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The hidden meanings in kids’ movies | Colin Stokes | TEDxBeaconStreet


Translator: Luis Javier Salvador
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard You know, my favorite part of being a dad is the movies I get to watch. I love sharing my favorite movies with my kids and when my daughter was four,
we got to watch “The Wizard of Oz” together. Totally dominated her imagination for months. Her favorite character was Glinda, of course. Gave a great excuse to wear
a sparkly dress and carry a wand. You know, you watch a movie enough times and you start to realize how unusual it is. Now, we live today and are raising our children in a kind of children’s fantasy
spectacular industrial complex. But “The Wizard of Oz” stood alone,
it did not start that trend. Forty years later was
when the trend really caught on with, interestingly, another movie
that featured a metal guy and a furry guy rescuing a girl by dressing up
as the enemy’s guards. (Laughter) Do you know what I’m talking about? (Laughter) Now, there’s a big difference
between these two movies, a couple of really big differences
between “The Wizard of Oz” and all the movies we watch today. One is there’s very little violence
in “The Wizard of Oz”. The monkeys are rather aggressive
as are the apple trees. But I think if “The Wizard of Oz”
were made today, the wizard would say, “Dorothy, you are the savior of Oz
that the prophecy foretold. Use your magic slippers to defeat the computer-generated armies
of the Wicked Witch.” That’s not how it happens. Another thing that is really unique
about “The Wizard of Oz” to me is that all of the most heroic and wise
and even villainous characters are female. Now, I started to notice this when I actually showed “Star Wars”
to my daughter, which was years later
and the situation was different. At that point, I also had a son. He was only 3 at the time. He was not invited to the screening.
He’s too young for that. But he was a second child and the level
of supervision had plummeted. (Laughter) So, he wandered in and it imprinted on him
like a mommy duck does to its duckling. Is he picking up on the fact that
there are only boys in the universe, except for Aunt Beru and, of course,
this princess who is really cool but who kind of waits around
through most of the movie so that she can award the hero with a medal and a wink to thank him
for saving the universe, which he does by the magic
that he was born with. Compare this to 1939 with “The Wizard of Oz”. How does Dorothy win her movie? By making friends with everybody
and being a leader. That’s kind of the world
I’d rather raise my kids in. Why is there so much force,
capital F Force, in the movies we have for our kids and so little Yellow Brick Road? I know from my own experience
that Princess Leia did not provide the adequate context that I could’ve used in navigating the adult world that is co-ed. (Laughter) You know, there was
a kind of first-kiss moment when I really expected
the credits to start rolling because that’s the end of the movie, right? I finished my quest, I got the girl,
why are you still standing there? (Laughter) The movies are very, very focused
on defeating the villain and getting your reward
and there’s not a lot of room for other relationships and other journeys. It’s almost as though if you’re a boy,
you are a dopey animal and if you are a girl,
you should bring your warrior costume. I mean, there are plenty of exceptions and I will defend the Disney princesses
in front of any of you. But they do send a message to boys.
The boys are not really the target audience. They’re doing a phenomenal job of teaching girls how to defend against the patriarchy, but they’re not necessarily showing boys how they’re supposed to defend
against the patriarchy. There are no models for them. And we also have some terrific women
who are writing new stories for our kids. And as three-dimensional and delightful
as Hermione and Katniss are, these are still war movies. And, of course, the most
successful studio of all time continues to crank out
classic after classic, every single one of them about
