‘Gone Girl’ makes violence against women a punchline

***SPOILERS***

“Gone Girl” makes violence against women into a punchline, and does this so well that even I laughed at the jokes.

Just as the book “Gone Girl” is well written and well plotted, the movie version is well acted, directed, and produced. Watching the movie, even more than reading the book, I felt like I was having a meta experience: watching a movie about storytelling while being manipulated by the story I was being told. “Gone Girl” is the story of a woman who lies about being raped by three different men.

There are a few core beliefs women’s rights advocates have worked hard to get the culture to understand:

(1) Women don’t want to be raped

(2) A woman who is raped did not bring the violence on herself

(3) The #1 killer of pregnant women is homicide

In “Gone Girl”‘ each of these beliefs becomes a mockery, perfectly executed with comic timing, plot points, and good acting to seem ridiculous. I’m going to summarize a few instances below though its from memory, so the quotes may not be precisely accurate, and you’ve got to see it yourself to experience the reaction, I don’t think the typed words on the page will do it.

When Nick Dunne seeks out another guy that his wife, Amy, falsely accused of rape, the guy says,”That’s Amy! She’s graduated from rape to murder.” I chuckled.

When it becomes public that Amy was pregnant (a faked pregnancy by the way) media and townspeople nod and knowingly say, “The #1 way pregnant women die is murder.” The scene is so cartoonish and Nick is so clearly a victim, that when hearing the line, even I rolled my eyes.

When Amy spins the story of how she never should have let another guy she accused of rape into her house, an FBI guy steps in with a concerned face and says, “Don’t blame yourself!” When I heard that line, I snorted.

At the end of the book, Nick falls back in love with Amy and you’re left with feeling that these two deserve each other. At the end of the movie, Nick is still angry. Like all heroes, his experience led him to go through a transition, and you’re left feeling sorry for he guy who only wants to be a good dad to his son.

Describing her book, author Gillian Flynn says:

“It’s a story about storytelling, and in the 24-hour media world, no matter what the content, the media has a disproportionate voice in all our lives. I wanted it to be a third character in a way — Nick, Amy, but also the media. We all weigh in on everybody’s life no matter what. And there seems to be a constant audience monitoring our lives.”

 

No question that “Gone Girl” is a movie about story-telling. Maybe Flynn isn’t perpetuating misogyny here but being doing something quite brilliant. The joke is on us, the audience. Look how easily we’re manipulated, at this particular moment by beautiful people and great acting into, once again, believing the story that scorned women lie about about rape while its men who are the real victims.

In the USA one in five women reports experiencing a rape. The Department of Justice estimates that 60 percent of rapes go unreported. As for false accusations of rape, the FBI estimates that 1-2 percent of claims are fake. Yet, a 2002 survey of male and female college students shows that they believe a woman lies in 50 percent of reported rape cases. “ This is typical. Why do so many people believe women lie about rape? Because of a story we’ve been told again and again and again.

 

 

 

Here’s my original post on “Gone Girl:”

I haven’t seen the movie “Gone Girl,” and neither have you as it’s hitting theaters on October 3, though I did read the book this summer. I was horrified by the misogyny woven through the narrative. Perhaps I was so surprised by the sexism because the only controversy I’d heard of before I read the book was that people didn’t like the ending. I did like the ending. I’ll tell you why, and also go into the plot points of “Gone Girl” but before I do, consider yourself warned: spoilers will be in this post. If you’re going to read Gone Girl– and it is, like so many sexist books I critique, well written and well plotted, I’m talking about technique here– you may not want to proceed much further, except, perhaps, to take a look at this cover of Entertainment Weekly. There you see Amy, the protagonist of “Gone Girl,” shown as a “beautiful” female corpse, a trope Anita Sarkeesian dissects in her latest video: Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games. This image of the dead, sexualized female body is, quite literally, everywhere in popular culture. After you check out this cover, I want you to know just one more thing.

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My final comment to those who don’t want spoilers: I have absolutely no problem with women not being “likeable” characters. I want that. I was so excited when I read the comment by the excellent writer Claire Messud who, when asked about her protagonist by Publisher’s Weekly (I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim”) responded:

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”

 

Get that, people? Is this character alive?

OK, moving on to spoilers, if you don’t want them, it’s time to leave.

It turns out that the protagonist of Gone Girl, Amy Dunne (played in the movie by Rosemund Pike) fakes her own rape, pregnancy, stalking, beatings, and murder. That’s right, Amy goes through a veritable list of practically every act/ crime that a wicked and conniving (are men ever conniving?) woman can manipulate. While Amy fakes her victimhood, her husband, Nick, played in the movie by Ben Affleck, is falsely accused of killing his pregnant wife. Why, you ask, is Amy motivated to be so awful? She’s a woman scorned, of course, who discovered her husband’s affair with his student.

Here’s one passage describing Amy’s fakery:

I took a wine bottle, and I abused myself with it every day, so the inside of my vagina looked…right. Right for a rape victim. Then today I let him have sex with me so I had his semen…

That particular scene, by the way, refers to another man Amy is setting up, not her husband.

Here’s the problem, and once again, it’s not that Amy is a villain or unlikeable.

