‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and the Minority Feisty

Today, I saw ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ with my daughter and niece. I enjoyed the movie (especially the 80s music and the jokes) as did they (mostly Groot, the resilient, dancing tree,) Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, is a kick-ass smart assassin who saves the universe with a team of misfits, but I had a minor (hint, hint) issue with her role. Tell me, what do you notice about the gender ratio in this poster for the “GOTG?”

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Notice anything in common with the gender ratio of “The Avengers”?

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What about this recent Justice League comic cover?

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Lest you think this 1:4/5/6 female/ male gender ratio is exclusive to superheroes, here’s my post on the Minority Feisty:

The curse of the Minority Feisty in kids’ movies

If you see an animated film today, it’s likely to include a token strong female character or two who reviewers will call “feisty.” In “How to Train Your Dragon” Astrid; in “Toy Story,” Jessie; in “Ratatouille,” Colette. She’s supposed to make us feel like the movie is contemporary and feminist, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear.

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Just one recent example: People Magazine describes Anne Hathaway’s role as Jewel in “Rio 2:”

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.’

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The problem is that because Pixar or Disney or Marvel has so magnanimously thrown in this “feisty” female (who may even have some commentary about sexism or male domination) we’re no longer supposed to care that almost all of the other characters in the film are male, including the star who the movie is often titled for and usually his best buddy as well. The crowd scenes in the film are also made up of mostly males.

“Feisty” isn’t a word that describes someone with real power, but someone who plays at being powerful. Would you ever call Superman “feisty?”  How would he feel if you did?

The Smurfette Principle has evolved into the Minority Feisty. Now instead of a “token” female in a children’s movie, we may see a few females sprinkled around, a “minority” of them. Parents, the next time you watch a children’s movie, try not to let the Minority Feisty population distract you from the limitations female characters are almost always forced into. Ask yourself: Is the female the protagonist in this film? Does the narrative revolve around her quest? Or is she there to (play a crucial role in) helping the male star achieve his goal/ dream?

Imagine if the gender ratio presented in movies for kids was reflected in their world. Girls would be a minority instead of one half of the kid population. When females go missing from children’s media, another generation gets trained to expect and accept a world where girls go missing. It seems normal to them that there has never been a female president of their country, that there is just one great female chef among males, or perhaps, none at all as shown in this Time Magazine article on the greatest chefs, titled “Gods of Food.”

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In the imaginary world, a world created for kids, anything is possible, so why is it so consistently sexist?

See Peggy Orenstein’s post: “Pixar’s female problem: Please stop asking ‘What about Jessie?,” on the Minority Feisty issue

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 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/

Reel Girl rates ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ ***H***

 

Fall Movie Preview: Insidious misogyny in ‘Gone Girl’

I haven’t seen the movie “Gone Girl,” and neither have you as it’s hitting theaters on October 3, though I did read the book this summer. I was horrified by the misogyny woven through the narrative. Perhaps I was so surprised by the sexism because the only controversy I’d heard of before I read the book was that people didn’t like the ending. I did like the ending. I’ll tell you why, and also go into the plot points of “Gone Girl” but before I do, consider yourself warned: spoilers will be in this post. If you’re going to read Gone Girl– and it is, like so many sexist books I critique, well written and well plotted, I’m talking about technique here– you may not want to proceed much further, except, perhaps, to take a look at this cover of Entertainment Weekly. There you see Amy, the protagonist of “Gone Girl,” shown as a “beautiful” female corpse, a trope Anita Sarkeesian dissects in her latest video: Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games. This image of the dead, sexualized female body is, quite literally, everywhere in popular culture. After you check out this cover, I want you to know just one more thing.

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My final comment to those who don’t want spoilers: I have absolutely no problem with women not being “likeable” characters. I want that. I was so excited when I read the comment by the excellent writer Claire Messud who, when asked about her protagonist by Publisher’s Weekly (I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim”) responded:

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”

 

Get that, people? Is this character alive?

OK, moving on to spoilers, if you don’t want them, it’s time to leave.

It turns out that the protagonist of Gone Girl, Amy Dunne (played in the movie by Rosemund Pike) fakes her own rape, pregnancy, stalking, beatings, and murder. That’s right, Amy goes through a veritable list of practically every act/ crime that a wicked and conniving (are men ever conniving?) woman can manipulate. While Amy fakes her victimhood, her husband, Nick, played in the movie by Ben Affleck, is falsely accused of killing his pregnant wife. Why, you ask, is Amy motivated to be so awful? She’s a woman scorned, of course, who discovered her husband’s affair with his student.

Here’s one passage describing Amy’s fakery:

I took a wine bottle, and I abused myself with it every day, so the inside of my vagina looked…right. Right for a rape victim. Then today I let him have sex with me so I had his semen…

That particular scene, by the way, refers to another man Amy is setting up, not her husband.

Here’s the problem, and once again, it’s not that Amy is a villain or unlikeable.

In the USA 20 percent of women, 1 in 5, report experiencing rape or attempted rape. The Department of Justice estimates that 60 percent of rapes go unreported. As for false accusations of rape, the FBI estimates that 1-2 percent of claims are fake. Here’s another important fact about false accusation: A 2002 survey of male and female college students shows that they believe a woman lies in 50 percent of reported rape cases. “Gone Girl” perpetuates the popular narrative that rape isn’t real and isn’t happening, that women lie, and falsely accused men are the real victims.

