What films should my children watch?

(59 Posts)
OutsSelf Thu 29-May-14 00:13:17

I have a 3.5 year old and we don't watch TV. I do like the idea of him watching films though, but it has to be sufficiently non sexist for me and non violent for DP to both agree to it.

So far we've got My Neighbour Totorro, and that is only passing the minimally sexist bar (pathetic mum, care taker older sister, dodgy old woman figure, etc). AND THAT'S IT!

What can he watch and look forward to? I've accepted that I will have to be patrolling discoursing the sexist stuff because I live in patriarchy but only to a certain extent. Like, fuck princessery and heroic princes, and fuck beauty-is-virtuous stuff.

What do you let your children watch? I'm asking here cos I assume you more or less have my values wrt to gender stereotyping...

Fram Thu 29-May-14 00:18:23

Ponyo, also studio ghibli- strong female lead, strong mum (dad is away working), ponyo's mum is a goddess... grin

Bellezeboobian Thu 29-May-14 01:01:12

My son is 5 and he basically just loves cartoons, and is quite keen on Come Dine With Me grin

I don't restrict anything as long as it's age-appropriate, but if I see something I don't like I do tend to have a discussion with DP and often DC will get involved, and I explain in a casual way why its wrong and I hope in my own way I'm educating him whilst not making too big of a deal at such a young age

LoveSardines Thu 29-May-14 08:40:46

Mine watch all the usual stuff, you can't avoid it. They got a load of original Disney films at my parents the other day - Sleeping Beauty etc.

I try and make sure that there are at least some with more reasonable messages in the mix. I am a bit more careful with books, especially as we get a lot given to us from charity shops which are old and have random sexism racism etc aplenty.

I think it's important to point out stuff as we can't protect them from the messages. It may be silly but if there is a girl or boy doing things which are the opposite to stereotype I mention it. The sexes acting in accordance with stereotype is obviously covered grin

Apart from studio ghibli I got no suggestions, we don't do films much.

Dragonlette Thu 29-May-14 08:51:29

Dd2 is 4 and she loved Wreck-it ralph when we saw that, there's a really great little girl in there.

We do watch most things though and just talk about the sexism in the films. Dd2 pointed out the rampant sexism in Cinderella herself the other day, which is a good thing I think. So she does see sexist messages BUT she's learning to laugh at what silly things people used to think. She is currently obsessed with Disney princesses, especially Elsa and Anna from Frozen, but she knows that they are pretend people who think silly things.

I grew up on a diet of Disney, and Care bears, and My Little Pony, etc and I've turned out alright. Dd1 had phases of princesses and Barbie and all things pink and sparkly. She grew out of them, she's one of the most feminist teenagers I know, she's absolutely certain that she will have a good career and she's planning on her partner staying home with the dcs when she has them (I think there may be some compromise and some childcare used). So I don't think it's that bad to watch some films with sexist messages, as long as we discuss the sexism in them.

libertytrainers Thu 29-May-14 08:52:32

my son loves the cat returns

BillnTedsMostFeministAdventure Thu 29-May-14 14:45:15

Kiki's Delivery Service.

Girl leaves home, gets job, takes care of self. Studio Ghibili.

See amightygirl.com for recommendations.


If you liked the Studio Ghibli stuff then I recommend Spirited Away - but you might need to wait until he is older because there are some parts which might be scary to a 3/4 year old.

gamescompendium Fri 30-May-14 01:20:27

Lilo and Stitch, The Rescuers, Wreck It Ralph, Frozen, Brave, Tangled, (last 3 are 'best' of the Disney Princess films but generally I'd say the non-princess films are better) Despicable Me, The Secret of NIHM (although if you loved the book you might get annoyed at the film), Hoodwinked, The Last Unicorn (very old and retro this one), The Wild Thornberries, Kiki's Delivery Service. Avoid most Pixar if you want female role models, generally they don't have many women in them.

OutsSelf Fri 30-May-14 22:42:34

Thank you everyone, we got The Cat Returns today but didn't quite get round to watching it.

I totally get that we can't avoid it forever, but he is very young! I don't mind doing a bit of ideology critique while we're watching but it does get a bit waring. Also, he is so young that the vague association between beauty and goodness is likely to 'take' whereas my impassioned critique of it is less like to make sense. So it might be nice to just hold it all off for a few years...

