I have a four-year old son who believes he’s Elsa.
I’m okay with that, because Elsa is awesome, and because who else is he supposed to look up to and identify with when watching animated movies? And with that, I specifically refer to Disney or Pixar movies, because those are our preference in this house.
Consider the following list of films that we have at home (although my little boy hasn’t watched most of them yet – some of these movies are remarkably scary for stories aimed at kids!) and here I’m focusing specifically on main characters only:
Adult Male Main Character (9)
Incredibles 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Wreck-It Ralph, Up, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monster’s Inc, Toy Story (x3), Tarzan
Adult Female Main Character (4)
Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo
Young Adult Male Main Character (3)
Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin
Young Adult Female Main Character (6)
Frozen, Tangled, Mulan, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid
Girl Main Character (3)
Moana, Brave, Tinker Bell (x5)
Boy Main Character (2)
Big Hero 6, The Lion King
From this list of 29 movies, only two of them have a young boy as the main protagonist – and of those two one is a lion. If we’re willing to look at older characters, then six of them have female leads, with only three who have male leads – and none of those three are exactly relatable to my son. The cards are turned as the characters get older, with a score of four for the women and nine for the men – although in all four cases for female characters they share the stage with the men.
So adult characters aside, in the representation of girls (9) vs boys (5), the boys are in the minority.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad that girls have lots of female characters to watch and relate to, and that they’re no longer mostly concerned with attracting the attention of a marriageable guy. They’re feisty and fierce and clever and brave, and that’s all great. Even the ones that suffer from past stereotypes are still good (I grew up with these movies and I love them unconditionally).
But it’s a little problematic if you’re a little boy looking for a movie with a main character that you can identify with.
I think in the midst of the drive for gender equality the focus has shifted so much towards strong female characters aimed at empowering young girls, that the boys have been left by the wayside. All the arguments that have been made in the past for the inclusion of female role models now seem to apply to boys.
All I want on behalf of my son is a movie with a young human boy as the main character, who goes on a grand adventure and overcomes the odds while learning a few life lessons along the way. Is that too much to ask?
Granted, my sample might be skewed because all the movies we have in our house are the ones I loved as a girl (and still love), but if I do a quick Internet search, the trend seems to hold strong.
I’m just a little worried than in trying to correct some mistakes of the past, we’re inadvertently making similar mistakes now. I suspect if I look at books for kids I’ll get the same results. This is such a basic discrimination (and let’s not even get started on the gender spectrum or race or religion discussions!) that can easily be rectified.
Creators: write inclusively, and don’t follow the trends of the day just for the sake of them.
Right now a little boy feels left out and confused. And we really don’t need more of that.
Have you noticed this trend too? Can you recommend any good animated movies aimed at little boys?