In the USA 20 percent of women, 1 in 5, report experiencing rape or attempted rape. The Department of Justice estimates that 60 percent of rapes go unreported. As for false accusations of rape, the FBI estimates that 1-2 percent of claims are fake. Here’s another important fact about false accusation: A 2002 survey of male and female college students shows that they believe a woman lies in 50 percent of reported rape cases. “Gone Girl” perpetuates the popular narrative that rape isn’t real and isn’t happening, that women lie, and falsely accused men are the real victims.

But Gone Girl is fiction not fact, you say. Why am I listing stats here? Am I trying, once again, to censor artists with my PC beliefs? Surely Amy’s story can fall into the 1- 2% of women who falsely accuse men of rape. This is a free country.

This is also a country where Washington Post columnist George Will, a man known as the “most powerful journalist in America” recently wrote that being a rape survivor is “a coveted status.” When others challenged Will that rape is not, in fact, something women want, the conservative group, Women’s Independent Forum called a conference “Rape Culture and Sexual Assault,” putting out this press release:

The White House has embraced the statistic that 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted while in college…The White House has released its “first ever report” on the issue and are using it to push their policy agenda…But many question the validity of the White House’s one-in-five statistic, even as those who challenge this figure are silenced as being uncaring about women…The IWF takes any accusation of sexual assault very seriously. But we are concerned that there is a potentially harmful hysteria developing about this issue. Where does this come from? Where is it going? And who will be harmed?

Lucky for us, Gone Girl answers every single one of the IWF’s (hysterical) questions: Where does it come from? In Gone Girl, overachieving Harvard grad, Amy Dunne, was used but never truly loved by her egotistical writer parents. They penned a best-selling YA series based on their daughter. Where is it going? Female anger and, yes, hysteria, not to mention jealousy, vindictiveness, and aging, leads to violence. Who will be harmed? Nick, of course, innocent men in America who are falsely accused, lied to, manipulated, and victimized by the scorned, bitter women in their lives.

Yes, Of course Gillian Flynn can write about whatever she pleases, but I find it sadly ironic that when I argue for more diverse stories to permeate our popular culture, a culture where people believe that 50% of rape accusations are false, a culture where stories of rape remain secret to the point that the media hides names and identities of survivors, a media dominated by the same old trope ridden narrative, that I am the one who’s accused of stifling creativity. Gone Girl is a best-selling book about to be blockbuster movie that will help to perpetuate  the myth/ story that rape and violence against women is not epidemic but mostly exists in our imagination.

By the way, the end of the book, you know why people don’t like it? Because Amy ends up OK. She and Nick get back together, they’re going to have a baby. (Pregnant for real this time, she stole his sperm.) Apparently, the no punishment-for-Amy-finale is so unpopular that the director changed the ending to make it more of crowdpleaser.

I’ll leave you with some facts about domestic violence in the USA from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):

One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.

 

85% of domestic violence victims are women.

 

Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

 

Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under reported crimes.

 

Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.

 

On average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.

 

 Reel Girl rates Gone Girl ***SSS*** for gender stereotyping

After I read Gone Girl, I searched the internet about the book’s misogyny, here are some interesting posts

 

The Misogynistic Portrayal of Villainy in Gone Girl

Is GONE GIRL a Misogynist Novel?

Producer jokes about female protagonist, my 5 yr old responds to ‘Zelda’ sexism

Yesterday, the Mary Sue reported that “We Might be Getting a Lady-Led Zelda Game” due to the ambiguous comment by creator Eiji Aonuma about the protagonist: “No one explicitly said that that was Link.”

Guess what? Aonuma was just joking! HA HA HA. Isn’t he hilarious? Today, he corrects the dubious misinformation:

“Actually that comment I made jokingly,” he said. “It’s not that I said that it wasn’t Link. It’s that I never said that it was Link. It’s not really the same thing, but I can understand how it could be taken that way.

“It seems like it has kind of taken off where people are saying ‘oh it’s a female character’ and it just kind of grew. But my intent in saying that was humour. You know, you have to show Link when you create a trailer for a Zelda announcement.”

 

Because who would ever think that a game titled “Zelda” and a show titled “Zelda” would actually feature a female protagonist making the moves, taking the risks, and calling the shots at the center of the action? I, myself, made this same mistake when I let my 5 year old daughter watch “Zelda”  because I thought it was a female based spin off of the Mario Brothers. Silly me! Here’s her pissed off reaction:

Here’s the diamond she’s talking about:

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I’m holding out from seeing the show or playing the game, or letting my kids do either again, until Zelda is actually in charge.

Slut-shaming Princess Leia or protecting childhood from adult sexuality?

As news spreads that Disney will be adding Leia themed toys to its merchandise, I’m seeing more instances where others have noted how often Leia is shown as a slave in kidworld. Last week, Jezebel posted this:

Why Is Slave Leia the Only Princess Leia Toy Available at Toys”R”Us?

Over the weekend we received a tip from a concerned mother who had come across something very disconcerting while perusing the aisles of Toys R Us. Apparently the only available toy or figurine of the Star Wars character Princess Leia is of her in the “Slave Outfit” from Return of the Jedi. Bikini? Check. Loin cloth? Check. Chain around the neck? Check. And in case you were wondering if it was actually geared towards children, it’s listed for kids ages 4+….This is a perfect and heart-breaking example of how ingrained sexism is in geek culture. It’s not like there’s a Chewbacca toy in a banana hammock

 

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This makes me so mad. It’s so twisted. Taking the heroic Leia, one of the few females in the Star Wars franchise at all, certainly the most famous one, then showing her chained and in a bikini again and again and again.

