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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Here it is in black and white.

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

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

Reel Girl rates “Rio 2″ ***H***

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

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

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

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

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

 

Drop everything and take your kids to see ‘Divergent’

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I prefer this image in the cover of Entertainment Weekly.

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Reel Girl rates ‘Divergent’ ***HHH***

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

 

Sexist MTV Movie Awards excludes females from hero category

How backwards is this? In the year 2014, when you’d hope we’d all be beyond this degree of sexism, the MTV Movie Awards completely excludes females from its “Best Hero” category.

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That’s right, Katniss Everdeen is not among MTV’s nominees for “Best Hero,” an all male round up that incudes Superman, Iron Man, Bilbo, Thor, and Jon Kale. Don’t know who John Kale is? Neither did I. He’s played by Channing Tatum in “White House Down,” a movie no one liked or watched. Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but “Catching Fire,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, was the top-grossing movie of 2013. Katniss is a household name, the protagonist of a top selling book series, she’s got her own doll, not to mention, she kicks ass in an amazing movie. Would MTV ever ignore a male hero from a top-grossing, critically acclaimed film like this? Isn’t MTV supposed to be cool and hip and appeal to young people? How can they be so clueless? MTV, your sexism is shocking and unacceptable.

Sophie Azran has started a petition against MTV. On the petitionsite.com, she writes:

There is not a single woman in the Hero Category. Don’t let a strong woman like Katniss be overlooked!

 

Please sign and share this petition before April 13 to demand that MTV add Katniss Everdeen to the “Best Hero” category at the MTV Movie Awards.

 

Young women already have too few female heroes represented in film and television. We’re constantly shown by the entertainment industry that men are brave, powerful, or successful, while women are often given supporting roles and weak characters.

 

I loved The Hunger Games, not just because it was a thrilling story, but because I admired the courage, intelligence, and persistence of Katniss Everdeen. Teen girls and young women everywhere need to see that courageous, principled women can be rewarded just like men.

 

The MTV Movie Awards are widely watched by a young adult audience. It’s appalling to me that the event’s producers are ignoring this female hero, especially since this film beat out all the others at the box office. But unlike the Oscars, the MTV Movie awards encourages public involvement, allowing the public to vote on winners. If enough of us ask for Katniss to be added, I’m confident that MTV will listen.

 

Sign this petition before April 13 to demand that MTV add Katniss Everdeen to the “Best Hero” category.

 

I couldn’t agree more with everything Azran writes. Please go to this link and sign her petition.

Every dog needs a boy: ‘Mr. Peabody and Sherman’ continues pattern of sexism in kids’ movies

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” repeats the same old sexist pattern of so many kids’ movies where male characters get to star while females are stuck on the sidelines, in supporting roles.

Let’s start with the title of the movie: “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.” Note this title features the name of not one, but two, male stars. That’s right– “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is yet another father-son story. While movie studios strategically switched the title of “Rapunzel” to “Tangled” and “Snow Queen to “Frozen” to hide female stars, the marketing for “Peabody” showcases males, and I’m not only referring to the movie title. I live in San Francisco, and here’s the poster that my three daughters and I see all around town:

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Major close up of two male stars. Compare that to “Frozen,” one of the rare children’s movies to feature not one but two female protagonists. Anna and Elsa get buried in the snow. The marketing implies that Olaf, the snowman, is the star of the movie.

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A major problem with this sexist marketing is that even if your children don’t see the movies, they see the posters. From this media, kids see that boys get to be front and center while females get sidelined or are invisible all together. The repetition of these gendered images teaches all children that boys are more important and get to do more things that girls.

