The Force Versus The Yellow Brick Road: How Movies Teach And Don’t Teach Manhood

tumblr_m1an0bfN6E1qhmu4uo1_1280There is an excellent new Ted talk given by parent and former actor Colin Stokes about how children’s movies aren’t teaching our sons how to think about and treat women. He compares his two children and how both of them, around the ages of four, became equally obsessed with two different movies. For his daughter, it was The Wizard Of Oz, for his son, it was Star Wars. If you have kids I think that both these movies are something that you have shown them at some point, if they both weren’t two of the very first movies you exposed them to.
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Colin talks about how we are raising our children in a “kind of children’s fantasy spectacular complex” and how in the Wizard of Oz, all of the most wise, heroic and villainous characters are female, and he compares this to Star Wars (in which his three-year-old son had Star Wars imprinted on him “like a mommy duck does with a duckling”) and how the fact is there are only boys in the universe, except for Aunt Beru, and a really cool princess who just sort of sits around waiting for the men to save the universe.

He talks about how boys need to have the idea that a real man is someone who trusts and respects his sisters, and who wants to stand up for the bad guys, those who abuse women. He says wee need to nudge our sons to identify with those heroines. And he also suggests that when parents are loading up the Netflix queue, they adhere to the Bechdel test in order to assess movies:

Are there at least two women?

Do they talk to each other?

About something other than a man?

He also takes Pixar to task for creating all of these amazing kid’s movies that most of us who have kids have seen numerous times, for only having one which features a female lead, which is Brave. In a recent interview with Wicked Local Brookline Stokes says:

I think the most recent movies by Disney and Pixar, like ”The Princess and the Frog,” ”Tangled,” and ”Brave,” have complex young women at the center of some pretty entertaining adventures”¦But above all, I would urge parents and teens to explore the movies of the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney, whose name is Hayao Miyazaki. His classics like ”Spirited Away” and ”Kiki’s Delivery Service” have been dubbed into English, and it’s like discovering The Beatles. They’re just so rich and magical, and most of them have girl protagonists.

As a parent I am trying to raise a houseful of boys who aren’t misogynistic and who don’t view women as just members of the opposite sex who need saving. Conversations like the one Colin Stokes has raised give me a lot to consider when I’m deciding what to let them watch and what sort of movies I should actively seek out for them. Now, if only we had more female-driven characters and stories to choose from. Written and directed by women.

(image: Tumblr)


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