Girls on Their Team: Some Movies about Boys

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 8th Nov 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3aeuctrr/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Society & Issues

Some feminists are decrying movies with a shortage of female protagonists. I can see their points. But for my son, I'd rather focus on movies where boys want girls on their team(s).

The Feminist Approach: the Bechdel Test

"Passing or failing the test is ... indicative of the problems of token women characters. "

Passing this test doesn't mean that the movie is pro-feminist or good for my son to watch. I'd rather him see shows with characters he might want to relate to -- movies with boys that have girls on their team(s) and want girls on their team(s).

Some Pro-Girl Movies

Mothers of sons and wives of husbands don't just want movies about Amazons saving the world (or knitting). We want movies where men and boys want women and girls on their team(s). For example, Up may be about a grouchy old man and his annoying Boy Scout neighbor, but the whole reason for the man's trip is in honor of his wife, Ellie. The second and third Toy Story movies may be all about Woody and Buzz, but the presence of female characters – including the presence of mind Barbie has to trap Ken – are instrumental to the plot.

But then the Plots all look the Same

I was trying to explain Peter Pan's Tinkerbell in the light of the team perspective, and while I was doing that, I got to thinking about Tarzan – thinking about how similar these two movies really are. One of the somewhat clueless things both movies point out is how the boys (Tarzan and Peter) think they have to choose one female over another – choices which leave Turk and Tink(erbell) out in the cold. (If I wanted to go on a political rant, I could talk about this phenomenon and how laws that are supposed to help women and minorities really hurt them. However, I'll save that for another day.) For today, I want to compare Tarzan and Peter Pan.

Tarzan and Peter Pan

Tarzan and Peter Pan both have girls on their team(s) and want girls on their team(s). Turk and Tink are friends (not girlfriends) of Tarzan and Peter, and both get destructive when they are replaced by the new girls, Jane and Wendy.

I used to think that Disney was trying to show us former or ex-girlfriend jealousy, but I don't think that's the case here. Turk and Tink both want to keep their teammate just as he is – Peter Pan a never changing boy, Tarzan a hairless ape of the jungle. It is the new women, Wendy and Jane, who are determined to change these boys into proper English gentlemen.

Turk, the scared elephant, and the other gorillas are the equivalent of Tinkerbell and the lost boys. Jane's absent-minded father mimics Wendy's brother John. The baby monkey in Tarzan and Wendy's baby brother Michael create both intense action scenes (for films of this type) and comic relief. (I've left Tiger Lily and the Mermaids out of this discussion, but I think the cattiness of these characters rivals any chic-flick melodrama. Whoever said that Peter Pan was solely a boy's movie was not paying attention to the entire movie.)

The Villains

When one starts to compare the two films, other similarities emerge. Clayton and Captain Hook are similar in image and voice – assertive men who know "good form" and yet act in truly barbaric and distasteful ways. Hook's hand being eaten by a crocodile is as gruesome as Clayton's strangulation death. Tarzan's mimicry of Clayton's gun is as funny for children as Hook being chased by the crocodile. These static characters have little going for them outside their objective to "get" the protagonists. Both are willing to pretend to follow females until they think they are going to get what they want out of the relationship. Then, both are willing to trap, enslave, and abandon the females that their upbringing as English gentlemen should have forbidden them.

The Parents

There is a little bit of difference when it comes to parents. Peter Pan's parents are absent, while Tarzan's adoptive parents are present. However, while Jane's father is present, he does not behave in a way that is assertive or controlling – Jane has that role. But in the way that Tarzan's parents – especially his adoptive father – try to keep him with the gorillas and away from the humans, Wendy's parents – especially her father, who doubles as the villainous Captain Hook – try to change and manipulate her behavior. While perhaps it is natural for fathers to want their say in the upbringing of children, it is these blow ups of the fathers that give cause for the children to turn elsewhere, thus the father's anger over guidance provides a catalyst for the stories to emerge.

Taking One For the Team

Both Peter Pan and Tarzan get the chance to save their former teammates. Peter Pan goes back to save Tinkerbell after Hook's bomb nearly extinguishes her. Tarzan leaves Jane to save his mother, Turk, and the other gorillas. Tarzan gets the best end of the deal, getting Jane to stay -- not having to leave his mother or his friends. Peter Pan has to take Wendy home and allow her to grow up in order to keep the things that mean the most to him. While we make choices every day, these choices seem pretty extreme. I don't like what they tell boys about the choices they may have to make when it comes to being on the same team as girls.

The Conclusion

I don't need a Bechdel test to convince me that there are an alarming number of similarities between these two Disney films. However, the similarities don't seem to bother my son. I hope that in the meantime I can help him continue to respect the girls on his team. At the same time, I hope the girls are not being taught to ignore him just because he's a boy. I would love to find more movies with female protagonists, but not at the expense of alienating my son from watching movies with me.

Image Credits

A number of these images are courtesy of Morguefile.

