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Michael Calleri, a freelance writer who was reviewing movies for the Niagara Falls Reporter, couldn’t figure out why some of his reviews made it to publication while others didn’t.

In the Chicago-Sun Times, Calleri writes:

I emailed the owner again asking for guidance. Why were some reviews making it onto the web and not others? I got my answer in the form of an email that is so shocking, it seems to come from another galaxy, an evil one. What dark void produced what you are about to read is anyone’s guess. What causes a male human being to so rigidly hate the opposite sex that he fears not only the power of women, but also the power of movies…Below is the email I received, exactly as written. It came after a series of phone calls and emails in which I was seeking answers. The initial email in this series was sent by me with the subject line: “Actually, I need direction for Saturday.” The spelling and spacing and punctuation are exactly as written to me by the publisher. In his email, he references the films “Snow White And The Huntsman” and “Headhunters,” which he calls “Headhunter.” Here’s the email:

Michael; I know you are committed to writing your reviews, and put a lot of effort into them. it is important for you to have the right publisher. i may not be it. i have a deep moral objection to publishing reviews of films that offend me. snow white and the huntsman is such a film. when my boys were young i would never have allowed them to go to such a film for i believe it would injure their developing manhood. if i would not let my own sons see it, why would i want to publish anything about it?
snow white and the huntsman is trash. moral garbage. a lot of fuzzy feminist thinking and pandering to creepy hollywood mores produced by metrosexual imbeciles.

I don’t want to publish reviews of films where women are alpha and men are beta.
where women are heroes and villains and men are just lesser versions or shadows of females.

i believe in manliness.

not even on the web would i want to attach my name to snow white and the huntsman except to deconstruct its moral rot and its appeal to unmanly perfidious creeps.

i’m not sure what headhunter has to offer either but of what I read about it it sounds kind of creepy and morally repugnant.

with all the publications in the world who glorify what i find offensive, it should not be hard for you to publish your reviews with any number of these.

they seem to like critiques from an artistic standpoint without a word about the moral turpitude seeping into the consciousness of young people who go to watch such things as snow white and get indoctrinated to the hollywood agenda of glorifying degenerate power women and promoting as natural the weakling, hyena -like men, cum eunuchs.

the male as lesser in courage strength and power than the female.

it may be ok for some but it is not my kind of manliness.

If you care to write reviews where men act like good strong men and have a heroic inspiring influence on young people to build up their character (if there are such movies being made) i will be glad to publish these.

i am not interested in supporting the reversing of traditional gender roles.

i don’t want to associate the Niagara Falls Reporter with the trash of Hollywood and their ilk.

it is my opinion that hollywood has robbed america of its manliness and made us a nation of eunuchs who lacking all manliness welcome in the coming police state.

now i realize that you have a relationship with the studios etc. and i would have been glad to have discussed this in person with you to help you segue into another relationship with a publication but inasmuch as we spent 50 minutes on the phone from paris i did not want to take up more of your time.

In short i don’t care to publish reviews of films that offend me.

if you care to condemn the filmmakers as the pandering weasels that they are…. true hyenas.
i would be interested in that….
Frank

I feel about Frank kind of the same way I felt about Paul Ryan during the VP debate. Sickened but also relieved. At least the guy is honest. There it is in a nutshell.

I don’t want to publish reviews of films where women are alpha and men are beta.
where women are heroes and villains and men are just lesser versions or shadows of females.

It is pretty funny that Frank acts like Hollywood is some bastion of feminism. The men who run Hollywood, actually, have a great deal in common with Frank. A lot of parents, unfortunately, do as well. So when the heads of Disney shrug and say to the LA Times, with no shame at all, that boys just won’t see movies about girls and there’s nothing they can do about the preference of tots, don’t buy it. The problem here is not the five year old population.

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There is a lot to love and admire about “Wreck-It Ralph.” In many ways, both conspicuously and more subversively, the movie challenges gender stereotypes. That said, the gender matrix– a sexist framework that dominates animated films made for children– remains intact. Watching “Wreck-It Ralph,” for me, is like reading the Greek Myths; there are strong, complex females to admire but they are only permitted to demonstrate their power within a firmly established patriarchy.

Vanellope von Schweetz is such a cool Minority Feisty. She is smart, funny, daring, talented, compassionate, and vulnerable. She kicks ass but also has a huge heart. Vanellope is voiced by one of my favorite comedians, Sarah Silverman, and let’s just say, those two have a lot in common. Icing on the cake: Vanellope saves Ralph’s life with her speed and smarts. The cross-gender friendship between Vanellope and Ralph is the heart of the movie.

Vanellope is not the only Minority Feisty to love in “Ralph.” Sargeant Calhoun, voiced by Jane Lynch, also plays a complex and cool role. She is a fierce military woman but also passionate with a strong moral fiber.