But Gone Girl is fiction not fact, you say. Why am I listing stats here? Am I trying, once again, to censor artists with my PC beliefs? Surely Amy’s story can fall into the 1- 2% of women who falsely accuse men of rape. This is a free country.

This is also a country where Washington Post columnist George Will, a man known as the “most powerful journalist in America” recently wrote that being a rape survivor is “a coveted status.” When others challenged Will that rape is not, in fact, something women want, the conservative group, Women’s Independent Forum called a conference “Rape Culture and Sexual Assault,” putting out this press release:

The White House has embraced the statistic that 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted while in college…The White House has released its “first ever report” on the issue and are using it to push their policy agenda…But many question the validity of the White House’s one-in-five statistic, even as those who challenge this figure are silenced as being uncaring about women…The IWF takes any accusation of sexual assault very seriously. But we are concerned that there is a potentially harmful hysteria developing about this issue. Where does this come from? Where is it going? And who will be harmed?

Lucky for us, Gone Girl answers every single one of the IWF’s (hysterical) questions: Where does it come from? In Gone Girl, overachieving Harvard grad, Amy Dunne, was used but never truly loved by her egotistical writer parents. They penned a best-selling YA series based on their daughter. Where is it going? Female anger and, yes, hysteria, not to mention jealousy, vindictiveness, and aging, leads to violence. Who will be harmed? Nick, of course, innocent men in America who are falsely accused, lied to, manipulated, and victimized by the scorned, bitter women in their lives.

Yes, Of course Gillian Flynn can write about whatever she pleases, but I find it sadly ironic that when I argue for more diverse stories to permeate our popular culture, a culture where people believe that 50% of rape accusations are false, a culture where stories of rape remain secret to the point that the media hides names and identities of survivors, a media dominated by the same old trope ridden narrative, that I am the one who’s accused of stifling creativity. Gone Girl is a best-selling book about to be blockbuster movie that will help to perpetuate  the myth/ story that rape and violence against women is not epidemic but mostly exists in our imagination.

By the way, the end of the book, you know why people don’t like it? Because Amy ends up OK. She and Nick get back together, they’re going to have a baby. (Pregnant for real this time, she stole his sperm.) Apparently, the no punishment-for-Amy-finale is so unpopular that the director changed the ending to make it more of crowdpleaser.

I’ll leave you with some facts about domestic violence in the USA from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):

One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.

 

85% of domestic violence victims are women.

 

Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

 

Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under reported crimes.

 

Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.

 

On average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.

 

 Reel Girl rates Gone Girl ***SSS*** for gender stereotyping

After I read Gone Girl, I searched the internet about the book’s misogyny, here are some interesting posts

 

The Misogynistic Portrayal of Villainy in Gone Girl

Is GONE GIRL a Misogynist Novel?

‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′ and the Minority Feisty phenomenon

Yesterday, my two younger kids and I saw “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”

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The movie was fun, exciting, showed off some spectacular animation, and we all enjoyed it. “HTTYD 2″ also followed the same old, same old pattern where there is a male protagonist while the “feisty” females are stuck on the sidelines providing some crucial role to help the male star achieve his quest.

I could list for you the small gains for females in the movie, such as it opens with a race where Astrid, one of the Minority Feisty, wins. I could add that Astrid is not racing her boyfriend and the star of the movie, Hiccup. That in the next scene, Hiccup is seen soaring through the clouds on his male dragon, Toothless, faster, better, much more daring than Astrid and her she-dragon. That Hiccup actually flies himself, dragon-less. I’m not going to list all these baby (“feisty)” steps females are allowed to take in this narrative– telling you those two scenes is enough, because that, right there is the pattern of this movie: females are allowed to be strong, just not as strong or as important as the males. “HTTYD 2″ reminded me of a well known interview– at least well know in my feminist/ internet world– with Kevin Smith and “Tower Prep” creator Dini about Cartoon Network, where Dini quotes CN:

We need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys” — this is the network talking — “one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.”

 

This gendered scenario is just what you will see in “HTTYD 2.” Let me add that I really loved the Minority Feisty in this movie. I’m not going to “spoil” it for you, but one female in particular is really great.

I recently got this comment from a 13 yr old on my review of “How to Train Your Dragon.”

Hello! I’m a 13 year old girl who is a huge fan of Harry Potter, and I loved the movie How To Train your Dragon even though the I haven’t read the books-yet. I agree that there should be more female main characters, but the reason that doesn’t happen with popular series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson is because boys don’t generally read stories about girls. I completely understand and agree that it’s wrong. What I don’t understand is why you seem to dislike amazing stories such as Harry Potter and HTTYD ( at least, that’s the impression I have) simply because the main character is a boy. Isn’t that just as unfair to the boys as people are to the girls? And dream works, I think wouldn’t have changed the gender of hiccup since that would be completely disrespectful of the books. They should have a movie with a female main character, but I think it’s fine if they didn’t do it with how to train your dragon. As far as books go, recent popular series such as divergent and the hunger games do have strong female characters, although they aren’t fantasy.Also, both stories did have strong female characters. Harry wouldn’t have made it past the first book without Hermione and Astrid is anything but a damsel in distress. Thank you for reading this; I simply wished to point out a few things, but I do agree that overall there should be more female main characters in fantasy.

 

I wrote back:

Hi Bluebell,

Thank for you comment, it’s great to hear from teens on Reel Girl.

