I even appreciate the YouTube trolls who helpfully reveal their misogyny (behind the cover of a username, of course)–thus proving my point. These guys (?) feel so threatened by female equality that they puff up their chests and denounce it in any public forum. Evidently they feel their status in their circles will be enhanced by ridiculing and insulting ideas that critique their assumptions.
You’ve seen what happens next, right? Foolhardy defenders attempt to engage in dialogue with the name-callers. But they’re just feeding the fire; bullies aren’t interested in persuasion, only in dominance. They are like Darth Vader in the face of calm Princess Leia–interrupting her with a booming voice and a wagging finger, telling her who he believes her to be and sending her off.
Anyway, for the TED blog, Kate gave me the fun assignment of thinking of a few more movies to compare along the lines of The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars. I thought of three common formulas that have been treated in typical ways in high-quality movies, and offered films that I encourage parents and filmmakers to promote because of the unusual way they include teamwork and respect:
Movie formula: The Quest
- Typical Version: A boy’s world is threatened by an evil male force. He must train and mobilize other boys to defeat the enemy in a violent conflict. There is essentially one female, who is granted to the hero as a prize. Examples: Star Wars, The Hobbit, The Lion King
- Enlightened version: A boy or girl (or team) seeks to heal an injustice in the world. They must make friends who share their goal to change the culture of an older generation, by modeling a better way. Examples: The Wizard of Oz, The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal, Castle in the Sky (Japan), Spy Kids 1 & 2, , Tangled
Movie formula: Finding a Purpose
- Typical Version: A boy finds his place among men through mastery of a skill, understanding of competition and teamwork, and/or moving up in the male hierarchy. There is essentially one female, who is granted to the hero as a prize. Examples: A Bug’s Life, Cars, Ratatouille
- Enlightened Version: A boy or girl finds his or her place in a diverse society through self-knowledge and the application of skills to communal goals. Examples: Kiki’s Delivery Service (Japan), Babe, Stuart Little 1 & 2
Movie formula: The Secret Alien
- Typical Version: A young boy comes into contact with a being seen as dangerous by the adult male world, and moves up in the male hierarchy by using the being against shared enemies. Examples: Iron Giant, How To Train Your Dragon
- Enlightened Version: A boy or girl comes into contact with a being seen as dangerous by diverse adult world, and re-orders the world’s assumptions in the act of stewarding it to safety. Examples: E.T., Lilo & Stitch, Monsters Inc., Secret World of Arrietty (Japan)
One additional plug: A number of you have jumped up and down to spread the word about the children’s films of Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki, sometimes called Japan’s Disney. He and the studio he co-founded, Studio Ghibli, demonstrate in film after film that adventure and magic and spectacle do not require male-dominated, violence-driven heroism.
Every film he’s made is worth seeing; most are classics. The littlest kids can go for My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo, and The Secret World of Arrietty. When they’re a little older, Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky will transport them. The Hunger Games set will devour Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke. The thinking parent will be challenged by them all as well.
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Okay, what did I miss? Are there other films you think work as great stories without resorting to excluding girls or holding up violence as the best means to resolution?