Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grappling with Gender issues, the Reel Deal, part 1

Bold sections by Lord Covington, regular text by Lady Covington

In a recent post, we discussed how certain tv programs may have negatively affected Toddleworth's views on gender. I thought it fair that we also discuss movies. While you may think movies or a single movie can't have as much influence as several seasons of a tv show, I ask that you keep in mind that these are movies a child is watching over and over.... and over....and over...

The movies that Toddles has been watch-on-repeat obsessed over in the past year include:

Monster House
Little Mermaid
Nightmare Before Christmas

We're going to try to give a summary and critique of each movie.  Originally intended to be a single blog, it became a Viking Edda ( long) and we have gone into enough detail that we feel each movie merits its own shorter post.  We do feel more strongly about some than others, so our apologies if we go long!
         The framework we will be using will look into the major female characters of the movie in terms of their:
Agency: Does the character act for herself? Does she make her own choices or have them dictated?
Backstory/Goals: Does the character have a past, or plans for the future?
Traditional Gender Roles: How much or little does the character conform to traditional gender roles?
Relatability:  Is the audience able to form a connection with this character/are they viewed as a realistic person?
We'll do this more or less chronologically, which will also correlate with our recent increase in being critical of media.

We watched Frozen in the theater before Toddles turned two, and he loved it. I don't think he was capable of staying put for the whole movie, but he got pretty close. He loved the music and tried to sing it after watching only once. I knew I would be buying it on Amazon the day it was available, and as soon as I did it became his favorite movie for quite some time. He can sing many of the songs, with his favorite of course being Let It Go. I'm sure most of you are quite familiar with how Frozen turned many Disney tropes on their heads, and I love the inclusion of adopted families and the emphasis on familiar love.
Bechdel test pass? Frozen passes the Bechdel test in its adorable opening scene.
Agency:  The film continues to provide powerful examples of women with agency. (Even when Elsa is isolated as a child, and fights against her 'curse' I see this as an active move she is doing to protect her family, even though she hates it.) Elsa runs away and chooses further isolation to try to keep her kingdom safe. There is the expedition by Anna to find Elsa, which is her choice even though it is heavily advised against by all the men around her. Finally, there is the willingness to self-sacrifice she shows when Anna throws herself in front of a blade for Elsa. Rather than be the passive object of somebody else's kiss, she ends up being the actor in the act of true love that breaks her curse.
Backstory/Goals: The backstory of Anna and Elsa is shown in the film, which is a good indicator of how their characters developed. They each have goals, Elsa tries her hardest to be a good ruler, and Anna begins just wanting to be social and maybe meet a boy. Her character is quite dynamic, she goes on the quest to find her sister, and ends up heroically saving her sister, and her love shows Elsa how Elsa can save the kingdom. Though Anna had two male interests in the film, her choices did not revolve around them, but rather her relationship with her sister.
Traditional Gender Roles: Both women are in dresses, but they are not traditional colors.  Both women are seen in leadership roles. I cannot recall another Disney princess giving a direct order, while both of these princesses do. They behave like they were raised to be authority figures.
Relatability: Anna is extremely naive in the beginning, but in a way anyone who has been a teenager can relate to. To me, Elsa's fear of her 'curse' in the beginning and fear of being a bad ruler is relatable to general fear of failure. Both women grow and change as the film progresses, making them realistic characters. Anna's eventual love interest spawned from partnership and shared experiences with Kristoff, rather than the love-at-first-sight she had with Hans. After all,

This is about as progressive a movie as Disney has made to date, we say happily.  It is not without it's flaws but it's still a huge leap for Disney.  If we are going to have Toddles watching the Disney kids cartoons ( instead of, ya know, locked up like Elsa, for example), then at least we have one not so much cringe worthy.  In Elsa, we ultimately learn that great powers come with great responsibilities.  Anna redefines Disney's usual narrative for love and focuses it on siblings rather than romance.
All in all, I hope Toddles has gained some important ideas about being a leader, and about being a sibling from this movie.

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