“What I don’t understand is why you seem to dislike amazing stories such as Harry Potter and HTTYD ( at least, that’s the impression I have) simply because the main character is a boy.”

I love Harry Potter! Love it. If you read my posts on it, you will see how many times I write about how I love the series and admire the author. I also love Lord of the Rings. I haven’t read HTTYD. In spite of my love for these books, I am sick and tired of reading about male protags again and again and again. It really bothers me when people refer to a Minority Feisty in these stories (Hermione, Astrid etc) and act as if that makes the narrative feminist. In too many books for kids, girls are allowed to be powerful only if they are (1) in the minority compared to male charcaters (2) Helping the male protag on his quest. It’ snot tha i don’t like these stories, but the repetitive pattern of gender roles is restrictive and limiting to girls and boys.

Margot

 

Bluebell wrote me one more time:

Thanks for clarifying! It’s good to know that you do like Harry Potter and HTTYD. Also I realized that when I first read this I was thinking about how there are lots of fiction books with strong female main characters, but there aren’t really that many fantasy books like that. And I spend most of my time reading fantasy so I would know. Also I want to be an author when I grow up (well, as soon as possible, really- why wait? ) and I find it easier to write about girls than boys. I guess not too many authors are like that then. Thanks for replying!
Bluebell

 

Once again, my problem is not the individual children’s movies which are often great, but the gendered pattern where males star while females are marginalized or sexualized, stuck in supporting roles on the sidelines, in fantasy world, a world where anything should be possible. Instead, it’s like: Have no fear audiences, “HHTYD 2″ is so firmly grounded in the patriarchy model that the villain’s name is Alpha, as in Alpha male, the king of all  dragons.

The Minority Feisty phenomenon in children’s movies– that females are allowed to exist, to be “feisty” but they must not be the protagonist or  be in the minority– is a dangerous one. Parents see Astrid, or Wyldstyle from “The Lego Movie,” Andie and Precious from “The Nut Job,” Penny  from “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” the list goes on and on and on, and think, “Okay, we’ve got that covered, there’s a strong female or two or three.” But in 2014, 18 children’s movies star males while just 6– a Minority Feisty of them– star females. Females are one half of the kid population, so why do girls go missing? Why are girls presented in fantasy world as if they were a minority?

I recently saw a post in “The Week” about a Minority Feisty in “The Edge of Tomorrow:”

It’s the Female Yoda Phenomenon: A seasoned warrior who has the knowledge and skill to transform the ineffectual everyman into a heroic savior. She is smart, competent, and tough. At her most mundane, she will teach the hero about responsibility and maturity (Knocked Up). At her most powerful, she will use her countless skills to make the male hero into a fighter like herself (Matrix, Edge of Tomorrow).

 

I like the term “Female Yoda Phenomenon” but what’s changed in children’s movies since Katha Pollitt coined “The Smurfette Principle” is that there is often more than one feisty female. In kids’ movies, its not about “one female yoda,” but about repetitively showing females as if they were a minority.

There has been some talk about the gay character in “HTTYD 2.” Am I happy the guy got one line about how there’s “one more reason” he didn’t get married? I guess, but I’d rather the movie just show a gay couple, a gay couple who are married. This is fantasy land, where fire-breathing dragons are best friends with humans, and we can’t imagine a gay, married couple? Or an animated population where we see as many females as males? I’ll remind you of Reel Girl’s tagline: imagining gender equality in the fantasy world. Sadly, it’s much rarer than a unicorn.

Reel Girl rates “How To Train Your Dragon 2″ ***H***

 

Angelina Jolie tells BBC ‘Maleficent’s’ wing-cutting scene is ‘metaphor for rape’

Yesterday, in a BBC interview, Angelina Jolie said that the controversial wing-cutting scene in “Maleficent” is a metaphor for rape.

Yahoo reports Jolie’s quote:

“We were very conscious, the writer and I, that it was a metaphor for rape,” Jolie said of the harrowing sequence, in which Maleficent’s wings are stolen as she’s in a drug-induced sleep. “This would be the thing that would make her lose sight.”

Obviously, it’s no coincidence that Jolie is leading the biggest ever global anti-rape summit. Jezebel reports on the summit and Jolie:

UN Special Envoy Jolie has visited victims of wartime sexual violence in Bosnia and in the DNC. Her 2011 directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, is set during the Bosnian civil war of the late twentieth century. During that conflict, experts estimate that 50,000 women were raped. According to AFP, Jolie was so moved by the plight of survivors there that she worked for two years to make this summit — the largest of its kind to date — a reality.

 

It was while doing media for the summit that Jolie addressed the rape metaphor in “Maleficent.”

Angelina Jolie spoke to BBC Radio’s Woman’s Hour in a live broadcast Tuesday, June 10, where she compared one harrowing scene in Maleficent to rape. Addressing more than 300 government dignitaries at the London-hosted Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, UN Special Envoy Jolie was asked about the scene in the fairy tale fantasy film, in which the titular character’s wings are torn off her body by a childhood friend.

Fantasy meets reality meet fantasy. Thank you, Angelina Jolie, once again, for speaking up and taking action to make a difference for women and girls around the world. Hopefully, more female writers, actors, producers, directors, musicians, singers, artists etc will publicly tell their own stories, and the narratives we all experience will open up, diversify, and change. Then, the world we exist in will change as well.