Yesterday, I posted this picture of a LEGO set I bought for my daughter. I chose it because the salesperson told me it was the only one in the store that includes Leia. I regretted the purchase as soon as I saw this mini-fig. Now, I know to check more carefully.

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I also posted yet another picture of an illustration from Vader’s Little Princess, where the distorted narrative depicts the slave outfit as Leia’s independent, rebellious choice:

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The book has another illustration with the same message:

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I haven’t yet been accused (that I know of) for slut-shaming Princess Leia yesterday, though whenever I complain about toys and media created for little kids where the females are consistently half dressed, commenters often put me in the role of Vader in these illustrations: I’m the one curtailing the independence, rebellion, and freedom of girls.

I’ve written about Polly- Pocket where the whole point of the toy is to dress Polly is various belly baring shirts, mini skirts, hot pants, and bathing suits. Polly is marketed to 4 – 7 year olds.

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Desperate for female superheroes to show my kids, I purchased the DVD set of the Wonder Woman TV series starring Lynda Carter. My 5 year old daughter wanted to know: “Why is she in her underwear?”  Here’s Wonder Woman as a LEGO minifig (not easy to find at a toy store or Target, even half dressed.)

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When Pigtail Pals founder Melissa Wardy dropped her kids off at school, they were walking behind a first grader with a Winx backpack:

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On her blog, Wardy writes:

Try this test: If the image can be lifted from the child’s toy/backpack/t-shirt and placed on the billboard for a strip club and not look out of place, then things are seriously fucked.

I’m not saying that 4 year old kids know what being half naked has to do with adult sexuality, but these repeated images teach all children that it’s normal to sexualize girls. Sexualization is very different from sexuality. In her best-selling book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein quotes Stephen Hinshaw from his book The Triple Bind:

“Girls pushed to be sexy too soon can’t really understand what they’re doing…they may never learn to connect their performance to erotic feelings or intimacy. They learn how to act desirable, but not to desire, undermining, rather than promoting, healthy sexuality.

In short: sexualization is performance; it’s all about being desirable to others. Sexuality is understanding and connecting to your own desire.

At the reading, Orenstein shared this passage from Cinderella Ate My Daughter:

Let me be clear here: I object– strenuously– to the sexualization of girls but not necessarily to girls having sex. I expect and want my daughter to have a healthy, joyous erotic life before marriage. Long, long, long before marriage. I do, however, want her to understand why she’s doing it: not for someone else’s enjoyment, not to keep a boyfriend from leaving, not because everyone else is. I want her to explore and understand her body’s responses, her own pleasure, her own desire. I want her to be able to express her needs in a relationship, to say no when she needs to, to value reciprocity, and to experience true intimacy. The virgin/ whore cycle of the pop princesses, like so much of the girlie girl culture, pushes in the opposite direction, encouraging girls to view self-objectification as a feminist rite of passage.

 

That last sentence is again, exactly how Leia is presented in Vader’s Little Princess.

Older girls and women can choose to wear a bikini, or a even chain around their necks if they want, but girls and women should not feel like they have to be “attractive” to men all the time, 24 hours a day. Or even 12 hours a day. Or 6. Or any hours at all. Nor should they feel like they have to be attractive to all men. It’s this kind of fucked up mentality– be attractive to all men, all the time, that leads to men feeling entitled to women’s bodies. I could go on here about the legal ramifications of this as far reproductive rights, coverage for contraception etc, but that’s another post. The point of this one is that 4 year old girls should not be trained that it’s completely normal to be half naked most of the time. The females in kidworld  should not be constantly baring their bellies. Please stop selling kids toys and media where females are half dressed. Parents, please stop buying these kinds of toys for your children. They set a dangerous precedent. That’s no slut-shaming but protecting childhood from adult sexuality.

I’d like to collect some images of Princess Leia here that you all think would be good for Disney to base its merchandise on. Here’s a couple to start:

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More great posts on this issue from around the web:

Why Representations of Women and Girls Can’t Be Slut-Shamed

‘Slut-Shaming’ Has Been Tossed Around So Much, It’s Lost All Meaning

When Do We Allow Our Girls To Partake in Commercialized Sexualization?

 

 

 

 

 

Play ‘Find the Girls on the Cereal Box’ featuring…Captain Crunch!

Today, we had Captain Crunch with crunch berries for breakfast. (Not the healthiest choice, I know, blaming my husband who loved the “food” as a kid.) There are no female mascots on children’s cereal. That’s right, zero. You may not think that’s a big deal but it’s one more space in kidworld where girls go missing. Children spend hours studying these cereal boxes and playing the games on them. They’re like newspapers for children, and just like newspapers for adults, males dominate the stories. What if there were no male mascots on children’s cereal? Do you think anyone would notice that?

A while back, in an effort to help my kids learn not to take missing females for granted, as something expected and normal, we invented a new game: Find the Girls on the Cereal Box. It’s actually fun because it’s challenging, and you can have some great discussions about what makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl, according to cereal box creators.

Try it yourself. Here’s my 5 year old daughter with the back of a box of Captain Crunch.

