Brilliant, brave protagonist Judy Hopps makes “Zootopia” a must-see movie for all kids (and grown-ups)

Yesterday, I saw “Zootopia” with my three daughters (ages 6, 9, and 12) and we laughed through the whole movie. The animation is spectacular. Zootopia is a city populated by all types of animals and the details of every single species, from the curved horns of the buffalo long noses of the moles are exquisite to watch. This movie is art.

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The protagonist is Judy Hopps, a rabbit who longs to leave the boonies of her farm, go to the big city, and make the world a better place. She’s forced to encounter prejudice, being labeled “a dumb bunny.” Not a predator, she’s considered too weak for the police force. Assigned meter maid duty, Judy longs for more challenging work. She overcomes her own biases to pal up with a fox and solve the mystery of a slew of animals gone missing.

Not only did I love this movie because of Judy’s actions but also her looks. We know she is female mainly because of her voice. She doesn’t have long, curly eyelashes or a hot pink bullet proof vest. Her upper uniform is truncated in a way I think they were trying to feminize it, but even so, her physical self is unusually ambiguous for an animated character in contemporary media.

ZOOTOPIA – JUDY HOPPS, an optimistic bunny who’s new to Zootopia’s police department. ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

ZOOTOPIA – JUDY HOPPS, an optimistic bunny who’s new to Zootopia’s police department. ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Judy becomes best friends with a male fox. These two come no love each other. No romance involved. No romance in the entire movie. “Zootopia” is literally a poster for cross-gender friendships, something rarely seen in children’s media.

Judy is a Minority Feisty. Even though her character is wonderful, female parts are outnumbered by male ones. In a recently published study on gender and children’s media, researchers found that even when a film features a female protagonist, such as “Frozen” female speaking time is still less than male speaking time. I don’t think “Zootopia” will be an exception due to the majority of male characters. The movie does feature another compelling female character with a big part, a sheep named Dawn. There’s also a character that really bugged me. Gazelle is a singer played by Shakira.She prances and dances wiggling a bare midriff and teetering in sky high heels. She’s a singer but seems to be admired mostly for her looks. Apparently, Shakira requested that artists enlarge her character’s hips, but she’s still stick skinny. I already blogged about Gazelle because, exemplifying typical sexism, she is the female character used in the marketing. Here’s the ad I saw in my People Magazine.

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Judy Hopps, the protagonist, is missing from this ad campaign. WTF? I suppose she’s left out since she’s not gazellegant or always stylish. The good news is that Gazelle’s actual part in the movie is tiny, her scenes are minimal and she’s also inconsequential in the plot. If she were the only female, I’d be pissed.

Grown-ups, you’ll love the scene in the DMV office populated by sloths. I’ve rarely seen a moment so hilarious and true-to-life in animated film. Everyone, proceed to your local Metereon. I’d be surprised if there’s a kid out there of any age who doesn’t adore this movie.

Reel Girl rates “Zootopia” ***HH***

According to Chris Rock’s opening monologue, sexism in Hollywood doesn’t exist

In a disappointing opening monologue at the Academy Awards, Chris Rock claimed there was no need for male and female categories and mocked #AskHerMore.

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For the first time in possibly 20 years, I’m watching the Oscars at home and not at a party. Last year, I was at a viewing event, Tweeting about #AskHerMore and people around me either didn’t get it or made fun of me. It was such a frustrating and uninspiring experience for me that I decided not to venture out tonight. This year, while lying in pajamas on my couch, I was thrilled to see Ryan Seacrest actually ask women about their roles and give actresses an opportunity to discuss their craft. His questions about clothing were limited and always came at the end of the interview so it was impossible to go on and on about jewelry and shoes. Progress, I thought.

Then Chris Rock came on. He addressed racism in Hollywood, which is hugely important for the whole world to see him do. He opened with a great point: racism has been going on since the Oscars began, so why is everyone upset now? When people asked me about racism at the Oscars this year, I replied I’m happy that, at least, people are finally discussing this bigotry in mainstream media. Racism in Hollywood has become part of a national conversation. The first step in changing something is recognizing that it exists. That’s why I’m pissed about Rock’s monologue. Fury about sexism at the Oscars has not garnered much media attention. #OscarsSoWhite is taken seriously. It is a political act. #AskHerMore, on the other hand, is mocked. Rock referred to the latter in his monologue:

Another big thing tonight is you’re not allowed to ask women what they’re wearing anymore. It’s a whole thing: “Ask her more.” You have to ask her more.” Well, you know, you ask the men more. Hey, everything’s not sexism. Everything’s not racism. They ask the men more because the men are all wearing the same outfits, OK? Every guy in here is wearing the exact same thing. If George Clooney showed up with a lime green tux on and a swan coming out his …, someone would go, “What you wearing George?”

