Oscar snubs Tintin, rewards foreign animation featuring females

This morning, Academy Award nominations were announced and “Adventures of Tintin” was left out of all categories except for best musical score. The snub is significant and surprising. Not only was “Tintin” directed by Hollywood darling Steven Spielberg, but it won the Golden Globe for best animated feature, usually a strong predictor for an Academy Award nomination if not the Oscar itself.

I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’ve written several posts about Herge, the creator of Tintin, and his disturbing thoughts about women. Herge believed that females had no place in Tintin’s imaginary world. What is so offensive and damaging about this sexism is that Hollywood would never allow an animated movie to be made in 2012 for kids where males were almost completely ignored. Yet, excluding females is just fine, even award-worthy. That’s because the male dominated cast of “Tintin” is consistent with most animated movies made for kids today. Leaving girls out of kids’ movies teaches children a horrible lesson: males are more important than females.

Not only did “Tintin” not get nominated for best animation but two foreign movies did. I haven’t seen either but both look as if they feature females in important roles.

“Chico and Rita” is summarized on imdb.com:

Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice. Music and romantic desire unites them, but their journey – in the tradition of the Latin ballad, the bolero – brings heartache and torment.

Just displaying a female so prominently on the poster is rare in animated films. This movie looks great, though I don’t think its for kids.

Here’s the synopsis for “A Cat in Paris” also from imdb.com:

Dino is a cat that leads a double life. By day, he lives with Zoe, a little girl whose mother, Jeanne, is a police officer. By night, he works with Nico, a burglar with a big heart. Zoe has plunged herself into silence following her father’s murder at the hands of gangster Costa. One day, Dino the cat brings Zoe a very valuable bracelet. Lucas, Jeanne’s second-in-command, notices this bracelet is part of a jewelery collection that has been stolen. One night, Zoe decides to follow Dino. On the way, she overhears some gangsters and discovers that her nanny is part of the gangsters’ team.

The cat in the title is a male and he is obviously the star of the film, but the little girl Zoe and her single police officer mom look great from the synopsis. I can’t wait to see this movie!

It’s clear that in order to award some diversity in animation, Oscar had to go outside of Hollywood and its male dominated world of kids cartoons. The other three Oscar nominations for animated features all go to films that star males and are titled for those males: Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss In Boots, and Rango.

This morning’s biggest winner scoring 11 nominations? “Hugo.” Another kids’ movie about a boy and titled for a boy.

But still, the “Tintin” snub is progress, right? Do you think Hollywood is reading Reel Girl? Starting to care about girls and the women they’ll become? Maybe not. Internet chatter suggests “Tintin” was left out because the Academy stipulates that motion-capture is not considered legitimate animation.

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Creator of Tintin’s disturbing thoughts on women

Steven Spielberg’s “Adventures of Tintin” may have the best animation style I’ve ever seen in a kids’ film. It’s almost as if you can’t tell if the characters are real people or art. It’s spectacular.

But I guess Spielberg was so focused on the animation, he forgot about half of the kid population. There are so many males and so few females in this movie that I– even me– was blown away. If a Martian came to Earth and saw this film, she would think our species was the type that clones itself to reproduce. The movie even has two twin mustachioed investigators that would seem to support that hypothesis.

Like most kids movies, this is a buddy movie (can I say “friendship” movie?) The three buddies, the main characters in the film– Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Snowy the dog– are male.

All the villains are also male, the gangs of them. The good guys are male as well, almost to caricature as mentioned with the clone investigators.

For female roles, there is a housekeeper, an old lady that hits someone with her bag, and a third who my daughter spotted when I went to the women’s room. My daughter said she was a singer.

I know, I know: Tintin was a book before it was a movie. What’s Spielberg supposed to do about that? He’s just one director trying to be faithful to his inspiration.

Tintin was actually many books, and “Adventures” ended with a teaser that practically announced the next film.

And guess what, there’s a video game too.

Do you think there will be a Lego set?

Reel Girl gives “The Adventures of Tintin” an SS rating. In spite of its almost total lack of females, Tintin escapes the dreaded Triple S. The females in the movie don’t do anything terribly, stereotypically offensive such as talk about their hair or their boyfriends, though they don’t interact with each other at all and one is a housekeeper.

Update:

After I posted about the lack of females in the new Tintin movie, a commenter wrote in this quote from Herge: “For me, women have nothing to do in a world like Tintin’s, which is the realm of male friendship.”

