybe that happened, but really, it’s too trivial to make a fuss over, more like a pink mosquito.

Today, meaning right now– April 8 at 11:01AM– feminism is feeling like that to me: pointing out the billboards all over town, the motion picture sexism taking place on giant screens across America, and people telling me it’s not real, it’s not happening, it doesn’t matter.

If my now 45 year old self could say something, not even to my child self, but to the 30 year old me, it would be this: you’re not crazy. What you see is real. What you see is happening, and it matters.

In honor of that message, I’m re-posting something I wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle  when I was 31, right after I saw my first “reality” (get it?) TV show. I was scared to write the op-ed, not only because I worked at a talk radio station where many people didn’t agree with me (or maybe just hadn’t thought deeply about the issue “too trivial”) but because, as I put down those words, I realized how I felt about marriage was changing radically. Marriage was never in my life plan. Fourteen years later, I have a husband and three kids. Of course, I can’t credit the gay marriage movement with all of that, but I can’t deny it planted a seed. I see the words right there. (Did you hear that, radical right, isn’t that what you want for the ladies? Maybe rethink your strategy?)

Recognizing the sanctity – and a travesty – of marriage

MARGOT MAGOWAN
Published 4:00 am, Tuesday, February 22, 2000

I DIDN’T think TV could shock me anymore. But then, during sweeps week last week, I watched Fox’s new hit, “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?” and realized modern television had sunk to a new low.

The show began with the introduction of 50 women, all competing for the grand prize of marriage to a multimillionaire, their union to be sealed with a $34,000 engagement ring.

The women stepped into the klieg lights wearing everything from bathing suits to wedding gowns, exposing their bodies to be rated and judged. Meanwhile, Mr. Multimillionaire was safely shrouded in a darkened booth. The whole scene brought to mind the voyeuristic ambiance of a peep show.

During one of the show’s worst sequences, each finalist had 30 seconds to convince Mr. Multimillionaire that she was the one he should choose. While guitar porn rock played in the background, the women said things like, “I know just how to please a man.”

At the end of the show, Mr. Multimillionaire finally appeared in a tux and chose his bride, the blondest and thinnest of them all.

I was stunned by this degradation and mockery of the marriage ceremony. How can there be any presumption of honesty or integrity in marriage vows when the groom takes them – as Mr. Multimillionaire did – just moments after meeting his wife to be, promising to love her until death?

Are those elements that I thought were key to marriage – vows and love and commitment – without real meaning?

A wedding ceremony should be a sacred celebration, inspired by devotion so powerful that those in love want to make a lifelong commitment to each other publicly.

Yet on the Fox Network, marriage became a modern-day flesh auction with women transformed into a commodity to be purchased by a wealthy man.

I’m not completely naive. I know that marriage was initially created as a financial contract. I know that in Biblical times the purpose of marriage was to control the means of reproduction – that is, women.

I know that when women had no social, political or financial power, when they were not allowed to own property and were only valued for how many children they could bear, marriage existed just to ritualize the transfer of ownership of women from fathers to husbands.

I know that remnants of these ancient roles of womanhood are still prevalent in marriage ceremonies, but I had thought they no longer had significance.

Though brides still traditionally wear white, the color has lost its relevance as a symbol of virginal innocence, once so prized in a woman. Few recall now, when the priest asks if anyone has just cause why the marriage should not take place, that the question was originally meant to determine if anyone had evidence that the bride was, in fact, not a virgin.

Fast forward a few thousand years to the debut of Fox’s top-rated show. After watching these women on TV, whose worth was measured by how well they conformed to limited ideals of beauty, while male worth was measured by wallet size, I was feeling pretty cynical about gender roles and matrimony.

Then something happened to restore my faith. The debate on Proposition 22, the ballot initiative on gay marriage, caught my attention.