A Reel Girl fan comments:

Chris Rock basically said “She was asking for it because of what she was wearing.” Good job.

Categories for female and male actors create an illusion of equality. Never mind that the roles for women are far more limited as far how old the actresses are allowed to be, how complex the characters they play are, and what kind of heroes are depicted in the narratives. Behind the scenes awards including producing, directing, screenplay writing, adaptations (I could go on, see chart below) the male nominees, and of course winners, far outnumber women. Instead of recognizing this inequality, again Rock acts as if sexism doesn’t exist.

Hey, if you want black nominees every year, you need to just have black categories. That’s what you need. You need to have black categories. You already do it with men and women. Think about it. There’s no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting. There’s no reason. It’s not track and field. You don’t have to separate them. Robert De Niro has never said, I better slow this acting down so Meryl Streep can catch up.

I didn’t expect Rock to deal with sexism, but I was surprised he made fun if it. His reaction put me in a weird space. He calling attention to racism, basically saying it’s not “bring me lemonade” racism; it’s subtle, but its pernicious. For example, he said Leonardo DiCaprio gets a great role every hear. Jamie Foxx is a stellar actor, but great roles for him are rare. Does Rock not get the same situation exists for women?

All right, back to the show. More later.

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If we can imagine talking bunnies as police in ‘Zootopia,’ why can’t we imagine gender equality?

After posting about the sexist ads for Disney’s “Zootopia” 3 minutes ago, I decided to do a little more research on the movie.

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The following headline came up on my Google feed from The Verge:  “The latest Zootopia trailer takes on workplace sexism against bunnies.”

I don’t know if it’s the idea of “workplace bunnies” that made me nervous, or simply my lack of confidence in the idea of Disney taking on sexism, but my heart sunk as I proceeded to read the Verge post:

At this point, the Walt Disney Animation Studios deserves praise for producing work that can arguably sit comfortably next to some of Pixar’s own efforts. Zootopia, at first blush, takes that all-too-familiar anthropomorphic animals idea and builds a whole world around it. But, at least with this new trailer, it looks like the studio is trying to tackle gender and race in a cute but really effective way.

Once Upon a Time‘s Ginnifer Goodwin stars as Officer Judy Hopps, a rabbit who joins the Zootopia police force. She quickly has to contend with stereotypes that women in the real world have long had to deal with — like being called emotional or unprepared for what’s out there — when the truth is she’s incredibly capable. And her skills will probably come in handy when she and Nick Wilde the fox (Jason Bateman) are forced to solve a crime together. Zootopia hits theaters on March 4th.

So can anyone tell me what the problem is here?

In a nutshell, “Zootopia” is a movie about talking bunnies. Lots of talking animals actually. There’s a fox, a buffalo, a lion, badger, elephant, moose, shrew, I could go on. Knowing Disney, all these animals probably sing and dance and hang out together even though in the real world, they’d eat each other. So why, why WHY if we can all stretch our imaginations to believe in loquacious animals, must we suddenly revert to reality when it comes to sexism? Instead of showing a lone female battle a majority of males, why not show a majority of females being heroic? Do you see what I’m going for here? In a fantasy world where anything is possible, why not create gender equality? Why not let kids experience females and males treated equally? If you can’t even imagine it (which apparently, we can’t) you cannot create it. Oh, is that the point, Disney?

You might say, there’s an important place for the narrative of a female struggling against sexism a la “Mulan” or “Brave.” While I agree this story has value, it can also become an excuse to continue to replicate sexism in the fantasy world, to always show a minority of females and majority of males because “that’s just the way it is in the real world.” After I saw “The Lion King” I asked: why did the lionesses have to wait around for Simba to come around and save them? Why did they have to get bossed around by weak, old Scar? Well, I’m such an idiot! Males lead a pride, of course. That’s just how it is in the real world. OK, so I’m just supposed to overlook that Simba is BFFs with a warthog and a Meerkat but when it comes to sexism, we’re all sticklers for reality?

In “Ratatouille” there is one female chef in the movie, Colette, who works in a kitchen with four male chefs. As far as I could tell, all the rats are male. Certainly, every rat who spoke is male. Colette delivers a speech about sexism, but wouldn’t it be so much more powerful to show kids a female running a kitchen of great female chefs, helped along by a female rat who can cook?

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This strong, lone female is a pattern in contemporary children’s movies. While appearing on the surface to fight sexism, her role actually ensures that sexism will continue for another generation by keeping sexist stereotypes alive. While she appears to be battling sexism, she’s illustrating it. Her character repeats so often in children’s media, I’ve given her a name: Minority Feisty. She differs from the Smurfette Principle in that she is often a “strong female character” and sometimes there are a few strong females in the narrative but they always exist in the minority. Not much for a patriarchy to be threatened by, but we can still call her a feminist. Isn’t that convenient?

