Princesses. So last year.By Tracey Spicer | Jul 16, 12 12:31 PM
It’s time to throw away the tiara. Passive princesses are so last year.
After a decade of movies like Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille and Up, the old boys at the animation studio finally had the balls to cast their first heroine.
Fellas, what took you so long?
Like many women of a certain age, I grew up with Wonder Woman. And Lynda Carter was no sidekick; she kicked arse.
The 70s were red-letter days for female superheroes, like Jaime Sommers in The Bionic Woman. Of course, this was a spinoff from The Six Million Dollar Man – spare parts, you could say.
DC comics created Supergirl and Batwoman as oestrogen supplements to the manly men.
And Charlie’s Angels still had to answer to a bloke.
But bolshie birds burst back on the screen with Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, and Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tombraider.
Suddenly, studio bosses were scared.
This did not fit the formula of strong male lead + female love interest + conflict + resolution = box office gold. But their assumptions are flawed.
Research by the University of Southern California, commissioned by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, provides an insight into the decision-making process.
In 2010, Stacy L. Smith found females were “grossly underrepresented across 122 G, PG and PG-13 films… with 2.42 times the number of male-speaking characters”.
So, she asked content creators why.
Almost half said it was because of “positive male market forces”; 32 percent blamed the “male dominated industry”; 20.4 percent the “male target audience”.
The second reason is valid: only seven percent of the films were directed by women.
But the first and third are based on a fallacy: that young men are the main market.
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, 50 percent of all tickets are bought by women; those in the lucrative 18-24 demographic go to the movies more frequently than men of the same age.
All of which increases my frustration as the mother of a young girl.
Every school holidays I trawl the entertainment section of the newspaper to find positive role models for my five-year-old. Princesses and fairies need not apply.
This year we have The Amazing Spiderman, The Dark Knight, Men in Black 3 and The Avengers: all male leads with women as accessories.
Why not Spiderwoman? Batgirl? Women in Black? (After all, it is extremely slimming.)
The characters in Snow White & The Huntsman cancel each other out, the insipid Kristin Stewart overshadowed by the delightfully wicked Charlize Theron.
(I shouldn’t be so hard on her. Last year, she starred in the only female-centric film which had a budget over $100 million – Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1.)
So, it will have to be Merida.
I’m disappointed that a) she’s a princess and b) the female director was removed halfway through. But at least Pixar has broken the mould.
An expert in archery, like the heroine in The Hunger Games, Merida is a wild Scottish lass with a nasty habit of rejecting unsuitable suitors.
(In fact, she looks an awful lot like disgraced newspaper editor Rebekah Brooks, who should have rejected Rupert Murdoch as a suitor quite some time ago.)
It seems this risk is already reaping rewards, with takings for the first week exceeding those of every Pixar film aside from Toy Story 3.
Maybe next time, they’ll be brave enough to trash that tiara.
This post was first published on The Hoopla.
Jane Waterhouse is Publisher at The Hoopla and a Premium member of Business Chicks, you can request her business card and connect with her here.