the journey of a boy, or a man, or two men who are friends,
or a man and his son or two men who are raising a little girl. Until, as many of you are thinking, this year, when they finally came out with Brave. I recommend it to all of you.
It’s on demand now. (Laughter) You remember what the critics said
when Brave came out? “Ahh, I can’t believe Pixar
made a princess movie”. Now, almost none of these movies
passed the Bechdel test. Alison Bechdel is a comic book artist
and back in the mid ’80s she recorded this conversation
she’d had with a friend, about assessing the movies that they saw. It’s very simple.
It’s just three questions you should ask, Is there more than one character
in the movie that is female who has lines? So, try to meet that bar.
(Laughter) And do these women talk to each other
at any point in the movie? (Laughter) And is their conversation about
something other than the guy that they both like? (Laughter) Right? Thank you. (Applause) Thank you very much. Two women who exist and talk
to each other about stuff. It does happen. I’ve seen it. So, let’s look at the numbers. 2011, the hundred most popular movies. How many of them do you think
actually have female protagonists? Eleven. But there is a number
that is greater than this, that’s going to bring this room down. Last year, the New York Times published
a study that the government had done. Here’s what it said. One out of five women in America say that they have been sexually assaulted
sometime in their lives. Now, I don’t think that’s the fault
of popular entertainment. I don’t think kids’ movies
have anything to do with that, but something is going wrong and when I hear that statistic, one of the things I think of is,
that’s a lot of sexual assailants. Who are these guys?
What are they learning? What are they failing to learn? Are they absorbing the story
that a male hero’s job is to defeat the villain with violence
and then collect the reward, which is a woman who has no friends
and doesn’t speak? Are we soaking up that story? You know, as a parent with the privilege
of raising a daughter, like all of you who are doing the same thing, we find this world
and this statistic very alarming and we want to prepare them. We have tools at our disposal like girl power
and we hope that that will help. But I got to wonder, is girl power going
to protect them if at the same time, actively or passively, we are training
our sons to maintain their boy power? And I’m talking mainly to the dads here. I think we have got to show our sons
a new definition of manhood. Now, the definition of manhood
is already turning upside down. I mean, you’ve read about
how the new economy is changing the roles of
caregiver and wage earner. They are throwing it up in the air. So, our sons are going to have
to find some way of adapting to this new relationship with each other. And I think we really have
to show them and model for them how a real man is someone who trusts
his sisters and respects them, and wants to be on their team,
and stands up against the real bad guys, who are the men who want
to abuse the women. And I think our job in the Netflix queue
is to look out for those movies that passed the Bechdel test,
if we can find them, and to seek out the heroines,
who are there, who show real courage, who bring people together and nudge
our sons to identify with those heroines, and to say, “I want to be on their team”, because they’re going to be on their team. When I asked my daughter who her favorite
character was in “Star Wars”, you know what she said? Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Glinda. What do these two have in common? I think these are the two people in the movie
who know more than anybody else and they love sharing their knowledge with other people to help them
reach their potential. They’re leaders. I like that kind of quest for my daughter, and I like that kind of quest for my son. I want more quests like that. I want fewer quests where my son is told,
“Go out and fight it alone” and more quests where he sees
that it’s his job to join a team, maybe a team led by women, to help other people become better
and be better people, like “The Wizard of Oz”. Thank you. (Applause)

