I guess Disney was right to be so terrified of creating a strong, BRAVE, female protagonist (along with Pixar studios which hadn’t had ANY female protags before “Brave.”) It looks like Merida could be turning Disney’s franchise on it’s head. That’s pretty damn heroic.
Another mistake Disney made with “Brave?” They hired a female director. They fired her, but it was too late. Brenda Chapman wrote “Brave” based on her daughter. She was furious with the character’s transformation and wrote publicly about Disney’s terrible mistake.
That’s right: Although Merida was created by a woman as a role model for girls, the male-dominated consumer product division at Disney has ignored the character’s intended benefits for young girls, sexualizing her for profit. Compared with her film counterpart, this new Merida is slimmer and bustier. She wears makeup, and her hair’s characteristic wildness is gone: It has been volumized and restyled with a texture more traditionally “pretty.” Furthermore, she is missing her signature bow, arrow, and quiver; instead, she wears a fashionable sash around her sparkly, off-the-shoulder gown. (As Peggy Orenstein noted when she broke the news of the redesign, “Moms tell me all the time that their preschool daughters are pitching fits and destroying their t-shirts because ‘princesses don’t cover their shoulders.’” I’ve heard the same from parents, as well.)
Is the sexualized image of Merida gone for good? Has Disney learned a lesson? Or will that lesson be: No more strong female characters leading a film! No more female directors writing about their daughters! Keep the females weak and quiet!
Objectifying and sexualizing girls is dangerous. A first step to abuse is always dehumanizing the victim. Propaganda, in the form of images and narratives, effectively dehumanizes on a mass scale.
Images/ narratives of Jews circa 1938
Africans circa 1931
Females circa 2013
It’s easy to look back on history and wonder: How did people ever put up with that? I’d never buy into it, not to mention expose my child to it. But what are you participating in right now that is completely accepted, not to mention celebrated, by our culture?
Be part of the solution. Demand narratives with strong female characters for your kids.
Update: New Merida may be off Disney’s site but she’s showing up all over the place including Target. Below is Target’s web page.
Since his daughter, Princess Merida, made national headlines with her makeover– she’s skinnier with tamed curls, a new off the shoulder gown, and the belt that once held her quiver has morphed into a fashion sash– King Fergus wants to know: “Where’s my makeover?”
Fergus says, “It’s not fair. I’m the King! Why are princesses always the ones who get to look pretty? Some would call me fat, hairy, and I’m missing a leg for goodness sake. Where’s my stylist?” Throughout DunBroch, Fergus has posted these before and after pics of Merida:
Now, King Fergus wants to know: “Artists, what can you do for me?”
This sexism, by the way, goes beyond the specific imagery of a superhero. “Be a hero” translates to “act, take risks, make choices. “I need a hero” means “I’m a minor character. I’m passive, and I wait.”
See the difference?
The insidious problem with this stereotyped gender casting is that women are constantly sidelined and marginalized, remarkably, in the roles they play in their own lives. Females are cast in the supporting role, defined by their relationships as girlfriend, wife, mother, or helper. This sexist narrative has been going on for a long, long time, and we keep recycling it. I just saw this Virginia Woolf quote Tweeted by Bitchflicks:
And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends…They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that.
How small a part! But who would ever guess from looking at how women are depicted in the media– movies, TV, books, advertising– in 2013? Ironically, and this is what is so fucked up and twisted, females get to exist, get to play a part at all when they are sexualized and marginalized.
“Avengers” has the classic Minority Feisty ratio of 5 male superheroes to one female. As artist Kevin Bolk illustrates, the lone female is highlighted by her ass.
What is the solution to this sexism? Be a hero. Women, write your own stories. Make your own art. No one else can do it for us.
Update Here’s a comment from Nick:
Totally agree the solution has to be everywhere. Thanks for this comment and for the thought and research you put into writing female characters.
Obviously, it’s a sexist world out there, and when women make art, it’s often ignored or marginalized. It would help if women were running the major Hollywood studios or had the funds to bankroll those studios, not to mention lead the prestigious organizations and comprise the boards that give awards to “great” artists.
That said, women need to keep writing and creating. Making art is risky and dangerous, engaging in the process is being a hero. Persevering is especially challenging when your work gets dismissed and rejected because stories about women aren’t valued. But, even with all of this against us, women must put our stories and visions out there. I really believe this is the only way we’ll ever achieve full gender equality.
Today, my three young daughters and I saw yet another sexist preview advertising a children’s movie, this one for “Planes.” The scene begins a la “Top Gun” with two male planes flying fast and doing stunts.
Plane One: What’s taking this guy so long? Is he really as good as he says he is?
Plane Two: No, better.
Plane One: Whoa, who was that?
Our Hero (descending fast on top of them): Well, hello ladies. Ready to lose?
