Here’s the poster for Disney’s new summer movie ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ Notice someone missing?
Here’s a hint– I blogged about a poster of Gnomeo and Juliet that had the same invisible issue, in spite of the movie title, no less, though that ratio was 9 to 0.
Here’s the cast of ‘Winnie the Pooh’:
Winnie the Pooh
Disney’s new movie stars eight males and one female. I know this because I’ve been watching Caillou (another boy-starring cartoon named after the boy it stars) on PBS with my two year old daughter. The commercials for summer’s new animated Pooh movie cycle on. So as my daughter meets Tigger and the others (we haven’t seen Kanga yet) she’s learning, once again, that girls are not that important in imaginary world. Just like the real one. So much for telling her she can grow up to be president.
Of course female characters should frequent and equal in modern children story’s but Winnie the Pooh is very old and is based on it’s books which are based on the imagination and toys of Christopher Robin, who is a boy! of course the characters are going to be mostly male. I am a girl who grew up with Winne the Pooh and I turned out just fine, presides it doesn’t really matter because most kids think that either Rabbit or Piglet are girls anyway.
I think the case is better made for newer movies.
Are you kidding me? Isn’t bad enough that Disney banished A A Milne’s own son from the show My Friends Tiger and Pooh, because they wanted to market to girl consumers? At least they brought him back for this film. This is something to rejoice about. Female characters dominate folkloric and children’s literary works from fairy tales to Anne of Green Gables. Milne’s is one of the few books featuring sensitive, non-snarky or Ill-behaved boy characters out there. Boys need role good role models too.
Helen, Carol’s Mom
I agree that boys need better, non-stereotypical role models too. One of the things about gender stereotypes is that they are bad for everyone, boys and girls alike. And I wouldn’t say that “Winnie-the-Pooh” is the most egregious example of the problem of lack of female representation – there are many other wonderful things about it, including a sensitive male protagonist as you point out, that are worth hanging onto.
But I have to disagree with the statement that females dominate children’s literary works from fairy tales to Anne of Green Gables. It seems to me that most of the girls in folklore are passive “rewards” for boys who complete quests. The active characters in the anthologies of folk and fairy tales on my shelf are overwhelmingly male. In the Disney movies where girls are protagonists their main goal is to get a man (though I was glad to see that Princess Tiana’s dream was to open a restaurant.) Disney has made progress since “Snow White” but there is still a long way to go.
“Anne of Green Gables” is a beloved book, but it’s just one book. I can think of some other examples of good female role models in books, thank goodness, and perhaps the rarity of these role models is part of what makes them so cherished by book-loving girls like I was. If you look at the statistics though, there are still far fewer female characters than male. http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/05/25/where-are-the-girls-in-childrens-lit/
I would love to see a study that examines the number and quality of role models in the media for children of both sexes. I’ve got a little boy too, and sometimes I’m dismayed to see how the selection of t-shirts with messages on them overwhelmingly present a hyper-aggressive version of masculinity. Can’t my little boys clothes call him smart or curious or a good friend? Must he always be “tough”? How early do we have to start pushing this one note version of what it means to be a boy or a man?
I support the creation of literature, movies, and all kinds of media that provide an alternative to the gender and racial stereotypes that the lazy mind always falls back on. Instead of recycling the tropes of the past, I believe we should create new visions of our own.
I have to comment that in the case of Pooh, I agree with Kate – they never really defined the characters as male or female in the book. The voices make them the gender that we perceive. Also, Milne wrote the books for hi son specifically so the characters were boys to appeal to him. If you look at Alice In Wonderland, writter for a little girl that Carroll know, the character is a girl. In those cases it’s a matter of context. But I totally agree with the notion of Smurfette Syndrome – the female characters are often missing or completely fatuous.
Um, this is not the poster actually. That’s just an OLD piece of marketing art.
THIS is the official, theatrical, U.S. poster:
And Kanga is present.
Also, Disney did drop Christopher Robin and replaced him with a girl named Darby on “My Friends Tigger & Pooh” for a number of years:
And throughout the multiple Pooh movies and TV shows, have had other female characters including: Kessie the Bluebird, Mrs. Heffalump and Porcupine.
This new Pooh movie is actually stripping away all extraneous characters Disney added over the years to only include the original books’ characters – none of Disney’s original character creations are featured in this new film.
So don’t blame Disney, blame A.A. Milne for a lack of female characters.
Interestingly enough, the only ever authorized book sequel to Milne’s Pooh books introduced a strong new female, Lottie the Otter:
However Disney was already into the production of this film when that book was released.
I was thinking about this. The problem of male as neutral seems to me to be two-fold. The first is that when a new character is made, male is the default. Then you add all the interesting traits that make a character real. If it’s a female character it only needs to be female. All the information you need is packed into that fact in stereotype-sized chunks.
On the other hand… are we sure that all those characters are male? I don’t recall ever having watched the tv series, so I’m going on the books here. Pooh and Eyeore and Rabbit all read as definitely male to me, although I don’t recall it ever being mentioned. But Piglet and Owl and Roo could conceivably be female. Kanga is only clearly female because she is a mother. But, because male is neutral, that’s what they all read as. Unless you want to turn one of them in to ‘piglette’ and whack some eyelashes on them, they will always be male.
I mean really, how much would the story change if Roo or Owl were female? Not much, right? Except in the ways that you would have to signify them being female, which are limited. Being rescued, being silly, being maternal. If Roo was a girl she would be a FEISTY girl, instead of just being Roo. Ick.
I don’t know enough about the other movies in your list to give them the same treatment. I suspect that more modern creations display genders in more polarised ways.
I think that you definitely have a good point, but I think this is a tougher issue for this movie than for the others that are new. I’m not saying the creators couldn’t have introduced some new female characters, but then I imagine there would have been a big focus on that in the plot (love interest for Christoper Robin or some such thing). For a revival of this brand though, there WERE no female characters when the show came out originally, so I think the case is better made for newer movies.
Important things for us to watch out for though!
I have two daughters, and I find this disappointing.
We have seen Cars 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2, and both those movies are overly pro “boy” as well. It’s not like girls cannot enjoy cars, and be more than Lightning McQueen’s love interest and the assistant to the “boss” spy.
As a father that encourages his daughters to realize they are not limited by being female, it is rough to see that this is the example films set for them.
I remember your post about Gnomeo & Juliet, which was the first time I actually noticed this issue. I boggles my mind that the exclusion of female characters is so prevalent in media. I know many say that movies are marketed this way because “boys won’t see a movie that has a girl as the lead character” – and it’s ultimately all about money – but my 4-year old son is just as happy to watch a Tinker Bell movie as he is to watch Peter Pan. He is, however, just reaching the age where that pressure of “that’s not for boys” will soon begin. *sigh*
My son is four and my daughter is five. It is amazing how open they are to playing and watching everything regardless of whether it is supposed to be for a boy or a girl. The world is wide open to them right now. The powers that be try to absolve themselves from responsibility by claiming they are only catering to market demands, without acknowledging that they are creating and perpetuating those demands from infancy on. My husband and I have tried not to reinforce those media messages, but it is an uphill battle and the more our kids are out in the world, the more they are likely to be exposed to less egalitarian ideas about gender than their parents have. So I hope to teach them media literacy so they can examine the messages they receive with a critical eye.
I second your sigh. My little boy likes the Tinkerbell movies too.