Emily Blunt outshines the men in the quiet, twisty Sicario

This review of Sicario was written for Reel Girl by Christine Mathias.

Emily Blunt is now known as one of the actresses who can “do action” — using guns, getting physical, and, in most cases, be the only woman amongst a cadre of men in films that like to go boom.


She was the star of “Edge of Tomorrow” despite Tom Cruise’s presence (see it, by the way, it’s fantastic.) But in spite of the fact that a zillion actresses other than Blunt, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, and Angelina Jolie could definitely carry an action movie or thriller, studios have yet to catch up. Blunt herself told a story on Stephen Colbert recently that the producers of “Sicario” offered to double the budget if her character, FBI Agent Kate Macer, was rewritten as a man. Obviously the filmmakers declined, which contributed to my decision to plunk down some cash for it. If they fought so hard for Macer to be a woman, it must have feminist undertones, yes? She must stand out in some way as the heroic badass? Not really in the way I was expecting, but that’s OK.

The movie is very, very good — an examination of drug cartels, the law enforcement on both sides of the border that gets wrapped up in the international narcotics trade, and the price paid by all involved when money and politics clashes with horrific violence. A scene in which illegal immigrants snatched up by police or border patrol await their chartered-bus rides back to Mexico puts a pretty grave face on the immigration issue that is currently fodder for Presidential candidates. It’s relevant, gripping stuff. The tension comes from the movie’s silences — it’s spare, from front to back. Long moments of quiet, wide shots of Juarez, Mexico and the stretches of land between “us” and “them.” People think in this movie, and the director lets you see it. You see ideas dawn on people’s faces, you see characters deciding what to lie about and what to ‘fess up to, and it makes for a tense, gently twisty film. Kate Macer is FBI called to join a task force of sorts, but we don’t understand why, exactly, until it’s clear she’s the audience cypher with a bit more gun-handling skill. We are her— throughout the movie you can see her considering every angle, trying to figure out everyone’s motivations, as we are.

So ostensibly she’s the center of the movie, the eyes through which we see, the person we relate to the most, and she’s given much more to do than almost anyone. Seriously, not a lot of dialogue going on. Blunt plays Macer quietly, and it challenged my expectations of what a “strong” woman’s role can be — as in, it can still be strong if the character doesn’t always have the upper hand, or if she’s shown portraying vulnerability, or if she’s kind of an introvert. The important thing, to me, was that the other characters, the male characters, treated her like an equal. No overt sexism, no mollycoddling, Macer is respected for her hard work and is, in fact, chosen for her tactical experience. But the movie pulls a big bait-and-switch that I won’t give away— suffice to say that, in the end, it isn’t Kate Macer’s story. Which is too bad.

Christine Mathias rates “Sicario” HH/ S

Reel Girl ratings  system:  movies can get 1 to 3 H’s for “Heroine” and 1 – 3 S’s for gender stereotyping. H’s are good, S’s are bad.


Christine Mathias is a broadcaster, producer, writer, and Feminist Malcontent who has decided to make life as uncomfortable as possible for Supporters of the Patriarchy. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @NerdAlert19

‘Pan’ bombs at box office, proving movies with male leads can’t get an audience

Warner Sisters big budget movie “Pan” cost $150 million to make, yet had just a $15.5 opening, proving that movies with male protagonists can’t attract an audience.


Groups advocating for boy empowerment and claiming sexism have been asking Hollywood to make more movies with strong male protagonists, but after the financial failure of “Pan,” it’s obvious that movies starring boys aren’t profitable.

A Warner Sisters spokesperson tells Reel Girl, “Unfortunately, while both boys and girls want to see movies starring girls, only boys are interested in stories about boys.”

Perhaps “Pan” went too far trying to please special interest groups who want more male characters in movies. Female characters are left out of “Pan” almost completely. In one scene, Blackbeard, the male villain, who commands a boat of all male pirates, addresses thousands of all male orphan-slaves, saying his audience belongs to “every race, creed, and color, every age and era.” He never mentions females aren’t represented in the crowd at all.

While the movie does feature Tiger Lily, a white woman playing a Native American inspired role, one major female speaking part apparently isn’t enough to bring girls in to see the movie. Warner Sisters will be sticking to mostly female casts in the future: “It comes down to dollars.”

Reel Girl rates Pan ***SS*** for Gender Stereotyping.

Please don’t comment to me about how Tiger Lily or Peter’s mother (who has about two lines) are feminist characters. They represent typical Minority Feisty, a trope seen in almost every children’s movie made today where there will one, two, or three (a minority of)  “strong female characters” so we’re somehow not supposed to notice that all others in the movie, including the protagonist of his eponymous movie, are male.

