Here’s a picture of Cutlass Liz complete with beach ball breasts, bared belly-button, tight pants and phallic cannon. Voiced by Salma Hayek, she’s one of the very few female characters to make it into the movie “Pirates! Band of Misfits” coming out next month from Sony Pictures Animation. It’s a movie for your kids.
Here’s the poster:
See that bird? She’s one of the other female characters. In the preview there’s a joke about whether or not she’s fat or just big boned. (If you see the movie, it turns out she’s a dodo, but before that she’s just fat ha ha ha.) That’s not the only sexist joke in the three minute preview either.
An all male group presents itself with this hilarious intro: “No one here but us Girl Scouts.” (You can watch the preview for yourself here.) The “we’re not scary or powerful, we’re only girls” gag isn’t uncommon in animation. In a preview for “Madgascar 3,” while an all male group of penguins is pillow fighting, one of them says: “You fight like a bunch of little girls.” Isn’t the intended audience for these movies, in part, little girls? How will these kids feel when they see jokes about how harmless they are? How will they feel when the audience laughs? Do you think boys and girls will learn to laugh at these jokes too?
When you consistently have an all male group of characters, it’s actually pretty challenging not to make sexist jokes. That’s why we need diversity, right? But unfortunately, female characters have gone missing from animated films made for kids. Look at Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girl’s Gone Missing from movie posters in 2011.
There’s no reason why at least half of this “band of misfits” can’t be female. How are girls going to feel when they see this movie and their representation is a sexualized pirate and a bird mocked for being fat? One of the few female characters in the upcoming “The Lorax” movie is also mocked for being fat. Coincidence? You can watch that preview here. Mind you, all these sexist jokes I’ve gotten from three minute previews. I haven’t even seen the whole movies yet.
There’s another female character in “Pirates” played by Ashley Jensen. Her name? Oh, she doesn’t have one. She’s called “Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate.”
Sexism in movies made for kids is so perpetual and accepted, that, ironically, it’s become invisible. In contrast, when “the leprosy community” and the World Health Organization complained about a leprosy joke in “Pirates,” Aardman Animation modified it. This from Wikipedia:
In January 2012, it was reported that the latest trailer of The Pirates! caused some very negative reactions from the leprosy community. In the trailer that was released in December, The Pirate Captain lands on a ship demanding gold, but is told by a crew member, “Afraid we don’t have any gold old man, this is a leper boat. See,” when his arm falls off. Lepra Health in Action and some officials from the World Health Organization, expressed that the joke shows the illness in a derogatory manner, and it “reinforces the misconceptions which leads to stigma and discrimination that prevents people from coming forward for treatment.” They demanded an apology and asking that the offending scene be cut before the film is released. Several days later, Aardman announced that they will modify the scene, “After reviewing the matter, we decided to change the scene out of respect and sensitivity for those who suffer from leprosy.
Leprosy joke, not OK. Protest and removal. Sexist joke(s )when half of the audience is probably girls: totally cool. Are they even noticed? Will anyone make a peep?
Parents, if you’re at a movie made for children, and you see a sexist joke, either in the movie you’re watching or in a preview for another, please call out: “Not funny! Sexist!” Do this for your kids. It’s unfair to relentlessly show females in this way.
When our daughters want to dress up as a pirate for Halloween, is Cutlass Liz the character they’ll want to emulate? What do they think a “girl pirate” is? Where are the other “girl” pirates?
Why is the animated world so sexist? Why does it have to be sexist at all? If we can’t get gender equality in our imaginations, how can we get it in reality?