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The answer is: 4 girls and 9 boys including Captain Crunch on this box. The photo is not great, and details are key so don’t be too hard on yourself if you got it wrong.

Here’s a close up of the girls we found.

Girl #1 is a girl because her hair is pink, has long curls, and she has eyelashes.

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Girl #2 also has…. pony tails and eyelashes! She’s our favorite because she’s winning the race. That’s pretty cool and almost makes it forgivable that there are more than twice as many boys than girls on this box. Almost. But see, that’s the thing: girls are allowed to win sometimes in kidworld as long as they are shown in the minority and their power is sufficiently circumscribed.girl2

Girl #3 is the smallest and hardest to find, discovered by my keen-eyed 8 year old daughter. We know this girl is a girl because… you guessed it: eyelashes and ponytails.

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Girl #4: pony tail and eyelashes.

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Play with your kids. Please, share your photos here or on Reel Girl’s Facebook page.

Another so-called journalist comments on Scarlett Johansson’s underwear

Isn’t The New Yorker supposed to be a serious magazine? Slate reports on the 5,000 word profile of actress Scarett Johansson by so-called journalist Anthony Lane:

 

Scarlett Johansson’s eyelashes are like a camel’s. Her lush womanliness takes vibrant, palpable form. There is a beguiling, peppery charm to this irresistiblescreen siren, no lie. She begins to speak and, oh, what a voice!

 

Here’s more:

Would it be construed as trespass, therefore, to state that Johansson looks tellingly radiant in the flesh? Mind you, she rarely looks unradiant, so it’s hard to say whether her condition [pregnancy] has made a difference.

 

Johansson was, indeed, gilded to behold. She seemed to be made from champagne.

 

Then came the laugh: dry and dirty, as if this were a drama class and her task was to play a Martini.

 

Johansson’s backside, barely veiled in peach-colored underwear …

 

 … using nothing but the honey of her voice …

 

What the fuck? This is The New Yorker. I write this whole blog about gender equality in the fantasy world, and how are we ever going to get anywhere when the “best” writers for our “best” magazines repeatedly reduce actresses to objects? This guy’s job title is film critic. As Esther Breger writes in The New Republic: “Try to imagine The New Yorker running this about Matthew McConaughey, or Michael Fassbender.”

Perhaps, it won’t surprise you that Lane, though the most prestigious, is not near the first interviewer to comment on Johansson’s underwear.

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In another earlier interview, after Robert Downey Jr comments on the sexist questions directed at Johansson, she says to him: “How come you get the really interesting existential question and I get the, like, rabbit food question?”

Yes, how come world? Why is that?

 

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During the Academy Awards, The Representation Project started the hashtag #AskHerMore to get journalists to interview actresses about subjects other than their clothing/ appearance:

Even at the Oscars, where we celebrate the highest artistic achievements in film, reporters often focus more on a woman’s appearance than what she has accomplished. This Sunday night we’re encouraging the media to #AskHerMore!

 

Part of the inspiration for the hashtag was Cate Blanchett’s irritated response at a previous awards show when the camera panned her body up and down. Blanchett asked: “Do you do that to the guys?” PolyMic reported: “Blanchett’s reaction shows yet another subtle moment of sexism that even the most successful women have to deal with.”

It’s kind of sad that these moments are considered “subtle.” Enough already. When will the media treat women like actual human beings?

Images from http://ohdeargodwhy.tumblr.com/

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2014

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

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Maleficent

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The Pirate Fairy

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Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist (no poster yet, making my own with this pic)

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Annie (no poster yet, making my own)

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The Nut Job

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The Lego Movie

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The Muppet Movie (Kermit is clearly, the star. There are even two of him in this movie.)

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Tarzan

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The Adventurer Curse of the Midas Box

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Mr. Peabody and Sherman

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Night at the Museum Battle of the Smithsonian

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Boxtrolls

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Helium Harvey

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Paddington

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Alexander and The Terrible Horrible Not Very Good Day

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Planes Fire and Rescue, where Dusty, the plane who mocked slower flyers as “ladies,” is once again the protagonist.

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Heaven is for Real

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The Wind Rises

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How To Train Your Dragon 2. No poster yet, but Hiccup is, once again, the protagonist.

Hobbit. No poster yet, but clearly, Bilbo will remain the protag.

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Dolphin Tale 2. No official poster yet, but here’s the synopsis from imdb: “The sequel to the 2011 film based on a true story of a boy’s efforts to save an injured dolphin.”

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Rio 2

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Islands of Lemurs Madagascar

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Update: Though she’s missing from many promotional materials, “Home” will star a female protagonist.

Also, Rio stars a male.

 

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

 

‘The Nut Job’ another kids movie allergic to female protagonists

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.

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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.

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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)

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The evil villain, a raccoon, is also a male. So are the evil rats pictured around him, at least any rats that talked.

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Villains in the movie also include a all male band of human robbers: Jimmie, Fingers, Lucky, and Johnny, and King, the boss. Lana is the last Minority Feisty, King’s love interest. When we meet her, the camera pans her curvy body in the exact same way that Cate Blanchett just protested as sexist at the SAG awards.

The police in the movie are also all male.

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.

