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.
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
The Pirate Fairy
Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist (no poster yet, making my own with this pic)
Yesterday, I took 4 kids to see “The Nut Job.” Here’s the poster for the movie, featuring its star, Surly the Squirrel, front and center.
As you can see by the names on top of the poster– Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglegsias, Liam Neason, and Katherine Heigl– males dominate this movie. Heigl plays Andie, who, like most Minority Feisty, is strong, smart, and brave, but “Nut Job” is not Andie’s movie, it’s Surly’s.
There are two more Minority Feisty I liked: Precious, the pug and there’s a girl scout who cracked me up. There is a pigeon who spoke briefly that is also female.
Typical of children’s movies, Surly, the male protagonist, has a male BFF: Buddy (ha ha)
The evil villain, a raccoon, is also a male. So are the evil rats pictured around him, at least any rats that talked.
If the gender ratio of “the Nut Job” were specific to this movie, or even half of movies for kids, it would not be a problem. It is the repetition of assigning the male as the hero and the females in supporting roles that is so damaging for kids to see again and again and again.
Here’s my 4 yr old daughter at the Metreon counting the giant men she saw.