In case you didn’t get it, the point of this post is that movies starring males and directed by males fail all the time, but unlike with female stars or directors, the inability to bring in money is never attributed to gender.

11 yr old girl frustrated by sexist ‘Star Wars’ Halloween costumes

I got this comment on Reel Girl today, ARGH!

Thank you for your brilliant comment, Maya. So sorry you have to grow up in a culture that is so horrifyingly sexist, but your imagination will continue to protect you. Your costume sounds great! Please send me a pic of you on Halloween.  And you can call me Margot : )

Dear Mrs. Magowan:

My name is Maya, and I am an eleven-year-old girl. I am a big fan of Star Wars, and having read your blog for a long time, I am fully aware of the sexism in the movies. I could go on for hours about Princess Leia, Padme Amidala, the sparse females, and their sexual objectification (such as in Leia’s metal bikini), and I thank you for bringing attention to that issue.


Yesterday, my mom and I were browsing the website of Five Below and saw a very cool Star Wars T-shirt with pictures of many of the iconic characters, such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and R2-D2. I was psyched looking at the shirt, until I realized something. “Where’s Princess Leia?” She was one of the main characters of the series, in addition to being the ONLY female. She needed representation. So on a shirt dominated by males, where the heck was she? I had the same problem when we were looking for Star Wars shirts at Wal-Mart. One of them had Star Wars characters in 8-bit pixelization. It was a really cool and fun shirt, but it had the same problem: although it depicted Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Stormtroopers, and even R2-D2, Leia – the only female character (and a totally kickbutt one at that, a perfect role model for girls AND boys) – was nowhere to be found.

Females need representation, in both girls’ AND boys’ merchandise, to show BOTH genders that in the world of fantasy, both males and females can do amazing things. So even if it IS a “boys’ shirt,” that’s no excuse for Princess Leia not to be there. I’m so glad Target realizes this, by showing Star Wars fans of both genders playing together. That advertisement sends the perfect message, and I’m grateful to Target for doing so. I would also like to thank you, Mrs. Magowan, for blogging about it and spreading the word to even more people.

I also have one more thing to share with you. Since I love Star Wars so much, I am probably going to dress in a Star Wars-themed costume for Halloween. The problem is, girls don’t have many options for Star Wars Halloween costumes. Boys have tons of Jedi, Sith, aliens, rebels, troopers, and even droids to choose from. Girls have Leia, Padme, Hera and Sabine from “Rebels,” and Ahsoka from “The Clone Wars.” That’s it. And although Padme practically has a new costume in every scene change and Leia’s wardrobe is nothing to sneeze at either, that is still very few options compared to the boys. Don’t fault the girls for that; fault the makers of Star Wars, for giving them so few choices in a franchise girls can love just as much as boys.

Even worse, my mother and I were browsing Star Wars costumes on the Internet, and almost every female costume for adults that we saw was SEXY. For every Darth Vader costume for males, there was a Sexy Sabine or Sexy Leia costume in revealing dresses that they were NEVER portrayed as wearing in the movies…or, even worse, a Sexy Darth Vader, complete with skintight “armor” and a miniskirt. Boys could have actual costumes that were actually relevant, true to the movies, heroic-looking, and covered them up well. If they were real heroes, they would be able to move, fight, and win in the outfits. Girls’ costumes needed to be sexy, skintight, and disturbingly explicit. There would be no way they would be able to move around or fight in those costumes, let alone do anything but LOOK pretty. The boys looked like heroes. The girls looked like objects for the boys to win. (On another note, wouldn’t people who wore those costumes be cold on Halloween? I mean, it’s an autumn night at the end of October. It’s going to be cold. People need to be covered up and warm, and sexy costumes are disturbingly impractical.) I decided to dress as a Jedi for Halloween. Since so many people were going to dress as human Jedi, I decided to do something different and go as an alien Jedi – a Twi’lek, which is the alien race of Hera from “Rebels”. We were browsing pictures of Twi’leks online, and all of the shown pictures looked disturbingly sexy and explicit – anorexic, supermodel-looking extraterrestrials with impossibly large breasts and barely anything to hide their privates. We had to look and look to find a picture of a Twi’lek that was actually well-covered-up, in cool Jedi robes, that actually looked appropriate. That is what I’m going as for Halloween. Interestingly, all the male Twi’leks were muscular, heroic, and not explicit at all. Hmm…I wonder why?

