Last night ManFriend, SuperDik and I watched Megamind. I sure know how to party after winning at the internet, huh? The movie was amusing, but it made me feel increasingly uncomfortable. Apart from reporter Roxanne Ritchie (who, despite it being a movie for children, is sexy and goes to work in an off-the-shoulder dress with heaving bosom), the only other female characters are Megamind’s mother (only in the movie for a few seconds) and two (silent) women holding babies in a crowd scene.
SuperDik’s beautiful little daughter Fraggle was asleep, but had she been older she would have been watching with us. And what would she have seen? A movie in which women are generally invisible but the few who are seen are either sexy or silent. A movie in which the way to show a woman you care is by kidnapping her. A movie in which love for a woman is used to justify evil actions. A movie in which all of this happens and still the smart sexy woman kisses the ugly evil guy at the end because he was just misunderstood.
I know it’s just a children’s movie, but growing up on a diet of this stuff can’t be good for girls or boys. How many female characters do you see in Pixar films? How many do you see in animated Disney films? Tinkerbell, Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella. Sure, there’s Pocahontas, but her life was all about falling in love. The lesson that children learn when watching these movies has to be that girls are either sexy or invisible, and the only thing that women should aim for is to fall in love.
And then when they watch ads on TV, they learn that women clean bathrooms, cook dinner, go grocery shopping, and do the laundry; that girlfriends will ruin all your man fun by wanting to spend quality time sitting on the couch doing nothing; that men are useless when it comes to looking after kids; and that all men, regardless of what they look like and how immature they are, get really good looking girlfriends. How on earth do you raise boys to respect women when they are surrounded by a culture that tells them over and over again that women are either sexy or invisible, but either way they’ll clean up after you?
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is a great research project on gender in children’s entertainment. One study looked at the top 101 G-rated films between 1990 and Jan 2005 and found:
Fewer than one out of three (28%) of the speaking characters (both real and animated) are female.
More than four out of five (83%) of the films’ narrators are male.
85.5% of the characters in G-rated films are white, 4.8% are black, and 9.7% are from “other” ethnicities.
Another study (same link) looked at the 400 top-grossing G, PG, PG-13 and R (parent/guardian needed for under 17s, so somewhere between our MA15+ and R) films in the US between 1990 and 2006. It found that 73 per cent of the characters were male, and there were only two types of females: traditional and hypersexual. That study also found:
Females were over five times as likely as males to be shown in sexually revealing clothing.
Females were nearly three times as likely as males to be shown with a thin figure.
Animated females are more likely to be shown in a thin and sexy light than are live action females.
Another study of 122 family films released between 2006 and 2009 found:
Of all speaking characters, 32.4% are female in G-rated films, 30% are female in PG-rated films, and 27.7% are female in PG13-rated films.
So as girls get older, popular culture takes their voices away.
I don’t have children so I can only talk about this in a detached manner. I don’t have to try and tell a four-year-old that they can’t watch Toy Story because the only female toy in it is the impossibly-small-waisted Bo Peep, who doesn’t say very much anyway. IMDB tells me that Mrs Potato Head and Jessie the Cowgirl are in Toy Story 2 and 3, but that’s still a grand total of three female toys in three animated films in which there is no reason why the talking car toys and talking dinosaur toys can’t be girls because it’s fucking make believe.