Today, my three young daughters and I saw yet another sexist preview advertising a children’s movie, this one for “Planes.” The scene begins a la “Top Gun” with two male planes flying fast and doing stunts.
Plane One: What’s taking this guy so long? Is he really as good as he says he is?
Plane Two: No, better.
Plane One: Whoa, who was that?
Our Hero (descending fast on top of them): Well, hello ladies. Ready to lose?
Our hero goes on to leave the “ladies” in the dust.
The message is that females are losers, not leaders. They can’t compete.
Here’s the preview:
No female in the preview at all.
If this were one misogynistic joke in one movie, maybe it wouldn’t be that horrible. But sexist jokes dominate movies for kids. Sexism in movies for children is a repetitive pattern. Kids learn from patterns. That’s how brains develop. See the problem?
Take a look at these sexist jokes from “The Lorax,”“Madagascar 3,” and “Pirates.” All this, when kids’ movies already feature so few female characters at all. Is mocking girls a lesson you’d like your children to learn when they go to movies?
I’ve been avoiding writing this post. I knew that female characters in children’s movies were not faring well in 2012. Not in number and not in stature. But I kept hoping. Hoping that somehow, before January, something would change, a slew of movies were going to appear from nowhere, stats would magically shift.
Yes, we got “Brave” this year. Thank you director Brenda Chapman for making Pixar’s first movie ever with a female protagonist. I’m sorry that you, one of the only women to direct animated movies produced by a major studio, were fired half way through production and replaced with a male director.
But “Brave” is just one movie. The exception proves the rule. It’s December now, and sadly, it’s time for me to admit that once again, in the movies made for children in 2012, girls go missing. In staggering proportions, males are consistently front and center; females are mostly sidelined or not there at all.
If you look at the gender placement in the images on the movie posters below, the meaning of “marginalized” couldn’t be more clear. Remember, these are movie for kids. So when your children go to the movies, they are learning, time and time again, that boys are more important than girls.
For those of you who say there are alternative posters that I didn’t put in Reel Girl’s Gallery, you may find them on Google images, but these are the ones I saw all around San Francisco. Even if you find a poster on Google featuring, say, Tooth, the one female Guardian out of five (a typical gender ratio, by the way) that’s a pretty pathetic argument for her relevance.
For those of you who say the posters below do not reflect the movie, that the movie has a strong female in it, maybe even two, maybe three, you are, most likely, referring to the Minority Feisty. No matter how many Minority Feisty there are in an animated film, they are represented as a minority. The irony is, of course, that females are not a minority, not a special interest, not even a fringe group. Females are, in fact, half of the population. Girls are half of the kid population. Why aren’t they represented that way in movies made for children?
I call the Minority Feisty “Feisty” because that is, invariably, the adjective reviewers use to describe the “strong” female character in an animated film. “Feisty” is diminutive. It is what you call someone who plays at being powerful, not someone who is actually powerful. Would you ever call Superman “feisty?” How would he feel if you did?
The role of the Minority Feisty, like a cheerleader or First Lady, is to help the male star along on his important quest. Children need to see females front and center, as protagonists, as the heroes of their own stories.
Finally, even apart from the movie, these posters– and ads– are their own media. Whether or not your kid goes to the movie, she sees these posters everywhere. The movie poster is one of the reasons that I was so thrilled about “Brave.” Finally, San Francisco was papered with an image a daring girl, an image marketed to kids. Obviously, the biggest impact of a narrative is made when kids get to know the character through the movie and then see that character on clothing, food packaging, and toys.
As you look at these posters, imagine the reverse, the gender ratio and the character placement, switched; the movie’s title reflecting the female star. Would you do a double take? How many of us grown-ups don’t even notice the dominance of male characters anymore? How many of us experience the annihilation of females as totally normal, not to mention adorable and child-appropriate?
There is no good reason for the imaginary world to be sexist. Or is there?
Only 16% of protagonists in movies are female; only 16% of women make it into power positions in almost all professions across America. Children’s movie posters, and of course the movies themselves, are an effective way that we acclimate a new generation to expect and accept a world where females go missing.
Out of the 16 posters for children’s movies in 2012 pictured below, just 4 represent movies starring females: “Mirror, Mirror,” “Brave,” “Secret World of Arietty” and “Big Miracle.” The “Big Miracle” poster diminishes Drew Barrymore pretty effectively. I loved “Arrietty,” as I love every Studio Ghibli film, but was surprised to see the boy so big on the poster.