I take the point that we live in a sexist culture and it's everywhere. I too grew up in a culture of Barbie and Care Bears etc and I am fundamentally okay. But at the same time, I do live in a sexist environment and I do see the men around me privileged and I see part of that happening because of the things we all grew up accepting as normal.

Can I just ask - Mulan? I've not seen it but avoided it out of Disneyism (cartoon beauty etc.) plus the fact that it seemed to be a romantic retelling of a well documented incidence of statuatory rape. This is a vague sense I had of it and not related to any experience of seeing or discussing it, am I way off?

Also, I didn't think Frozen had done that well, I was sure I'd seen some Fems weeping about it somewhere?

WisemansBridge Fri 30-May-14 22:55:43

My dds like Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 (in the 2nd film there is a strong adult female and the 3 little girls who are in both films are non girly and brave).

They enjoy Hotel for Dogs which is about a brother and sister rescuing stray dogs and building a hotel for them. The sister is the older of the two and very brave and clever.

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs again a good, strong, intelligent female.

The Lion King is okay because the female lion is tougher and more feisty than the lead male. The female hyena is leader of the hyena pack too. Having said that the main characters are male.

I think Frozen is the least offensive of the princessy films because the lead female doesn't have a 'prince charming' rescue her and it's the love between the sisters that saves the day. It's not a perfect feminist film but an improvement on the others for sure (although I've heard Brave is also moving in the right direction - haven't seen it yet myself).

mimilovell Sat 31-May-14 00:27:23

I watch everything and rate it on what would my child learn. If there is any sexual stuff with it, swearing, then it is a no go.

gamescompendium Sat 31-May-14 00:37:01

I've watched Frozen a lot over the last few weeks. If you know it was based on The Snow Queen it will be a terrible disappointment. But the relationship between the sisters is the most important and my girls really respond to the sisterly relationship (we're seeing the same effect with the Little House books at the moment) and I think that is valuable. Not as good as Lilo and Stitch though which has a real depth of female representations and a more realistic sisterly relationship.

Brave is also 'an improvement' on most princess movies but is fundamentally about women being married off. Merida is a good character and again the central relationship is between female relations (this time mother and daughter).

i think there is an element of working out what you really want from a film and then making peace with that and any imperfections associated with that decision. For me there are very few 'perfect' feminist cartoons, and so I go with female lead characters (preferably not princesses) to balance the male led films they see everywhere else, passing the Bechdal and with preferably several female secondary characters (that last one is hard to find).

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 31-May-14 08:11:47

Mulan is feminist. But not to a 3 year old. Wouldn't let him watch it, the songs are quite sexist because the characters are sexist, but a 3 year old will just accept it with out understanding the context. .

I totally disagree with your view of Totoro. I grew up watching My Neighbor Totoro and it was my favourite films and a quite empowering one. The children in Ghibli films are great for making children feel like the have a voice. Mum isn't pathetic, she's very ill. Dad is doing a good job taking care of his own children but still a single parent with an ill partner so the oldest child is left taking on some of the adult work..and the old lady is not dodgy at all. She's lovely and cares about the children.

I think UP is a great non sexist film

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 31-May-14 08:13:48

UP has also (unrelated to feminism) of the best scenes I've ever seen in a film about infertility.

Oh and Brave. Dd loves it and love shooting her bow and arrow too.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 31-May-14 08:17:30

Brave is also 'an improvement' on most princess movies but is fundamentally about women being married off. Merida is a good character and again the central relationship is between female relations (this time mother and daughter).

It is about her being married off, but that was a reality for girls then. Watching her shoot to "win her own hand" makes me a bit weepy every time blush

There also isn't any of the sexist songs to go along with it like in Mulan which can be an issue for children.

ThinkIveBeenHacked Sat 31-May-14 08:20:13

This is why I like Pochahontas. It seems very balanced male/female. And she refuses to go to England with him at the end.



