Taking My Nephews to See ‘Brave’

SidneyAnne Stone hopes that the fairy tales of the future can help undo some of the damaging messages about gender that have been sent to boys and girls in the past.

Several months ago, I took my nephews to see Brave because I wanted them to see a fairytale with a strong heroine and not just one that sleeps in a tower somewhere waiting for a man to rescue her. All too often, children grow up reading (and subconsciously believing) that the role of the woman is to wait for her prince and the role of the man is to rescue her. Clearly, those roles have changed considerably, but I think a little bit of the damage from those old-school fairytales lingers at times. I still see it amongst my own group of friends. When things go wrong, or the car breaks down, they revert back to that little girl state and start looking for the white horse to come riding in instead of working it out on their own as they would with any other problem.

Now, you might wonder why it is so important to me to teach this to my nephews. Here’s why: 1) I don’t have nieces and 2) We can’t expect gender roles to change if we don’t change them from both sides. Many of the divorced men I know confess to feeling undue pressure, whether real or perceived, to “always take care of everything” and that, ultimately, they were responsible for carrying the weight of the entire family. That way of thinking puts a lot of undue pressure on both the man and the relationship. Couples are supposed to be partners. I know I would prefer to be a partner than to be perceived as the baggage weighing someone down. I want to contribute equally in all matters and to be thought of as an equal partner.

As for the boys, this life lesson comes in the form of a cartoon, not some big sit-down talk. They are just children, after all, but I don’t fill their heads with the fairytales I grew up on because I don’t think they are productive in today’s world. I laughed for ten minutes during Shrek the Third when Fiona’s character gets trapped with the other princesses and they “assume the stance” and wait to be rescued which meant napping, laying down and various forms of sitting pretty. Fiona, being the take charge ogre that she is, proceeds to find a way out and kick some serious butt in the process. Now, we just have to move even further away from the myth that you can’t be feminine and kick ass at the same time… baby steps. So, when I watch cartoons with the little men in my life, I prefer to watch this type because they plant a very important seed early on and, with a little guidance, I hope they will be better men for it someday!

For women that have already been raised on old school fairytales, I recommend the following: SheNow.orgtheconversation.tv and SheQuotes.com. They are all run by very strong women and they have continued messages of support and empowerment for women by women.

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About SidneyAnne Stone

SidneyAnne Stone is a freelance writer, Breast Cancer survivor,
Marathoner and activist. SidneyAnne is a blogger for the Huffington
Post. Her work can also be found on www.theconversation.tv, on
SheNow.com and in Chicken Soup for the Soul. She is currently working
on her first novel and documentary.

Comments

  1. The problem is, while this traditional fairytale trope of the damsel in distress is being replaced by a more healthy, three-dimensional sense of empowerment for girls, you should also take note that there’s a consequence to this:

    The strong-heroine as competant and the male protangonist as a two-dimensional buffoon.

    In this, the heroine is portrayed as the problem solver, balanced in the mind and gets things done while the men (or man) is portrayed as incompetant or a doormat. The latter is even worse as he is subject to abuse or insults from the heroine when not warranted and can’t defend himself.

    That’s the thing you have to watch out for and one of the reasons why I have trouble trusting storylines with strong female characters like the one in Brave. Because it’s all too easy to reduce the male support to doormats or idiots.

    I did catch more of Brave one time and, thankfully, they didn’t do this. The father was a great character and actually very salient, loving.

    I thanked god for this. Because if he wasn’t, I would’ve thrown the remote at the tv screen and gotten triggered majorly.

    Because a lot of these strong, capable women like those portrayed in the storylines you speak, hurt me. MAJORLY!

    And to this day, hardly anybody recognizes how much abuse a girl or woman can inflict towards a boy or a man. Even the strong, capable ones.

    I once slammed a book down hard on the floor and yelled an obscenity to the air because, in that book, the female protagonist joined in with her friends in making fun of a boy who was being picked on. I was THIS close to tears and tearing the book apart, piece by piece.

    Luckily, she owns up to her garbage and grows throughout the book.

    See what I mean? Why do we have to prop up female characters and tear down male characters at the same time?

    Honestly, as someone who was traumatized by both genders, what makes it justifiable? Really?

    I sincerly hope you teach your nephews to watch for signs of strong female characters tearing down the supporting male characters or a storyline portraying every single male character as a buffoon compared to the strong female heroine.

    And before someone comes barging in here, claiming I want to roll back female roles, I do like stories with strong female characters…

    PROVIDED…

    …that those female characters don’t go around abusing or hurting the male support. Nor do the storylines reduce the male support to bumbling doormats. Instead, both roles are 50-50 in the strong department.

    Examples:

    The Never Ending Story: In the book, the empress is capable and actually does something about a situation. But everyone else’s dimensions aren’t reduced because of it.

    Momo: Strong, competant female protagonist. Multi-dimensional male ones.

    The Hunger Games Trilogy: Strong female character but the male characters are three-dimensional as well.