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Reel Girl rates “The Nut Job” ***H***

 

Cartoon Network’s history of sexism: cancelling shows for featuring too many girls

Since my post Sexed up Power Puff Girls point to Cartoon Network’s girl problem, I’ve learned more about Cartoon Network’s history of sexism.

Last year, “Tower Prep” was cancelled because it had too many females in the cast.

From Women and Hollywood:

In a fascinating discussion with director Kevin Smith, Dini relates that higher-ups at the cable network urged him to focus his storylines on his male characters and make his female characters one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys.” When Dini proceeded to create fully realized girl characters anyway, the Cartoon Network axed the show.

 

Here’s the relevant excerpt (emphases added):

 

DINI: They’re all for boys. “We do not want the girls,” I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, “We do not want girls watching this show.” 

 

SMITH: WHY? That’s 51% of the population.
DINI: They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show –
SMITH: So you can sell them T-shirts if they don’t — A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as fucking boys do, but, B: sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ‘em a T-shirt, man, sell them fucking umbrella with the fucking character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ‘em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi — that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, “Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.” It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, “I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?”
DINI: That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, “We need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys” — this is the network talking — “one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.” And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]‘s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘Fuck, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t — and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down — “Yeah, but the — so many — we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.”
SMITH: That’s heart-breaking.
DINI: And then that’s why they cancelled us, and they put on a show called Level Up, which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters. It’s like, “We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.” We had a whole merchandise line for Tower Prep that they shitcanned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, “Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they but the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.”
I heard about this story because a commenter responded on my “Powerpuff Girls” post that CN said it doesn’t want shows focused on girls because girls don’t buy toys. My response was: WTF? I thought girls were shoppers? This explanation is so typical of how actions get gendered based on power and status, for example: girls are the ones who like to cook, unless we’re talking about great chefs, then, cooking is a guy thing; girls are artsy, unless we’re talking about great artists, top selling paintings, or museum shows, then art, once again, becomes a guy thing; girls are verbal unless we’re talking about great literature in which case female writers are designated chicklit and guys are the masters. Boys buy more stuff? Wow. So I went to the link, did some research, and some of what I found I pasted above. There was also a petition based on that interview created on Change.org that has about 16,500 signatures.
Since my post about “Powerpuff Girls,” I’ve gotten lots of comments like this one:
The girls wear skin tight clothing in the show as well. They are not sexualizing them just because they wear latex. Everyone has their own style, and the artist portrayed it that way. Couldn’t the male characters being all muscular be considered sexualizing, they wear tight clothing too. you try to teach equality for all yet you claim everything needs fairly regulated so it’s 50/50, screwing over peoples free choices. People come up with their own ideas, and if theyre male heroes so be it, there is nothing wrong with that. The powerpuff girls were my favorite cartoon growing up, it didnt matter to me if they were male or female, all that mattered was that it was fun watching. Girls and guys alike loved it. And now we have this “movement” where all the ‘equal rights’ activists wanna dissect absolutely everything to feel better about themselves and bitch at the world for making women inferior, when the ONLY times I’ve heard of people refering to women as inferior are pages like this.
Pull your heads out of your asses and move on with your lives.
To which I responded:
Exaggerating muscles not the same as breasts, ass etc. Muscles signify strength, what you can do. See Kevin bolks ‘if male avengers posed like the female one’ on Reel Girl or Theamats Wonder Woman– if I don’t get pants no one gets pants. That you don’t notice is the problem. Do you think you might notice if 41 out of 47 shows had female protagonists? I wish I had my head up my ass, that would be a lot less depressing

Here is a link to my post: What if male Avengers posed like the female one? Please take a look at the art.

The same commenter wrote this:

I wouldnt care if 47 out if 47 had female protagonists, its a cartoon, a show for wasting time, not some life lesson or some forced idea. God you people are fucking annoying.

To which I wrote:

That’s great that you wouldn’t care if the shows featured female protags, would you feel the same way about the movies for adults and the male/ female ratios? As far as ‘its a cartoon, a show for wasting time, not some life lesson or some forced idea’ That’s not how kids experience it. They buy the toys, wear the clothes, act out the stories, dress up as the characters on Halloween

He responds:

And whos to say a girl cant dress like a male superhero? Or a male as a femal superhero? It’s the same thing. Yes, i would feel the same EXACT way of the adult movie industry.
You’re claiming that males should be different than females, are you not? By saying that characters are male/female for a reason? Instead if them just being characters? As part of a show to entertain kids and feed their imagination?
Now what about BET. black entertainment television? That must be some bad stuff, all those poor white kids wanting to be black because tv told them too hmm? That’s just outrageous, is it not??? I can only imagone how pissed activists would be if there was a mens television channel.
OWN, oprah winfreys channel, is pretty much about her and things she believes in and likes, so why isn’t everyone complaining about that!!
Or Christian channels that show services. That is horrendous to those whom aren’t christian! Imagine all the other kids who aren’t, those poor souls must be so deprived.
I guess it’s a blessing that my neice, whom I love dearly is raised by parents who dont shelter her and fill her mind with radical myths and dramatic stories of all this inequality. She can watch Dora, and she can watch Spongebob, and she loves sesame street. She loves playing with cars and barbies. She is gonna grow up to be a wonderful successful and proud individual. No thanks to you so called “equalists” making everything so equal and wonderful.
I am all for equality and I will stand up for anything and anyone who against my bias deserves it. But this is too much. You have taken someones art and therapy, in regards to the artists rendition of PPG, and absolutely blew it out of proportion.
THAT is the problem with this world.

