Teaching Our Boys to Be Entitled Heros & Our Girls to Be Damsels in Distress

Sometimes when I’m watching Puss and Boots I imagine it as an adult-oriented blockbuster. The story line would be your token over-skilled loner woman saving the world (America) with an honourable hero who undoubtedly falls in love with this exceptional bombshell.   I would scoff at the starlet’s unnecessary boob scene and glare at my husband until he states out loud that he acknowledges the over use of bronzer and eyelash extensions involved in this woman’s constant state of sexiness.  “It’s absurd and unnatural Honey, I agree. You know I prefer my women pale with bags under their eyes. That’s why we’re Soulmates!!”

Hey handsome hero! Remember that time I was wearing a crop top and I fixed your car with nothing but my worldly knowledge of shitty engines and this spare tube of body glitter….. I know… I was lying by crop top….

Then I would go back to my kid’s movie. I can see the parallel story lines. My son and daughter are already learning Hollywood’s assigned roles to men and women. The roles of heros and distressed damsels.  

I recently watched a very interesting TedTalks on this, called How Movies Teach Manhood. If you haven’t checked out TedTalks, you should. They are short, on interesting topics and will make you feel 86.9% smarter. Yup, I learned that number trick thingy from watching a TedTalks. 

So in this talk, the presenter, Colin Stokes, outlines something called the Bechdel Test. Criteria to evaluate these movies in terms of how they are portraying gender to our children.  Here are the three points required to pass the Bechdel Test:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man

Beauty and the Beast: Fail. 
Puss and Boots: Fail. 
Megamind: Fail. 
Monsters Inc: Fail. 
(I could go on…)

Colin Stokes holds up the Wizard of Oz as a great example of passing the test. Classic! I can’t think of any other kid’s movies off the top of my head that pass the test. Other than Shrek the Third but maybe it’s because JT is in it and he’s a mega hunk. 

Let’s hope there are more and more films made that pass the Bechdel test. Movies that show our boys they can be part of a team to gain honour, and sometimes that team includes women. Portrayals of women being more than just the prize, the beautie with some freakishly wild talent, or in need of a makeover to make her life a fairytale.

I know it’s not realistic to cut out all popular media, and I know the Bechdel test doesn’t make something ‘gender-nurturing’ (or visa versa). I hope when my kids are old enough I’ll be able to help them stand back and critique what they are seeing.  Question everything. 

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