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for starting up this blog and making the sexism that plagues our society known to the world, especially in the fantasy inhabited by kids. When we are children, our minds are most vulnerable and open to new ideas, and when marketers shape those minds with sexism, that is a terrible thing. Thank you for helping make those ideas known to society and doing your part to eradicate sexism, empower women, and ultimately, lead to true gender equality.

Maya Blumenthal

Reel Girl’s blogs on sexism and ‘Star Wars’

Florida mom, I’d rather see my 4 yr old in orange jumpsuit than dressed as slave Leia

Slut-shaming Princess Leia or protecting childhood from adult sexuality?

Responding to #WeWantLeia campaign, Disney will stock stores with Leia toys

From the Disney store to Stride Rite to Whole Foods: the degradation and annihilation of Princess Leia in kidworld

Trade in your tiara for a light saber this Halloween

If you won’t buy your kids racist presents, don’t buy them sexist ones

In revolutionary new ad, Target shows girls and boys playing “Star Wars” together

Star Wars, where are the women?

Gender stereotyping leads to bullying

If a stormtrooper had no epic, would he exist?

My daughter teased for ‘boy’ shoes on soccer field



‘Minions’ most sexist kids’ movie of the year, rated Triple S for gender stereotyping

Yesterday, when my three daughters and I went to see “Minions,” two lingering questions I’ve had– are they really all male and if so, how did they come into being– were answered.


So, yes, now I know: the minions are all boys. When I’ve complained in the past about the utter lack of female minions, commenters responded that they’re “genderless.” In kidworld, where everything from robots to cars to planes are assigned a gender, I doubted this was the case, but I watched the new movie carefully just in case I was mistaken, that the minions were an exception to this rule. Guess what? Not only does every minion mentioned have a male name, but they are also repeatedly referred to as boys with lines delivered like: “Growing boy creatures need their strength” or “Good luck in there, boys!” or “Buckle up, boys!” So, please don’t waste your time emailing me that a 6 year old kid won’t notice what gender these creatures are.

Now, for question #2. The movie opens with a scene where the minions seem to evolve from amoeba like creatures that come out of the sea. Clearly, no female is involved in their reproduction. A male narrator describes their creation story and also how and why minions came to be: to serve an evil master. As evolution continues on the screen, we hear the narrator introduce “man.” We then see a caveman, followed by a series of other male leaders including a pharaoh and Napoleon. Around this point in the movie one of the minions, I think it was Bob, emerges from the sea wearing a pair of starfish on his chest in the first of several breast/ female jokes. Another minion sees Bob and quips: “He’s an idiot.”

Right after the narrator assures us this is going to be the same old, same old narrative we always see where one male saves the world, announcing: “One minion had a plan and his name was Kevin” I turned to my oldest daughter, who is 11. I told her I had to take a bathroom break and to watch for any female character who speaks, as none had come into the movie yet at all. My daughter responded, “Mama, the villain is a girl.” She was referring to Scarlet Overkill who she was familiar with from the many, many previews we saw of the movie. I, too, had high hopes for Scarlett even though as the only main female character in the movie, I was pretty sure she would be limited by the narrative to a Minority Feisty role.

For those who aren’t familiar with Reel Girl, Minority Feisty is the term I’ve assigned female characters in children’s movies. These females are “strong” and therefore often referred to as “feisty” by reviewers. “Feisty” is a sexist adjective. A reviewer would not label a male character, such as Superman “feisty.” “Feisty” refers to someone who isn’t really strong but plays at being strong. “Feisty” isn’t a real threat to any power structure. The Minority Feisty can refer to one or more female characters in a movie, the point being that though there can be more than one, females are shown as a minority population. The Minority Feisty represents our slow, slow, slow progress from the Smurfette Principle, a term coined by feminist writer Katha Pollitt. The Minority Feisty serves to pacify parents, so we can sigh in relief and say to ourselves: “There’s a strong female or two, this movie is feminist!” And thus, we’re all supposed to ignore and forget that girls– half of the kid population– are reduced to a tiny minority in the movie and almost never represent the protagonist.

Scarlet Overkill is one of the WORST EVER representations of the Minority Feisty. The male narrator introduces her at Villain Con: “There’s a new bad man in town and that man is a woman.” Then Scarlet is on the stage in her red dress and stilettos, saying: “Hey, a girl’s got to make a living.” She is the keynote speaker at the conference, defined as “the world’s first female supervillain.” Before Overkill came to town, she tells us, it was believed that “a woman could never rob a bank as well as a man.” Overkill proves them wrong, so YAY feminism, right? Let me remind you that the minions represent a fantasy world where little, yellow pill shaped creatures have sprouted from the sea. Why, why, why in “Minions,” and most other children’s movies, do we recycle sexism into so many stories that are otherwise imaginative and creative, because “that’s just the way it is in the real world?” Why does Scarlett Overkill have to be represented as an exception to her gender? Why can’t we show children a fantasy world where gender equality exists?  “Minions” does the opposite, reproducing and in fact, managing to exaggerate sexism so that females have hardly any place or representation in the world at all.