However, the Bedchel image is courtesy of http://nbmediacoop.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/bechdel-test.jpg and the plot image comes from http://sdwriters.files.word press.com/2011/06/plot-graph-1.jpg

Disney Images:
I do not own the Disney characters, scenes, or likenesses. They are used to illustrate the characters I am comparing and critiquing in this article. Individual images were obtained from the following websites:

Turk and Tink: http://prejudice-in-disney--films.wikispaces.com/file/view/Turk-and-Tarzan.jpg/154470287/Turk-and-Tarzan.jpg & http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-8xFZjBw7WCU/UZ7vCEPUfVI/AAAAAAAACEc/6-NBKFfzi_8/s320/Peter+Pan+the+boy+himself.jpg

Villains: http://a.dolimg.com/en-US/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Jane_Tarzan_5.jpg & http://fc06.deviantart.net/fs30/i/2009/242/4/e/Tinkerbell_and_Captain_Hook_by_ThePrincessNightmare.jpg

Parents: http://www.cornel1801.com/disney/Peter-Pan-1953/pictures/13.jpg & http://www.finalfantasykingdom.net/kh/khkerchack.png

Ship: http://bplusmovieblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/peter-pan-127.png

Tags

Captain Hook, Disney, Gender, Jane, Peter Pan, Society, Tarzan, Tinkerbell, Wendy

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- phylcampbell.com -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

Share this page

moderator johnnydod moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know

Comments

author avatar Mariah
8th Nov 2013 (#)

Good points and an enjoyable
read..loved the images!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
8th Nov 2013 (#)

Thanks.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Delicia Powers
8th Nov 2013 (#)

I never looked at the old favorites from this very thought provoking angle...thanks Phyl.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
8th Nov 2013 (#)

Ha! I still think of Tarzan as new!! I guess it's not. Love Glenn Close and Phil Collins' work on this one, plus Rosie, of course!! With Finding Nemo, easily my son's faves!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Michelle Stanley
8th Nov 2013 (#)

A most original and enjoyable post to read. You've made some interesting points and comparison of characters.I like the presentation of this article very much. Michelle

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
8th Nov 2013 (#)

This was fun to read but thought provoking as well - to quote Delicia. Who knew that Tinkerbell and Tarzan could teach us about gender roles?

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
8th Nov 2013 (#)

Thanks, Michelle and Connie. In the comments I can say, my son hd a Tinkerbell backpack for Pre-K. And not a cool black one -- a very, very pink one. And my father, whose house we were living in at the time, threw a fit. What was I doing to his grandson? And I calmly explained to my dad that Tinkerbell is PP's best friend. She's magic and helps him fly. For her size, she has bigger boobs than any Disney princess. So it's the PERFECT backpack for a healthy male. Also, my son wanted it because girls liked Tinkerbell and my son liked girls. So his 4 year old reasoning was that the backpack was a kind of chick magnet. And my father looked at me, looked at the backpack, and looked at his grandson. Then he opened his mouth and said, "that's my boy!!"
I tell that story a lot -- it's a great story. Recently, I shared it with a friend of mine whose child is getting some harsh treatment because she likes to wear blue and green clothes with dinosaurs on them. So it goes both ways and is all relative, but if everyone is allowed on "the team," my hope is no one feels hurt or left out. :)

Reply to this comment

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
9th Nov 2013 (#)

great piece Phyl...

Reply to this comment

author avatar Lady Aiyanna
8th Nov 2013 (#)

Well there is a saying behind every man there is always a woman (who is is ready to overtake him) and as far as Tinkerbell and Peter Pan is concerned, well Peter Pan belongs to Neverland and TinkerBell was a misfit fairy who won the heart of the Fairy Queen who gave her the gold dust to handle the seasons. When Peter Pan got grumpy and angry, Tinkerbell drank the poison as Peter wanted Wendy and died. It is those tears from Peter that brought her back to life with the whole world believing in fairies bringing back to life all the others of similarities to come together as One making Captain Hook walk the plank into the mouth of Ticking Crocodile.
Tinkerbell went on to have her own series as well as Peter Pan with Jake and the Neverland Pirates although Tinkerbells new series is more recognised than any other ones.
She has girl power and that is what brought about a depiction in such beauty with innocence that made her a legend and a household name today. She is someone whom I identify with as I have been through adversities of life that are finally healing.
Tinkerbell is a fairy who fixes things.
Whereas Jane supports Jane. Little Mermaid is a a girl who likes to look into various things and get into trouble and finally got entangled with a man and grew limbs to marry the Prince but lost her voice to Ursela the Octopus witch until someone broke the shell that hung on the neck and the Little Mermaid got her voice back never to lose it again.
Well I love children's movies as they are innocent, beautiful, creative and funny. Modern movies on women harbour around exploitation and sex and that is something I personally detest in life.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
9th Nov 2013 (#)

Well, alrighty then. Thanks for your comment.

Reply to this comment

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
9th Nov 2013 (#)

Good morning, Phyl. Good read as always. With grand daughters and grand sons - the girls are the oldest in each family, movie choices used to be dictated by them so the boys grew up watching these movies with a sister present. Like the back-pack back story as well. ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

author avatar Carol
14th Nov 2013 (#)

Very nice work Phyl, and I love the images, well done!

Reply to this comment

author avatar joyalariwo
14th Nov 2013 (#)

Never thought about it before but nice comparison, images brought life to it as well, nice work Phyl.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
14th Nov 2013 (#)

Thanks, Carol and Joyalariwo!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Mike Robbers
14th Nov 2013 (#)

Very clever article Phyl,I totally enjoyed it!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
15th Nov 2013 (#)

Thanks, Mike! I'm glad you stopped by.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
17th Nov 2013 (#)

Gender roles and relationships are changing fast in Asia too. Once male dominant, I get a feeling that females have stolen a march to the chagrin of males (including me!). Girls are smarter than boys now (always so, maybe). One cannot live with the other but also cannot live without the other! Thanks for a thought provoking share, Phyl - siva

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
17th Nov 2013 (#)

Thanks, Siva! I hope we never forget that there's a Ying to every Yang! Boys need girls, and vice versa!! Maybe not all the time, but more often than they might realize.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Username
Can't login?
Password