How many times have you seen films where the protagonist is male? More than I can count on my fingers. How many female protagonists have been featured in films? Not enough.
I was inspired to write about this topic after hearing a segment of TED Talks where the topic was "How Movies Teach Manhood". The speaker, Colin Stokes (previously stage & screen actor, currently Director of Communications for Citizen Schools) spoke about the inequity of role models for kids.
Stokes compared "The Wizard Of Oz" and "Star Wars" and how differently the protagonist won the battle against evil. In "The Wizard Of Oz", Dorothy won the battle with the help of her friends, while in "Star Wars", Luke's battle was won by using weapons. What was interesting was that in each case, the reward from winning said battle was different. For Dorothy, the reward was friendship, while for Luke, it was a medal and a woman.
Okay, so "The Wizard Of Oz" was made in 1939, but the lessons of camaraderie and standing up for yourself have prevailed all this time, while in "Star Wars", winning by violence and expecting rewards for a job well done are lessons that come across. Stokes makes an interesting point that it wasn't until films like "Brave" and "The Hunger Games" portrayed females as protagonists, but they were heroines because they won their fight by using weapons.
Stokes points out that the messages being projected to kids by so many films are that heroism can only be attained through violence and that rewards are an expected consequence. But what about girls/women as heroines? Can they only be taken seriously if they wield weapons or use violence to get their way?
I know that we live in a country where violence is around us, especially since Newtown, but shouln't that be more of an incentive to veer away from it? Now more than ever, children are exposed to various forms of media, especially films, at an earlier age. Isn't it time to redefine character traits role models should project? Instead of promoting violence and self-centeredness, how about selflessness?
I realize that it may be naive of me to think that "talking out" your problems in films is not as effective in real life, but shouldn't there be alternative solutions to resolving conflicts other than violence? For Stokes, it is his hope that his son will grow up choosing women as role models, be supportive of them, and not treat them as rewards after a job well done. I, for one, agree with him and hope that more children will follow suit. That's my take on this, what's yours?
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