Girls, Boys and Films

Cover of "My Neighbor Totoro"

Cover of My Neighbor Totoro

My daughter’s school has a weekly after school film club. In fact they have two; one for older children, one for younger.

I try to keep an eye on my daughter’s media intake, I don’t let her have too much screen time and I don’t take her to the pictures to see sexist crap. If we are going to see a film I’ll look for one with a decent female role if possible, often it isn’t. Obviously I can’t shield her from reality and I don’t think it would be healthy to do so, so although I do try to guide her viewing to a degree, it’s never in a laying down the law way and I’ve never felt the need to ban her from seeing anything. I think it’s better to talk about issues in films than to avoid them.

Anyhow, my daughter had wanted to go to film club last year but for various reasons it didn’t happen. This year however, despite my reservations about the kind of misogynist twaddle they were likely to show, I decided to let her go along. She loves it, a lot of it is to do with being with her friends and having a nice snack, but she enjoys the films too. So, I kept an eye on the films they were showing and by the fifth week I decided to drop them this email:

Hi ________,

________’s mam here. I have a couple of concerns re film club for KS1 this term.

I’ve noticed that so far, all of the movies shown have had male leads, and even those that have had minor female characters in haven’t been great in terms of female role models for the children.

I appreciate it’s probably not something that has occurred to staff, and I don’t know how film club is organised or where the films come from, but I do feel that school should be a place where thought is given to gender stereotypes, so that girls feel valued as equally as the boys. I feel that the repeated showing of films with male central characters gives all the children the message that boys are more important.

Girls are outnumbered 3 to 1 when it comes to representation in family films and even then they often serve primarily as ‘eye candy’. These are some of the reasons why I alway make the effort at home to be pro-active with the films ________ sees.

I would love it if there could be a conscious decision made to show a girl friendly film for the last week of film club. There are some excellent films with strong female characters that would suit KS1. I could even loan one to the school if you like? I have the Disney film, ‘Lilo and Stitch‘ at home, a great film about a little girl and an alien. I could also get hold of copies of ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ or ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service‘ both of which have little girls in active lead roles. These are all films that I’m sure KS1 children will enjoy and will add that touch of gender balance that has so far been missing.

Best regards…..

The email I received in reply felt a bit like a fob off, but it does at least say they have updated their order list. I hope that’s true:

 Dear ________,

Thank you for your email regarding Key Stage 1 film club. The films are chosen from a wishlist which is selected by the children. This can be accessed by logging on to the filmclub website http://www.filmclub.org. I have set up a log in for ________, her user name is ________ and the password is ________. We are however governed by age restrictions on films. We select films from the children’s list to order and we then have to wait to see what is sent to us from filmclub.org. I have taken into account your views and updated our order list as appropriate.

Thank you…..

Audio-animatronic versions of Mary Poppins and...

Audio-animatronic versions of Mary Poppins and Bert in The Great Movie Ride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The week I sent the email they were due to screen The Bee Movie. As we were on our way to pick up our daughter however, I received an email telling me that due to a malfunction the children had watched Nanny McPhee instead. I read it out to her dad who laughed and said he bet they’d show Mary Poppins the next week. 

The films shown last half term, in order, were: The Jungle Book, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Ice Age 3, Bolt, The Bee Movie Nanny McPhee, Mary Poppins.

(note: KS1 refers to schoolchildren between the ages of 4 and 7)

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About tricialo

https://tricialo.wordpress.com/
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2 Responses to Girls, Boys and Films

  1. Fantastic email. Male-centeredness is such a normal part of media that people generally don’t notice it till it’s pointed out to them. Hearing about the Bechdel test last year was the first time I became aware of the problem myself. Hopefully the school will bear it in mind in future! And yes, they should definitely show Lilo and Stitch; what a great film.

  2. tricialo says:

    Thanks. I wish everyone knew about the Bechdel test.

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