Monday, November 30, 2009

Pointing towards an empty space

Tonight, I snuggled with my four year-old in bed to read his good-night story. His choice was one of the many books based on the movie Cars*. As we listed and described the various characters, I was struck once again by how few female characters are in that movie. Few as in one. Sally, the sports car who “turns heads”. Sigh, Pixar**. Cars wasn’t sexist enough? You had to make the spin-offs worse? Ok. It was time to living up to my values and start discussing these things with my kid.

Me: Hey, that’s not right! (flipping through the pages)
Kid: What’s not right?
Me: Out of all these cars, Sally’s the only girl!
Kid: Yeah, that’s right. Sally’s the girl.
Me: But… at your school, there are lots of boys and girls. And your teachers are both boys and girls. So where are the rest of the girls in Radiator Springs?
Kid: There ARE more girls there. They should have made the movie longer.

It would be easier to address sexism in children’s stories if the characters actually said “girls don’t like to race” or “boys don’t like to cook”. Kids get the concept of what’s fair or not and don’t like to be told that a toy or activity is off-limits. Oh yes, they can empathize with that! Instead, they’re shown only a few female characters, who just happen to fill the stereotyped roles of mother, love interest or helper/moral compass. I’ve seen the quick leap to Pixar’s defense, demanding to know if want all movies to have an equal number of male and female characters, who must have an equal number of lines. Of course not (and I hate that straw man too - he’s such a jerk!). The problem is the population, the entire set of movies that has such narrow and stereotyped roles. When each new movie comes out, though, I can’t point to the population, just to one more example. It’s also not good enough to deflect criticism by saying “But it’s a great movie! Toy Story is a classic!” Dude. Would I be concerned if only bad art was sexist?

*Pixar, I love most of your movies, but you are sorely testing my patience with the vast quantities of shitty kids’ merchandise from that Cars movie.

** Ok, Pixar, serious points off for that one.

3 Comments:

Blogger Yael said...

You are so right. I didn't notice this till someone pointed it out. I need to start talking to my kids more when they watch movies.

11:59 AM  
Blogger antijen said...

Sadly, this plan requires me to watch more hours of kids movies. Urgh. Seriously, though, it IS harder to describe the problem of such limited roles. I'm still trying to figure out how to address it.

11:21 PM  
Blogger k said...

In Toy Story the male potato went on an adventure but the female potato stayed home. Potatos have gender restrictions, who knew? *gah*

And I hated Cars because of the lack of female characters. Worst kids movie ever.

- Princess of Cybermob

2:52 AM  

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