100 Comments

  1. Fatelvis2 Author

    wow I would like to have him in my work place for a couple of months experience interacting with the women then lets see if he gives the same talk

    Reply
  2. Vance Winstead Author

    I feel the problem with most kids movies is that they are either targeting boys or girls, and not both. When you end up targeting one gender, you end up alienating and misrepresenting the other.

    Reply
  3. RaRa Rodrigo Author

    Don’t think kids movies are to blame, but the parents letting kids watch movies that are not kids movies but what the parents are watching.

    Reply
  4. AGH Author

    Genrall concept is good. We as parents need to get back to creating our family culture based on our clearly chosen and defined values. I personally think boys and men are in a precarious spot right now. I am a mother to a son and I know he needs far more protection from society than my daughter.

    Reply
  5. ClassicExampleBand Author

    Get used to this kind of TED videos, guys. There will be plenty more on the way.
    The left will eventually hijack TED and turn it into more left wing propaganda. They probably already have progressive useful idiots censoring TED talks to make sure they promote leftist propaganda as we speak, just like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are all doing.
    Eventually TED will just become another completely biased site like others.

    Reply
  6. Helen Alford Author

    I think mothers and fathers have plenty to teach sons about maleness, the use of kids films aside. Men can do so by setting an example to their boys on how to treat women, women can do so by avoiding negative stereotyping of men when they speak to or in front of their boys. I actually think negative stereotyping of men has a big impact on boys and girls. Children are sponges and they learn by example, picking up on everything that is said and isn't said. Both genders have a role to play in this.

    Reply
  7. Andrew Velonis Author

    I disagree that Princess Leah just waits around to get rescued and pin a medal on the hero. She's the one who sends the message that sets everything in motion. She criticizes the rescue, mouths off to Darth Vader and if memory serves, doesn't she fire a weapon?

    Reply
  8. Wheyooo Bro Author

    Its realy easy: step 1 unlearn step 2 observe all and evrything step 3 your inner being do the rest, and your naturaly love peace and understanding

    Tip: check your diet and do some sport 😀

    Reply
  9. Michael Sanders Author

    I'm progressive. But God. What a sickly sweet shot of liberalism into the vein. Now I know who killed star trek. And isn't Mon Mothma leader of the rebellion in star wars

    Reply
  10. Lo Value Author

    2018 "Next Gen" – pick that one appart and set into context!
    Bonding with robots are fine – men are not, boys are non-personas, girls are invincable, A.I. is dangerous and awesome and so on…
    In 20 years the world will be a horrible place

    Reply
  11. Aamna Here Author

    It's a bit disappointing that he didn't once show Mulan as a strong female character when he showed other Disney female protagonists. Maybe we should also not be limited to the Euro-centric depiction of female power and embrace other badass women just as eagerly from other cultures if we're indeed serious in our quest to teach our sons better and protect our girls.

    Reply
  12. Ignacio Couce Author

    I don't feel attacked. I agree with many of the speaker's points, but a little gratitude to the patriarchy for creating and making possible the highest standard of living and the greatest extent of personal freedom in human history would be nice, and not too much to ask I think. In addition to all our material well-being, it is the patriarchy which created the very idea of human rights and civil rights, and extended the franchise to more ordinary people than ever before in human history.

    It's this extremist "all or nothing" thinking on both sides of the political spectrum, which has us in trouble. No ideology, like no religion, has a lock on good ideas and truth. Each idea and proposition has to be judged on its own merits, without appeals to heuristic shortcuts like ideology.

    Reply
  13. munku121 Author

    Hmm. Well, here are my thoughts: Princess Leia is NOT a "weak female character". And, neither was her mother, Padme Amidala. She was top in her class in the Imperial Academy. An excellent pilot. And, not to mention, a leader/general of the Rebel Alliance. She was snarky towards Moff Tarkin on the Death Star. Even towards Vader. Another thing, it is pretty foolish to consider a fictional/movie character/s to be role models to our young children. Now, I have enjoyed reading the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and watching the Star Wars movies and books (self-proclaimed nerd and proud). In fact, I am an aspiring author of a Fantasy series. With three female protagonists. Mostly influenced by my own faith (Christianity). In terms of "strong female leads"/"good role models for children", real life examples, such as their mother's/father's/older siblings/s, should take precedence. However, films/books do have a certain appeal/attraction to them. But that also has to do with what the author/creator/director/artist has in mind when making that bit of film/art/manuscript. Seems to me that this all started back in 2017, with Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, and the Bill Cosby trials. I have had plenty of strong women in my life (my mother and grandmother in particular). I was mostly raised by my mother. And, believe you me, she is TOUGH. But she also taught me how to cook/clean/do laundry, as well as how to cut wood, build a fire, and how to use a gun. She was both mother and father to me for my whole life. Now, my father was there, too. Just not as much. He taught me how to swim. He taught me how to tie my shoes. He let me have a sip of his beer. However, circumstances made him leave the state and my mother had to shoulder the responsibility of raising me with my grandmother. My point is: everyone is different and are raised different. I could go on and on. But I'll end with this: respect each other. Treat each other as you would have them treat you. Peace.

