It’s much more than “just a film”, more than “just a toy”…

If you don’t already know about the Bechdel test, and you care about what influences (you and) your children are exposed to – watch this video for a brief explanation. Then read on to see how and why we should ensure our children are exposed to positive, healthy role models.

I recently reviewed the film Jack and the Giant Slayer, and accurately described it as rubbish. In short, the film’s nothing more than a load of special effects mixed in with a stereotypical storyline about a princess who needs to be rescued (by a man, of course!). Not exactly the kind of female role-modelling I am keen for my daughters to see, and if I had sons, I wouldn’t want them to grow up thinking that women were helpless.  Click here for the full review.

I ended my review by recommending Disney Pixar’s Brave as a good film to watch if you’re looking for a strong princess character. I hadn’t yet seen this video about Disney’s updated definition of a princess. 

Until the release of Brave, the Disney Princess franchise had long perpetuated the stereotype that the only thing a princess needs and wants is a castle and a prince. Hit the Disney Princess section in Toys R Us and you will see it loaded down with tea sets, strollers, princess dresses, tiaras and all good princess must haves. If you’re beady-eyed like me, you will notice that there is no Disney Prince section – Hmmm. I wonder why there are no Disney Prince outfits for sale? No big swords for little boys to play rescue princess games, and no toy versions of whatever it is princes presumably need.

Why is that???? Is it because these Disney Princes can’t compete with the ton of super hero comics, films, toys, and other paraphernalia, or is there another reason already out there?? I would hazard a guess that it’s a heck of a lot more to do with gender-based marketing and assigned gender roles, than a lot of everyday people realise. But I think the parents of sons (and the marketing aimed at boys) have already cottoned on – no-one’s going to buy their sons Prince costumes and tell them to play at rescuing princesses. But we still buy our daughters princess crap and show them the films about princesses who need rescued by men – and don’t get me started on the number of female villains in those Disney Princess movies. The overwhelmingly predominant message is clear – the strong women are either wicked bullying step-mothers or the evil witches, and the weak women need rescued by men. The men are either the heroes, or the fools who’ve been duped by witches.

Many parents have already made conscious decisions not to expose their daughters to Barbie and Disney Princess type toys. I was fortunate, my daughters were just not very interested in this sort of stuff – hopefully because I exposed them to other, better play things and entertainment. Is this updated version of the princess enough, though? Is it too late??? I hope not.

Parents, I beg you – don’t “train” your kids to be or admire heroes or princesses. Think about the long term message, the unconscious message that children are soaking up. Think about what you WANT your kids to grow up and believe. In his Ted Talk, Colin Stokes explains it here. 

Here’s what The Double Parent believes all children need to grow up knowing:

1. Women are not damsels in distress, men are not rescuers of women.

2. Just as men don’t need to aspire to marriage, home-making, or child-rearing to be happy, neither do women.

3. Women and girls can do anything men and boys can do. No sex/gender is better or stronger, or weaker and more dependent.

4. Gender is learned. Be yourself. Think for yourself. Don’t be what society, what advertisements, marketers, and the corporate world dictates – be what is true to you. And do whatever it takes to find that true you inside.

5. Finding that real you is a journey that will last you your entire life. Enjoy it, and don’t be afraid to be different, or wrong and don’t be afraid of change.

Click here for Mickey Mouse Monopoly.

Click on the links to reach The Double Parent on facebook and Twitter.

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13 thoughts on “It’s much more than “just a film”, more than “just a toy”…

  1. Posted a link to this post on my facebook page and it has provoked some lively discussion – thank you 🙂

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  2. Hi Lucy,

    Thanks for sharing. The post also managed to strike up some lively discussion on my facebook page!!

    I enjoy reading your posts. Like you, I’m a displaced Brit – a Scot Abroad, to be precise. Now living and raising my children in Canada, and missing the great British curries like crazy!

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  3. […] For more information on appropriate films and role-models and to learn about the Bechdel Test and How Movies Create Manhood click here. […]

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  4. Love this NB. Somehow I have *never* even thought of the Disney Prince thing! Going to keep thinking on it, thanks for sharing. Will share on the page. – Kimberley

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  5. Thanks, Kimberly. I had thought briefly about the whole Disney Prince thing when my daughters were younger, but I hadn’t really developed the idea further until I was writing this piece. It’s really amazing how much we absorb from media, society and cultural forces without ever truly thinking it through.

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  6. LOVE, love, love this post, Nicola! Disney is a treasure trove of negative gender and ethnic stereotypes (not to single them out…). If you have the chance to see ‘Mickey Mouse Monopoly’, I recommend that you do it. I watched it with with my son via the Media Education Foundation website. Looking forward to reading more of your blog — glad I found you!

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  7. Kristin,

    I am going to try my darndest to find Mickey Mouse Monopoly and watch it. I have to admit, that the older my children get, the more of Disney I dislike. I cancelled my subscription so they couldn’t watch The Family Channel, YTV and other similar tweenie trash.

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  8. […] recently wrote a piece called “More than just a film, more than just a toy” which provoked a lot of great dialogue about the things we let influence ourselves and our […]

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  9. […] Click here to read about the Bechdel Test, How movies make manhood, and more about how the films we watch influence us and our children. Click here to watch Mickey Mouse Monopoly, a film by the Media Education Foundation, that takes a close and critical look at the world these films create and the stories they tell about race, gender and class and reaches disturbing conclusions about the values propagated under the guise of innocence and fun. […]

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  10. […] latter – we all love figure skating and despite what I wrote in Mickey Mouse Monopoly and in  More than just a Film, More than just a Toy, there IS still something truly magical about the whole Disney […]

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  11. David says:

    The reason why there are no prince dolls is because in all of the Disney movies the prince plays a tiny almost insignificant roll in all of these movies.

    Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel are all the centre characters of these stories. These stories are about the ordeals of the Princesses. This is not a story about the prince. The prince character is just symbolic of returning to normal. Why would any boy want to dress up as Prince Charming when he has not even 20 minutes of screen time?

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  12. But the prince save the princess – making him the hero of the tale. The truth is (IMHO), boys don’t emulate these princes for several reasons:

    They aren’t exposed to them as much as girls are exposed to the princesses.
    Parents and other significant adults don’t encourage them to emulate Prince Charming etc.
    Gender-based marketing and gender-based product manufacturing don’t facilitate this.

    And many more reasons, but not for the ones you mention.

    Thank you so much for commenting and participating in the discussion. That’s my aim in writing this – to foster discussion and have people think about these things.

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  13. […] 4/28/13]: More on the Bechdel test from the Double Parent, focusing on princesses who need to be rescued by a prince, many of these movies by […]

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