Like most children’s movies, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” features a Minority Feisty. The Minority Feisty is “a strong female character” (or two or three) who plays a crucial role in helping the male star achieve his quest. There may be more than one Minority Feisty in a movie, but there are always a minority of female roles compared to male roles, even though girls are one half of the kid population. The purpose of the Minority Feisty is to make parents overlook the lack of female protagonists, because, hey, at least there’s a strong female in the narrative. To really get how sexist this gender ratio is, imagine gender flipping the characters. How likely is a it that a studio would put out a movie called “Ms. Peabody and Sharon” with a close-up of the two female stars on the poster? When is the last time you saw a children’s movie advertised with two female stars in the title and a just two females in the poster all around your town or city?

I blog a lot about a particular trope in children’s media that makes me crazy called “riding bitch.” While male characters often soar through the sky on all kinds of magical creatures, from dragons to hippogriffs, female characters usually are put in the passenger seat, not steering or deciding where to go, just along for the ride. Even though I’ve noted this trope endless times, I was shocked by how sexist it is in “Mr. Sherman.” Here’s what happens in the movie. Mr. Peabody, Sherman, and Penny go back in time to visit Leonardo da Vinci. Penny sees da Vinci’s flying machine and, as the Minority Feisty is wont to do, she hops on. Sherman is afraid but follows. Penny flies through the sky and whoops in delight while Sherman shrieks. My 7 year old daughter saw this scene in the preview and told me about it, she was so excited. But here’s the bummer:

Yes, Penny starts out flying the machine, but then she encourages Sherman to try. He refuses and she repeatedly tells him that he can do it. When Sherman continues to shy away, Penny lets go of the steering wheel, and they almost crash before Sherman finally takes control. This is the length the female character goes to put the male back in the driver’s seat. Sherman flies and he’s great at it, until Mr. Peabody sees him and says. “Sherman! You can’t fly!” reinforcing that all Sherman needed was a good girl to believe in him. When Sherman crashes, da Vinci runs up to Sherman, who is with Penny in a pile of debris, and says, “You are the first man to fly!” At no point does Sherman say, “No, actually Penny is the first woman to fly.” ARGH. What do my kids– and all kids– learn from this narrative? The same thing they learn from the whole goddam movie: it is the role of the female to help the male, to make him feel good and secure in his role as star, while she is happy and content as the sidekick; that’s where she belongs.

Lean In and Girl Scouts just started a “ban bossy” campaign which I love. But how much hope do these organizations have of getting a different message across when narratives like Penny’s are mass-marketed to little kids?

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There’s a lot more I didn’t like about gender in “Mr. Peabody.” Penny goes back in time, not to meet a suffragist or Joan of Arc or Queen Elizabeth, but to be the child bride of King Tut. That narrative is all about her wedding. UGH. If they wanted to do ancient Egypt, couldn’t she at least have encountered Cleopatra? Time and time again, Penny is a damsel in distress/ Minority Feisty who gets to play a small– but crucial role– in her own rescues, and is ultimately saved by Sherman again and again.

The last line of the movie pretty much sums up how males are front and center while girls go missing. Mr. Peabody, watching Sherman go off to school, says, “Every dog needs a boy.” What about a girl? What about at least saying “kid” or “child”? Instead, females don’t exist at all.

I get that this movie is a remake but that’s no excuse to recycle sexism for a new generation of kids. We had three Shrek movies (the first, of course, based on an original story) and in each one, Fiona, a Minority Feisty, gets a smaller part. This is a typical interpretation of “remake.” By the last Shrek movie, the narrative devolves into another father-son story (co-starring Justin Timberlake.) There was a spin off, and still, it was not Fiona, but Puss In Boots who got his own solo movie, featuring the Minority Feisty Kitty Softpaws. When will Kitty get her own movie? Ever? Do your kids even know who she is? The other problem with remakes is that when girls star, in each new incarnation characters like Strawberry Shortcake, Dora, the Powerpuff Girls, get “makeovers” where they get less powerful and more sexualized.