A third Minority Feisty is Moppet Girl who hangs out at the arcade. Though her gender is a minority in the arcade crowd (I know, I know, that’s how it is is the “real world”) she is there and delivers the key line in the plot. Moppet Girl tells the arcade owner that the Fix-It Felix game is broken. She is also the character who provides the plot bookend, giving a fist bump to Vanellope at the end of the movie when she returns to her rightful position as ruler. It is a rare scene in animation to see two females interacting with each other, expressing power and victory. To put that scene in perspective, the awesome Minority Feisty of “Puss in Boots,”  Kitty Softpaws, never meets any of the other 4 females in the movie.

More coolness: One of the crowd scenes– in Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush– is female dominated. The trio of girls who actually get to speak in that crowd are a stereotype, the trifecta, of mean girls: one bitchy leader flanked by a pair of followers (as seen in “Mean Girls,” “Heathers” “Never Been Kissed,” and many more “chick flicks”.)

But still, females dominating a crowd scene– a crowd scene of race car drivers, no less– is nothing to sneeze at. Those cars may be made out of cookies and candy, the drivers may have names like Taffyta, reminiscent of “My Little Pony” but, still, progress noted.

There are still more depictions of female power in “Ralph.” A few weeks ago, I posted about “riding bitch:” how whether a female in kidworld is on a magic carpet (“Aladdin”) a dragon (“How to Train Your Dragon”) or a hippogriff (Harry Potter), she’s is almost always found behind the male. The message is: the boy leads, the girl is along for the ride. Not in this movie. In “Wreck-It Ralph” Sargeant Calhoun piloted some kind of motorized, flying surfboard and a space ship while Fix-it Felix rode shotgun. Not only was Felix in the passenger seat, but he gazed, admiringly at Calhoun as he watched her do her stuff. Calhoun was shown as attractive and powerful simultaneously. That, my friend, is almost never depicted. Vanellope, herself, becomes a race car driver. She is also shown in the driver’s seat with Ralph behind her. Ralph does teach her how to drive (when he doesn’t know how either) but her skills surpass his and he is shown admiring her for her talent. (I cannot find images on the web of Calhoun piloting with Fix-It Felix by her side or Vanellope driving with Ralph in the back. If you do, please send me the link.)

But here’s the gender matrix. Even breaking all these sexist barriers, Ralph is clearly the protagonist. The movie is named for him. He’s the hero. Fix-It Felix is the “good guy” to Ralph’s “bad guy.” The real bad guy, the villain of the movie, Turbo, is also male. Turbo masquerades as King Candy but when Vanellope is restored to her rightful role as ruler, she is “princess,” not “queen.” In an often used cliche in children’s movies trying to straddle the princess-empowerment image, Vanellope tears off her puffy, pink dress. Later, in  the movie, when she has to wear the dress to attend a wedding, she is uncomfortable and scratches her neck. (I actually appreciated that detail much more than the overused “rip off your princess-dress/ corset” cliche. Another awesome factor: the toys from the movie. As far as I can see, the Vanellope figure is shown in her regular clothes or driving her car, not wearing the princess outfit she hates in the movie, which is, unfortunately, how Disney sells Mulan.)

The Bad Guy Anon meetings were hilarious and creative. I was cracking up watching them but these scenes fortify the sexist matrix.

The whole thesis of the movie is about being a bad “guy.” There was only one female in the bad “guy” group and she didn’t get a single line. It is mostly that cast of characters that made the poster that is all over San Francisco.

The bad female is not on this poster, nor is Vanellope, Calhoun, and Moppet Girl. When I posted earlier about the sexist poster, “Wreck-It Ralph” fans responded with hundreds of angry comments on Reel Girl and all over the web. Their first complaint was that the movie features strong female characters. It does. But the male is still the lead. That is what this poster clearly shows. That is why the poster was created to look this way and why the film is titled for Ralph.

Also, the poster is its own media. Even if you don’t see the movie, your kids see the poster on buses and looming over them on the sides of buildings. And again, if 50% of posters around town featured females, there would be no problem with “Wreck-It Ralph.” But, “Wreck it Ralph” fits a pattern, echoed and repeated, where males star and females are sidelined or missing.

Commenters on that blog post also told me the movie is called “Sugar Rush” in Japan. I think that’s pretty cool, but it’s still not called “The Racer, Vanellope” and it’s the U.S. version that sets the cultural standards here. Also, once again, Ralph narrates, the movie is Ralph’s story. Vanellope is his friend.

Why is the gender of the protagonist so crucial? We are all the heroes in our own lives. Again and again, with these films, girls see that there is a limit, a ceiling, to their potential, and it is marked with a male. No matter how important they are or how big a role they get to play, there is a guy who gets more.

Reel Girl rates “Wreck-It Ralph ***HH*** Take your kids to see this movie!