As supporters of the initiative condemned gay marriage for defiling a holy institution, I thought of the irony. An elegantly packaged prostitution ring on prime time television is perfectly legal, yet two people in love who want to make a public and legal, lifetime commitment to each other, with sincere vows, are forbidden legal recognition of their marriage because they are of the same sex.

While “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?” illustrates the worst of marriage, defeating Prop. 22 would bring out the best of it. Allowing gay people to marry shatters all of the antiquated sex stereotypes that still threaten to be resurrected in popular culture.

If marriage is to survive and thrive in this millennium, it needs to evolve. The marriage contract is a living document. We need to keep the best of it – the love, the romance, the vows – and leave behind those elements that reduce human beings to property.

If Californians really are concerned with family values, they should be fighting for the right of people who truly love each other to legalize their commitment.

One month after I published this, in March of 2000, Proposition 22 passed in California. In May of 2008, it was struck down by the California Supreme Court as contrary to the state constitution. Today, 17 states have legalized same sex marriage.

Join best-selling author Michael Lewis on Reel Girl’s #MalesInPink

Here he is: macho, best-selling, sports and business writer Michael Lewis on the jacket of his new book wearing…pink!

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Lewis has inspired me to actually do what I’ve been meaning to for a while: create a collection of images of #MalesInPink.

Did you know thneeds of Lorax fame are pink?

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I can’t find an image of a character in a classic thneed, but here’s the Lorax in a pink, thneed hat, which is almost as good.

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So what’ve you got? Please attach images or references in the comment section here (baby pics welcome) or on Reel Girl’s Facebook page or Tweet @margotmagowan. Use #MalesInPink with your posts so I can keep track.

Help give a pink a new image. Colors are for everyone!

Gracias,

Margot

Update: More #MalesInPink

Cosmic Boy (thank you Abnoba)

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Little Mac from Nintendo’s Punchout (thank you wearmorethan)

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Rugby refs wear pink (thank you nigelthedragon)

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Galactus (thank you Abnoba)

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Brainiac and the actor who played him on Smallville (thank you Abnoba)

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When will the USA take sexual assault seriously?

Today, I received an email from Jennifer Siebel Newsom, founder of The Representation Project, with the subject: “How Harvard Is Failing Its students.”

Dear Friend,

 

This week, in an open letter to the Harvard Crimson, a young woman called out one of the country’s most prestigious universities for failing to adequately help her and other survivors of sexual assault on campus.

The anonymous letter, titled “Dear Harvard: You Win,” details how the student spent months living in the same building as her alleged assailant and how she was shamed by administrators who ignored her complaints or blamed the attack on her own behavior.[1]

This isn’t an isolated incident – sexual assault can happen anywhere and to anyone – but when even our most revered (and best funded) universities are failing to properly address the crime, it’s indicative of a much wider cultural problem.

Someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes, and yet so many of our political leaders seem ill-equipped to even discuss the issue, let alone lead policy change.[2] Our media reinforces this culture of silence by shaming survivors (women and men), while our courts excuse criminal behavior with harmful gendered concepts like “boys will be boys.”[3]

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the U.S., and an opportunity for all of us to take action to fight this national epidemic. This week, tweet this list of 5 easy ways to get involved during SAAM. And use the resources at Know Your IX to examine and improve your current or former school’s sexual assault policy.

Let’s work together to make sure the voices of survivors continue to be heard, and to end “rape culture” once and for all.[4]

Onwards,

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Imran Siddiquee & The Representation Project team

 

I blog about this all the time, but it’s baffling to me that the USA, the so-called leader of the free world, from its “greatest” universities to its own military, refuses to take women’s rights seriously. In a rare exception, former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, has written a new book about this issue: A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. ThinkProgress reports:

Former President Jimmy Carter is issuing a call to action to end the abuse and subjugation of women, which he refers to as the “worst and most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on Earth…

There’s significant data to back up his claims. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in three women around the world is subject to sexual violence at some point in her life. In many parts of the world, women still aren’t receiving adequate health care and education. Every year, about 14 million girls under the age of 18 are given away as child brides, and an additional 4 million women and girls are bought and sold into slavery. And according to the United Nations, at least 125 million girls in Africa and the Middle East have undergone female genital mutilation….