I’m re-posting my last blog on “Maleficent:”

Does ‘Maleficent’ depict matriarchy vs patriarchy or world where gender isn’t destiny?

This is my fifth post on the fabulous ‘Maleficent’ movie which I saw with my three daughters and my husband last Friday. I’m obviously a little obsessed.

If you’ve been following my blogs, I keep arguing, contrary to what almost everyone else seems to believe, that when Stefan cuts off Maleficent’s wings, it’s not necessarily a rape metaphor. I’d like to set one thing straight given the comments I’ve received. Yes, everyone is allowed their own interpretation. My blogs, about how this scene is not rape, I am quite aware come from my own bias that I want to lay out for you here:

(1) I am 45 years old and exhausted with seeing women raped on screen. I just wrote about my fatigue regarding bell hooks’s forum: Are You Still a Slave ? Liberating the Black Female Body with a blog title borrowed from a hooks quote: “If I never see another naked, enslaved, black woman on screen, I’ll be happy.”

(2) I have 3 daughters ages 5, 7, and 10, and I am desperate for them to experience fantasy worlds where gender equality exists. This wish of mine probably goes back to my first point, that I am 45 and sick of seeing the “feminist” trope where the female struggles against the patriarchy. It’s not just that I’ve seen it one million times before, but that in order for my children to see a girl struggling to be taken seriously or be strong or powerful even though she’s a girl, first my kids have to understand sexism. In order to “get” the story, first they have to understand that the world believes girls are less than boys. I would prefer, certainly for little kids, that they be exposed to fantasy worlds where girls and boys are depicted as equal, where girls are not made fun of, put down, or limited because of their gender. I understand how important the narrative of the girl proving she’s “just as good as a boy”  is historically, I’m not asking for it to be obliterated, I’m just asking for more stories where there is gender equality. If we can’t imagine gender equality, we cant create it. At this point, The Hunger Games may be the only fantasy world I’ve read where gender is not an issue.

(3) There are several reasons I believed “Maleficent” depicts a fantasy world where gender isn’t destiny rather than matriarchy vs patriarchy. Everyone is allowed their own interpretation, author’s intention is dead, but it can still be a factor in understanding the movie. I believed that it was both the screenwriter’s and Angelina Jolie’s intention that the conflict in the movie was not male vs female but human vs Fairy. Here are the reasons why:

A. The narrator introduces the movie as one about two worlds, one human and one magical.

B. When Stefan is first introduced, Maleficent is curious about him because he is a human, not because he is a boy.

C. With most of the scenes between them being childhood ones, I experienced the relationship between Stefan and Maleficent as special because it was a friendship between two warring species.

D. This quote from the writer, Linda Woolverton:

I had to figure out what possibly could have happened to her to make her want to hurt an innocent baby. Something that would equal that act. In the animated movie, she had no wings. She just threw her robes open like wings. I thought, ‘Is that it? Did someone take her wings?

Maleficent’s wings defined her as a Fairy. These wings were cut. This violence had nothing to do with her genitals/ rape. Why must we assume that when violence is done to a woman, it must involve her genitals? When Delilah put Samson to sleep in her lap and his hair was cut, was that a rape metaphor? As someone on Reel Girl’s Facebook page commented, the Maleficent scene could be compared to cutting off the hand of a concert pianist or, I might add, cutting off the wings off a Fairy!

E. This quote from Angelina Jolie made me think she wanted “Maleficent” to depict a world where gender isn’t destiny instead of matriarchy vs patriarchy.

“Our movie has all this strength and all this feminism, but, what I think is so nice is that, sometimes, in order to do that you have to make the man an idiot. Instead, we have this very elegant, wonderfully handsome, prince who, in the end, is great. He doesn’t need to be less than to make us more than. We don’t have to simplify or cheapen the men, or to detract from one to make the other better. I think that’s a mistake that’s often made in movies.

 

But, here’s my new news. It’s been one week since I saw “Maleficent,” and now I realize, to my dismay, though I still love this movie, I agree with so many others: “Maleficent” is not a world where gender isn’t destiny but depicts the conflict of matriarchy versus patriarchy. So why my change of heart? Is it that I now agree the wing cutting is clearly a rape metaphor? That the relationship between Stefan and Maleficent is primarily romantic?

No. What’s made me change my perception is I’ve been dwelling on my one earlier disappointment with the movie. The human crowd scenes are populated by all male characters. Please, tell me I missed something, but from my recollection, the king’s army is comprised of all male soldiers. When the king sends his followers to kill Maleficent, wishing for an heir, the circle around him is all male. And when Stefan returns with Maleficent’s wings, the king says something to the effect of, “Take my daughter.” If the king had been surrounded by half women when he sends his minions off to kill, if the army had been half women fighters, if we’d seen Maleficent use her power to strike down women soldiers as well as male ones, this fantasy world would’ve been one where gender doesn’t matter. But we did not see this. Therefore, the movie is clearly about patriarchy vs matriarchy, thus, the rape scene makes perfect sense.

Still, Angelina Jolie may have intended for her movie to depict a world where gender isn’t destiny rather than matriarchy vs patriarchy. But, if this is the case, she should’ve made sure the crowd scenes showed men and women equally. The scene could be primarily males just because of Jolie’s– and the producer’s, writer’s, director’s obviously–  unconscious bias. But this is why author’s intention doesn’t matter, because viewers see things in the story that are there whether the creator “chose” to put them there or not.

