It's 2014. We're cramping up from leaning, and we're never going to get anywhere looking at our kids' world in terms of this is for boys, that is for girls. Everything is for everybody. Just because movie producers THINK boys and girls like different things, that does not make it so. I mean, aren't all of us, regardless of what's in our pants, hoarse from the Frozen soundtrack?
There's this received wisdom in Hollywood that believes boys will only watch movies with predominantly boy characters, while girls will watch anything you sit them in front of. Those of us with boots on the ground, raising both boys and girls, know it's a load—or at the very least feel like the big exception. My 5-year-old son liked "Frozen" as much—if not more—than his sisters, who are very, very suspicious of the princess industrial complex (job well done, me!). His first favorite character was Dora, and lately he's been on an Olivia jag. That isn't to say he hasn't had a Power Rangers and Star Wars phase. He has. But so what? Those don't discount his interest in cartoon and cartoon-y girls.
The idea that boys will only watch "boy" movies is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
While I'd love to think it's my fabulous, progressive parenting that has opened my kids' worlds to ignoring the rules about pink, who gets to serve in the Army and the correspondence between hair length and Y chromosomes, I had little to do with that. Libby Copeland points out in a recent piece on Slate that many TV shows starring girl characters attract huge numbers of viewers. Period. "Girl" shows popular with both sexes date back to 1991 with Clarissa Explains It All and continue today with Doc McStuffins, Copeland writes. TV has apparently long undermined the "boys only" axiom, yet there has been little change on the big screen—and some evidence that it's getting worse.
How did TV make it work? The shows' across-the-spectrum popularity is, Copeland says, due to a few common threads: active heroines, humor and emotional resonance. She writes that these "girl" shows have a few more subtle boy-friendly attributes, like quick-cut editing that appeals to "action-oriented" boys, and fart jokes, which she claims boys like a little more than girls. (For what it's worth, my experience makes me look at both of those generalizations as just that: overly general and meaningless, since I know too many girls who can get right in there with the karate kicks and fart-talk.)
So why does this idea that boys only watch boys persist? Well, Hollywood is a conservative beast and, therefore, reluctant to give up its formula for raking in money. Though the millions that Disney earned for its two ice-y females should encourage them to at least try. Parents shoulder a bit of the blame, too. If we don't rent, buy or go to kids' movies about girls, because we think our sons won't like them (even if they're big WordGirl fans), then we're sending the wrong message to them and to moviemakers. The idea that boys will only watch "boy" movies is a self-fulfilling prophecy, because there are actually so few movies about girls (that aren't in the already fraught princess category).
I want more movies centered on stories about females, not just for me and not just for my girls, but also for my son. Girls are just as interesting as boys, and even in the same ways. We like adventure, prat falls and seeing revenge visited upon unfriendly adults. Plus, we're half the population. Why should my son or his friends have to go through life with the impression that the world—their world—is otherwise?