    Reply
  14. Brian Sheridan Author

    Change takes time, not overnight. Everyone who is saying that this is a great talk and things need to change. You are the change and you are the voice.

    Reply
  15. Leah Briones Author

    Thank you Colin – an important presentation. The point that most struck me is that we do need more films or roles models for boys too. It's great that there is now an increasing number of gender aware movies (i.e pro girl/women power) but we still have a ways to go.

    Reply
  16. brian milligan Author

    Wait a minute…so all filmmakers should change the way they make movies because of this guy's kids? Just don't go see certain movies.

    Reply
  17. Karch Dah-Veed Author

    While these observations may represent one of the hidden meanings embedded within kids movies, it is hardly the ONLY hidden meaning. What about the promotion of the military/industrial complex, was as the enduring, existential state, and (paradoxically?) female "empowerment" as a dimension of the war machine? It's not just GI Joe, but GI Jane too! Ladies, you too can both consume AND kill to the benefit of your friendly neighborhood manufacture of armaments. Because Girl Power! 🙂

    Reply
  18. Robert Gelinas Author

    so this guy relies on movies to educate his children. He wants his son to be a weak man looking for a strong woman to lead him. Good luck with that. Women love weak needy men, NOT!

    Reply
  19. Eshter Maria Author

    Its really hard to find a movie about happy family in Hollywood. If they have argument they scream at each other or brake things.

    Reply
  20. Neo Count Author

    Star wars was written to be a story for little girls. Neither was Oz, they're just stories. Entertainment nothing more. We don't need to neuter everything, we just need more variety.

    Reply
  21. DannyDaDuffyDucking Daffer Author

    This movie not marketed to small children and a story not for those children is sending a bad message to those small children

    Reply
  22. Semper Fi Author

    I love the wizard of Oz.
    But it's a dream. Dorothy was a submissive teenage girl crying and running away from her problems when a twister interrupted her drama. In fact, its safe to say her dog Toto was put down shortly after the events unfolded. Nothing was solved.
    But even in the dream, her interaction was accidental. She didn't mean to kill the wicked witch of the east. She didn't want a confrontation with the wicked witch of the west. She didnt know which direction to take at the fork in the road. She was confused and lost crutched on her friends as much as they crutched on her. She was basically along for the ride.

    Reply
  23. CPpdx20 Author

    That's funny because generally girls look up to Leia as a strong female character who is actually a leader and a diplomat who eventually becomes a general and where yes she's awarding the heroes but she's doing it as the head of the rebellion. She is the one that the military goes to for advice and permissions. So I agree with the message in this talk but star wars was not a good example. Also if you watch the other movies and cartoons there are important female characters who fight and who are Jedi.

    Reply
  24. Kathy Lord Author

    All the fairy tales in Disney movies are not so innocent for example Beauty and the Beast. So I learned that somebody could be beastly and really turn into a Charming Prince… My life experience has definitely not taught me that! You have many good points in this video.

    Reply
  25. Jonathan Matear Author

    Well spoken but the message makes no sense. Disney does not have the lessons your children need sorry to tell you.
    Turn off the social engineering AKA television!
    Teach your kids to grow things and create.

    Reply
  26. Linda Cianchetti Author

    He must be paid by Washington because THIS is social engineering into socialism, as SaraGrace (a made up name), is paid to misdirect, too. Ask these honorable Americans who've laid their lives out on the line to do what is right by the one True God; Leuren Moret, Eustace Mullins, Bill Binney, Bill Cooper, Ted Gunderson, Elana Freeland, Deborah Tavares, Barrie Trower,

    Reply
  27. samar malik Author

    Why define gender models & roles.. let them adapt & evolve according to each couple's needs & circumstances.
    When sharing.. compassion could be the criteria as a prioritised option to the notion of responsibilities being equally divided!

    Regards

    Reply

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