Here’s me:

Cartoon Network is a channel FOR KIDS. The channels you list are for adults. Kids deserve and need a protected space where girls don’t get marginalized and sexualized.Do you get it would be messed up if there were channels with shows just for African- American kids, Christians kids etc? Yet, it’s perfectly acceptable in 2014 to segregate girls and boys and create narratives based on gender stereotypes

I reposted all of this because its typical of comments I always get. It confuses me because I thought we all understood that “separate but equal” doesn’t work. I don’t know why when it comes to gender and kids, we throw everything we’ve supposedly learned out the window. These stereotypes are ridiculous. They are not “natural” but based on power.
When kids are radically and repeatedly separated, based on gender, all kinds of stereotypes must result.
All kids to see stories where girls are powerful.

Sexed up Powerpuff Girls point to Cartoon Network’s girl problem

My three daughters, ages 4, 7, and 10, are huge fans of “The Powerpuff Girls.” They dress up and act out stories where they play Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup.

Powerpuff_girls_characters

“Powerpuff Girls” is one of the few shows for little kids where multiple female protagonists work together to save the world, and they don’t wear revealing clothing.That may seem like a ridiculous description of a show, but the sexism in children’s media forced me to come up with my own version of the Bechdel test. The Magowan Test for Gender Bias in Children’s Media goes like this: At least two females who are friends go on an adventure and don’t wear revealing clothing. It’s scary how few shows made for kids manage to pass that simple test.

When it was announced last year that the Powerpuff Girls would be returning for a CGI special, we were thrilled. So, you can imagine my dismay when on The Mary Sue I saw this cover created by Cartoon Network and IDW for Powerpuff Girls #6.

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I feel like crying when I look at this. I think I would cry if my kids saw it. How could CN sex up the “Powerpuff Girls?” It really pisses me off that after I went out of my way to introduce my children to these characters, CN exploits and distorts them.

The Mary Sue reports:

The brouhaha about the cover started when comics retailer Dennis Barger Jr., owner of Detroit’s Wonderworld Comics, called IDW out on Facebook for “taking grade school girls and sexualizing them as way older… they are wearing latex bondage wear mini dresses, which on an adult would be fine but on the effigies of children is very wrong… especially on an ALL AGES kids book marketed for children.”

 

Thank you Dennis Barger for not accepting this. If more comic book retailers and parents and teachers and doctors would say no, loudly and publicly, to sexualizing kids, instead of buying into this stuff, it might stop. But sadly, too many people do the opposite and act as if sexualized images of girls are just normal, which, tragically, they’ve become. Kids need to see images of girls that are not sexualized. It’s sad I had to create a blog to communicate this idea, that it’s radical and alternative while sexualizing kids is mainstream. Sexualized “make-overs” of female characters from children’s media include Merida, Dora, Strawberry Shortcake, and Queen Frostline. Yeah, this is how Candyland has changed since we were kids:

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The Mary Sue reports that Dirk Woods, IDW’s VP of marketing responded to Barger with this statement:

That was actually a Cartoon Network mandated cover, by an artist of their choosing. I think they were thinking of it more along the lines of “female empowerment” than the kind of thing you guys are talking about, but certainly, we’re sensitive to the issues here. We love making comics for kids, and always want them to be appropriate. For what it’s worth, CN has been a great partner in that regard… I know an 8 year old and 10 year old really well, and always look at these kinds of things through their eyes… Half of the employees have kids here, and we pride ourselves in making comics they’ll enjoy and not give them a warped view of the world (except, you know, in a good way). Anyway, I certainly see your points, and we’ll be sensitive to these things, as I think we mostly have been.

 

First of all, I find it really annoying that Woods writes Cartoon Network was thinking about female empowerment as opposed to “the kind of thing you guys are talking about.” Like we’re the ones with the dirty minds here. Mr. Woods, the problem is not Barger and those who agree with them, but people who look at this sexed up image of the Powerpuff Girls and see nothing wrong with it.

Mr. Woods, you say you have two kids and that those you work with are sensitive to these issues, so let me explain the problem with seeing “female empowerment” in this version of the Powerpuff Girls you created. There’s a difference between sexualization and sexuality. Do you understand that? In her excellent book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, author Peggy Orenstein quotes Stephen Hinshaw:

Girls pushed to be sexy too soon can’t really understand what they’re doing…they may never learn to connect their performance to erotic feelings or intimacy. They learn how to act desirable, but not to desire, undermining, rather than promoting, healthy sexuality.

Does that make sense to you? Sexualization is about performance; it’s all about being desirable to others. That’s the image your Powerpuff Girls #6 cover projects. Sexuality, on the other hand, is about understanding and connecting to your own desire. Got it? Here’s a specific example that might make sense to you. Breasts are secondary sex characteristics, and, besides feeding babies, they exist to give women sexual pleasure. Implants, while they make breasts look a certain way, are often devoid of feeling for the woman. Do you see the difference?

But why do I even need to talk about sexuality versus sexualization in relation to the Powerpuff Girls, for goodness sake? That, in itself, is the problem.