I googled the quote and all kinds of references came up, this one from Wikipedia:

Hergé has also been accused of sexism, due to the almost complete lack of female characters in his books. The only woman character of importance is Bianca Castafiore, who is potrayed to be foolish and nearly oblivious to all negative reactions to her behaviour — though she does show loyalty, presence of mind and quick wit when hiding Tintin and Haddock from Colonel Sponsz in The Calculus Affair.

Hergé himself denied being a misogynist, saying that “for me, women have nothing to do in a world like Tintin’s, which is the realm of male friendship”.[10]

Other reasons were because he believed that sentimentality had little to do in Tintin’s stories, which are mainly about men getting into all sorts of “misadventures rather than adventures”, and wherein “mocking women would not be nice”. He also felt that a man slipping on a banana skin, providing he does not break a leg, is much funnier than if it happened to a woman. As a female interviewer put it, “It has nothing to do with the misogynist world of the boy scout,”[11] referring to the fact that Hergé was a scout in his youth.

OK, Herge denied being a misogynist and then says “women have no place in a world like Tintin’s.” Um, that is misogyny.

Wikipedia tells us: “Tintin’s stories, which are mainly about men getting into all sorts of ‘misadventures rather than adventures’, and wherein ‘mocking women would not be nice.’ ”

Maybe that isn’t the full quote. Maybe it’s not in right context, but as it stands, Herge implies that the only reason to include women would be to mock them? Is there no other reason to include female characters in a story?

“Other reasons were because he believed that sentimentality had little to do in Tintin’s stories…”

So including women requires sentimentality?

And slipping on a banana peel is funny if you’re a man but not a woman? What?

I don’t get it. All the ways the Wikipedia writers and Herge attempt to explain away his sexism are sexist. What do they think sexism is? Maybe they excuse Herge for similar reasons that Reel Girl rated “Tintin” with two SSs for gender stereotyping instead of three; there weren’t blatant offensive acts in the movie, so the movie didn’t get the worst rating. Females aren’t “mocked” because of their gender, they’re just not there.

The sick thing is that when you see “Tintin,” when it comes to women, you can tell there’s something off in the mind of the creator. The lack of females is glaring and weird and disturbing. And this is a movie for kids! Doesn’t Stephen Spielberg care? Don’t parents? When Spielberg shopped this film around to studios (maybe Spielberg doesn’t do that) did anyone say, “Interesting story, but there are no females in the entire series. That might be a problem for us. Half of kids, after all, are girls.”

I guess no one said that. Sadly, Tintin” is actually not disturbing to audiences, because most of the movies made for kids today have casts pretty much identical to this one, a series created by an artist who believes women have no place in his imaginary world.

Update:

I got this comment on my Tintin post from Neal:

Funny, my wife, daughters, son and parents didn’t notice this absence. They saw a film they enjoyed. As a reader of the original series I can tell that you’ll be disheartened to learn that this absence continues. Stop badgering Spielberg about this. You should be congratulating Kathleen Kennedy who is one of the producers and a long time collaborator of Spielbergs.

If Neal went to a film where the three main characters were female, all the heroes and all the villains were also female, do you think he might notice?

Sexism is so ingrained, people use it to defend sexism. Wow.

Update:

Commenters are defending the Tintin movie, writing that creator Herge’s sexism was simply a product of his times.

Margot, you are aware that Hergé wrote most of his comic books (including the three on which the film is based) before WWII, at a time when women in his home country of Belgium as in many others didn’t even have the right to vote? Of course his work reflects the prejudices of that era, not only towards women but towards just about everyone who wasn’t a white Christian male (the most egregious example being Tintin in the Congo)!

Would Steven Spielberg adapt Herge’s racist views (“of his times”) expressed in Tintin in the Congoto make a movie in 2012 and market that movie to kids?

Of course not. No one would see it. People would be horrified. Herge’s racist views are universally recognized as the aberration that they are. Why is Herge’s “dated” sexism celebrated in a loyal adaptation from one of our most acclaimed directors?

There are two answers, both are true. The first one is that in 2012 sexism is, in many ways, just as accepted and “normal” as it was in 1932. Women are humiliated and degraded all the time, but while racism is seen as a political issue, sexism is still seen as a “cultural” one.

The second, less controversial explanation is that in Herge’s comics, he directly degrades and humiliates Africans whereas his sexism mostly manifests as an omission. His racism is worse. Herge believes women have no place in his imaginary world. Is that offensive? Is it even sexist?

It’s an annihilation.