You wouldn’t think it possible, but things get even worse for sexism and Overkill’s character. She wants the minions to steal the crown for her because she wants to be a princess– not a queen!– “because everyone loves princesses.” Is any kid watching this movie going to get a message of female empowerment from this single, sexist character? If you still have doubt, at the end of the movie, this first female greatest villain of all time, cedes her status to Gru who you know from the “Despicable Me” movies. It is he who is the real greatest villain of all time, Overkill’s 15 minutes are up.

I’m appalled and disgusted that movies like “Minions” are allowed to be made in 2015 and shown to little kids, teaching a new generation to expect and accept a world where girls go missing. If you think I’m overreacting, imagine the reverse: A movie about three female characters– Kara, Stella, and Becky, who lead an all female tribe. They defeat the first male super villain ever, while pursued in a world populated by hundreds of female villains, groups of all female police officers, troops of all female guards, and visit English pubs where almost everyone– except for the pink suited king– is also female. Would you notice the sexism? Would your kids? The fact that the lack of females in children’s movies– from protagonists to crowd scenes, from heroes to villains– isn’t glaringly obvious to us and our children shows how sexist the world is. In the fantasy world, anything is possible, even gender equality. If we can’t even imagine it, we can’t create it. Unfortunately, “Minions” teaches kids, one more time, that females don’t matter much at all.

Reel Girl rates “Minions” ***SSS*** for gender stereotyping


(Photo features 2 of my daughters, ages 6 and 8)

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2014

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2012

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2011

In the 5 years since I started Reel Girl, I’ve never done this before but comments on this post are now closed. Generally, I let most commenters post because the imbeciles inadvertently prove all of my points. But I’ve reached a point where there are too many trolls who repeat the same comments over and over and over, the same arguments (if they can be called that) which I’ve already rebutted numerous times. My energy needs to be focused on writing and creating, not reacting and responding.

‘Inside Out’ and the brilliance of our emotions

Proceed immediately to the theater and go see “Inside Out” even if you have no children. Pixar’s latest may be my favorite animated movie EVER. Powerful female protagonist CHECK. Complex female characters in supporting roles CHECK meaning “Inside Out” does NOT feature Minority Feisty!!!! Spectacular animation and compelling story telling CHECK and CHECK.

Pixar Post - Inside Out characters closeup

I am not alone in loving “Inside Out.” I don’t think I’ve read a negative review. My daughters and I had fascinating conversations after the movie: My six year old said she was Joy and my eight year old picked Disgust to describe herself. They talked about which emotions their friends are and different members of their family. But then they also had a talk about how they are– and all people are– all of the emotions. Other emotions personified in the movie are Sadness, Anger, and Fear. My kids talked about what emotions they didn’t see in the story– Embarrassment and Meditation which I interpreted as Serenity or Calm. We talked about which emotions branch off of others, and that all emotions need to be valued and felt which happens to be the point of the movie. That conversation began in the  backseat of the car going home and is still going on today.

Riley, the star and the setting for the movie (most of it takes place in her head) is an 11 year ice hockey star from Minnesota who moves to San Francisco. I appreciated the depiction of the city, where I happen to live, as foggy-gloomy and infested with broccoli covered pizza. While I have grown to love my home, I understood Riley’s experience of it as gray and depressing. I totally had those moments as a kid and still do. Riley longs for seasons that included snow. Depicting Riley as an ice hockey fan not only highlighted her aggression, joy, and skill but cleverly showed how alienated she feels in California. There is another (another!) cool female character in the movie, Riley’s BFF from home.


The two emotions with the biggest parts in the film– Joy and Sadness– are also female. Disgust is female too. Riley’s mom is also an ice hockey fan and player, though they do make the move for the busy dad’s job.

Amy Poehler who plays Joy said she was proud to be in this movie and that it makes the world a better place. I agree.

Reel Girl rates “Inside Out” ***HHH***

Long live Furiosa!

Just saw “Mad Max Fury Road” with my husband. LOVE IT. Visually stunning, non-stop action, and a feminist masterpeice. Now, this, is a movie poster!