After the protest, Cartoon Network decided to pull the cover and made this statement:

In conjunction with our licensing partners, Cartoon Network Enterprises from time to time works with the artist community to reimagine and reinterpret our brands using their talents and unique points of view.  This particular variant cover for The Powerpuff Girls #6 from IDW was done in the artist’s signature style and was intended to be released as a collectible item for comic book fans. We recognize some fans’ reaction to the cover and, as such, will no longer be releasing it at comic book shops.

Did I miss the apology? Because I don’t see it. It sounds to me like CN is shifting the blame to the artist which is ridiculous. Fault belongs with the network and not just because CN chose and paid for the image. The sexed up “Powerpuff Girls” are indicative of the Cartoon Network’s girl problem. CN is a channel for children and girls make up one half of the kid population, so why have female characters gone missing from CN shows?

In my count, 41 out of 47 shows on Cartoon Network feature male protagonists. I listed the shows and descriptions below. The stats get worse. Of those shows, 19 are titled for the male stars: Steven Universe, The Annoying Orange, Batman, Chowder, Courage, Dexter’s Labratory, Ed Edd and Eddy, Flapjack, Garfield, Generator Rex, Gumball, Gym Partner, Johnny Bravo, Johnny Test,Samurai Jack, Scaredy Squirrel, Sidekick, The Problem Solverz, and Uncle Grandpa. Just 4 shows feature a female character in the title. Of those, “Cow and Chicken” and “Billy and Mandy,” share the title with a male character. “Foster’s” is a show with a male protagonist, titled for the orphanage run by a woman. “Powerpuff Girls” is the only show on the Cartoon Network where girls star and get to be in the title without sharing it.

Instead of this pathetic non-apology, Cartoon Network ought to commit to creating and disseminating shows and games with powerful female protagonists. That’s what all of our kids desperately need to see.

Here’s my list of Cartoon Network’s shows:

Adventure Time Includes powerful female characters, but the protagonists are Finn and Jake. McDonalds sees fit to include no female “Adventure Time” characters in its giveaways.

Almost Naked Animals is described on Wikipedia:

A dog named Howie is the manager and leader of the cabana. Each episode follows Howie and his “misfit” crew having unusual adventures in the Banana Cabana.

 

Steven Universe is the first show created by a female. From Wiki:

It is produced by Cartoon Network Studios, and is the first show by the studio to be created by a woman.

While it features the Crystal Gems, intergalactic female warriors, the protagonist of his eponymous show is male.

The Annoying Orange stars the male orange and his BFF, a male pear (voiced by the same guy who created the show.)

Batman Need I say more?

Ben 10 Omniverse Even Wikipedia’s description seems hopped up on testosterone:

 

The series is the fourth installment in the Ben 10 franchise.[2] Man of Action (group consisting of Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, and Steven T. Seagle) created the franchise.

 

Beware the Batman Oh, look at that, just like the movies, we get multiple Batman shows.

Beyblade Shotgun Steel The protagonist is a male champion named Zero

Billy and Mandy This show looks promising, but how about calling it “Mandy and Billy” and not making Mandy wear pink?

Boomerang is cartoons from yesteryear now owned by the Turner Broadcasting System, and we all know how feminist those are. Actually, “Scooby-Doo,” “Pop-Eye,” and “Tom and Jerry” are pretty tame compared to “Bratz.” I have wondered since I was a kid, if Road Runner could be a female.

Camp Laszlo From Wikpedia: “The show features a Boy Scout-like summer camp”

Chowder From Wikipedia:  “The series follows an aspiring young chef named Chowder and his day-to-day adventures as an apprentice in Mung Daal’s catering company.”

Courage  Courage is a male dog. At least he’s a pink male dog.

Cow and Chicken CN’s second show with a female protag who is also in the title, and her name comes first, and that’s a first.

DC Nation based on DC Comics, no Wonder Woman included. Need I say more?

Dexter’s Labratory Dexter is the evil genius protag of his eponymous series

Dreamworks Dragons Based on the movie “How to Train Your Dragon” the protagonist is the male Hiccup.

Ed, Edd, N Eddy No, I did not make up this show and title to parody the male domination of Cartoon Network. It’s really a show, and yes, it really stars three males with the same name.

Flapjack Stars Flapjack and Cap’n K’nuckles, both male

Foster’s From Wikipedia:

The home is run by the elderly Madame Foster, its lovable, elderly founder; her imaginary friend Mr. Herriman, the strict rule-abider and business manager; and her 22-year old granddaughter Frankie, who handles day-to-day operations.

So that’s good, right? 2 females, their name in the title. But then, there’s this:

The series focuses on the escapades experienced by the mischievous Bloo, Mac, and the array of eccentric, colorful characters inhabiting Foster’s Home, or the obstacles with which they may be challenged.

 

Bloo is male. Mac is male. Oh, well.

The Garfield Show Cynical male cat stars in his eponymous show, don’t even need Wikipedia to write that.

Generator Rex Yet another Man of Action studios creation. Surprise, surprise, Rex is male.

Grojband Includes marginalized females and gender stereotyping, I would not let my kids near this show.

Grojband follows Corey and his three best friends, Laney and twin brothers Kin and Kon, as they work to propel their garage band to international stardom. When they don’t have the lyrics, Corey and his friends get Trina into an emotional diary mode to write lyrics in her diary, so that Corey and his friends can perform a perfect song.

