Girls gone missing in new Halloween movies for kids

As if Halloween wasn’t sexist enough already with its sexy “cute” costumes aggressively marketed to little girls, this season Hollywood delivers not one, but three animated male-centered monster movies. In each one, males are front and center while females get relegated to the sidelines.

I just saw this poster for “Frankenweenie:”

The movie is about a boy and his dog and named for the male protagonist. The male/ female ratio on the movie poster 4:1 (I thought that the smaller, sidelined cat could be female, but after looking up the character, I learned his name is Mr. Whiskers.)

If you’ve been reading Reel Girl, you know I just blogged about all the sexism in “Hotel Transylvania.” Here’s the poster, male/ female ratio 6:2

And a couple weeks ago, I blogged about ParaNorman.

Also named for the male protag (remember, the name of “Rapunzel” had to be switched to “Tangled” because Disney didn’t want a girl’s name in the title.) Male: female ratio 4:1

These repetitive images put females in the minority and on the sidelines. They are reproduced in toys, games, and clothing, and show kids that boys are more important than girls.

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing in Kids’ Movies in 2011.

27 thoughts on “Girls gone missing in new Halloween movies for kids

  1. Kellie-Jay,
    As a children’s and school librarian who has served on an award committee, I can tell you that librarians work very hard to create a balanced collection. On the committee I served on we strove to balance the number of girl and boy protagonists, along with a variety of genres, including poetry, science fiction, mystery, horror, fantasy, animal stories, sports stories, realistic fiction, biography, historical fiction, and nonfiction, as well as a range of reading levels from low to high.It will never be 50/50, though, because so many books that are written for or (in theory) appeal to girls are clearly not written for or appealing to (most) boys. This is actually enough of an issue that author Jon Scieszka started an organization called Guys Read, to encourage the inclusion of books in the library that will interest boys. Further, as you are looking at the library collection keep in mind that your 50/50 split will include Julie of the Wolves and Eleanor, Quiet No More, but also Barbie and Disney princess books on the girls’ side. It is important to have both genders fairly represented, but how they are represented is also important. A simple split down the middle doesn’t recognize that.

  2. Even ‘girl’ movies wimp out on actually being about girls in an amazing way. We always (myself and my three boys and one girl) have to deconstruct the movie and talk about how shit it is for girls.

    I’m going to be looking at the school library today and curriculum. I want to see 50/50 split on literature in schools, regardless of what gets published.

  3. It’s not exactly a kids’ movie, but there is a Halloween-themed teen movie (a comedy, not a horror film) scheduled for release that features a female protagonist. “Fun Size” tells the story of a teenage girl who gets saddled with the responsibility of taking her younger brother trick-or-treating before attending a Halloween party. She goes to the party and loses her brother, and (presumably) hilarity ensues as she attempts to find him.

  4. Hi MM,

    Great! That hashtag was just off the top of my head, though; you might want to ask for better suggestions. (It’s the word “missing” that I’m hanging up on a little bit.) I’m going to tweet this post with that hashtag and ask if anyone has a better idea. Twitter tends to be organic, though, and seems to sort itself out, if that makes sense. šŸ™‚

    (It could also be adapted to women in film: #reelwomenmissing….)

  5. Margot,

    What do you recommend as far as monster movies intended for kids, then? As the editor for and the mother of a monster-loving boy with a sister willing to go along for the ride I’d be interested in what you DO think are good choices. We held Monster Movie Month in July, which, while mostly at choices for adults, was inspired by my son’s love of the classic movies, and the three of us picked some movie choices parents could share with their kids, but I’d love to know what you think. Halloween is our busiest month of the year and our children’s section is one of the most popular parts of our site and that’s something I would love to share there.

    I do think there are a lot of interesting influences on girls that come from both media and unwitting family members. My daughter, after watching Scooby Doo with my enthusiastic son, said she wanted to be a ballerina zombie for his Halloween birthday party, but on her own she wanted to be a princess, for the third year running.

  6. Random thoughts:

    I think ParaNorma works better; the *n* sounds clumsy to me.

    You know you’re hitting a nerve when they’re talking about you at Sony (and you know they are.)

    Is there a Twitter hashtag for this? (#reelgirlsmissing…?) (Sorry in advance if there’s a super popular and I just don’t know about it.)

      • Hi,

        I’m a noob at Twitter myself, but I’ll give it my best shot. šŸ™‚ If anyone else knows more, please correct me!

