My little girl doesn’t think monsters can be female. We play a game on the walk to school sometimes in which cars are monsters and the pavement is a magic path that makes us invisible to them. Revving engines are roars and parked cars are sleeping monsters. My daughter has recently added the rule that it’s only the boy cars that are monsters, not the girl cars. She’ll decide which car is male or female, although I don’t see any pattern in her choices. When asked why girl cars can’t be monsters, she says doesn’t know, that’s just the way it is, apparently.
I’ve read a couple of interesting blog posts this week, over at Reel Girl, about how girls are missing from the latest Halloween Movie offerings and about the lack of female representation in monster movies. This got me thinking about the monsters themselves and how monsters in films are almost always male.
I can see how the thought processes involved in making a monster might result in a male creation. Words like fierce, scary, angry and tough are more likely to be associated with men than women. If scary females get a look in it’s usually through their devious nature, they are slyly wicked rather than being straightforwardly fearsome.
The emphasis on physical appearance is also tellingly human; female monsters are made to resemble female humans in the most unoriginal stereotypical ways, think ‘sexy’ Celia and ‘old bat’ Roz in Monsters Inc, or the pink dragon in Shrek.
“The same tired old stereotypes keep on being imprinted on impressionable young minds”.
Do we even need gender specific monsters? Surely all an effective monster needs is to be scary? Instead the female is often presented as ‘other’. She is likely to have ridiculous eyelashes, fall in love and look after babies. The same applies to non-human animations in general as societal sexism is reflected through the, (lack of), imagination of the movie makers. From the sexy cats in Tom and Jerry to the token females in todays male dominated children’s films, non-human females continue to be sexualised and marginalised, irrelevant adjuncts to the main male adventure. The same tired old stereotypes keep on being imprinted on impressionable young minds.
My daughter was given a DVD recently and has subjected me to repeated viewings. ‘Trap Door‘ is an animated UK television series from the 80’s. It’s about a group of monsters who live in a castle and keep guard over a trap door. It’s good fun and she loves it, but it seems I’m the only person who’s noticed or cares that all the monsters are either male or unspecified. Perhaps this has something to do with her notion of the ‘car monsters’ being male only. There could be any number of reasons and it might not matter in the slightest, but it does indicate that somewhere along the way, even with a cranky feminist mum like me, she’s absorbing the cultural messages that tell her ‘monster’ equals ‘male’.
(monster illustrations provided by my daughter)