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to want animated films with strong female characters for DD to watch?

(103 Posts)

DD is 3.4 and we sometimes sit down and watch films together. She's at the age where she's starting to notice differences between people and characters and isn't very impressed with the 'girls waiting to be rescued' kind of plot that seems to be common. I mentioned this to a friend the other day and she thought I was being daft, that films have nothing to do with how a child views the world as they're "just entertainment". She seemed very amused that I want to find some films with strong female characters. hmm

I'm not BU about this am I? DD adores the Octonauts (and pretends to be Tweak or Kwazii most days), likes Lilo and Stitch, Mulan and Beauty and the Beast (mostly for the teapot I think!). But most other children's films seem to feature girls who need to be rescued (I'm thinking Aladdin, Robin Hood, the traditional fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White etc). Am I overthinking this?

"I also think it's easy to project how we as adults view a film and forget that a child might view it differently."

Well part of the reason I feel strongly about this is that my neice became upset at the age of 3 because she wanted to be a knight or ?fireman? when she grew up and only boys could do those things.

She loves Mulan now but still needs more examples of heroic, brave women who aren't just about romance (and that excludes most Disney films, including Mulan really who of course gets engaged in the end).

Also, Tangled is a terrible film for gender - look at all the things she does with her time! Sewing dresses, painting, reading, dancing with inanimate objects. All fine activities but not exactly gender balanced!

JAne and the Dragon, on the other hand, was a brilliant series.

crocodilesmiles Mon 19-Nov-12 10:07:24

The Forgotten Toys is also quite nice. The rag doll is voiced by Joanna Lumley.

Woozley Sat 17-Nov-12 09:54:46

Did I watch a different Princess & the Frog then, the one where she opens a successful restaurant at the end? When did she give up her career? It's a fantastic film!

crocodilesmiles Fri 16-Nov-12 09:30:08

There's Laura's Star as well.

Here it is, my little sisters used to love this!

Mrsjay Fri 16-Nov-12 09:03:05

If he isn't scared easily some kids are fine with the darker side he will like it I thought it was creepy, I like tim burton nightmare before christmas and all that but coraline <shudder>

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 16-Nov-12 08:52:26

Thanks Mrsjay

<takes Coraline out of present bag>

<decides to read Amazon descriptions more carefully in future>

Mrsjay Fri 16-Nov-12 08:49:21

"failings" of the female characters is to talk about the more positive messages from the films instead. True of so many of the children's films listed above as giving a more positive role model.

^ ^ this it is so important to talk to children about things they are watching I am not talking about them taking notes and we set an exam at the end grin but I have always spoken about women simpering or females waiting on their man etc etc with my DDs , it does sink in just drip feed it from early on, MY daughters do see these things in tv programmes and films now,

I protest loudly every time dd2 talks about twilight <boak > creepy sparkly guy hangs about your bedroom she feels miserable and he saves her <heave> oh and the only thing that will make you happy is to actually give up your mortality for the said twinkley vampire angry

she does see it for what it is and didnt really like the last film but went cos the pals were going she was more into the wolf boy grin

Oh FWIW coraline scared me witless never mind a 5 yr old those buttons for eyes <shudder>

Woozley Thu 15-Nov-12 23:08:36

I like to expose DDs to a range of female characters. They don't all have to be kick-ass heroines. Not all women are like that, neither are men!

I did used to get irritated by the girl character perpetually being the weak one when I was a kid though, always the one who tripped up and got the gang caught or something. I think female characters are portrayed differently now, far easier to find the strong characters I had to really search for in the 80s.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 15-Nov-12 23:01:58

Is Coraline too scary for DS1 (aged 5)?

MandiandPops Thu 15-Nov-12 22:19:50

Mary Poppins! She doesn't take any nonsense from any of the silly male characters.

prettysunset Thu 15-Nov-12 22:16:17

Charlotte's web, (although not animated) Charlote runs the whole show and manipulates the situation. Fab little film.