Our hero goes on to leave the “ladies” in the dust.
The message is that females are losers, not leaders. They can’t compete.
Here’s the preview:
No female in the preview at all.
If this were one misogynistic joke in one movie, maybe it wouldn’t be that horrible. But sexist jokes dominate movies for kids. Sexism in movies for children is a repetitive pattern. Kids learn from patterns. That’s how brains develop. See the problem?
Take a look at these sexist jokes from “The Lorax,”“Madagascar 3,” and “Pirates.” All this, when kids’ movies already feature so few female characters at all. Is mocking girls a lesson you’d like your children to learn when they go to movies?
My three daughters, my niece, my sister, and I LOVED “The Croods.”
From beginning to end, this movie is fantastic. The characters are great and the animation is gorgeous. “The Croods” is the best ensemble animated movie since “The Incredibles,” and like that classic, “Croods” is about a family that is populated with strong female characters.
“The Croods” is narrated by a female. That is a true rarity in movies made for children. Who tells the story is hugely important and leaving females out of this role has all kind of bad effects. Everyone needs to be able to writer her own story.
Not only is Eep the narrator, but…and this is truly amazing…she is not a Minority Feisty! Her family is comprised of a mom, a granny, a baby sister and then her father and brother. That’s right, 4 females to 2 males! This gender ratio is almost unheard of in mainstream movies for children.
There’s another male main character who comes on the scene: Guy. But even with this addition, the gender ratio still tips in female favor. There are various animals and magical creatures, but their parts are small, and the genders mixed, so I feel confident we don’t have to deal with the Minority Feisty issue at all in this movie.
Speaking of creatures, in the last scene of the movie, Eep is shown NOT “riding bitch.” She is on a flying creature, in front, with Guy behind her.
I do have a couple complaints. Eep’s outfit sucked. While the clothing of all the other characters covered them to their knees or more, Eep’s dress barely skimmed her ass. There were actual panty shots. For that, I am deducting one H.
Aside from Eep’s outfit, her look is great. She is a cavewoman and she looks it, with big arms, muscular legs, and bushy hair. Her armpits, shown in the movies first shot, are conspicuously hairless, an issue that could’ve been easily solved by giving her more clothing coverage, but whatever.
Eeps refers to herself as a “caveman” and that term is used to describe her family a few times in the movie. At least that gendered word seemed really out of place, I hope not only to me. With all the ways this movie defied gender stereotypes, couldn’t they change that word to cavepeople?
Much of the movie is battle for leadership between the dad and Guy. I admit, I was pretty nervous when Guy came on the scene. As with “Hotel Transylvania,” I was concerned the story would morph from a father-daughter to father-son theme. Though in some places, it teetered, the movie stayed faithful to keeping Eep and her dad the central focus. I liked the addition of Guy. Clearly, he admires Eep for her strength and vision. He is enamored of her without coming off as a wimp, a loser, or relinquishing his own attractiveness. I liked that Eep is shown as powerful and also in love. Defying another limiting gender stereotype for females in the fantasy world, being strong doesn’t mean Eep has to end up alone.
I think the Granny made a sexist comment, calling the dad and the brother “girls” at one point as an insult, but that seems so out of character and incongruent with the movie that I’m hoping I’m wrong.
“The Croods” is a movie about the strength and importance of family. Of course, “family values” is a common theme in children’s media, but too often, to communicate this bond, female ambition is stereotyped and sacrificed. Most recently, we saw this in the infinitely sexist “Escape From Planet Earth” which made the point with a “good” stay-at-home mom versus a wicked, bitter, delusional, and lonely working woman.
“The Croods” did something different, showing the value of family by illustrating that each member’s role and identity is dynamic and changing. People need to grow. Pigeonholing identities gives only the illusion of strength.
One final factor that I adored about the movie is how it showed the power of the narrative and the importance of a female protagonist. The father and Guy both told stories to the the family about a female character who was obviously based on Eep. Theses stories mirrored the thematic basis and structure of the movie. Through stories, real life heroes are born. Don’t miss this movie! Reel Girl rates “The Croods” ***HH***
Update There’s just one more scene that kind of bugged me in “The Croods.” I forgot to mention it here, but I’ve been thinking about it since. So the dad and Guy are trying to lure a creature into a trap and as bait, they create a female version of the creature, desperate for help. The damsel in distress is grotesque, with a lipstick mouth. The attacking creature rescues her. It was a bummer for me to see 3 male characters act out this gender stereotyped scene.
“Dory” will be Pixar’s second film ever to feature a female protagonist (the first was last year’s “Brave”) and its first film ever to put the female character’s name in the title. YAY!
