How Movies Teach Manhood (and other stuff about girls)

When the Nazis held power in Germany they knew about the power of film to “mobilize emotions and immobilize minds.” They used film for propaganda purposes to establish community and a specific set of values, just like the Allies did when they attempted to utilize film for re-education following World War II. That is because film is a powerful educational tool, and one that filmmakers in the United States have been lazily abusing for a long time. Changing the part that movies play in teaching culture will have a huge impact on the change that we will see!

When a friend showed me this video I felt enormously affirmed, because Colin Stokes’ talk embodies the mantra of my life goals and values: Make movies that teach boys the value of cooperation and respect for women, while teaching girls that they have power, a place as the leader, and can overcome obstacles just as well as men can.

These are affirmative action goals, of course. Movies already teach boys power, knowledge, and heroism, so that won’t necessarily go away; movies already [sometimes] teach girls friendship, cooperation, and respect, so that probably won’t change.

We need to veer away from the assumption, however, that affirmative change in movies requires putting women in the roles typically given to men. Colin Stokes suggests, and I believe rightly so, that these roles in movies are unfit for both boys and girls, that the formulaic journey of a film hero is an unhealthy message to be giving either gender.

Rather, I try to keep two visions in mind for movies of the future:

  1. Include more women, and indirectly, more options for girls. [Pass the Bechdel Test!]
  2. Include a wider variety of male roles, and indirectly, more “manhood” options for boys.



5 responses to “How Movies Teach Manhood (and other stuff about girls)

  1. The Bechdel Test made me laugh when Stokes talked about it in his TED speech, because it seemed so ridiculous, but as an after thought, it’s amazing how many mainstream movies do not pass the test. Very interesting entry! πŸ™‚

    • It is certainly interesting to think about the movies we know and love and whether or not they pass! Sometimes a little sad though. But very motivating for me!

  2. I’m very curious: what do you think of Gilmore Girls? It certainly passes the Bechdel Test, over and over and over…!

    • I have not watched Gilmore Girls enough to have an opinion, unfortunately. I have only heard good things about it. I’m sure someone else can share better than I! Or perhaps someday I will watch and tell you. πŸ™‚

  3. Pingback: What You Didn’t Read in 2013: Flashback and Feedback | Queer Guess Code·

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