ProjectNice Thu 15-Nov-12 21:54:51

Check out the Bechdel Test next time you watch a film/tv thing. It's marked out of three:
1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

It's sometimes very depressing, you can reverse the genders so does it have two named men... very, very few films in that case score less then three.

Little Mermaid 2 out of 3
Shrek 1 out of 3

DowagersHump Thu 15-Nov-12 21:25:50

This is a bit of a weird recommendation possibly but the Tinkerbell films are quite good - in Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue, the main protagonists are female (there are a couple of male fairies but they don't save the day).

Princess and the Frog is very anti-feminist - the message there is that she won't find love unless she gives up her career dreams. So she walks away from her dream for love and then her career dream comes true - bleugh sad Horrible message for little girls

germyrabbit Thu 15-Nov-12 21:21:00

sex and the city

blanksquit Thu 15-Nov-12 21:20:07

Not animated but mine has loved Matilda for years. Also how to train your dragon. and Madeline (the film).

MarianneM Thu 15-Nov-12 21:16:17

OP, try the Madeline series, it's all on youtube.

They are originally really nice books, but the series is quite good too, especially the older episodes.

CrystalEclipse Thu 15-Nov-12 21:11:27

Oh and the interpretations above kinda show the difference between the way I in my teens saw shrek (at the time I thought it was hilarious) and the way I as an adult see Shrek. When I was younger the interpretation was far more simplistic.

Shrek and Peppa Pig are the only two cartoons that I as an adult genuinely can't stand. But I do like thought and beauty in my cartoons, for these reasons alone Disney and ghibli make the grade for me.

CrystalEclipse Thu 15-Nov-12 20:51:54

Most films can be viewed in either way, Shrek for example. Is Fiona strong female lead, or woman who has abandon the woman and comfortable home to become a monster in a swamp to live with the man of her dreams? An slight exaggeration maybe... but what about the general message of the film? Most of the jokes though are about referencing traditional fairy tale and rival animation studio Disney. So it begs the question is the message you want to give your kids that you achieve success off the back of others or though your own invention?

Children pick up on our own insecurities about these things. Best way to avoid your children seeing the "failings" of the female characters is to talk about the more positive messages from the films instead. True of so many of the children's films listed above as giving a more positive role model.

I'm not saying that she shouldn't watch the older Disney stuff, just that I want her to be familiar with some stronger characters to balance it out. She's already started to complain that girls never do anything in films and they're boring confused and I want her to see that girls don't just sit around waiting to be rescued.

Obviously there will be greater influences on her world view than films, but I think that as a parent it's important to be aware of sexism (and any other kind of -ism tbh) in this kind of material so that you can counter it if need be.

Mrsjay Thu 15-Nov-12 15:43:04

The messages that the traditional Disney films try to convey are in fact quite lovely, e.g. believe in dreams (even in adversity), beauty lies within, courage don't give up etc. I think personally these are the more child friendly sentiments that still have value and are as relevent today to modern boys and girls as they were then.

Oh this ^ ^ wonderful post a lot better than I could have said

. I do think it is ok for children to watch disney films and enjoy them it is ok to be a bit meh about them as grown ups but tbh a child can see things so much more smiplistic (not a word ? ) than we can. a young child is so much different from a grown woman and it is up to us as parents to guide or children about equality positive role models etc and not all films have simpering defenceless girls in them I know my girls are not simpering defenceless females because they watched Disney films .

ElectricMonk Thu 15-Nov-12 15:16:52

I agree - it's very sad! I second Anastasia, Shreks 1 and 2, Beauty and the Beast, and Pocahontas. She's juuuust about old enough for some of the milder Roald Dahl children's stories as well - I know he's a bit dark, but you can tell from his writing that he was a father to girls as well as boys I think. Matilda and The Magic Finger both have female protagonists, there are probably more but I can't think of them at present. There's also The Wild Thornberries series, the girl in that was pretty self-reliant from what I remember, as was her mother...

