Monday, April 1, 2013

Can I get a strong male character please?

... Okay so back to my regular programming... 

I’m focusing on the male side of the equality equation still.  Today I take on the Disney-fyied image of manhood and it probably won’t be pretty because I am more frustrated with the way men have been portrayed in this era than the ways women have been exploited.

For my daughter I was able to look at three female characters and their attributes that I would want my daughter to model her development after.  The most important aspect about this is simple...they were all animated humans, so she could see herself in their depiction.  So let’s attempt to do that exercise with the male characters in the last 10-15 years, and here are the options I come up with:

The male soldiers from Mulan
Flynn Ryder/Eugene from Tangled
Any of the male suitors or heads of the clans from Brave
Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story
Marlin from Nemo
Lightening McQueen from Cars
Sully from Monsters Inc.

My momma heart sinks with the options I have before me. The characters at the top of my list are portrayed as immature, brutal, criminal, or some combination of all three.  The male characters remain mostly flat throughout the stories they are a part of.  There might be some evolution of their personality but I find it hard to locate through the narcissistic way they are portrayed. on to the second part of my list.  I can get into some of the personality qualities of these characters, but they are not actually HUMAN.  Can my boys really imagine their adults selves embracing the positive character attributes of plastic toys, a car, a monster, or a fish?!?  Maybe...but I certainly don’t like the choices I have before me to point them towards male maturity.

I know I’m picking on Disney...but I don’t really think it’s their *fault*, as much as, I think they are one part of a bigger problem.  The children’s movie market is driven by what sells, so I believe Disney is capitalizing on our societal problems.  Can we just find some balance in our culture?  Men and women are both complex, layered creatures with the ability to overcome difficulty, evolve in maturity, and connect deeply with others.  Can we do some better storytelling for our future generations?  That seems to be the billion dollar question.

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