The Geena Davis Institute does extensive research on gender bias in children’s films, coming up with two– just two– main ways to make kids’ films show gender equality:

 

Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?

Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don’t gather, I don’t know.

 

It’s sort of like how someone said, I forget who it was, that we won’t have gender equality when female geniuses make it through the glass ceiling, when exceptional women break barriers, but when the mediocre, average ones make it into the power structure, just like all the average white men are up there. It’s all about the crowd scenes.

Alternative title for this post: What happens when an over-educated woman has three daughters and gets stuck watching way too many Disney movies? She blogs.

Update:  I’m getting comments on Reel Girl’s Facebook page asking if I still recommend Maleficent for kids. Yes, absolutely take your children to see this movie, rape metaphor or no. They will not get the metaphor. It’s only disappointing to me because, as I wrote, I would like children to experience fantasy worlds where gender equality exists, and I’ve come to believe that “Maleficent” isn’t one of those worlds. Still, the movie has a great female protagonist (rare in kids’s films) and shows other strong, complex female characters as well. All three of my kids and my husband enjoyed the movie. Read the last post listed below for my full review.

Reel Girl’s posts on “Maleficent:”

What if ‘Maleficent’s’ Stefan had been Stefanie?

‘Maleficent’ beats MacFarlane at the box office (and she didn’t even show her boobs)

‘Maleficent’ is not ‘a woman scorned’ so stop calling her that

Magnificent ‘Maleficent’ is for all the girls who always wanted to fly

My 10 year old reviews ‘Gravity’

Hi, I’m Lucy, and I’m going to review “Gravity.” Last night, I wanted to watch a movie with my mom and dad. We were choosing from the list that you all recommended for her. “Gravity” is on that list. Now let’s start with the basics. This woman has really bad luck. “Gravity” is a very scary movie, and I think to watch it you should be at least 10. I almost peed in my pants (a couple of times.) “Gravity’s” main character is a female. There’s not a lot of females as the protagonist so this is rare.

gravity-explosion-1

In my picture, you can kinda see what I meant about bad luck.The protagonist is a brave woman and she never gives up. Whenever I watch a movie about someone who’s brave and never gives up, I always wonder what it would be like to be that person. You’d have a lot of pressure (just like I have a lot of pressure when my mom puts broccoli on my plate.)

Ryan gave up at one point, thinking she had nothing to live for. Then, she realizes she’s going to have to keep trying, and after that, she  knows she can make it. Ryan’s daughter died when she was 4. Ryan misses her very much. She misses how happy she was when she saw her daughter having fun. Remembering her love for her daughter, she knew she couldn’t give up even though it was going to be a hell of a journey. Ryan says:

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I really think this is a good movie, and all of the people who have watched “Gravity” should tell people about it. Tell them how brave and smart Ryan is. Tell them about her sacrifices, the ones that she knew had to happen. Tell them about how she learned to never give up.

 

Does ‘Maleficent’ depict matriarchy vs patriarchy or world where gender isn’t destiny?

This is my fifth post on the fabulous ‘Maleficent’ movie which I saw with my three daughters and my husband last Friday. I’m obviously a little obsessed.

Maleficent-2014-image-maleficent-2014-36106527-738-1082

If you’ve been following my blogs, I keep arguing, contrary to what almost everyone else seems to believe, that when Stefan cuts off Maleficent’s wings, it’s not necessarily a rape metaphor. I’d like to set one thing straight given the comments I’ve received. Yes, everyone is allowed their own interpretation. My blogs, about how this scene is not rape, I am quite aware come from my own bias that I want to lay out for you here:

(1) I am 45 years old and exhausted with seeing women raped on screen. I just wrote about my fatigue regarding bell hooks’s forum: Are You Still a Slave ? Liberating the Black Female Body with a blog title borrowed from a hooks quote: “If I never see another naked, enslaved, black woman on screen, I’ll be happy.”

(2) I have 3 daughters ages 5, 7, and 10, and I am desperate for them to experience fantasy worlds where gender equality exists. This wish of mine probably goes back to my first point, that I am 45 and sick of seeing the “feminist” trope where the female struggles against the patriarchy. It’s not just that I’ve seen it one million times before, but that in order for my children to see a girl struggling to be taken seriously or be strong or powerful even though she’s a girl, first my kids have to understand sexism. In order to “get” the story, first they have to understand that the world believes girls are less than boys. I would prefer, certainly for little kids, that they be exposed to fantasy worlds where girls and boys are depicted as equal, where girls are not made fun of, put down, or limited because of their gender. I understand how important the narrative of the girl proving she’s “just as good as a boy”  is historically, I’m not asking for it to be obliterated, I’m just asking for more stories where there is gender equality. If we can’t imagine gender equality, we cant create it. At this point, The Hunger Games may be the only fantasy world I’ve read where gender is not an issue.

(3) There are several reasons I believed “Maleficent” depicts a fantasy world where gender isn’t destiny rather than matriarchy vs patriarchy. Everyone is allowed their own interpretation, author’s intention is dead, but it can still be a factor in understanding the movie. I believed that it was both the screenwriter’s and Angelina Jolie’s intention that the conflict in the movie was not male vs female but human vs Fairy. Here are the reasons why:

A. The narrator introduces the movie as one about two worlds, one human and one magical.

B. When Stefan is first introduced, Maleficent is curious about him because he is a human, not because he is a boy.

C. With most of the scenes between them being childhood ones, I experienced the relationship between Stefan and Maleficent as special because it was a friendship between two warring species.

