Let’s start with the good news. There are 5 children’s movies coming out in 2014 with female protagonists, titled for that female protagonist. This is a record since I started doing the gallery back in 2011. Those movies are: Legends of Oz Dorothy’s Return, Maleficent, Molly Moon, Annie, and The Pirate Fairy I am super- excited about the first four. I am holding out hope for “Pirate Fairy.” It’s always been challenging for me to get past Tinkerbell’s mini-dress and how she’s always smiling submissively at me when I see her on party napkins or sippy cups. But hey, the movie is called “Pirate Fairy,” meaning that is not an oxymoron, which is a huge leap forward for Disney.
Now, for the bad news. In 2014,18 children’s movies star a male protagonist, that’s more than 3 times as many movies than those starring a female.
There are 2 movies that I’m putting in their own category. For “Rio 2,” I am hoping that birds Jewel and Blu are, in fact, costars. (See how I put her name first?) Here’s imdb’s synopsis: “It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids in RIO 2, after they’re hurtled from that magical city to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets the most fearsome adversary of all – his father-in-law.” For “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,” this is the description from imbdb: “A look at the life of wild lemurs living in Madagascar.”Because the lemur on the poster doesn’t have a pink bow or giant eyelashes, my past experience would lead me to believe it’s a male, but because the movie is about lemurs in nature, I hold out hope here too.
Why is the gender of who stars in a children’s movie important? Because girls make up half of the kid population, yet, when kids go to movies, again and again, they see males front and center, while females get sidelined and marginalized.
Today, when kids go to the movies, they will often see the narrative include a strong female or two, but rarely is she the star. The movie is not about her quest. I call these female characters the “Minority Feisty.” The trope has evolved from the Smurfette principle in that there is often more than one, and she is presented as powerful. But her power, lines, and screen time are carefully and consistently circumscribed to show that she is not as important as the male star. Still, the Minority Feisty is supposed to pacify parents, making them feel that, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear, this movie is contemporary and feminist.
Don’t let the Minority Feisty fool you. “Feisty,” an adjective reviewers will invariably use to describe this strong female, is a sexist term. “Feisty” isn’t used to describe not someone who is truly powerful, but someone who plays at being powerful. Would you ever call Superman fesity? How would he feel if you did?
All children need to see more female protagonists. Everyone is the hero of her own life. Kids shouldn’t be trained to see girls and women stuck in supporting roles. In the imaginary world, anything is possible, so why is it sexist? Why is a brand new generation learning it’s normal for girls to go missing?
Here’s the gallery.
Legends of Oz, Dorothy’s Return
The Pirate Fairy
Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist (no poster yet, making my own with this pic)
Annie (no poster yet, making my own)
The Lego Movie
The Muppet Movie (Kermit is clearly, the star. There are even two of him in this movie.)
The Adventurer Curse of the Midas Box
Mr. Peabody and Sherman
Night at the Museum Battle of the Smithsonian
Alexander and The Terrible Horrible Not Very Good Day
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Planes Fire and Rescue, where Dusty, the plane who mocked slower flyers as “ladies,” is once again the protagonist.
Heaven is for Real
The Wind Rises
How To Train Your Dragon 2. No poster yet, but Hiccup is, once again, the protagonist.
Hobbit. No poster yet, but clearly, Bilbo will remain the protag.
Dolphin Tale 2. No official poster yet, but here’s the synopsis from imdb: “The sequel to the 2011 film based on a true story of a boy’s efforts to save an injured dolphin.”
Islands of Lemurs Madagascar