‘Epic’ features cool heroine, celebrates matriarchy

My three daughters and I loved “Epic.” The central heroine, M.K. is smart, brave, funny, compassionate, and independent. I loved her look, too. She’s dressed in a hoodie with a messy ponytail. She doesn’t have a Barbie face, I’d recognize this girl in a crowd.


M.K. narrates the movie. YAY. Do you know how rare it is to get a female narrator in an animated movie for children?

There’s more good news. Queen Tara is another brave, powerful female in this movie who is central to the narrative. Please note QUEEN, not princess. Not only that, GOOD queen, not evil. And…she’s not white. This may be a first, but let me know if there is another animated film with a good queen of color.


Queen Tara is played by Beyonce, and the movie concludes with an awesome song about the matriarchy. The matriarchy, people! It’s so fitting and perfect because the whole movie is about protecting the heir. I was super worried that the next ruler would be male, especially because the evil character, Mandrake, keeps referring to said heir as his “dark prince.” Luckily, the evil dude is wrong, and just after you find that out, the matriarchy song comes on. I laughed when I heard it because I felt like Beyonce was saying to me, “Don’t worry, Margot, I got the girls covered.”

I do have some complaints. I wish M.K. was in the movie more. Much more. You cannot deny she is the protagonist– she is the narrator, she has the quest, and she goes through the transition. M.K. acts, takes risks, and makes choices. She is such a great character, but based on lines and screen time, “Epic” is pretty much an ensemble movie. Most of the other characters are male. The Queen dies early. M.K.’s mother is also dead. The central relationship in the movie is with M.K. and her father.

The evil character is male and he has an evil son. M.K. pals around with two male heroes, so in most of the action scenes, the same old Minority Feisty gender ratio is in your face. Speaking of, M.K. is riding bitch most of the time. Her position “makes sense” in the story because she’s the visitor to the tiny world, but still, writers can make anything happen. I am sick of sexism making sense in plots, and I had hope for M.K. taking the lead here. At one point, she gamely hops on a bird and says, “Come on, let’s go!” Nod, the young male hero, hops on behind her, but in the following scenes, Nod is the one in the driver’s seat again. Argh.

There’s an army of Leafmen, and from what I could tell, they are, in fact, men: 100% male. Comic relief is a male slug and his BFF, a male snail. That pair kind of reminded me of the male krills who steal the show in “Happy Feet 2” or the meerkat/ warthog duo in “Lion King” and countless other cartoon buddy boys. It would be so nice to see a couple of females being friends and being funny in an animated movie.

Finally, I wrote I love M.K.’s look and I do, but both she and Queen Tara are super skinny, and why not give her a blue hoodie, or brown, or red, or any goddam color in the entire universe but pinkpurple?

M.K. is prominently featured on many of the posters seen around San Francisco, another total rarity for children’s movies. Though I didn’t see this one, I want to order it for my kids.epic

Reel Girl rates “Epic” ***HH***



Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

In 2012, I waited until the last possible minute. It wasn’t until December that I posted Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing from Children’s Movies in 2012. Even though in the age of the internet, the facts were impossible to miss, I kept hoping that, somehow, I’d overlooked something.

This year, I’m going to face the upcoming year of multi-million dollar sexism marketed directly at my three daughters– ages 3, 6, and 9– head on, in January.

Of the 21 movie posters for young kids pictured below, only 4 appear to feature a female protagonist; 16 seem to feature a male protagonist and 10 are named for that male star. In one case, “Peabody and Mr. Sherman,” the movie is titled for its 2 male protagonists.

Of the 4 movies starring females, just two are titled for the star. It’s the small budget 7 million film from Moscow, “Snow Queen,” that was brave enough to name its film after a female. “Frozen” is the title chosen for Disney’s version, the same movie studio that changed “Rapunzel” to “Tangled,” to obscure its female star. Fittingly, in the poster for “Frozen,” the woman’s image also fades into the background.

Both “Dorothy” and “Epic,” buffer the female on the poster with males, Epic with a constellation of them and “Dorothy” by listing no less than 7 famous male actors.

The poster for “Planes” may look mysterious, but it comes from the producers of “Cars,” a movie which had many more male than female characters. Tellingly, the preview for “Planes” doesn’t show a single female character.

From the position of characters on the poster in “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2,” it looks like the male is the star, but maybe, hopefully I’m wrong. When you look at the poster, try to imagine a gender flip, the female in front and the male’s legs and hip in the female’s red-carpet-ready pose. That image will make you laugh.

If you are going to argue that there could be strong females in all of these movies, even if they are not the star of the movie, that’s not the same. Please read The curse of the Minority Feisty in kid’s movies.

“Saving Mr. Banks” is coming out in 2013 but does not have a poster yet. On imdb.com, it’s described:

Author P.L. Travers travels from London to Hollywood as Walt Disney Pictures adapts her novel Mary Poppins for the big screen.

That movie could be really cool. But why, why, why is the movie called: “Saving Mr. Banks?” If there is a female protagonist in this film, could she be concealed any more?  I know the androgynous “P.L. Travers” is how the writer’s name is shown on her books, but Mary Poppins came out in 1934. The writer had to use the initials to sell her book. Of course, J.K. Rowling opted for the same tactic years later, but hasn’t her success done anything for women writers? The year is 2013. When are writers going to be able to come out as women? Finally, and I hate writing this, and I hope that I’m wrong: From what I see on the internet it looks like the protagonist of the movie is, in fact, Walt Disney played by Tom Hanks.

There’s a movie I’ve heard of with no poster and I’m not sure if it’s coming out: an indie, English dubbed release of the French movie “Ernest and Celestine”

I have not yet seen any of these movies. As I’ve written about a lot on Reel Girl, movie posters are their own media. Even if a kid doesn’t see the movie, she sees the ads drive by her on the sides of buses or loom above her pasted on walls. She hears the movie titles. Not to mention, she sees the protagonists on TV, cereal boxes, diapers, clothing, toys, sheets, and in video games.

The posters below are found from Google images. There are multiple posters, and I chose the one I’m predicting that I’ll see around town. Whenever I see a movie poster on a bus or wall with a female character solo, front and center who is not surrounded by multiple male characters, or when multiple female characters are shown, I rush to post the sighting on Reel Girl.

As you look at the posters below, ask yourself: Who looks like the star/ leader/ protagonist of this movie? What would this poster look like if the positions, number of male characters, and title references were switched to female characters? Why are females, half of the kid population, presented as a minority in children’s films? Why is the imaginary world, a place where anything should be possible, sexist at all?

So here we go.

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing from Children’s Movies in 2013

Monsters University



Despicable Me


Smurfs 2

Chapter 14 smurfs-2

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson 2 Sea of Monsters


Leo the Lion


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2


Mr. Peabody and Sherman




The Hobbit: There and Back Again


Escape From Planet Earth


Jack the Giant Slayer


Oz the Great and Powerful


The Croods




From Up on Poppy Hill



The Snow Queen





Turbo Movie Poster

Batman The Dark Night Returns