I definitely used to watch Daria cartoons by the time I was 5 years old and loved it - even though I didn't get all of the jokes, she was a very positive role model to me all the way though school (and I now have every episode on DVD). The hyper-feminine, workshy characters were all gently ridiculed, while the less popular but hardworking and free-thinking characters were clearly represented as the cool ones (including Jane, who wasn't academic but was a great artist, and Jodie, who was very pretty but also a high achiever).

At least things will improve in a few years when she's mature enough (if not officially old enough in some cases, sadly) for some of the following, in a rough ascending order of age rating:

- The Parent Trap (in which the silly, dippy, excessively feminised stepmother is ousted as a result of the twin girls' resourceful, inventive and messy schemes);
- Jumanji (I don't remember much about it, but I know the brother and the sister were both equally involved in the action);
- Sister Sister;
- The Worst Witch (books and series);
- Sabrina The Teenage Witch;
- Ella Enchanted;
- Miss Congeniality;
- Xena Warrior Princess (okay, I know it's a bit violent but I watched it from 6 years old, had Xena dolls instead of Barbie and still credit her with making feminism cool for lots of the girls in my class);
- The old Nancy Drew books (no idea what the reprints are like);
- The Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett, the first three of which are written for tweens but could be read together at a younger age (actually TP is great for strong female characters overall - Susan Sto Helitt, Angua and Granny Weatherwax are all fab and I started reading about them at 11 years old);
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer;
- The Big Bang Theory (some of the episodes are a tad adult, but I think it's worth finding the age-appropriate ones for the sake of showing her Amy and Bernardette).

You know, that list actually makes me a bit sad - almost everything on it is aimed at audiences of 12+, as if the only contexts in which girls can be independent/strong-minded are dark and dangerous ones... sad

Must say, I'm very glad my parents used their own judgment about age-appropriateness or I'd probably be a very different person now! I was really unpopular at school and could easily have become shy and unassertive, but I'd already learned from Daria, Xena et al that those weren't qualities I admired (and that strong, intelligent girls often got picked on but it didn't matter because there were ways of dealing with it). While girls might not be negatively affected by a barrage of "damsels in distress", my own experience leads me to believe that exposure to positive female role models on TV amongst all of that can be very beneficial.

CrystalEclipse Thu 15-Nov-12 14:01:29

First of all I will admit to being a MASSIVE disney fan, but I must admit I get quite annoyed atposts like this

I do think Mrsjay has a point. Many of the original Disney films are comparatively really old now and just like much of the music seems dated, so does the portrayal of women. But just because classics like Dracula or Dickens may not carry the same feminist values as modern society, does not mean They don't make a jolly good read or that I'm going to run off and be bitten by a vampire.

I also think it's easy to project how we as adults view a film and forget that a child might view it differently. In the end this are just good old traditional stories that have been retold for generations and regularly referenced in modern life e.g. "a cinderella story"

DD watches all sorts of cartoons (although we have quite an extensive Disney collection blush) including the Studio Ghibli films. FWIW whilst she's seen the early Disney stuff she doesn't gravitate to it either preferring Mulan and Lilo and Stitch and the odd dose of Transformers. Arguably the female lead may be slightly more feminist (although I really do think this is questionable) but I don't often find myself nodding my head at some of the messages the films project generally.

The messages that the traditional Disney films try to convey are in fact quite lovely, e.g. believe in dreams (even in adversity), beauty lies within, courage don't give up etc. I think personally these are the more child friendly sentiments that still have value and are as relevent today to modern boys and girls as they were then.

CrystalEclipse Thu 15-Nov-12 13:02:52

Alice in Wonderland
Lilo and Stitch

Kethryveris Thu 15-Nov-12 12:44:02

the reason i like the girl from HTTYD is she isnt a typical girl, she's a dragon fighter, she's kicking ass with the boys and you never see her in a dress or mooning over anyone, nor does she ever do the damsel in distress thing!

crocodilesmiles Thu 15-Nov-12 12:40:04

Also, Fungus the Bogeyman, which is partly animated, is good. Here - There is a main character called Jessica, who is independent and strong. Bargain at £2.99 too! smile x

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