D. This quote from the writer, Linda Woolverton:

I had to figure out what possibly could have happened to her to make her want to hurt an innocent baby. Something that would equal that act. In the animated movie, she had no wings. She just threw her robes open like wings. I thought, ‘Is that it? Did someone take her wings?

Maleficent’s wings defined her as a Fairy. These wings were cut. This violence had nothing to do with her genitals/ rape. Why must we assume that when violence is done to a woman, it must involve her genitals? When Delilah put Samson to sleep in her lap and his hair was cut, was that a rape metaphor? As someone on Reel Girl’s Facebook page commented, the Maleficent scene could be compared to cutting off the hand of a concert pianist or, I might add, cutting off the wings off a Fairy!

E. This quote from Angelina Jolie made me think she wanted “Maleficent” to depict a world where gender isn’t destiny instead of matriarchy vs patriarchy.

“Our movie has all this strength and all this feminism, but, what I think is so nice is that, sometimes, in order to do that you have to make the man an idiot. Instead, we have this very elegant, wonderfully handsome, prince who, in the end, is great. He doesn’t need to be less than to make us more than. We don’t have to simplify or cheapen the men, or to detract from one to make the other better. I think that’s a mistake that’s often made in movies.

 

But, here’s my new news. It’s been one week since I saw “Maleficent,” and now I realize, to my dismay, though I still love this movie, I agree with so many others: “Maleficent” is not a world where gender isn’t destiny but depicts the conflict of matriarchy versus patriarchy. So why my change of heart? Is it that I now agree the wing cutting is clearly a rape metaphor? That the relationship between Stefan and Maleficent is primarily romantic?

No. What’s made me change my perception is I’ve been dwelling on my one earlier disappointment with the movie. The human crowd scenes are populated by all male characters. Please, tell me I missed something, but from my recollection, the king’s army is comprised of all male soldiers. When the king sends his followers to kill Maleficent, wishing for an heir, the circle around him is all male. And when Stefan returns with Maleficent’s wings, the king says something to the effect of, “Take my daughter.” If the king had been surrounded by half women when he sends his minions off to kill, if the army had been half women fighters, if we’d seen Maleficent use her power to strike down women soldiers as well as male ones, this fantasy world would’ve been one where gender doesn’t matter. But we did not see this. Therefore, the movie is clearly about patriarchy vs matriarchy, thus, the rape scene makes perfect sense.

Still, Angelina Jolie may have intended for her movie to depict a world where gender isn’t destiny rather than matriarchy vs patriarchy. But, if this is the case, she should’ve made sure the crowd scenes showed men and women equally. The scene could be primarily males just because of Jolie’s– and the producer’s, writer’s, director’s obviously–  unconscious bias. But this is why author’s intention doesn’t matter, because viewers see things in the story that are there whether the creator “chose” to put them there or not.

The Geena Davis Institute does extensive research on gender bias in children’s films, coming up with two– just two– main ways to make kids’ films show gender equality:

 

Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?

Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don’t gather, I don’t know.

 

It’s sort of like how someone said, I forget who it was, that we won’t have gender equality when female geniuses make it through the glass ceiling, when exceptional women break barriers, but when the mediocre, average ones make it into the power structure, just like all the average white men are up there. It’s all about the crowd scenes.

Alternative title for this post: What happens when an over-educated woman has three daughters and gets stuck watching way too many Disney movies? She blogs.

Update:  I’m getting comments on Reel Girl’s Facebook page asking if I still recommend Maleficent for kids. Yes, absolutely take your children to see this movie, rape metaphor or no. They will not get the metaphor. It’s only disappointing to me because, as I wrote, I would like children to experience fantasy worlds where gender equality exists, and I’ve come to believe that “Maleficent” isn’t one of those worlds. Still, the movie has a great female protagonist (rare in kids’s films) and shows other strong, complex female characters as well. All three of my kids and my husband enjoyed the movie. Read the last post listed below for my full review.

Reel Girl’s posts on “Maleficent:”

What if ‘Maleficent’s’ Stefan had been Stefanie?

‘Maleficent’ beats MacFarlane at the box office (and she didn’t even show her boobs)

‘Maleficent’ is not ‘a woman scorned’ so stop calling her that

Magnificent ‘Maleficent’ is for all the girls who always wanted to fly

 

What if ‘Maleficent’s’ Stefan had been Stefanie?

I’m seeing so many posts comparing the cutting of Maleficent’s wings to rape or genital mutilation, along with commentary that the movie is anti-men, that I’m wondering: How might the movie change if Stefan had been Stefanie?

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When violence in a narrative happens to a woman, must we think of her genitals? In the story of Samson and Delilah, she “puts him to sleep in her lap” and then cuts off the source of his strength– his hair. Is that a rape metaphor?

For me, Maleficent’s character is primarily a Fairy, a magical creature who happens to be female. Stefan is primarily a human who happens to be male.

Either way– if the violence is or is not a rape metaphor– clearly, the movie is about Maleficent’s recovery, so that’s the important thing. It’s just irritating to me because I’m so sick of watching women get raped on screen. To watch a movie and not have that experience, but then to see so many others have it, is frustrating.