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So sick of people saying I should be grateful for crumbs and the Minority Feisty. If all goes well, My nine year daughter and I are going to see “Wreck-It Ralph” today. I’ll try to review Saturday morning.

Last year’s post:

Thanksgiving movies a feast for boys, girls go hungry

November 23, 2011

Let’s see, no school today and my daughters want to see a movie.

Is it too much to ask for one holiday movie to put a female character front and center as it does for male characters in all 5 holiday movies?

What about a mother-daughter saga instead of father-son one as in “Arthur” (Santa’s incompetent son) and “Happy Feet” (Mumble’s son can’t dance like he can)?

Or a girl buddy movie as in “Puss In Boots” (Puss and Humpty dream, go on adventures, and finally, transition)?

I don’t know what “Hugo” is about but something tells me not a girl.

Puss In Boots:

Hugo:

Happy Feet 2:

Arthur Christmas:

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Last week, when I turned on the TV to put on a DVD, with my kids surrounding me, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” blared into our den.

We had caught the movie in the middle of an action scene featuring all three Angels. My daughters’s mouths dropped open. They were so transfixed that I paused to let them watch, but then the hours of ads started, and I popped on Miyazaki.

But after that, I couldn’t get “Charlie’s Angels” out of my head. With the exception of “The Powerpuff Girls,” I don’t think my daughters had ever witnessed three females working together to save the world. I thought about the looks of delight, excitement, and awe on their faces and wondered if I should let them watch the movie.

Not only did I love the first Charlie’s Angels movie (the second one, “Full Throttle,” dragged) but when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the TV show. I was eight years old when I started watching, and I loved that it was all about girls. I didn’t have to wait around, bored, to finally see a female saunter in to wander around the margins of the TV show. I also liked that the show was about three girls (I know “women” is correct here, but from my eight year old self point of view, I distinctly remember thinking: it’s all about girls doing stuff.)

Another reason I was a fan of the show was that the Angels were in different disguises every week. I couldn’t wait to see what roles they were all going to play. I think that watching them be different people gave me the idea that multiple identities were possible.

I was inspired by “Charlie’s Angels.” When I was nine years old, I began a novel that when completed was 120 pages, typed, about Kris Monroe (Cheryl Ladd’s character) and her adventures as a girl. My book was called “Look Out! Here Comes Kris” and besides “Charlie’s Angels,” my protagonist was influenced by Ramona, of “Ramona the Pest” fame and, also, my little sister. When I showed my book to my teacher, she asked me to read a chapter a day to my fifth grade class in homeroom. That whole experience helped to solidify my identity as a writer.

So did it matter that “Charlie’s Angels” was “jiggle TV?” Like I said, I was excited to see females get to be the stars of the show. But that is not to say the flowing hair, cleavage, and skinny bodies were lost on me. Early on, I got the importance of “beauty” in a woman’s life, in no small part, from my experience as fan of this show. To me, it seemed like “beauty” was a means to an end. If you wanted to have an exciting life, if you wanted to have adventure, if you wanted things to happen to you, if you were a girl, then first, before any of that, you had to be “beautiful.” I put “beauty” in quotes because I’m referring to the cultural definition of beauty.

One thing I love about Drew Barrymore’s movie is that she mocks that stereotype with the slow-mo flowing hair and exaggerated sexual innuendos. But back to considering the movie for my kids, as I posted just a couple days ago, kids don’t get irony. So would the movie, with all the Cameron Diaz’s butt shaking, be bad for my kids?

Here is what sucks: in 2012, there are still no action-adventure movies where three females work together to save the world. Even in adventure-fantasy books, from classics like Alice of Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, and Lucy of Chronicles of Narnia to the contemporary ones like Lyra of The Golden Compass— the female protag is surrounded by a constellation of mostly male characters. When do you get to see females bonding not over men or make-up, but skill?

So the bottom line is I got the movie for kids. Right when I opened the DVD, one of my daughters picked up the box,  turned to her sister and said: “Who do you think is the prettiest?”

I stopped and wondered: is this a bad idea? “Which one is smart? Which one is brave? Which one is fast?” I asked them. But that thought process is hard to generate when the picture shows them all just standing there, skinny, hip-cocked, not doing anything they are in the movie, not driving a race car, breaking into a safe, or making a bomb.

I went ahead and pushed play.

My kids loved the movie. I did, too. But my daughters and I, we’re all waiting for more action-adventure movies starring women, as in plural.

Reel Girl rates “Charlie’s Angels” ***HH***

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A Cat in Paris ***HH***

It’s been a while since I’ve done an actual movie review. The TV ads and the posters I’ve seen are so sexist, its been hard for me to get myself to an actual theater. But I’ve wanted to see “A Cat in Paris” ever since it received an Academy Award nomination. (I was so thrilled that “Tintin” didn’t get nominated.)