Once again, I write this: I would not have a problem with “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” if it were just one narrative. The problem is the repeated pattern of sexism that kids see again and again and again. Children learn through repetition, and I am beyond sick of this sexism marketed to kids. If you want a refresher of how many movies for kids star males versus how many star females take a look at Reel Girl’s Galleries of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies:

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

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

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

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

Reel Girl rates “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” ***H***

 

 

 

‘Lego Movie’ builds on gender stereotypes, pieces together sexist cliches

Though my kids and I saw “The Lego Movie” last week, I’ve been avoiding blogging about it.

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Contrary to what some commenters claim, I don’t relish seeing yet another movie for kids with the same old sexist pattern that’s been done so many times my head spins. I’m so fucking sick of the Minority Feisty, I could scream. I cannot believe Hollywood keeps churning out this shit. And, yet…

The last line of the movie, the finale, is all you really need to know to understand the sexist stereotyping throughout. Batman (a major character, while Wonder Woman gets two lines) urges his girlfriend, Lucy, to go off with, the movie’s protagonist, saying: “No, Lucy. He’s the hero you deserve.” The girl– and she is the girl– is the prize to be won. Literally. Why can’t a girl be the fucking hero? Really, LEGO, why?

Here’s what drives me crazy about this film. “The Lego Movie” is all about prizing creativity above all, yet,  when it comes to gender, innovation flies right out the window and cliche dominates the imaginary world. It’s just like how in “Turbo” the movie’s message is that a snail can win the Indy 500, follow your dreams, be anything you want to be…unless you happen to be a girl. Same with “Planes:” anyone can become a champion, even a crop duster, except for…females. What are children supposed to think about possibility and potential when in narrative after narrative girls are stuck in supporting roles if they get to exist at all?

The bad guy (yes, bad guy) in “The Lego Movie,” Mr. Business, is evil because he wants all the LEGO sets to stay only with their intended pieces. He wants to build impenetrable boundaries to make sure nothing too creative goes on. His deadly weapon, the kragle, is superglue. To Mr. Business, LEGO is not about process and creativity, but a static, finished, perfect product.

This is a brilliant message to teach kids. Art is about process (not to mention, life.) LEGO’s self-awareness about its toy surprised and impressed me. The movie’s narrative illustrates the problem I have with LEGO sets (besides their sexism, of course.) Every time I struggle through yet another 1,000 piece project with my kids, I wonder: What is the point here? What are we learning, how to follow directions?

Near the end of the movie, Will Ferrell, who voices Mr. Business appears in human form. He’s angry with his son (yep, his son) who’s in the basement, playing with Ferrell’s completed LEGO sets. The kid has put a dragon on top of a building, where it’s not supposed to be. Ferrell gets mad, and the kid says, “But it’s a toy! See the box? For 8 to 14 year olds.” Ferrell says, “That’s just a suggestion!”

At this point, like so many other times in the movie, I cracked up. The villain is my husband. While I lie there wondering what the point of LEGO is, he’s snatching up pieces, trying to finish the set himself, do it all perfectly, and once it’s done, he puts it somewhere high up where no one can reach it. So, this is what I want to know: LEGO, how can you be so creative, smart, and funny but then fall into tropes when it comes to gender roles? Why can’t you break through the impenetrable boundary of your own sexism?

There’s one Minority Feisty gleam of hope that comes at the end of the father son scene. After an epiphany, Farrell lets his kid enjoy the LEGO and says, “Now that you’re allowed down here, we’ll have to let your sister play too.” Cue the scary music. Could this be the next movie? Girls are allowed to play, front and center? And what if those girls are actually seen having an adventure, not shopping or eating at a cafe or taking care of sick puppies or whatever LEGO Friends allows them to do? LEGO’s world would change. Not to mention ours. That would be an adventure.