So bear with me: consider the plot switch, from Stefan to Stefanie. For me, the structure of the narrative wouldn’t change much at all. I realize Maleficent falls in love with Stefan and receives her first kiss from him, but that aside, assuming she’s not gay, here’s how the plot would go– pretty much the same: The first thing Maleficent asks Stefan is if he’s a human or not. Maleficent’s attraction to Stefan had to do with his human-ness, not his man-ness.Humans live in a separate world than the magical world. That’s how the narrator introduces the whole story, and the difference between Maleficent and Stefan primarily as Fairy/ Human rather than woman/ man. Their relationship is primarily a dramatic friendship forged between two species who are supposed to fear and hate each other.

I’ve written about this before, but after his human-ness, Stefan is defined by his ambition: he steals in the first scene, and he says he wants to love in the castle. Easily, an ambitious human “Stefanie” could’ve played this part. “Stefanie” is then tasked by the king to kill “the winged creature.”  Yet, when it comes to the moment of killing, she can’t quite do it, so she takes Maleficent’s power– her wings– from her. The betrayal is still deep, committed by a childhood friend, destroying a bond formed two species, Humans and Fairies, who were supposed to hate and fear each other. We’d also get another starring female part and no more tangential talk all over the internet about “man-hating.” Obviously, the movie is not about “man-hating” anyway. Aurora ends up with a loving, cute, brave guy, as well as remaining a friend to Maleficent. In Angelina Jolie’s own words:

We wanted to tell a story about the strength of women and the things they feel between one another,” Jolie said. “Our movie has all this strength and all this feminism, but, what I think is so nice is that, sometimes, in order to do that you have to make the man an idiot. Instead, we have this very elegant, wonderfully handsome, prince who, in the end, is great. He doesn’t need to be less than to make us more than. We don’t have to simplify or cheapen the men, or to detract from one to make the other better. I think that’s a mistake that’s often made in movies.

So, if Stefan had been Stefanie, this whole “man-hating” interpretation would be nicely cleared up. Do you think Hollywood would make a movie with three female leads? Two female villains? Wouldn’t that be great? Tell me what you think.

‘Maleficent’ beats MacFarlane at the box office (and she didn’t even show her boobs)

This weekend, ‘Maleficent’ surpassed industry expectations becoming the top money-maker at the box office taking in 70 million, making it the biggest opening of Angelina Jolie’s career.

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Meanwhile, Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West” disappoints, bringing in just 17 million.

(Pause here for victory dance celebrating girls and women everywhere.)

“Maleficent” is the latest female driven film, after “Frozen” and “Catching Fire,” to make tons of money and debunk the ridiculously sexist myth that only movies with male protagonists are super profitable. This powerful lie influences the movies that get made for children as well. For example, in 2014, 18 kids’ movies star males while only 6 star females.

It’s especially great to see MacFarlane stumble because the guy is such a sexist pig. He’s the Oscar host who sung the horrible, offensive, and not funny “We Saw Your Boobs” song. MacFarlane called out great actresses like Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Helen Hunt, telling them that he “saw their boobs,” acting like this on screen nudity was a show just for him– and all males– and had nothing to do with the narratives or the parts these women played. He sung that he saw Jodie Foster’s boobs when she played a rape survivor in “The Accused.” The guy makes me sick. That night, he sung that he saw Angelina Jolie’s boobs as well. Now, who’s the boob? It looks like it’s time for MacFarlane to start thinking about what he can show to get people to buy tickets for his boring, loser movies.

‘Maleficent’ is not ‘a woman scorned’ so stop calling her that

There is so much talk in the feminist internet about ‘Maeficent’ being portrayed as ‘a woman scorned’ that I feel I must right the misconception here. As far as I can tell, the false rumor was fueled by this review in the LA Times:

Alas, though Maleficent’s magical forest is equipped with stomping tree beasts and squat, mud-slinging gnomes, she has no Top 40 station to teach her that her lifelong boyfriend should have put a ring on it. So she does what any wounded woman would do: Curse his baby daughter to an inescapable coma.

 

Like Oz the Great and Powerful, Maleficent considers itself a revisionist fairy tale that spins a demonized witch into a feminist icon. Hardly. Both movies hinge on a man, as though the sheer power of being rejected by one dude is enough to make any girl nuts. Maleficent and the Wicked Witch of the West can terrify armies, but they cede their emotional strength to a mortal twerp.

I really don’t get how the reviewer could twist and reduce this movie to come up with such a simplistic and ridiculous analysis. Maleficent is pissed because her wings were cut off. A perfect metaphor that should be obvious to anyone who watches this movie. If you need more proof, here’s a lovely quote from the writer, Linda Woolverton, about what was going through her head as she re-imagined this fairytale:

“I had to figure out what possibly could have happened to her to make her want to hurt an innocent baby. Something that would equal that act. In the animated movie, she had no wings. She just threw her robes open like wings. I thought, ‘Is that it? Did someone take her wings?’

Maleficent curses the baby because she’s lost her wings, she’s lost her power. Clearly, Maleficent enjoyed those wings. They were taken from her. Wouldn’t that make you angry?

Also, the guy who cut off Maleficent’s wings, she befriended when she was a kid. Stefan was always been greedy and lustful for power. When Maleficent first meets him, he’s just stolen something. One of the first things Stefan tells Maleficent is that he wants to live in the castle. But Stefan is not all bad. He’s charming, the two of them have fun together, he tosses his iron ring when he sees that the metal hurts her. And once again, they are children. Haven’t you stuck around with a friend because you’ve been friends for so long? Stefan’s character is contrasted with Maleificent’s in that her heart grows cold as well, but she changes, she acts while Stefan sits around and mopes.

