Just reading about Disney renaming their upcoming Rapunzel movie "Tangled" so that it won't seem "girly." Sales for Princess and the Frog weren't as high as they wanted, and they blame the word princess. The LA Times says, "The makeover of "Rapunzel" is more than cosmetic. Disney can ill afford a moniker that alienates half the potential audience, young boys, who are needed to make an expensive family film a success." Forget the girl audience. They'll watch anything. Unless a movie appeals to boys, it'll flop.
Is this true? Or is it a self-fulfilling policy?
I wonder. I wonder how many boys really refused to go see Princess and the Frog, or loudly protested, or claimed to hate it. I wonder if it doesn't go down that way at all. I wonder if instead we're to blame, we the mothers, we the parents. Are we predetermining what our sons will watch and enjoy? Preparing for a family movie night, do we look over the movies and decide that a "princess" movie won't please the boy child, so look for something else? I know I've talked about this before here, but this is something that deeply concerns me.
Take a look at the animated movies on your shelves. Pick up the ones produced in the last ten years or so. List the main 10 characters. What are their genders? The main character is almost surely male, but putting that aside, just list the supporting characters by gender. Shockingly, often the ratio will be 1:10 in favor of male. You might find 3:10 occasionally, unless it's The Incredibles, the rare exception. In the actual human and animal world, 50% of the population is female. But not in the animated world. How do they reproduce? One girl for every ten boys? Those poor animated creatures are going to go extinct! Females are so rare, you'd think the studios were making Reservoir Dogs for kids.
Now look at those rare girl characters. Are they funny? Unless it's Dori in Finding Nemo (in an ocean dangerously near extinction based on the lack of female aquatic life), the humorous characters are probably male. So many stereotypes we reinforce: girls aren't leaders, girls aren't important enough to be main characters, girls don't matter to the story, girls aren't interesting and they most certainly aren't funny.
Of course this isn't limited to animated movies: Batman, Superman, Ironman, Spiderman...where oh where is Wonder Woman? Thank goodness for X-Men. (Bless you, Chris Claremont!)
My call to arms. Mothers dear, don't let's do this. Don't let's raise our boys to only watch "boy" movies or only read "boy" books. They, just as much as our girls, need to accept and cheer girl heroes, need to believe girls to be interesting and worthwhile. The book world has no shortage of fascinating and varied girl characters, both leading and supporting. But the movie world over the past 10-20 years has slowly been weeding them out. And I don't blame Hollywood. Hollywood follows the money. We need to put our money where our mouth is. Support movies starring girls. Dads, your influence can be powerful here. Take your boys to see movies about girls and boys. Your little girls are watching. We can tell them all we want how wonderful and important they are, but kids learn by example. They believe what they see. So let's show 'em.