Carter’s book makes the case that the United States is at least partly responsible for perpetrating the ongoing violence against women around the globe, since the U.S. wields such great international influence. The former president also sees issues of violence and abuse occurring within America’s borders, particularly as the issue of properly handling sexual assault causes on college campuses and military bases has recently come to a head.

“Exactly the same thing happens in universities in America that happens in the military. Presidents of universities and colleges and commanding officers don’t want to admit that, under their leadership, sexual abuse is taking place,” Carter noted. “Rapists prevail because they know they’re not going to be reported.”

 

Carter’s thesis is similar to Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, who wrote Half the Sky in 2009:

in the 19th century, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape….

 

When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn’t even consider it news.

 

Kristof and WuDunn are referring to front page news for the American publications they worked for. The whole world is affected when the USA doesn’t take brutality against women seriously. When our own policies and practices, from our justice system to our media, protect sexual assault perpetrators and victimize survivors, every woman is affected by this misogyny. Even if she hasn’t been sexually assaulted, she must to fear it, she grows up fearing it, knowing that if it happens to her, her voice is likely to be silenced, her words ignored, that her experience won’t matter and her story won’t be told. That basic reality influences every female on this planet. I wrote “The Shame of Rape” for Salon in 2002. Either things have gotten worse since then, or we’re just more aware of how bad things are, which I suppose you could call progress.

The “shame” of rape

The

 

When 7-year-old Erica Pratt was abducted on July 22 and tied up in a basement by her kidnapper, she chewed through the duct tape that covered her mouth, freed her hands and feet, and broke through a door to escape. Electrified by the young girl’s feat, the media celebrated Pratt with a prolonged blitz of coverage. She smiled luminously for cameras as awed police officers praised her bravery. Her photo graced the front pages of newspapers across the nation, and she was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Week.”

When Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris were abducted at gunpoint nine days later from a remote teenage trysting spot in Lancaster, Calif., they devised a plan to break free by stabbing their abductor in the neck. When one girl had the chance to escape, she didn’t take it for fear that the other girl — whom she hadn’t met before that night — would be killed if she abandoned her. These were brave and loyal girls — heroines who endured mind-numbing terror before police found them and killed their captor, who authorities believe was preparing to murder them and dump their bodies.

But Brooks and Marris were not honored by Time magazine or identified as heroes in other media outlets. Why not? What made their story so different?

Just as newspapers and the networks were scrambling to cover the story, they learned that the girls had been sexually assaulted during their ordeal. Because most mainstream media observes a self-imposed policy of withholding the names and faces of sexual assault victims, the coverage abruptly, and somewhat awkwardly, ground to a halt.

Newspapers and TV broadcasters explained the shift as a matter of courtesy. But in concealing the identities of the young women on the grounds that rape is so intimate and horrendous that they should be spared undue attention, the media helped to promote the unspoken societal belief that somehow, when sexual assault is involved, the victim is partly — or wholly — to blame, and should be hidden from view.

TV stations began digitally obscuring the girls’ faces. Newspapers like the New York Times rushed to delete the names and photos of the girls from the next day’s paper. Some publications, like USA Today, had already gone to press, and printed the story with photos and names on the front page.



The lopsided coverage was especially disorienting because early in the story, the girls’ identities were broadcast everywhere — constantly — as a means of saving their lives. The idea was to familiarize as many Americans as possible with the girls’ names and faces so that average citizens might assist in tracking them, and their kidnapper, down. And it worked. But once the teens went from being kidnapped youths to rescued rape survivors, their status changed. They were branded with the Scarlet R. They had been raped. It was suddenly better for them, and us, to contemplate this shame without fanfare.

In effect, the girls disappeared twice — once when abducted, and again when the media erased them.