Reel Girl rates “The Lego Movie” ***H***

Update: For those of you who don’t know about LEGO’s history of sexism, here are some posts you should read:

A father recently wrote about the sexism his son is learning from LEGO http://taasa.org/blog/prevention-2/building-a-new-kind-of-lego-city-2/

There is a lot I’ve written here on Reel Girl, here’s one on shopping with my daughter http://reelgirl.com/2013/11/if-a-stormtrooper-had-no-epic-would-he-exist/

If you want to see how male protagonists dominate children’s movies while female characters are continually sidelines or go missing all together, check out Reel Girl’s Galleries:

Here are the children’s movies from 2011 http://reelgirl.com/2011/07/heres-a-visual/

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

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

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

Reel Girl’s List of Top 10 Movies Starring Heroic Girls to Show Your Kids

Since my oldest daughter turned 10, we’ve been able to watch films for older kids, and I’m so impressed by what we’ve seen. For the most part, movies for this age group seem to have more female characters with power and agency than those in animation. I’m so psyched about some of these movies that I put together a Top 10 list for you. All the ones on this list star strong, brave, smart girls. Please remember, these movies are recommended for your daughters and sons to see. All children need to experience narratives with heroic girls. These movies are not “just for girls.”

Click on the links to read my reviews. If you want to know more details about sex or violence content in the movies, I suggest you go to commonsensemedia.org. My reviews touch on these issues, but mostly, I care about my kids seeing girls with power and agency.

If there are movies you think I should take a look at, please consult Reel Girl’s Working List of Recommended Movies for Ages 10 and Up and also Reel Girl’s List of Movies Centered on Awesome Female Characters (for younger kids) to see if the title is there yet. Please add any recommendations in the comment sections of those posts. Thank you and enjoy!

Akeelah and the Bee

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Hanna

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Fly Away Home

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The Last Mimzy

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Rabbit Proof Fence

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Soul Surfer

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Whale Rider

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Hunger Games/ Catching Fire

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Bend it Like Beckham

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Wrinkle in Time

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Reel Girl recommends ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’

“Rabbit Proof Fence” is an intense, gorgeous, inspiring film about three Aborigine girls who escape from a home for “half-castes,” walking hundreds of miles through the Australian bush to return home after being kidnapped. Based on a true story, the heroine is 14 year old Molly, the daughter of an Aborigine mother and white father, who refuses to believe giving up her home, family, and culture just because she is half-white, is the best thing for her, her sister Daisy who is 10, and cousin Gracie who is 8.

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I had three daughters throwing up yesterday, and I put this movie on for my 10 year old after the younger two had passed out. My daughter and I were frozen and silent for the next two hours, totally engrossed in this story. We leaned about a different culture, a shameful history, witnessed not one but three brave heroines, and also got to see Australia’s beautiful lands. I highly recommend “Rabbit Proof Fence” and I’m adding it to Reel Girl’s list of films recommended for age 10 and up.

Reel Girl rates “Rabbit Proof Fence” ***HHH***

Reel Girl recommends: ‘Akeelah and the Bee’

I just blogged about watching “Bend it Like Beckham” with my soccer obsessed daughter. A week earlier, we saw “Akeelah and the Bee” right after that same daughter was a finalist in her school spelling bee.

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I can’t tell you how excited I was for my daughter to experience this narrative while she was going through something similar in her own life. “Akeelah,” like “Beckham” is about competition and family and culture. “Akeelah” also stars a girl of color. This movie made me cry, and it’s about a spelling bee! If your kids have not seen it, please show it to them ASAP. It’s on Reel Girl’s 10 and up list.

Reel Girl rates “Akeelah and the Bee” ***HHH***

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

Let’s start with the good news. There are 5 children’s movies coming out in 2014 with female protagonists, titled for that female protagonist. This is a record since I started doing the gallery back in 2011. Those movies are:  Legends of Oz Dorothy’s Return, Maleficent, Molly Moon, Annie, and The Pirate Fairy I am super- excited about the first four. I am holding out hope for “Pirate Fairy.” It’s always been challenging for me to get past Tinkerbell’s mini-dress and how she’s always smiling submissively at me when I see her on party napkins or sippy cups. But hey, the movie is called “Pirate Fairy,” meaning that is not an oxymoron, which is a huge leap forward for Disney.

