Now that Inara is getting a bit older and could probably sit through a movie if we let her, I’ve been scrolling through kid’s movies online and finding that I’m not comfortable with her watching barely any of them. In my not so humble opinion, the majority are gender stereotype laden, violent, ADHD-inducing pieces of garbage. Especially Disney.
Let me explain. When it comes to the classical fairytale movies, such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, I cannot stand the gender stereotypes being forced down our gullets. Young girls are taught that they must be pretty (and very skinny), passive and weak to reach their end goal in life – finding a man. Things aren’t any better for young boys who are taught that they must be handsome (or possibly just extremely rich), strong and forceful and not take no for an answer in their pursuits of a beautiful bride, which in their case is not the main goal in life, but still a very important one.
This brings me to what I think I find most disturbing about a majority of kid’s movies: They’re centered around adult (always heterosexual) love relationships. Why are movies for kids frequently not about kids and the stuff that kids like? What interest does a child have in the life of adults trying to pursue a mate? Should they even be interested in it? Why are kid’s movies not more often about friendship, exploring the world around us and play? Granted, there are movies like Finding Nemo where the plot is centered more around the relationship between father and son. It’s unfortunate that one of the only female characters suffers short term memory loss.
I’m not an expert on this topic by any means, but it also seems that as soon as a movie is about something other than a princess, it has no female leads at all. Think the Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh etc. I’m guessing it would be difficult to find a movie where all characters are female and where they happily go about their business without ever pursuing a man, but if you can think of one, I would be very interested. So, half the population is either excluded from the plot, included as a side character, or in pursuit of a love interest (I use pursuit loosely, since it would never be appropriate for a princess to be the one pursuing).
Violence is another issue. I once let Inara watch an older clip of Pluto on youtube and actually had to turn it off. I had totally forgotten how violent the older Disney stuff is. Nothing but electrocution and dismemberment. More recent shows seem to have improved somewhat, but violence is still an essential theme.
The one Disney movie that I have slightly higher hopes for is Brave, which seems to be more about finding yourself and the relationship between mother and daughter without the end goal of marrying. Has anyone seen it and if so, what did you think?
Lastly, I’m concerned with the extremely fast pace in many shows. Several times when Inara has been watching clips on youtube, her eyes have been drawn to shows like Cars, which I’ve never watched more than a few minutes of, but man, are we trying to give kids ADHD? It’s so fast-paced my head spins.
The only movies that I’ve felt completely at ease with so far are the Miyazaki films (although some of them are certainly for older kids since they can be a bit scary). My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo are both about kids and seen from a child’s point of view, full of magic in everyday life. Then there is also Doctor Seuss, although there are issues there too.
Lastly, as far as I know, Inara does not know a princess from a cucumber. She doesn’t know what marriage is and has no interest in being pretty. However, both Andrew and I realize that it’s just a matter of time before she catches on to that people think she’s pretty when she wears certain clothes or acts a certain way. I’m certainly guilty of having said that she’s cute, although I try to keep my complements referring to her being smart, kind and strong. I’m also guilty of choosing a certain wardrobe that I find appealing for her, but rarely say anything about her clothes to her.
She will see other kids playing princesses and princes and she will start to learn what’s expected of her versus two of her best friends who happen to be boys. We can’t shield her from the norms of society forever and probably shouldn’t. If she wants a princess dress, I’m not going to say no. But I will talk to her a lot about how being pretty can be fun, but how it’s secondary and try to counteract all the outside influences she will get. And I will certainly not let her watch garbage shows just because it’s easy.
Can anyone recommend other movies/shows that are free of (or at least have fewer) gender stereotypes, that are not about adult love relationships, non- violent and not too fast-paced? It seems impossible, but maybe someone knows of something?
As always, I enjoy hearing your opinions!