This image is not something I found on the internet, but a picture I took of the giant poster I saw when I entered the theater. Instead of reviewing the movie, I’m going to direct you to an excellent post by Laurie Penny on Buzzfeed which describes everything wonderful about it. here’s one quote but click on the link above and read the whole thing!

Fury Road — whose director called in feminist playwright and activist Eve Ensler as a consultant — offers a solution. We have elderly women on motorbikes counting their bullets in the bodies of men. We have the movie’s young heroines, the Five Wives, who resemble what would happen if someone decided to heavily arm a Burberry ad, kicking their awful chastity belts across the desert. And we have Furiosa, a protagonist who takes the worn stereotype of the strong female action hero in shiny latex and shatters it to flaming shards in the sand. The film does not judge its heroines on age and beauty: Together, all of these women give the lie to the notion that there is any proper way to be female on film. Supermodels and white-haired warriors with faces like withered fruit fight side-by-side under a leader whose beauty is in no way sexualized.


This movie is way too violent for young kids, but take some grown-up time and go!

Reel Girl rates “Mad Max Fury Road” ***HHH***

Huzzah! Amazon drops ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ toy/ game categories

I’m deep in Fairyworld working on my book (really, almost done) but I had to visit cyberspace to bring you this amazing news! Amazon has dropped its boy/ girl categories for toys and games. This is a huge step forward for gender equality, and it was taken because of you speaking out and creating change.

Just this weekend, I was at a soccer game for my 6 year old’s team, and another mom, knowing I have three daughters, said to me, “Your house must be so girlie!” Ugh, people say this all the time. I responded: “I try to keep their worlds big and open.” She told me she has two sons and let me know when her only daughter chose what color to paint her room, she picked pink.

“That’s the problem,” I said. “It’s not really her choice. Everything marketed to girls is pink, from Toys R Us to TV, that’s what they see.” I explained how pink used to be a “boy” color.

Her reply? “So, is everything in your house beige?”

I burst out laughing, but her comment reminded me of why I’m not a fan of the term “gender-neutral.” I prefer to use “gender inclusive.” I don’t want less colors for kids, I want more. I’m so sick of having versions of these conversations with parents about the limited gender boxes they buy into, hearing again and again about how boys will bite their toast into the shapes of guns because “that’s just how boys are.” I live in progressive San Francisco and when these words come out of smart, educated liberal parents, I’m still shocked (though my poker face is pretty good now.) At best, with children growing up in a world created by thousands of years of sexist narratives, where females are sidelined and sexualized,  from the Bible to the Avengers, with brain plasticity/ development based on activities kids engage in, you’ve got to AT LEAST say that you don’t have a fucking clue what girls and boys are “naturally” like.

So when I see parents affirm girls for being quiet, reading, or doing art, admonished not to get their clothing messy, complimented on their shoes or hair (which is, of course, designed to receive those compliments) while the same parents tolerate boys being “wild,” “disruptive,” wrestling, shouting, and running around, it stuns me that people really buy into the sexism that girls and boys are just different.

I’ve blogged before that I believe that people will look back on this time and be blown away by how sexist we were in the USA, that children were segregated by gender in the aisles of Target. Didn’t we learn that separate but equal doesn’t work? That so-called utopia doesn’t exist. My whole blog Reel Girl is dedicated to imagining gender equality in the fantasy world. If we can’t imagine equality, we can’t create it. It makes me sad and angry to see a whole new generation watch Hollywood movies made for kids where girls go missing. These kids get trained to accept and expect a real world where females go missing. This sexism in kidworld is so prevalent, that, ironically, it’s invisible. Parents don’t notice it. I get mocked all the time for even writing about it, for not being a real feminist because I care about trivial issues like cartoons and toys and, you know, children.

Amazon’s decision to refuse gender segregation is inspiring and exciting, but we have more work to do. Toys we sell come from the stories we tell. As I blogged in the posts If a stormtrooper had no epic, would he exist?  and When Hollywood excludes girls, how can Lego market to them? until females are recognized as heroic protagonists in narratives, removing gender labels from the merchandise will only take equality so far. Kids– girls and boys– need to experience stories where females (plural, not just one, not a Minority Feisty) are front and center, being brave, making choices, and taking risks. Which reminds me, I better get back to writing mine. Huzzah Amazon! THANK YOU

Update: On her blog, Melissa Wardy, founder of Pigtail Pals writes:

But Amazon didn’t drop the gendered categories. It just moved them. To the top of the page and under the “Toys & Games” heading above the item images.

amazonOn the left side bar under “Age Ranges” we used to see “Gender” and the binary options of “Boys” or “Girls”. Now we see the left side bar offering search options of “Popular Features”, “Shop By Price”, “Age Ranges”, “Toys & Games”, “Featured Character & Brand”, and “Interest”.


