It’s not about Nemo

For the record: I love Nemo. I love The Lion King. I love Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear and Woody. I thought “How to Train Your Dragon” was amazing. You can read my review of it  here. I just wanted to know: Why not a girl starring in this movie? And I don’t mean a smart, brave girl who gets who helps the boy along on his quest (the subject of the movie and its title.) I mean: Why not a female hero of the movie? Why not a female dragon that she trains?

It’s no fun picking on lovable cartoon characters! That issue is at the very heart of the problem. These movies repeatedly charm us and our kids into celebrating the same old gender stereotypes generation after generation.

Furthermore, I don’t believe these limited gender roles are based on some Pixar/ Disney conspiracy. I think the guys who run these movie studios really believe their movies are great. And in many ways they are. But the problem is that the movie makers are not really thinking about girls. While they’re not thinking about them, they’re programming them in showing them, repeatedly, that girls are less important than boys.

The studio heads are not offering up this limited programming because they’re mean, bad men, but just because they are men. Mostly, little girls aren’t that important in their worlds, fantasy or reality. (Though I have to ask– I know they were never girls, but don’t they have daughters?)

When studio heads get complaints about leaving girls out, I honestly think they’re surprised. Maybe the more they hear it, the more they won’t be, but I don’t think their intention is to be sexist and keep women down. If women ran Hollywood by the same majority– and had run the entire world and written its major narratives for thousands of years, since the Bible, since before the Bible–  men would repeatedly be assigned the roles of boyfriend or sidekick. Art is derivative. Everyone knows that. But enough already! It’s time to wake up. The year is 2011. We moms of daughters pay our $10 for a movie like everyone else. Its not good for our sons either, or anyone, to limit kids’ imaginations so relentlessly.

Sorry, Nemo, but it’s your turn to swim over to the left.

7 thoughts on “It’s not about Nemo

  1. More particularly, though tangentally, have you noticed how many of these movies are made by guys whose prime motivator is a need to hear their dad say “son, I’m proud of you just as you are”? HTTYD, obviously, but also Nemo, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Ratatouille, Cars (Doc is obviously the father figure). Get over it, boys, your neuroses are showing!

  2. Thank you! I’ve been saying this since I was a girl in the *ahem* 70s and 80s. What’s frustrating is that they haven’t made a whole lot of progress since then. In fact, in some ways, I think we’ve gone backwards. I can think of several live action kids movies from my youth that had girls that were fun or interesting (Return to Witch Mountain, anything starring Jody Foster, etc.).

    Please, keep raising the issue.

      • It’s based on a book series for girls. The main character and the majority of supporting characters are female, none of whom are reliant on the support of a male character for success. In fact, many of the male characters are more shallow, or are developed less in the storyline, than the female characters.

        Having read your columns about the missing girls, the series stands out in contrast. Sort of the exception that highlights the rule.

        What I’m wondering is whether girls who watch the show feel towards the characters the same way I felt towards the characters in more male-dominated fantasy/adventure series.

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