Jezebel also has complaints about the movie. Regarding Maleficent:

And the whole place is governed by this whimsical child-mayor named Maleficent (seriously, HOW DID YOU GET ELECTED YOU ARE EIGHT)

 

Because she is the most powerful Fairy! That is how she is introduced by the (female) narrator at the beginning of the movie.

Jezebels’ next complaint is obviously kind of tongue in cheek, but again, it implies the interaction between Maleficent and Stefan in anti-feminist:

When she wakes up in the morning, her huge beautiful majestic wings have been sawed off and stolen.

Let me repeat. In Maleficent, a PG-rated Disney movie, a man ROOFIES A FAIRY AND VIOLENTLY TAKES HER “WINGS” WHILE SHE’S UNCONSCIOUS.

Wait, maybe it’s not tongue and cheek:

I was surprised. I think of myself as having a pretty consistently perceptive and sensitive Good Feminist™ barometer, and—the groaningly cheap and clumsy rape allegory aside (as far as you can set such a thing aside)—I’d enjoyed Maleficent mostly without pause.

Seriously? Protagonists have been drugged in narratives from time immemorial. I didn’t get any kind of predatory sex vibe from this scene. Is the reviewer saying females cannot be drugged in a narrative because that must be understood as date rape? That was the last thing from my mind watching this part of the movie, and this is my mind that we’re talking about. Once again, please refer back to the writer’s quote.

Jezebel has more problems with the feminist cred of the movie:

The more my friend and I talked about it, the more problems came to the surface. Did the final battle have to be so brutal and soooooooo long?

Yes, it did. We had to see Maleficent revel in her power. And it wasn’t even that long. Violence is a part of narratives because art is metaphorical and depicts emotional realities. Here’s what Peggy Orenstein wrote about it in Cinderella Ate My Daughter:

“Violent play is not by definition bad or harmful for kids. Any child shrink worth her sand table will tell you it can help them learn about impulse control, work out the difference between fantasy and reality, and cope with fear….Children of both sexes crave larger than life heroes. They need fantasy. They also, it seems, need a certain amount of violent play…something that allows them to triumph in their own way over this thing we call death, to work out their day-to-day frustrations; to feel large, powerful, and safe.”

 

Next problem:

Did the meet-cute have to be so shallow?

I don’t know what that means.

Did Maleficent have to be punished so profoundly for succumbing to her completely justified rage?

Huh? She’s triumphant in the end and redeemed. I loved that about the movie.

Did the supporting female characters have to be so useless?

Yes, they were contrasting to Maleficent who protected and watched out for Aurora (and that’s why they were not the “mayors” of the moors even though they were older, Maleficent was always the smartest and most powerful and born to rule.)

Read my review of “Maleficent’ here.

Magnificent ‘Maleficent’ is for all the girls who always wanted to fly

WOW I loved loved LOVED Maleficent. From the opening to the ending, I was mesmerized and so was my husband (“she kicked ass!”) as well as my three daughters. I cannot recommend this movie more to you and your entire family.

The movie begins with the young Maleficent.

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My kids always love seeing the part of the movie that features a younger version of the female protagonist, the one who is closer their age. I remember that being one of my favorite things to watch when I was a kid too. The movie starts with the young Maleficent soaring across the screen, and it is so magical to see her fly and fly and fly. These scenes are especially wonderful because we’ve all been subjected to movies from “ET” to “How to Train Your Dragon” where its the males who fly, while the girls, if they’re lucky, get to cling on to some dude’s back while stuck in the passenger seats.

Maleficent is so powerful and magical. She is not a Minority Feisty. Not only is Aurora AKA Sleeping Beauty also a starring part, and wonderfully played by Elle Fanning, but there are the three Fairies (formerly known as Flora, Fauna, they have different names in this movie) with big supporting roles

When Maleficent is stripped of her power, her wings are clipped. Can you imagine a more perfect metaphor for women and cinema? Her wings are incredibly done too, huge and magnificent and beautiful. She relishes flying and she relishes her power. You see that in Angelina Jolie’s face throughout the film. I was worried that Jolie would be too made up, the way Johnny Depp sometimes is, so that you couldn’t experience her great acting. But that was not the case.She doesn’t get lost in the special effects. They are done perfectly to enhance her character.

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Maleficent and Aurora have a complicated, evolving relationship like nothing I’ve ever seen before in a Disney movie where, so often, women are pitted against each other, especially older and younger ones. Not only is that not the case here, but the whole dichotomy of hero/ villain is also turned on its head. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Aurora is crowned a queen, not a princess.

I’ve always been more interested in Disney’s female villains than its one dimensional princess/ heroines. And of these villains, Maleficent was always my favorite. You can’t beat that horned, caped silouette. (Here’s a picture of my 10 year old daughter in my Disney female villain nightshirt, which is several years older than she is.)

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Thank you to Angelina Jolie for getting this movie made so my children– and all children– can witness a powerful, magical female in all of her spectacular glory.

Reel Girl rates ‘Maleficent’ ***HHH***

Read more Reel Girl posts on this movie:

 

‘Maleficent’ is not ‘a woman scorned’ so stop calling her that

‘Maleficent’ beats MacFarlane at the box office (and she didn’t even show her boobs)

What if ‘Maleficent’s’ Stefan had been Stefanie?