I LOVE KIDS’ MOVIES! (I also love kids’ books, but that’s for another post.) I don’t have children yet, but I still enjoy watching movies geared toward kids. My husband thinks I’m crazy sometimes, but I’m lucky to have nieces and nephews whom I can go to these movies with until I have my own kids. Before I was married I would go see these movies with the one or two friends who would go with me or I’d simply go on my own. I like to know what kinds of myths we’re teaching kids these days and filtering out the ones that I would want my kids to grow up with.
Today I saw a very interesting 13 minute TED talk. I enjoy watching TED talks; I learn so many new things about cutting edge technology, medicine, social sciences, education and global consciousness. I sit and listen to the talks when I’m doing chores or when I have a 15 minute window to waste “watching TV” on my computer. I’m not sure what Mr. Colin Stokes does for a living or how he got to produce a TED talk, but I found his perspective on the movies we expose our children to very thought-provoking. His talk was about “How Movies Teach Manhood.” (You can watch his video for yourself here.) He talks about movies that children grow up with and he theorizes what lessons they learn from them. Mr. Stokes has a daughter and a son, and he observes them under the influences of the movies they watch. He wonders what are my kids learning from this movie? Are my children learning the lessons I want them to learn from watching this movie? He observes that Hollywood indoctrinate boys with the idea of “concur the bad guys and get rewarded with a girl” and in more recent year we’re slowly teaching our girls “girl power.” That’s great, but Mr. Stokes poses the question: Are these movies helping our children learn to work together in the real world? (Granted this isn’t his exact question, but I’m paraphrasing here.)
The thing that I like most about this talk is that I’ve often asked such questions myself as I watch kids’ movies. I often wonder if I would ever want my future child to watch XYZ movie? The funny thing is that sometimes my answer is “no.” The books kids read and the movies kids watch truly shape who they become. Which, I think is one of Mr. Stokes’s concerns. That’s why we must be selective about what kids watch and read.
Mr. Stokes uses the Wizard of Oz and Star Wars as prime examples of what kids can learn from movies. In fact, he uses Star Wars as his example of concurring evil and getting the girl where as he portrays the Wizard of Oz as an example of leadership through “making friends and working together.”
This will totally date me, but the earliest memory I have is sitting in a theater with my mom and grandma watching Return of the Jedi for the first time. As with so many other children at the time, Star Wars ruled my life. I get people’s argument that Princess Leia was simply the token girl etc, but I was young. I loved Star Wars and I was Princess Leia who fought the evil empire with a lightsaber (because swords are so much cooler than big guns). Even though I agree with Mr. Stokes that learning to be a leader by making friends and bringing people together (as Dorothy does in the Wizard of Oz), in my eyes Princess Leia was a leader in a male dominated world and doing a great job holding her own. You should understand that I was a very independent little girl growing up and was more of a tomboy than a girly girl. I also grew up to be an engineer & scientist in a male dominated environment. Did Star Wars and Princess Leia influence my inclination for science and engineering, maybe – my sister grew up watching Star Wars too and she got a degree in Biology and is in medical school now. Hmm…
But my sister and I also grew up watching and loving Miyazaki movies too – Nausciaa & Kiki’s Delivery Service in particular since those were the only movies we had access to before Princess Mononoke came out. Personally, even more than the Wizard of Oz, Miyazaki’s movies have always portrayed strong female protagonists AND the kinds of male protagonists, at least in my opinion, that fit the bill of the kind of heroes that Mr. Stokes wishes for American movies. The male protagonists in Miyazaki’s movies always have goals that align with those of the female protagonist and he always strives “to work together” to achieve the goal. Princess Mononoke is a prime example of this – though that came out when I was much, much older.
I’m sure there are but I wish there were more movies like Miyazaki’s. To be honest, I try to instill emotionally strong male and female protagonists into my own story.
I believe that real men need to be strong and yet soft at the same time. They must be physically strong enough to get the job done and emotionally strong enough to not allow their ego to take over their actions. A man can be stern and kind at the same time.
I believe that a real woman needs to also be soft and yet strong at the same time. A woman should be physically strong enough to hold her own and emotionally strong enough to use their emotion for the good of others. A woman can be soft and feminine while moving her chess pieces to win her battles. A “strong” man or woman can work with any type of person: young, old, male, female, black, white, or a short green frog, what matters is getting the job done for the betterment of everyone and not just themselves.
I think there are a lot more parents like Mr. Stokes out there who want their kids to be prepared for the unfortunate realities of the world. We want to shape the pliable minds of our children so they realize that they can be good, strong people and make a difference in the world.