The policy of hiding the rape survivor makes the media complicit in shaming and stigmatizing her. It reinforces the myth that women are too weak, traumatized and tainted to decide whether they want to tell their own stories — of victory, not victimhood. And this assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If raped women were granted the same status as Erica Pratt, there would be no reflex to make them disappear. Their survival would be cause for public honor and respect. Their rescues would be complete; their recovery would begin with heartfelt acceptance by everyone who prayed for their return.

Silence and shame protected the Catholic Church and one of its dirtiest secrets for years. And church officials made the right assumption: If you can’t see it, no one will believe it is happening and, more importantly, victims who are shamed and controlled will be quiet, silenced by a sense of complicity and sin. What if all those alleged male sexual assault survivors who went on “60 Minutes” and “20/20″ had their faces covered with a gray dot? What if no newspapers or magazines had been willing to publish their names? How much credibility or validity or power can you have when you have no face and no name? Would the public have believed these things had happened if faces had not been attached to the charges?

You can’t put a faceless woman on the cover of Time magazine.

Not all rape survivors take the media’s cue and withdraw. Many have told their stories as part of their recovery, most famously authors like Maya Angelou in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and Dorothy Allison (“Bastard Out of Carolina”), and singers including Fiona Apple and Tori Amos. Current bestselling author Alice Sebold has said repeatedly in interviews that she could not have written “The Lovely Bones” until she wrote the story of her rape in her first book, “Lucky.”

With each of these acts of bravery has come further acknowledgment that rape is a horrible event and that everyone abhors it, yet hypocrisy — public and institutional — still exists. Rapists are rarely successfully prosecuted. For every 100 rapes reported in this country, only five rapists end up in prison. Sentences are relatively light, averaging just 10.5 years, and the usual time served is approximately five years.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft doesn’t support the notion that a raped woman should have the right to an abortion. And U.S. foreign policy does not include sanctions, even strongly stated warnings, against countries like Saudi Arabia where men are allowed to rape their wives, and married women raped by men other than their spouses are punished for adultery. In Pakistan, when a young woman was ordered raped by a tribal council as punishment when her brother was seen in public with a woman not in his family, the U.S. State Department took no action.

At the same time that it is no longer socially acceptable to blame or stigmatize a rape survivor for what has happened to her, it appears to be socially unacceptable to recognize her as a hero and honor her for survival. But that may be about to change, thanks, in large part, to Marris and Brooks, two rape survivors who demanded to be seen.

A day after she was rescued and her identity had been quickly masked in the media, Marris appeared on KABC, the local Los Angeles news station, to talk frankly, without embarrassment, about her ordeal. She revealed, among other details, the fact that she and Brooks had tried to escape by stabbing their abductor in the neck.

A few days later, Brooks and Marris both appeared on the “Today” show to tell the story of their capture and captivity, a gripping account in which they described being threatened with a loaded gun, smashing their abductor in the face with a whiskey bottle, and later watching him die.

When asked why they chose to talk about their experience, Brooks said that she wanted to do it, and came forward with the support of her parents, who braved some criticism about the decision. She and Marris, Brooks said, “want to get the message across to everybody to never give up on anything. If you ever give up, you’ve lost. Whatever obstacles you have, you’ve got to fight your way through it.”

Drop everything and take your kids to see ‘Divergent’

There are so many things I love about “Divergent,” I’ll go through the major points here.

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The movie, in a nutshell, is about facing your fears. You get to watch a brave, smart, and compassionate female protagonist test and challenge herself again and again. You see her make choices, grow, and become her own person, a true leader. I write a lot about violence on Reel Girl, and how it is not comparable to sexualization. Narratives are metaphors, and just like in dreams, images express feelings. We, humans, experience universal emotions like fear and aggression. These are not “boy” feelings or “girl” feelings, they are just part of being alive. What is unique, or relatively unique, is what triggers these feelings in each of us. ‘Divergent’ addresses this specifically, by showing the characters go through their “fear landscapes” where they face their terrors and make choices. I loved that my daughter saw a female hero do this again and again.