        I think of hashtags as Twitter chatrooms (remember those?) In other words, people can congregate their tweets around a topic, a show, an event etc. Example: #Olympics2012 or #DrWho. So, in a tweet about a particular movie with no roles for girls, or sexist ones, just add #reelgirlsmissing, (or something like that,) in the tweet itself. Then anyone who clicks on the hashtag will go to a list of all the tweets carrying that tag.

        One of the best social justice successes I know about is #EverydaySexism where women recount examples of being ignored by the car salesman, groped on the subway, told why they’re being paid less, etc…the list is huge and growing. It is both a release valve and a way to bring awareness to this problem, as well as a way to document these events in a public record.

        I think to start a hashtag for this topic it’s only necessary to come up with a memorable, catchy one…and then use it. People will start to catch on, because they notice this phenomenon, especially parents of girls. And, of course, the girls themselves.

        Also, I think people love to have their say on Twitter and know that more people than just those that follow them are going to read it. I think it could easily start a Twitter trend.

        tl;dr # = Twitter chatroom

  7. I worked on Hotel Transylvania. Sorry you hated it. Apparently, we Sony animators are all horrible sexist people. I assure you, none of us were sitting around at our desks thinking about how we could piss off feminists and corrupt children’s minds. We were just having fun trying to make a fun, cartoony, movie.


    -Animator from Sony.

    • Hi Sony Animator,

      I didn’t hate Hotel Transylvania. I found it sexist. So many animated movies, including HT, have great animation, but again and again, the majority of characters are males. For the most part, I don’t think the animators are consciously sexist. I think they don’t think about girls much. I think they put girls in stereotyped roles. the fewer females there are, the easier it is to stereotype them. The more females there are, the more narratives you have to come up with. For you, it may just be fun, but for kids, this is so much of their world. They see these images every day, first in movies, then on toys and games and clothing. It sucks that females are constantly sidelined.


    • You are an animator, your just is to animate stuff. Why take personally a comment made towards the people who where responsible for ignoring girl viewers? No animators are not All horrible sexist people. Some like you are just arrogant and ignorant of the work you do. Others do really see how movies showcasing mostly boys would not be taken well.. but again, your job is to animate not actually create a movie. get over yourself (though I have doubt that you are an animator for Sony and not just a troll).

  8. I’ve gotten to where I look at the movie and if the concept would work with a woman as well as with a man, I realize we’re getting ignored again. ParaNorma would be just as good and just as punny. Hotel Transylvania is partially handicapped by the fact most movie monsters are also male, but one *can* make adjustments. After all, it’s fantasy. And FrankenWeenie? Oh, yes. Tim Burton, he of “Nightmare Before Christmas,” AKA “hey, girls, have a token who is merely a plot device and no self-direct action at all and LIKE IT.” Clearly, the man has a woman problem.

    • Hi brenda,

      “Hotel Transylvania is partially handicapped by the fact most movie monsters are also male”

      That is the excuse for so much sexism, it is derivative of originals. When is it going to change? This is fantasy. Anything should be possible. Why not Invisible Woman?


      • Because an Invisible Woman in the movies isn’t a fantasy.

        I haven’t seen Hotel Transylvania, but from the trailers I’ve seen, a lot of it has to do with parodying the archetypes of the genre. I don’t think parodying one of these archetypes by changing the character to a girl is going to be appreciated. To do it right, the creators would have to show a little more creativity and develop some personality or backstory for the character,(Morticia Addams is an example of this, i think). They don’t have to do it with classic monsters because most of us already know the backstory. It would be a lot simpler to change the gender of the “closet monsters” in Monsters, Inc, because the appearance and concept of a closet monster is pretty vague.

        • The Invisible Woman isn’t a fantasy, ha! I actually think some parodies with females would be pretty funny. Maybe I shoudl make that movie. What do you think of our list for you?

          • Coraline is a great movie. It’s targeted at the same age group as ParaNorman, I think. I haven’t seen Corpse Bride and am not familiar with Fun Size.

  9. I think now would be a good time to put up a “girls gone missing 2012” showing first the male lead movies and then the female ones. It’d really show the big picture of the difference in ratios. I mean, this year so far all we have is Brave and Tinkerbell. Compare that to: Paranorman, Pirates, Rise of the guardians, Hotel Transylvania, Ice Age 4, Madagascar 3, Frankenweenie.

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