My daughter is a brilliant microbiologist. But she was reminding me the other day that she blames Disney for her bad taste in men.
Three movies in particular, she pointed out, make bad boys look good to get. She said it seemed reasonable when seen from a very early age. For instance, take Lady and the Tramp, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.
In each one, the good guy is a wreck.
In Lady and the Tramp the male dog is a not only a tramp (bum, ne’er-do-well, street-person) but he thinks he’s God’s gift to the female of the species. Look out, Lady. She sets out to change him so he can be her beau. In Beauty and the Beast you have a guy who is a mess both physically and emotionally. The Beauty sets out to change him, and voila – you’ve got a brilliant dance with the talking dishes. In Aladdin you have a handsome guy who is a thief and a liar.
Even West Side Story plays this up with the bad guy trying to get the good girl. It is supposed to be patterned after Romeo and Juliet but really the guy is a switch-blade carrying, grease-ball. The Pirates of Penzance was one of my children’s favorite musicals when they were very small. It’s about a pirate who wants to change and the girl who tries to change him.
These days the big rage in children’s lit and movies is often about the vacuous gorgeous girl finding a handsome vampire to marry and have little vamplets…i.e. “Breaking Dawn.” I suppose a whole race of blood-sucking super babies will engender another round of novels.
Perhaps we have never broken free of Victorian ideals of what a woman is. Women, the fragile species, can’t think. Can’t plan. Can’t make important decisions about the future. And for goodness sakes aren’t they hopeless with money?
Having spent the years my children attended public school (14 years) as a paraprofessional working with special education or as an inclusion teacher, I know firsthand the “self-esteem thing” was drilled into all students from preschool onward. Especially aimed at girls. No good came of it. Not a bit of difference did “education” make in how a child felt about themselves. If anything it made children aware of their own shortcomings.
Let us reflect on the many classic examples of the weak woman and the strong, yet heartless man. Take Charles Dickens‘s portrayals of the heroine – she is a weak, almost brainless, classic beauty with no personal or future expectations save to worship some man and reflect in his glory. (Exception note: In Great Expectations the heroine struggles out of her brainwashing by Ms. Haversham and discovers a few thought of her own. This was an anti-heroine for Mr. Dickens.)
Girls. Bad boys don’t change. You can’t make them change. They like their unchangeableness. Don’t waste your breath. It won’t work.
Parents beware. There are wonderful movies out there that have nothing to do with gender classification.
Here are a few examples: “The Sandlot“. “Beethoven Lives Upstairs“, wow, if you haven’t seen this movie you must do so. “Shrek” turns the tables on the good girl meets bad boy when we discover at the end that the good girl is a troll, too. “Toy Story” – and of the three, “Toy Story 3” is the best. There are so many good movies for kids that don’t make a big deal of THE STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER but instead have a simple story – the brilliance is often in the simplicity of reason.
And by the way, I have stumbled upon a wonderful heroine (Thursday Next) who upsets the apple cart of reason as she stumbles through her story as a litera-tec who works for Spec Ops 27. She “fixes” the ending of Jane Eyre. Loved this book – it’s called The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Good read.
Steer your child, boy or girl, away from movies that depict a character who thinks they have to change the person they love to make the world a better place. Or a character who decides to change their life to capture the one they think they love (see the movie “Zookeeper” cute – okay for older children like me).
No one can change another person. We can influence other people. We can lead by example. Children know without being told that – Actions speak louder than words.
When my daughter was a child I accepted the popular view that Disney movies were child-tested and parent approved. Silly me.