This is truly great and reflects how merchants should offer toys to children and families: age and interest.

The problem is, I still see “Boy’s Toys” and “Girl’s Toys” pages, as well as this when I go in to shop “Toys & Games”…


If there were a word for that deflated sound a party blower horn makes when it runs out of air, I’d insert it here. Because shoppers will still get the following message:

Boys go out into the world, build the world, explore the world, save the world, and play hard when they play outside. Girls, on the other hand, stick close to home, think of home, decorate the home, need things to be pink, play with dolls, and sit in pink folding chairs during “Sports and Outdoor Play”.

There are no robots, globes, vehicles, nor firefighters for girls. There is no pink, dolls, princess dresses, nor homey items for boys.


On SFGate, Amy Graff makes a similar observation about moving the gender category to another area of the site, but sees consistency with Amazon refusing stereotypes:

 Amazon still features special girls and boys pages noted at the top of the toys page and the current highlights on the girls’ page seem to be further proof that Amazon is taking a stand against gender stereotyping. On the girls’ page, you’ll find a plug for summer outdoor equipment such as swing sets, an ad for STEM toys and games and a promotion for package toy deals that allow you to bundle everything from Barbies and Avengers figurines for discounts.


I will do my own research on this, but it seems pretty obvious that keeping ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ categories for selling toys is archaic and meaningless. Amazon should get rid of them all together.

Update: As reported by Melissa and Amy, on the Amazon site, if you click on ‘Toys and Games, you’ll see this:

Toys & Games

Shop for dolls, action figures, games, and gifts for boys and girls. Explore Editors’ Picks in our Best Toys of the Month.


The good news is this small print, gender sub category is much harder to get to now. The bad news is its still there. I’m hoping Amazon is phasing the gender category out, and taking it off Amazon’s main page is the first step.

I will continue to research what Amazon is selling under ‘boy’ and ‘girl,’ but at this point, when I click on “girls,” I see a sea of pink and dolls. When I click on “boys” as Melissa wrote, I see robots, globes, and colors (except for pink.) I’m still blowing my horn, but I hope Amazon makes another move very soon to completely give up these limiting categories.

Amazon, are you listening? Your customers don’t need this kind of sexist assistance shopping, except maybe one, who wrote on Reel Girl’s Facebook page: “But my little lady brain is too small to figure out what to buy my kids without gender categories!”

Reason #1,001 to skip Disney’s new (ha!) “Cinderella”

I’ve seen so many movies for you guys and for this blog. I’ve sat through “Spongebob” and “Planes” and “Tintin.” I’m so sorry, but I don’t think I can do another fucking “Cinderella.” “Ever After” is great. If your kids want to see a Cinderella movie, please show them Drew Barrymore’s fantastic feminist version of this fairytale. If you’re somehow mystified as to why “Cinderella” should be skipped, please read the About section of my blog. In fact, read any post on my blog, or better yet, get off the internet and read Peggy Orenstein’s fabulous book Cinderella Ate My Daughter. But here’s a bonus, reason 1,001 to skip Disney’s latest money grab. (Yes, that number is random, only not far larger because I didn’t want to use up characters in my blog title with infinite zeros.)  Today, I read on Jezebel:

Lily James went on a partial liquid diet to accommodate that stupid corset. In a recent interview with E!, James explained how she made it work on set by foregoing solid food.


No solid food. That’s right children, our female protagonist did not transform into her best, most beautiful, desired self through her Fairy Godmother’s magic but by not eating. Yes, little girls, you too can starve and make all of your dreams come true!

Reel Girl rates “Cinderella” without even seeing the movie ***SSS***


Five Things I Hated About “Penguins of Madagascar”

This is a guest blog written by Reel Girl fan Nikki Roseworth. Nikki is eleven years old and lives in a small town in Oregon. She has a dog named Charlie and loves rock climbing, archery and fencing.

Five Things I hated about “Penguins of Madagascar”


  1. The only female, Eva, is weak and quite dim-witted. She relies on males for help, has no brain of her own, and is nothing more then a pretty face. She speaks very little and when she does, it’s in a British haughty sounding voice saying something like “Hello DARRRRRRRLING.” (Not what she really says, what she could say and have the voice fit, if that makes sense.)