Now, for the bad news. In 2014,18 children’s movies star a male protagonist, that’s more than 3 times as many movies than those starring a female.

There are 2 movies that I’m putting in their own category. For “Rio 2,” I am hoping that birds Jewel and Blu are, in fact, costars. (See how I put her name first?) Here’s imdb’s synopsis: “It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids in RIO 2, after they’re hurtled from that magical city to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets the most fearsome adversary of all – his father-in-law.” For “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,” this is the description from imbdb: “A look at the life of wild lemurs living in Madagascar.”Because the lemur on the poster doesn’t have a pink bow or giant eyelashes, my past experience would lead me to believe it’s a male, but because the movie is about lemurs in nature, I hold out hope here too.

Why is the gender of who stars in a children’s movie important? Because girls make up half of the kid population, yet, when kids go to movies, again and again, they see males front and center, while females get sidelined and marginalized.

Today, when kids go to the movies, they will often see the narrative include a strong female or two, but rarely is she the star. The movie is not about her quest. I call these female characters the “Minority Feisty.” The trope has evolved from the Smurfette principle in that there is often more than one, and she is presented as powerful. But her power, lines, and screen time are carefully and consistently circumscribed to show that she is not as important as the male star. Still, the Minority Feisty is supposed to pacify parents, making them feel that, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear, this movie is contemporary and feminist.

Don’t let the Minority Feisty fool you. “Feisty,” an adjective reviewers will invariably use to describe this strong female, is a sexist term. “Feisty” isn’t used to describe not someone who is truly powerful, but someone who plays at being powerful. Would you ever call Superman fesity? How would he feel if you did?

All children need to see more female protagonists. Everyone is the hero of her own life. Kids shouldn’t be trained to see girls and women stuck in supporting roles. In the imaginary world, anything is possible, so why is it sexist? Why is a brand new generation learning it’s normal for girls to go missing?

Here’s the gallery.

Legends of Oz, Dorothy’s Return

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Maleficent

maleficent_teaserposter

The Pirate Fairy

New_Pirate_Fariy_Poster

Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist (no poster yet, making my own with this pic)

molly moon 1

Annie (no poster yet, making my own)

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The Nut Job

The_Nut_Job_poster

The Lego Movie

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The Muppet Movie (Kermit is clearly, the star. There are even two of him in this movie.)

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Tarzan

Tarzan_(2014_film)

The Adventurer Curse of the Midas Box

Adventurer_the_curse_of_the_midas_box_poster

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

mr_peabody_and_sherman_film_poster

Night at the Museum Battle of the Smithsonian

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Boxtrolls

boxtrolls-poster

Helium Harvey

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Paddington

new-poster-for-paddington-bear-movie-106402-470-75

Alexander and The Terrible Horrible Not Very Good Day

Alexander-and-the-terrivle-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Planes Fire and Rescue, where Dusty, the plane who mocked slower flyers as “ladies,” is once again the protagonist.

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Heaven is for Real

Heaven-Is-for-Real-2014-Movie-Poster

The Wind Rises

The-Wind-Rises-movie-poster-691x1024

How To Train Your Dragon 2. No poster yet, but Hiccup is, once again, the protagonist.

Hobbit. No poster yet, but clearly, Bilbo will remain the protag.

Bilbo_Baggins_from_The_Hobbit_Wallpaper

Dolphin Tale 2. No official poster yet, but here’s the synopsis from imdb: “The sequel to the 2011 film based on a true story of a boy’s efforts to save an injured dolphin.”

Dolphin-Tale-poster

Rio 2

rio_two

Islands of Lemurs Madagascar

LEMURS

Update: Though she’s missing from many promotional materials, “Home” will star a female protagonist.

Also, Rio stars a male.

 

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