“Happy Feet 2” leaves girl penguins out in the cold

The last time I blogged about “Happy Feet,” in its first incarnation, I wrote about how the movie was yet another about a male and titled for a male. A commenter responded that Happy Feet is not, in fact, the male character star’s name. His name is Mumble. The commenter wrote that I was wrong to assume the title referred to he, that many penguins in this movie dance, thus they can all be Happy Feet. This is true. Feet, after all, is plural. We all have feet. So with this open frame of mind, I went to see “Happy Feet Two.”

Even I was seriously disappointed with this movie.  Not only is “Happy Feet 2” a father-son story, which I expected, but there are no less than three subplots and guess what? All three are about male relationships with other males. Wow. And everyone says girls are the ones who care about relationships.

Subplot #1 is about an elephant seal trying to impress his 2 sons– did you get that part about two sons? Perhaps the seal could have had a daughter? Perhaps the seal with the big role could’ve been a mom? Impossible, I know, because in real life, male seals lead the pack. Never mind that this is a movie about penguins who sing and dance and talk to each other, it’s important that we all be realistic about gender roles in the seal world.

The elephant seal’s dilemma is that he refuses to “back up” to let the penguins pass. The dad seal does not want to back up because if he does, the lady seals will no longer be impressed by him. I kid you not. The dad seal ends up falling and Mumble saves his life. Later, the dad seal returns the favor for Mumble so the male buddy motif is expertly woven in to the father-son motif.

Subplot #2 Matt Damon and Brad Pitt steal the show playing krills. The animation here is absolutely beautiful and the imagination of picturing life from the krill perspective is impressive. But I honestly cannot figure out why the animators couldn’t push their imaginations just a little further and make the krills female. Even the real life krill world would be OK with the switch. Hardly a line of dialogue would have to be changed. The homoerotic subtext would work fine as lesbianism. I can’t think of a think of a single reason why the krills must be males except to give Brad Pitt and Matt Damon parts.

Subplot #3 The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria) is a penguin who can fly. His talents are celebrated by all, especially Lovelace (Robin Williams) Lovelace tells the long story of how he met Sven and the adventures they shared, shown in flashbacks. Turns out Sven is actually a bird pretending to a penguin. Sven is another father figure to little Erik, as by the way is the other character voiced by Robin Williams– Ramon.

There is one intrepid girl penguin in the movie. I think her name is Bo. I really tried to listen for her name. Three kids go off together– Erik, Atticus, and Bo. It took me a long time to figure out that she was a girl because her name is hardly spoken while Atticus’s and Erik’s names are said many times. I would love to see this movie again just to actually count the times her name is mentioned as compared with Erik’s and Atticus’s. I won’t do this because there is no way I can sit through this movie again, but if you, against my advice, go see it, please listen for her name and let me know what you think. And when her name is said, it’s the androgynous Bo that makes me think Dukes of Hazard. Bo’s part is pretty small but not really small, and she does act bravely. It is for her, and only for her, that I am going to include one G for Girlpower in Reel Girl’s rating of this movie.

Bo’s mother, Miss Viola, has a small part. Erik’s mother, Gloria (Pink) also has a small part and the largest of the smalls for females. There is one more female penguin small part, Carmen (Sofia Veraga) who plays the curvaceous, sexualized love interest of Ramon. Gross.

“Happy Feet Two” is an obscene depiction of a world where girls hardly matter. Not only that, it’s boring. Do not take your kids to this movie. Reel Girl gives “Happy Feet Two” an SSS/ G rating (three S’s for Stereotyping, one G for Girlpower)

12 thoughts on ““Happy Feet 2” leaves girl penguins out in the cold

  1. Your advice is dumb I wanted to see this movie like forever and it sounds awesome I will never listen to your dumb advice because you don’t know what you are talking about oh and you always mention girl power lime I care about that.

  2. This is one of the most ridiculous posts I have ever read. I am a mother of 4 children, 2 sons and 2 daughters. I watched this movie with my mother and youngest daughter who is 10 and we LOVED it. My daughters are confident and talented. They are involved in many sports including basketball and baseball and are also beautiful lyrical and hip-hop dancers. My sons are older and are focusing on baseball. All of them earn good grades and are liked by their instructors. If you look at the real lives of these animals, the movie follows most of their natural ways. My daughter now knows that the male penguins take care of the young, which fascinated her. The father seal that Mumble saves gave a lot of facts about his species as well. Yes, the characters sing and dance, however; I liked the fact that they followed a lot of these animals way of life. In fact I would have been upset if they had not. As for the krill, they were our favorites. I do not believe their characters could have been cast better. They were brilliant. As a mother of sons and daughters I highly recommend this movie, it is one the whole family can enjoy. I do not want my daughters or sons go through life searching for things to be upset about and miss the good stuff, and Happy Feet 2 is good stuff 🙂

  3. Great post. I don’t think we can continue to hide behind the fact that a film is animated and that characters may have gender-neutral names. Unfortunately, there’s a long history of sexism and male preference in children’s animation (even in my beloved Sesame Street). I like the fact that you recommended that parents not take their kids (boys and girls) to see the film. As a father of two sons, I try to be sensitive to how gender roles are depicted in what they’re exposed to. You get a lot of unwarranted criticism on SFGate for your opinions. Ignore them and keep up the good work.

    • Hi Lome,

      Yes, the problem is when boys are always front and center, both genders learn that girls are less important than boys. That’s why the advice ‘don’t take your daughters to these movies’ as if it would solve the issue is pretty stupid. Or one reason it is.

      As far as SFGate, many comments are so obnoxious, the often end up proving my point. When people can’t effectively attack and argument, they attack the person.

      Thanks for visiting Reel Girl,

      Margot

      • Let me give you advice never give advice again and don’t go on the internet because I dislike your dumb advice of and I highly recommend to bring your daughter or son to the movie happy feet 2 the movie is amazing.

  4. On this broader problem of kids’ movies being made with an absolute lack of creativity, cookie-cutter style, apparently with some nebulous agenda that appears (from what we can make out of it) to oppose the objective of raising resourceful and responsible future grown-ups, you have my complete support Margot.

    I’d certainly like to know what’s going on in Pixar. There must be some yelling sessions going on, healthy disagreements inside of the walls, that we don’t get to see. We just watched The Incredibles again last night and it’s still awesome. Hoping you agree with that. You should.

    On the timidness of depicting females in their footage and promotional artwork, well…let’s just agree to disagree. It’s pretty clear to me you’re on a merry-go-round because you’re making the problem. Honey. Vinegar. But we agree on lots of other things so let’s just let it go at that.

      • “Hoping you agree with that. You should.” “It’s pretty clear to me… you’re making the problem”, with no actual evidence. “Females”? Major points to you, Margot, for grace in the face of mindmelting obnoxiousness. I would have kicked his self-important arse to the curb.

  5. Thanks for watching this Margot, so we don’t have to.

    Definitely not taking my two daughters to the cinema these holidays. Luckily down here it’s going to be summer so I don’t have to!

    By the way, according to imdb it is indeed Bo. (Which makes me think of Bo Derek actually!) According to something else I just read it’s short for Boadiccea.

    By the way, Erik is voiced by Ava Acres – a girl.

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