    Bone Graphic Novel Series: Same as above. Plus, there’s no subtle blaming of men in them either.

    You should probably turn your nephews to these stories like you’ve done with Brave.

    My point: Be careful with the “Strong female character” trope being pushed nowadays. Make sure it comes from a genuine context and it services the storyline. Not from a “All men are idiots, ha ha ha! Time for women to take over” perspective. Because, believe it or not, that’s just as harmful as your “Damsels in distress only” trope.

    Plus, read this article here for more context behind my comment. I wrote it myself.

    http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/bullied-by-girls-and-women-one-mans-account/

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I want to make clear that you’re saying Brave did NOT do that.

      The way this sounds is a bit confusing, as if you’re saying all strong female characters mean buffoonish male characters. We know that’s not true. It’s not either/or. Both can be strong.

      Wreck-it Ralph was the perfect example of this. There were 4 heroes. 2 male, 2 female. All were good at different things at different times, and each had a problematic personality flaw that they had to overcome. The female characters’ strength never took away from the male characters’ strength, it was all complimentary to one another and that is real life. One hero is clever, one is physically strong, one can shoot, and one is fast, etc.

      As a team we move forward and defeat the bad guy.

      Let’s be careful not to make it into a binary where it doesn’t need to be.

      • Amen. Sometimes it is different for people to break away from that mindset. Not everyone is trying to belittle the other sex.

        • SidneyAnne Stone says:

          It is not intended to divide the sexes but, rather, to unite them. Men and women should be a team of equals each carrying their own weight. It is more about mutual respect for one another than anything else.

      • Joanna: “I want to make clear that you’re saying Brave did NOT do that.”

        I mentioned that Brave didn’t in this sentence here:

        Me: “I did catch more of Brave one time and, thankfully, they didn’t do this. The father was a great character and actually very salient, loving. I thanked god for this. Because if he wasn’t, I would’ve thrown the remote at the tv screen and gotten triggered majorly.”

        In case it wasn’t clear to you before.

        Joanna: “The way this sounds is a bit confusing, as if you’re saying all strong female characters mean buffoonish male characters. We know that’s not true. It’s not either/or. Both can be strong.”

        Not in some stories, Joanna. These stories exist. I’ve read them, watched them, with disgust. Especually the example I pointed out here:

        Me: “I once slammed a book down hard on the floor and yelled an obscenity to the air because, in that book, the female protagonist joined in with her friends in making fun of a boy who was being picked on. I was THIS close to tears and tearing the book apart, piece by piece.”

        And as I pointed out as well, if the female protagonist in that story hadn’t learned anything or grown as a character, I would’ve torn that book to shreds. Truthfully, I would’ve. Because I’ve experienced enough women and girls like that in real life.

        Joanna: “Wreck-it Ralph was the perfect example of this. There were 4 heroes. 2 male, 2 female. All were good at different things at different times, and each had a problematic personality flaw that they had to overcome. The female characters’ strength never took away from the male characters’ strength, it was all complimentary to one another and that is real life. One hero is clever, one is physically strong, one can shoot, and one is fast, etc.”

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t one of the male protagonists get slapped around by one of the female protagonists because he was trying to court her or something in that movie? If it were a male protagonist doing that to a femal protagonist, I doubt you’d be objective.

        Joanna: Let’s be careful not to make it into a binary where it doesn’t need to be.

        Too late. Those stories I talked of did it already.

        Joanna, I’m just trying to point out a very real concern here. Whether you agree or not, whatever the semantics, those stories and movies I speak of exist.

  2. Among the characters in so many movies and TV shows that could use some gender equity are the anonymous soldiers/police/laborers who are the tools of the antagonists and protagonists and their cannon fodder. The brutal guards or soldiers who end up having their butts kicked seriously are almost invariably male. (I did not see the Shrek movie, so I’m not sure if Fiona also kicked some female guard butt, too. Did she? Nor have I seen Brave to see if she put loutish, female minor characters on their backs.)

    Hopefully, you can take your nephews to a movie where the mass of men in the minor roles are not viewed as morally inferior and/or expendable.

    By the way, I think the TV show Farscape did a fair job of providing a good mix of male and female positive role models as well as male and female villains and cannon fodder. Lads in distress were rescued as well as damsels. Though, they did have a recurring trope of a female character abusing some special sexual attractions (pheromones or such) that allowed her to manipulate only the males. The resistant females would rescue them. I don’t ever recall seeing the reverse.

  3. Whiteoak: I did not see the Shrek movie, so I’m not sure if Fiona also kicked some female guard butt, too. Did she? Nor have I seen Brave to see if she put loutish, female minor characters on their backs.

    From what I did see in Brave, it was always her mother who spoke against her acts of rebellion, enforcing tradition. The father was very supportive of her daughter and a really great character. Never failed to make me smile and root for him and the main protagonist when they see eye to eye in their interactions. :)

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