  1. The only other female with a speaking role that I can think of is a skinny, sexed up redheaded woman who screams when the “evil” penguins get unleashed. The ONLY other. She has no name, is not mentioned in the credits, and yeah, she doesn’t really even SPEAK. Just screams. And yes other characters that are males scream too. Still, SEXISSSSST!


  1. The egg in beginning kinda is a slur to childbirth. See, the males “give birth” to Private. Male childbirth is a thousand year old cliché. In the Greek myths, Zeus gives birth to his daughter, Athena. And Kronos gives birth to his children the gods. All of this is technically correct (I.e Kronos vomits up his children). The only power women used to have was childbirth, and see, we make movies where males take that power.


  1. I thought the credits could be better, maybe a female artist like Beyoncé or Nicki Minaj doing a quick, fun song? No… The music in the credits is even male dominated!!! It’s Pitbull….


  1. All Eva does with her tech job is say “Where’s the sound?” Nothing more needed. She’s the tech expert and can’t fix a Skype error?

More Reel Girl posts on these frat boy penguins:

Only girl in ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ is love interest

Sexist Penguins of Madagascar shouldn’t get their own movie

‘Minions’ and ‘Penguins’ star multiple males, no females

‘Penguins of Madagascar’ preview gives female one line: ‘Where’s the sound?’

Best movies for kids? Five new releases rated for gender stereotyping

I’ve been MIA finishing up my book. Though my time blogging is currently reduced, my time spent watching movies with my 3 daughters ages 5, 8, and 11, is not. I’ve consolidated my recent reviews into one post.

Please remember that showing your children media where powerful, complex females are front and center is important for both girls and boys to see. (If you don’t know why, please read this.)

Reel Girl attributes 1 – 3 S’s for gender stereotyping or 1 – 3 H’s for heroines.

“Strange Magic”


I hated “Strange Magic” so much, that I felt compelled to post here even though I have negative time. As I watched the trailer, at first I was excited for this movie. The preview features a female saving the world. What could be better than that? I started to get suspicious when the trailer announced in giant block letters: FROM THE MIND OF GEORGE LUCAS. In the mind of Margot Magowan, the creator of this blog, George Lucas is more known for gender stereotyping than genius. I’ve written extensively about male domination and “Star Wars” from the tiny minority of female characters in the movies, to how my daughter was teased by her gender police peers in pre-school for wearing “Star Wars” shoes for boys to the prevalence of kids’ toys and books showing Leia in her slave costume. I became even less hopeful about “Strange Magic” when, on the way to the movie theater, my daughter told me Lucas said that “Strange Magic is ‘Star Wars’ for girls.” How condescending is that? He compares this shitty, little movie about a love potion to an epic? At even if “Strange Magic” were good, why bifurcate of children’s media into “for boys” or “for girls?” All that duality accomplishes is to create further gender splits and stereotyping on what girls are supposedly like versus what boys are supposedly like. Even in the girl empowerment movement, too often, movies that star girls are recommended as great movies for girls. Children get trained that stories about girls are at best, special interest and at worst, don’t matter much. Then, in the grown up world we then see something like the Academy Awards nominee list for 2015 where movies about females are, once again, not considered important at all.

Beyond all of these initial feelings I had about the movie, it sucked. Totally. I can’t be more clear. It is all about love, because you know, girls they love to love. Everyone is singing about love in a cheesey medley that lasts for the entire movie. I felt like I was watching a bad video that wouldn’t stop. I almost never get bored in movies, and I was bored out of my mind. “Strange Magic” is basically another– yet another— beauty and the beast story. It’s not creative, a stereotype, and a rip off. The best part was the mushrooms playing telephone. I’m not giving “Strange Magic” a Triple S because the protagonist is female (though you can’t tell that from the poster she’s gone missing from) and she has moments of bravery.

Reel Girl rates “Strange Magic” ***SS ***


Part of the reason it’s so challenging to recognize sexism in stories for children is because we grew up with these narratives. We’re attached. I feel this way about Paddington. I loved him when I was a kid. I had several plush versions of him, and I read all the books about him. I wanted to love marmalade because Paddington did. I was devastated when I finally tired it and had to run to the garbage to spit it out. (I still don’t get the love, it’s orange rind, right? Who would like orange rind besides a bear and maybe the British?)

I liked the movie. I thought it was true to the book. I would’ve called “darkest Peru” just Peru. But in a nutshell, the movie made me laugh. My 5 year old was in stitches. Nicole Kidman is good as the villain. Her role is similar to the evil woman she played in “The Golden Compass.” Unfortunately, her character uses her womanly wiles to manipulate; she is called “Honeypot” while her ga-ga male partner is has the code name “Fierce Eagle.” The dad in the movie dresses as a woman (ha ha.) A maid. A male goes ga-ga over him (ha ha ha). And of course, Paddington is the main character in his eponymous movie. The mom and the sister have pretty big parts for supporting roles but these roles are, of course relegated to supporting.