 

Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ ads promote gender stereotypes

So I’m reading the new Us Weekly with Eva Longoria on the cover, and on page 32 I see a promotion for Disney’s upcoming movie “Zootopia.” The ad features a super-skinny gazelle girl, staring at me submissively, blonde curls flopping in her face. She wears super high pink heels, sparkly leg warmers to match a sparky dress with a hem so high I can almost see her privates.

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Right across from the sexy gazelle, page 33 shows another promotion for the movie. This one features 4 male characters. All get to be fully clothed in T-shirts and pants. They are in action poses, doing yoga. In spite of their exercise, they also get to be chubby. I guess this is how males get “red carpet ready.”

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Let’s hope the 4 to 1 ratio in these ads is not reflective of the gender ratio in the actual movie, but my hopes are low given that in most movies for kids, females are reduced to the Minority Feisty role.

My three daughters and I were excited to go to “Zootropia.” We saw the preview, it looked pretty funny, but this ad has me gagging. Even if kids don’t see the movie, this sexy gazelle will be unavoidable. She will be a toy, a halloween costume, an image in a T-shirt, a band-air, a sippy cup, or a diaper. Disney, please stop exposing children to gender stereotypes where females bodies are valued for how they appear while male bodies are valued for what they can do. Portraying females as sex objects while males get to be funny and have fun is so misogynistic. The problem isn’t that you rely on this trope once, or twice, or a even a few times, but that gender stereotypes are a repeated pattern in most of your movies. Don’t you want to be more creative?

Update: I turned the page! Look what’s on page 34, surprise, surprise. Another fully clothed male character.

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If Judy Hopps, a police officer, is one of the main characters, why isn’t she in an ad? Why the sexy gazelle? Because, I imagine, the sexy gazelle is a sexy gazelle and that’s how Disney wants to sell the movie. Gross.

After I did 3 minutes of research on the movie, I had to blog AGAIN about more sexism in “Zootopia.” Read my new blog: If we can imagine talking bunnies as police in ‘Zootopia,’ why can’t we imagine gender equality?

New study shows Disney movies teach sexism: Even when females star, males get more lines

Linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer released statistics showing that even when females star, males get more speaking time in Disney Princess movies. Quartz reports:

Even Frozen, the 2013 mega blockbuster starring two princess sisters, gives women only 41% of the dialogue. The only exceptions to the female-minority rule are Tangled and Brave, whose female characters speak 52% and 74% of the lines.

Back when “Frozen” came out, I blogged: Just as marketing intended, boy thinks central character of ‘Frozen’ is the Snowman. Olaf, a talking snowman, was featured front and center on most of the movie posters my three daughters and I saw around our city of San Francisco.

Frozen-movie-posterOlaf was also the major character in the previews my kids and I saw.

Now Fought and Eisenhauer have published a study to show that even when females star in movies, males get more lines. This particular kind of sly sexism found in contemporary kids’s media is a version of what I call the Minority Feisty.

What is the Minority Feisty? If you see an animated film today, it will usually include a strong female character. Or two. Or maybe even three. But however many females there are, there will always be more males. Females, half of the human population, will be depicted as a minority.  Females will get less lines and less screen time. The token strong female character (or two or three, you get the point) who shows up in the film, reviewers will call “feisty.” (In “How to Train Your Dragon,” Astrid; in “Toy Story,” Jessie; in “Ratatouille,” Colette.) She’s supposed to make us feel like the movie is contemporary and feminist, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear.

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The problem is that because Pixar or Disney has so magnanimously thrown in this “feisty” female (who may even have some commentary about sexism or male domination) we’re no longer supposed to care that almost all of the other characters in the film are male.

“Feisty” isn’t a word that describes someone with real power, but someone who plays at being powerful. Would you ever call Superman “feisty?”  How would he feel if you did? (The Quartz article I link to in this post refers to these characters as “sassy” and “plucky.” Same idea– strong for a girl.)

In this century, Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle has evolved into the Minority Feisty. There are a few more females than there used to be, but imagine if the gender ratio presented in kids’s movies was reflected in the real world. Is that a world that you want your kids to live in? Parents, be on the look out for the Minority Feisty. Teach your kids how to identify her. Don’t let the sexism fool you or them. Don’t let a new generation of kids experience sexism as normal and grow up to expect and accept a world where girls go missing. And don’t forget to ask your kids this: Why does the imaginary world have to be sexist at all? If rats can cook, unicorns prance around, and lions befriend warthogs, can’t we picture gender equality?

 

 

See 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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sincerely,
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.

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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

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(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.

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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.

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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***