Another thing that is so great about this movie is the romance. Four, the supporting male character, is in love with Tris because of her bravery. Her bravery makes her attractive. While we see so many narratives where males are celebrated for their attributes, females get defined by their “beauty.” Males have the reputation of being divorced from their feelings, but in my experience, it’s female characters– and of course, actual female people– who get a lifetime of training in experiencing their own bodies as objects and accessories, separate from who they are. ‘Divergent’ is a narrative where the heroine is integrated and unified– body, mind, and soul– and that is rare to see. When you watch the movie, you will understand, how literally Tris defies allowing herself to be fractured into separate factions.

Shailene Woodley made a comment which I loved, differentiating the love story in ‘Divergent’ from ‘Twilight:’

Twilight, I’m sorry, is about a very unhealthy, toxic relationship. [The protagonist Bella] falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.”

 

On one of my favorite blogs, Women and Hollywood, Melissa Silverstein chided Woodley for that comment, stating without ‘Twilight’ proving movies based on YA novels with female protagonists can make money, ‘Divergent’ would not exist as a film. While that may be true, I don’t think Woodley was speaking from a business perspective, but from her heart about how different the love stories are in these two movies.

A third aspect of the movie that is great is Natalie, the mother of Tris, played by Ashley Judd.

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Judd’s part is small as far as screen time, but some of my favorite scenes in the movie were watching mom and daughter work together to save the world. Again, how often do we get to see that?

Kate Winslet as the evil Jeanine is amazing. She is wickedly fun to watch.

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Here’s something very cool to tell your kids: the author of the series, Veronica Roth, is 25 years old.  When they read the book– I recommend it for kids age 9 and up– make sure they see Roth’s photo. She’s an inpsiring role model. There’s a great interview with her at the end of the book. When Roth was in college, she was studying psychology, specifically phobias, and learning about a kind of therapy where you repeatedly do what you are afraid of. One day she was driving, listening to music, and she saw a scene in her head of a person jumping off a building, not for a self-destructive reason. She put hat scene together with what she was leaning about experiencing fears and boom! ‘Divergent’ was born.

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When Roth is asked what characteristics she kept in mind when coming up with her main character, she responds:

I don’t think I ever sat down and thought about how Beatrice was– I just had this sense of her. I knew her. I did set myself a rule that was hard to follow, though: Beatrice is always the agent. That is, she’s always choosing, always acting, always moving the plot by her behavior.

This is exactly the advice I give my kids when they are writing a story. Of course, too often, we see male characters acting and making choices. We are so used to that gender role that as writers, just as Roth describes, its important to keep in the forefront, that the female character needs to keep making choices that drive the plot. In ‘Divergent,’ it’s beautiful to watch a female hero be a true protagonist, commanding her own film and her own story. I look forward to the day when a sentence like the one I just wrote seems ridiculously dated.

I wish Zoe Kravitz as Christina had a more interesting part/ character arc. Once again, we have the girl of color as the BFF to the white protagonist.

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As we all know, marketing is its own media. Even if children don’t go to the film, they are likely to see this ridiculous butt pose poster, where Tris is positioned awkwardly to show ass and breast.

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I prefer this image in the cover of Entertainment Weekly.

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Reel Girl rates ‘Divergent’ ***HHH***

(I recommend the movie for ages 9 and up, but depends on the kid. If you read Reel Girl, you know I think kids desperately need to see female characters with power and agency, and I mostly rate for that. You also know, if you read this review, how I feel about violence. This movie is not gory. As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of the romance here as well. I am concerned with context when I rate (sadly, an anomaly) and I like the context of this love story very much. There are sensual scenes but not extended and no nudity. The movie is rated PG-13 if that means anything to you, though IMO the MPAA is useless and I prefer Common Sense Media if I need to look up specifics about sex/ gore aside from context, which, as noted, too few, including CSM really consider.)