I really liked “A Cat in Paris.” So, for the most part, did my kids (ages 3, 6, 9)

Here’s the summary from imdb.com:

In Paris, a cat who lives a secret life as a cat burglar’s aide must come to the rescue of Zoe, the little girl he lives with, after she falls into a gangster’s clutches.

The cat, the star of the movie and the character in the title, is male. But the movie has three strong female characters: the mom, her daughter Zoe, and her Nanny. They still are a Minority Feisty because the whole band of bad guys, led by the evil Costa, are all male. The hero cat burglar is also male.

I was particularly fascinated by the mom character. She is a superintendent, a police detective who is definitely the boss in this movie. I loved that my kids got to see a professional woman be smart and in charge, take risks and engage in all kids of brave acts. There are fantasy sequences where the mom fights a giant, red octopus that are really cool. I did have some issues: there is the cliche of working mom neglecting her child and the evil nanny. The mom’s breasts were also distracting to me, though my kids, who often comment on the the way females– animated and actual–  wiggle their butts on TV, didn’t mention anything about the mom’s anatomy. There is also an idol, a piece of art, with a distracting penis. Don’t get scared. The movie is French, people. My kids didn’t mention the phallic symbol either.

Zoe doesn’t speak for most of the movie, and at first that annoyed me, and annoyed my three year old as well. (MAMA, WHY DOESN’T SHE TALK? followed by frustrated tears.) But by the end of the movie, Zoe is speaking, so I look at “A Cat in Paris” as the story of how she gets her voice back, and that’s pretty cool.

The animation in this movie is spectacular and the images of Paris are gorgeous.

This movie was just released on DVD, and I liked it so much that I bought it.

Reel Girl rates “A Cat in Paris” ***HH***

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Last night on TV, while watching World Series Game 2 with my three young daughters, we all saw a commercial for “Rise of the Guardians,” the Christmas-themed animated movie coming out November 21. Guess who was missing from the multitude of characters in the preview?

Females. Not one damn female voice. Seriously.

A Google search tells me there is, in fact, a Minority Feisty (the tiny minority representation of strong females you can usually find in animated films for kids): the Tooth Fairy.

I know, I know, “Rise of the Guardians” is derivative. Mythical characters throughout history are males. “Rise of the Guardians” features the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost, just like “Hotel Transylvania” features famous monsters like Dracula and Frakenstein or  the bad guys of “Wreck-It Ralph” are based on pre-existing video games. What can Hollywood do about that?

Hmmm..what about not being so lazy and using a little imagination? Why not conceive of previously male characters as female? Or what about creating some brand new female characters? Ever heard of Santa Claus’s evil sister? If that use of imagination is too challenging for Hollywood, why not make the Tooth Fairy the star of the movie instead of Jack Frost?

But come on Hollywood, aren’t stories for children supposed to be imaginative?

Here is the crazy irony. This is imdb.com’s synopsis of “Rise of the Guardians:”

When an evil spirit known as Pitch lays down the gauntlet to take over the world, the immortal Guardians must join forces for the first time to protect the hopes, beliefs and imagination of children all over the world.

Protecting the imaginations of kids is the whole reason I started this blog, Reel Girl. After having my three daughters, I was blown away by the gender stereotypes marketed to my kids through animated movies. These images and narratives in children’s movies repeatedly teach little kids that males are the adventurers, the risk-takers, and the stars, while females– half of the kid population– are continually limited to a sidelined minority.

Anyone remember 2011’s holiday movie, “Arthur Christmas?” Can you find the lone female here?

I honestly don’t know if you can even say that “Mrs. Claus” qualifies as a Minority Feisty.

And by the way, if you scoffed at my reference to Santa’s evil sister above, isn’t Santa’s son Arthur, the star of this movie, a newly made-up character? Why not put Santa’s daughter at the top of an elf-girl pyramid?

Can you imagine that? Try hard to think up a poster for an animated movie in 2012 that shows this gender ratio here but reversed. Would you do a double take? Would parents think “Fantastic Ms. Fox” was some crazy lesbian movie? Is that the concern here?

There is no good reason for the imaginary world to be sexist like this. It’s the imaginary world! Anything should be possible, even equality.

How do you think seeing these stereotyped gender roles repeated again and again is affecting your child’s imagination? Her aspirations?

Here’s an interesting “coincidence:” 16% of characters in movies for kids are female; in 2012, in top positions in professions all across America, women rarely make it past 16%.

Tell your kids that it shouldn’t be normal for females to go missing, either in movie poster after movie poster or in a boardroom.

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Looking at my last two posts, the representation of masculinity and femininity marketed to kids is radical. I wish these images were unusual. Kids brains are being wired up. Are these kinds of repetitive images the ones we want to be molding their minds?

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