I loved this movie. I loved it so much that I wasn’t going to blog about it, because I do have some of my usual complaints about gender stereotyping, and there is that awful sexist joke. But then I read a harsh review in the LA Times and feel like I must defend the movie.
The LA Times is upset that the film strayed too far from the original, created new characters, and also implied that it was too colorful.
I don’t mind the journey away from the book. I enjoyed the new characters.
Of course, I wish more of those new characters were female. I wish Audrey’s role was not the love interest/ muse, that Ted’s whole quest wasn’t about trying to impress her. I’m pissed the movie shows kids that boys are attractive for what they do, how heroic and brave they are, but girls are attractive for how they appear. Still, Audrey is a Token Feisty. She’s an artist and it is her love of trees that inspires the movie. She also has a role to play at the end.
And I was laughing through this whole movie. I was not bored one time. I loved the short, evil corporate guy (Ted’s mom calls him a “babyman.”) and his Girl With a Dragon Tattoo bob. In fact, all the hair in this movie made me smile. The mom and the Granny sport high piles of curls that look like mountains of fancy mashed potatoes. And speaking of the Granny (played by Betty White) she is also a Token Feisty. One of my favorite animated characters ever.
I didn’t think the movie was too colorful. I loved the swirly orange and pink trees. And those pink trees are used to make the famous thneeds, the useless accessory that everyone decides they must have. So you know what that means, right? The thneeds that everybody wants are pink! The thneed cracked me up and reminded me of those baby slings I see all the moms is San Francisco wrap around themselves in 12 different ways and wear so beautifully, but for the life of me, when I had tiny babies, I could never figure out.
One of my consistent complaints about animated movies is that the crowd scenes leave females out (not to mention Dr. Seuss books crowd scenes.) The crowd scenes in “The Lorax” are stunning and fascinating with lots of diversity shown, especially with body types.
Finally, I love the message about environmentalism and the warning not to let corporate greed steal your soul. There are allusions to contemporary times such as a “Too big to Fail” sign. The once-ler is not a bad guy, he just got on the wrong path. He redeems himself in the end WEARING PINK. I wish I could post a picture for you, but I can’t find one so you’ll have to see the movie.
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?
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?
The first kids’ movie posters of 2012 have descended on the Bay Area. “The Lorax” is now pictured on buses all over town.
I’ve seen this one as well, for a game derived from the movie, mostly by bus stops:
If you Google the poster, a few come up showing the token “feisty” female voiced by Taylor Swift, but I have yet to actually see this poster anywhere in San Francisco. Please let me know if you see a poster with the female character from ‘The Lorax’ anywhere in SF, or your city/ town and send me a photo.
The other main character in this movie besides the Lorax himself (played by Danny Devito) is Ted (played by Zac Efron) who goes on a quest to please the girl he’s infatuated with. Here’s the synopsis from imdb.com:
A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.
Which new movie do you think this line comes from?
Could it possibly be in an animated film where the intended audience is little girls? Little girls who probably love to pillow fight? Who are probably awesome at it? Yep, it’s in the new “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.”
Why would kids need to hear a line making fun of how girls fight? What writer or producer or director could possibly think perpetuating that stereotype would be funny for girls to hear? Or were they, more likely, not thinking about little girls at all?
“Madagascar 3,” by the way, features the same 4 main characters as in 1 and 2. Guess how many are female? One, Gloria the Hippo. She has hardly any lines in this preview. There is a female villain played by Frances McDormand who is featured prominently in the preview. I hope she has a big part in the movie as well.
This frat boy mentality that looms over kids movies has to end. Hollywood, please stop programming sexism to kids. It’s not funny.
Therefore, I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the spectacular animation in “The Lorax” trailer (featuring a main character male and of course the Lorax himself is male) ends with a sexist joke. You can watch it here.
Why show girls that they’re going to be laughed at if they’re “ugly” or fat? Do they need to start getting trained to worry about this at age 4? Why teach boys it’s OK to laugh at girls (people) for the way they look?
And can you imagine the reverse: a female character snickering “That’s a man?” about the guy pictured above? Would that even be funny?
I guess I’m just another feminist with no sense of humor.