Fox News reports:
“I have waited for this day for a long, long, long, long, long, long time,” DeGeneres said. “I’m not mad it took this long. I know the people at Pixar were busy creating ‘Toy Story 16.’ But the time they took was worth it. The script is fantastic. And it has everything I loved about the first one: It’s got a lot of heart, it’s really funny, and the best part is — it’s got a lot more Dory.”
It better be a lot more about Dory and YES, it has been a long time waiting. I’m a little worried because Dory wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but she was funny, compassionate, loyal, and brave.
Pixar, please make sure Dory is the real protagonist of this film. That means Dory is the one who ACTS and the movie is centered on her quest. Don’t forget, heroes are the ones who make choices, take risks, and go through a transition.
It would be great if you would throw some more female characters in the movie, even making half of them female. Don’t let Dory be a Minority Feisty.
Thank you for making “Dory,” and I am looking forward to 2015!
Doesn’t every psychologist and teacher tell us that kids need to be “mirrored?” To create healthy self-esteem, parents aren’t supposed to project their own opinions on to little kids, but reflect what the kid expresses: “You are lifting the box! You’re smiling!” etc.
So why do the “experts” forget mirroring when it comes to gender? Why do we show our kids a warped, stereotyped mirror and then exclaim, “Look at that, girls just love princesses!” Girls want to see girls. They are just as self-centered as all children are. Unfortunately, in kid world, representations of females are severely limited. They will take what they can get.
There’s a positive side to this. We can train all kids to stay open to diverse stories by exposing them to all kinds of protagonists. Please read your kids books, show your kids movies, tell your kids stories and help them write their own, do imaginary play featuring strong female characters. It will help their brains grow not to mention their self-esteem.
Can I express how much I hate “Escape From Planet Earth” in one post?
My daughter’s preschool had a staff development today and thus, we had three options for films showing in theaters: “Oz, the Great and Powerful,” “Jack, the Giant Slayer,” and “Escape From Planet Earth.” I picked the movie with no male in the title with the hope of seeing strong female characters. Also, my daughter is 3, so “Escape” is supposedly the best movie for her age group. This is my issue with the MPAA, by the way. This movie is terrible for kids. Note to MPAA: If you are going to make a movie about a desperate, bitter working woman vs a heroic, fulfilled stay-at-home mom, warn us. You could do what I do and slap on an ‘S’ for stereotyping.
First things first. The protagonists of “Escape” are two brothers. That’s right, brothers.
If that’s not enough of a male paradigm for you, one brother has a son, Kip.
Kip rescues his father at the end of the movie. “Escape,” like so many animated movies for kids, is a father-son story.
The evil guy of the movie, the one who wants to destroy the universe, is of course, also, a guy.
The possy of aliens that surround him include just one Minority Feisty, the one-eyed Lo.
I loved Lo, and I wish this had been her movie. There was a group of triplet aliens who didn’t speak for most of the movie. I thought they might be mute females. But, at the end of the movie, when they rescue the brothers, they talk. All three are male. We spend most of “Escape” in the company of all of these aliens and the evil guy.
OK, want to know about 3 more girl parts? After multiple characters and scenes, the first female speaking part enters into the movie. She’s our protagonist’s boss. Cool right? Except turns out Lena Thackleman is a bitter shrew. She’s furiously resentful of the central Minority Feisty, Kira Supernova, who is Gary’s wife and Kip’s mom (that’s right, wife and mom.) Kira left her job to be a stay-at-home mom where she is fulfilled and happy.
In spite of her power position, Lena is desperate, unhappy, and alone. To make matters worse for her, Lena has fallen in love with the movie’s villain who she met on-line dating. The villain doesn’t even love her, he’s using her to get material he needs to blow up the universe. How is that for humiliating? Just to rub it in, when Kira punches Lena out, she says triumphantly: “Just because a chick had a baby, doesn’t mean she can’t belt it out.” GAG. Is there anything worse than a sexist narrative marketed as a feminist one? Oh yeah, a sexist narrative marketed as a feminist one in a movie for kids.
When guards are watching over Kira and Kip, one says: “A lady and a kid? What is this, daycare?” Hollywood, why put sexist jokes in your movies for children? How are girls supposed to feel when they see women laughed at for being weak and ineffectual? if it happened once in a while, that would be one thing, but its a dominating, repetitive theme in children’s movies.
Just to conclude, the final Minority Feisty is the sex-pot news reporter in love with one of the brothers. Guess who plays her? Sofia Vergara. Can you see the part now? Making it worse, if possible, the movie ends with her wedding. Isn’t that happy?
Watching “Escape From Planet Earth,” I felt like I was watching some kind of sick parody of my blog, like someone was making a joke about what a sexist movie made for kids would really look like. I can’t believe Hollywood put out this awful propaganda. Who green-lighted this? Who could possibly think these caricatured gender stereotypes are good for little kids?
Reel Girl rates “Escape From Planet Earth” ***SSS***