Besides the humor, the main reason I liked “Paddington” is because it’s well plotted. There is foreshadow, climax, and transitions for all the characters. Perhaps I was so impressed with the structure because I’m currently writing a book and studying these phases. And perhaps, the other reason I liked Paddington is nostalgia. So, I’ll leave you with this: If you’re choosing between “Strange Magic” and “Paddington,” see “Paddington.”

Reel Girl rates “Paddington ***S***


I loved Selma. I cannot fucking believe it was not nominated for an Academy Award and that the director, Ana DuVernay, was also overlooked. In 2015, a black female has never been nominated for a Best Director Academy Award.

Yes, the movie is about a legendary man, Martin Luther King Jr., but the narrative focuses on this particular time in his life and the people around him. It’s always annoyed me how biographies of MLK (and Ghandi) leave out the disrespect these men showed for the women around them. “Selma” addresses King’s philandering and the effects of his behavior on his wife. The movie also addresses female leaders in the movement, and the stories of the women who were around King.

There is violence in “Selma.” After checking Common Sense Media, which is a great resource for specific examples of sex/ violence in movies (but pretty negligent about gender stereotyping) I decided to take my 8 year old along with the 11 year old. At one point when an officer hit a protester,  perhaps because I gasped, my younger daughter, who always studies my reactions, said: “Why did you take me to this?” She covered her face. I told her. “This really happened. It’s part of history. People were beat up and killed just because of their skin color.” The movie also includes the scene where the 4 girls are burned in their church, also a horrific moment in history. If you read this blog, you know I believe in protecting children from stories they are not ready for. Kids need to feel strong and secure so they can be healthy, grow, and take risks. Dumping adult narratives and adult problems on young children can be abusive. Taking all this seriously, thinking about it, witnessing my daughter’s reaction, I’m glad I took her to see “Selma.” At the end of the movie, she said she liked it and asked me a ton of questions about MLK. I recommend the movie for children 8 and up, but it’s a choice that depends on you and your kid.

Reel Girl rates “Selma” ***H***

“Into the Woods”

You should see this movie with your kids just for the Red Riding Hood character. She is well acted, a great singer, and she cracked me up. Emily Blunt  is also excellent playing a baker’s wife who is desperate for a child. After the witch (played by Meryl Streep,) gives the baker and his wife a list of tasks, Blunt seems like she’s ready to take them on. For a split second, I thought she might be the protagonist of the movie. But the baker steps in (of course he did, she’s the baker’s wife) and tells her its too dangerous. He will go into the woods. (I’ve got to add here that over Christmas, my daughters and I saw Rudolph’s dad say the same thing to Rudolph’s mom when he goes off to search for his son. This scene happens all the time in movies for kids, years ago and now. We re-interpret and change fairy tales, but we can’t change this?) Not only is Blunt not the hero, she dies after she kisses another man who is not her husband. Meryl Streep, as always, is fantastic but her character is obsessed with being young and “beautiful.” I enjoyed “Into the Woods” and it’s scattered moments of female empowerment, but it’s not feminist.

Reel Girl rates “Into the Woods” ***H***


I was really annoyed that “Mockingjay” was split into two parts. Unlike the final Harry Potter book which was also divided in two, the “Mockingjay” narrative could easily have fit into one movie. While I saw the two earlier movies in the series on opening day, for this one, I took my time. My 11 year old and I saw “Interstellar” and “Beyond the Lights” before we went to “Mockingjay.” My expectations were low, and I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t bored for a second. I didn’t think the movie was slow. I loved seeing Julianne Moore as the president, and I also appreciated in a bittersweet way, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Jennifer Lawrence playing the incredible Katniss, as always, is amazing. Because the movie was slowed down, I got an interesting perspective on how a revolution is planned and a movement is built.

Down to the last scene, “Mockingjay” is a manipulative money grab designed to pull us in, to get us to fork out money for two movies instead of one. I think a lot of fans feel like the same way, and that’s why the third movie didn’t make as much money as the first and second. That said, I’m hooked. I can’t help it. I’ll be first in line to pay for Part 2.

Reel Girl rates “Mockingjay” ***HHH***

More Reel Girl posts on new releases for kids and gender stereotyping:

Beyond the Lights ***HHH***

Annie  ***HHH***

Interstellar **HH**