What is remarkable about this annihilation, and what I was writing about, is that it’s consistent with the casts of most animated movies made today. A story originally created by an artist who spoke openly of how he didn’t think females should be included in his imaginary world is almost indistinguishable from the majority of films made for kids right now. Steven Spielberg probably didn’t even notice.

What does that say about how important we think girls are?

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing from Kids Films in 2011.

See statistics on the lack of females in animated films from the Geena Davis Insititute on Gender and Media.

Blink while watching “Adventures of Tintin” and miss the female walk-on parts

Steven Spielberg’s “Adventures of Tintin” may have the best animation style I’ve ever seen in a kids’ film. It’s almost as if you can’t tell if the characters are real people or art. It’s spectacular.

But I guess Spielberg was so focused on the animation, he forgot about half of the kid population. There are so many males and so few females in this movie that I– even me– was blown away. If a Martian came to Earth and saw this film, she would think our species was the type that clones itself to reproduce. The movie even has two twin mustachioed investigators that would seem to support that hypothesis.

Like most kids movies, this is a buddy movie (can I say “friendship” movie?) The three buddies, the main characters in the film– Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Snowy the dog– are male.

All the villains are also male, the gangs of them. The good guys are male as well, almost to caricature as mentioned with the clone investigators.

For female roles, there is a housekeeper, an old lady that hits someone with her bag, and a third who my daughter spotted when I went to the women’s room. My daughter said she was a singer.

I know, I know: Tintin was a book before it was a movie. What’s Spielberg supposed to do about that? He’s just one director trying to be faithful to his inspiration.

Tintin was actually many books, and “Adventures” ended with a teaser that practically announced the next film.

And guess what, there’s a video game too.

Do you think there will be a Lego set?

Reel Girl gives “The Adventures of Tintin” an SS rating. In spite of its almost total lack of females, Tintin escapes the dreaded Triple S. The females in the movie don’t do anything terribly, stereotypically offensive such as talk about their hair or their boyfriends, though they don’t interact with each other at all and one is a housekeeper.

2011 kids’ movie titles feature 11 male stars

Disney’s male execs famously switched a movie title from ‘Rapunzel’ to ‘Tangled’ to conceal the female star. But in 2011, I count 11 titles that refer to the movie’s male star including Adventures of Tintin, Arthur’s Christmas, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Kung Fu Panda, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Puss in Boots, Winnie the Pooh, Rango, Happy Feet 2, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, and The Zookeeper.

Male execs justify this blatant sexism by repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) stating: boys won’t go to see movies about girls but girls are AOK seeing movies about boys. So you see, this Hollywood preference isn’t about sexism; it’s just biology. What’s a movie mogul to do about that?

OK, in what other instance do the preferences of five year olds dictate the choices of CEOs of multinational companies? They don’t. Ever.

Movies star boys for one reason– because men make the movies! Men are the producers, directors, and the stars. Sexism in kids movies has nothing to do with children and everything to do with grown-ups, particularly Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Johnny Depp, Jim Carey, Antonio Banderas, Hank Azaria, Paul Reubens and on and on and on.

If women were running Hollywood by the same kind of majority, they’d be shrugging their shoulders and get quoted in the LA Times saying: “Girls just won’t spend their allowance on movies if we put a boy in the title. Go figure.”

See the sexist gallery of 2011 kids movie posters here.

Girls gone missing: kids’ movie posters in 2011

The year is 2011. You are a seven year old girl looking out the back seat car window. Unless you catch a glimpse of ‘Hoodwinked 2′ or ‘Judy Moody’ these are the pictures you see. In your world, boys are front and center. You are a sidekick or just not there at all.

Update: I’ve updated Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Kids Films in 2011 to include posters that had not been released over the summer when I initially posted the gallery.

I also, sadly, added Harry Potter. I love Harry Potter and love Hermione, but it is true, as commenters pointed out, the movie is clearly Harry’s quest, Harry is the star. The newly added “Hugo” also has a strong girl character, but token strong girls are not enough. Harry Potter and Hugo are also both titled for the male star, whereas Disney execs famously switched the title of Rapunzel to Tangled specifically not to highlight the female star. It’s amazing to me that this blatant sexism goes on in media marketed to little kids.

When kids see, again and again and again, that girls are relegated to supporting roles, both genders learn that girls are less important than boys. This is a terrible lesson for a new generation of children to be learning.

Movies included in the Gallery are ‘appropriate’ for little kids. My three daughters are ages 2 – 8.

 Disney's Winnie the Pooh movie poster