 

Gumball The protagonist is gumball, a male cat

Gym Partner From Wikipedia:

A boy named Adam is expelled to a middle school established for anthropomorphic zoo animals due to a spelling error making his surname “Lion”. There, he is befriended by a mischievous, eccentric spider monkey named Jake

 

Hero 108 Looks like Commander ApeTrully is the protag, from Wikipedia:

The storyline in a typical episode follows a formula, although the formula varies and several episodes depart from it: Commander ApeTrully goes on a mission to the castle of an animal kingdom to make peace and ask its inhabitants to join Big Green, bringing a gift of gold as a token of goodwill.

 

Johnny Bravo Self explanatory right?

Johnny Test Wow, this is just like the Eddies…

Kids next Door Stars 5 kids, 3 boys, 2 girls

Legends of Chima There are several tribes, each has many more male characters than females and some have no females at all

Ninjago I count one female to multiple males. Maybe I missed one, but come on, this is ridiculous.

Pokemon Again, I count mostly male characters but I actually like Pokemon because the females I’ve seen are pretty strong. What about calling it “Pokewomon?” (Update: That was a joke, apparently some of you think I’m not up on my Japanese)

Powerpuff Girls YAY See what I mean?????

Redakai The protag is Ky, this show is all a father-son quest story about power and destiny

Regular Show Protags are a BFF blue jay and raccoon, both male

Samurai Jack No explanation needed

Scaredy Squirell BFF squirrel and skunk, both male

Secret Mountain Fort Awesome About 5 monsters, all 5 are male, I kid you not.

Secret Saturdays stars Zak Saturday

Sidekick You’d think at least this could be about a female, right? But, no.

Teen Titans 3 males, 2 females. Hey CN, what about having females outnumber males in an ensemble cast?

Teen Titans Go See above

Tenkai Knights Multiple knights and unless I’m missing something, all male.

The Problem Solverz They are Alfe, Roba, and Horace, all male

Time Squad Stars Otto and features practically all male cast

Uncle Grandpa Self-explanatory, right?

Young Justice Invasion An adaptation of the DC universe with a focus on young superheroes and just as sexist in the character make up (Update: Commenters tell me YJ has adapted to have an equal number of female and male characters)

Follow up post: Cartoon Network’s history of sexism: cancelling shows for featuring too many girls

Did you know viral Goldie Blox ad is selling princess themed toy?

This is how fucked up kidworld has become. Finally, parents are catching on that gender stereotyping children limits potential. So what do we get?  An anti-everything pink and princess themed ad, which is great, selling a princess themed toy. WTF?

Here’s the ad.

Here’s the toy, which isn’t so great. “In this much-anticipated sequel, Goldie’s friends Ruby and Katinka compete in a princess pageant with the hopes of riding in the town parade. When Katinka loses the crown, Goldie and Ruby team up to build her a parade float as well as other fun rolling, spinning, and whirling designs.”

paradefloat

Read this blog by Rebecca Hains to learn more. “I have been rooting for GoldieBlox since their Kickstarter days, and I love their mission to break stereotypes and spark a love of STEM in girls. But by pandering to princess culture, this new offering just isn’t living up to the promise.”

Melissa Wardy also has a great blog on this: “You cannot create a toy meant to break down stereotypes when you start off with the ideal that ‘we know all girls love princesses.’ ”

Another good one here (though I think it’s fine to change sexist lyrics and make them your own.) Goldie Blox, no thanks. “It’s the same dumb-downed princess bullshit as the rest of the stuff they are shoving down the throats of our daughters.”

I am pretty sure I gave money to Goldie Blox’s Kickstarter campaign. I know I intended to, but I’m not positive I followed through. I certainly promoted the toy in its earliest days on Reel Girl’s blog, Facebook page, an my Twitter feed.

Once again, I like the Goldie Blox ad. I understand the product is supposed to be a step towards getting girls interested in engineering, but this doublespeak makes me feel like I’m being taken for a ride on a big, old float right down Main Street. I would not have given money or promoted a toy like the one above. I don’t know if Goldie Blox’s “success” made it become this or if this was this always the intention. Maybe, like someone on Reel Girl’s Facebook page writes, Goldie Blox is trying to “straddle the market.” If so, that kind of risk-free, inauthentic approach appeals to me even less than the product.

The toy box shown at the end of the ad is Goldie Blox and the spinning machine. You could argue that the Goldie Blox princess is just one image, or one character, of many. But what I thought is that this brand was going to be different. In a market saturated with princess/ pageant narratives, Goldie Blox was going to stand out as moving beyond stereotypes, not just in some products, some of the time. Maybe I misunderstood the message, but aren’t parents seeing this ad misunderstanding it as well?

Here are 4 previous blogs I’ve written about Goldie Blox where you can see how I progressively begin to question what is being created and sold to kids. One of the lines in the adoring media that really creeps me out states that those sweet, caring girls have “an inclination to help.” In boyspeak, we call that same impulse something more heroic: “a rescue fantasy.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if toys, and the language used to market them, was created for humans, not stereotypes?

‘The thing is, 89% of engineers are male, so we literally live in a man’s world’

GoldieBlox: new building toy created around a narrative with female protagonist

Ever heard of a prince with ‘an inclination to help’ a maiden in distress?

Toy companies start marketing sexism as progressive