OutsSelf Sun 01-Jun-14 14:09:17

Okay, thanks.for.views smile

WRT to Totorro, it's that it's all quite gender conformist. And the old lady is lovely but is set up by the film as faintly ridiculous - Mai turns up covered in dust just as the old woman is saying she kept the place dusted, when Mai goes missing and they find a shoe, she's described as "making up stories - again"; she's not thought highly of, it's not a respectful portrait. And the mum is held in hospital for a cold and treated like a child by the dad and medical profession. And I thought that if the mum and dad roles were swapped, we wouldn't be invited to celebrate how well the mum's doing at home on her own in the context that the school aged child was making lunch for the pre schooler even though there was a parent at home all day with her. And despite this being so, she still didn't get fed as dad was too busy to stop for lunch and had no clue where she was when his eldest daughter did get in. I'm fairly certain that that would have looked a bit more neglectful, if the mum had been the one failing to organise packed lunch or keep track of her four year old.

I may be overthinking this.

We tried The Cat Returns, he was really upset by the implied injury to (evil) cats. I think he may.be too young, he's basically got no concept of rooting for the "goodies" or taking pleasure in the thwarting of "badies;" as far as he was concerned everyone was behaving badly grin and no one deserves to be flattened or pushed off a high building. Out of the mouths of babes, and all that...

gamescompendium Sun 01-Jun-14 18:16:23

Watching her shoot to "win her own hand" makes me a bit weepy every time blush

I'll let you off, I get a bit weepy every time I watch Elsa sing 'Let it Go' in Frozen.

Fram Sun 01-Jun-14 21:26:04

I'm pretty sure the mother in Totoro had cancer or tuberculosis, and obviously having a cold would prevent release from hospital! It's set in the 50s.
I do think the dad isn't v good at looking after his children... however I think it was fairly common in many cultures for older siblings to make food for themselves/younger siblings- I'm not that old, and I had to!

I think The Cat Returns is completely over a 3yo's head- my children couldn't understand it until about 6 or so. Kiki's delivery service is great though, and I love the city she moves to- it's just heavenly! I want to leave home, and have a little attic above a bakery too envy

Rockdoctor Tue 03-Jun-14 18:01:15

I'd also suggest looking at some of the other Studio Ghibli movies. We like Ponyo and the one that is based on The Borrowers (Arrietty?), but I think you have to think of the cultural context.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Tue 03-Jun-14 19:24:12

Yeah that's how I see the illness too Fram, also the old lady does do the dusting..the sprites made it dusty!

Greythorne Tue 03-Jun-14 19:28:46

Mary Poppins

Suffragette mother.
Father goes on a journey to become a better Dad.
Both boy child and girl child learn how to do housework by magic.
Jolly songs.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Tue 03-Jun-14 20:06:58

I like your addition of "jolly songs" grin

TheSarcasticFringehead Tue 03-Jun-14 20:14:55

I work for Disney and we don't have the best track record, avoid a lot, more recent films are great- seriously, Maleficent is very feminist, mother's love and not just romantic love, Frozen is great imo. Despicable Me is great in my opinion- the girls are strong characters who aren't typically 'girly' in any way shape of form, the younger one might like stereotypically feminine things (pink unicorns, fairies and so on) but is more balanced, like a real child.

I dislike Mary Poppins- the suffragette mother is shown as quite weak and stupid.

Yama Tue 03-Jun-14 20:16:12

I love Inkheart. Also, Nim's Island is not bad. Can't remember what age dd watched these.

Dd loves all the studio Ghibli stuff but it's not my cup of tea so she watches with dh.

Ds is almost four and is into the Toy Story films at the moment. In fact, he's only really gotten into films. He can sing every note of every song in Frozen as he and dd share a room and have the cd.

TheSarcasticFringehead Tue 03-Jun-14 20:19:12

Also, I think it's called Hoodwinked? It was great.

WhizzFucker Tue 03-Jun-14 21:53:37

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ is great for helping choose films for children and highlighting any sexism, violence, homophobia or whatever without you having to screen in advance.

I / we loved Curious George when DS was little enough, but I can't remember now if there was anything dodgy (or any women in it at all...)

OutsSelf Tue 03-Jun-14 21:55:18

Aha, I touted Mary Poppins with a feminist friend IRL and she also thought that the Suffragette thing was more or less a slur. There is a scene where she's basically framed as prepared to hand over her kids to anyone rather than look after them herself. Still, the professionalisation of all domestic labour is quite feminist, yes?

Okay, I'm probably hyper sensitive wrt Totorro. The illness is never disclosed but you'd think it was something tubercular. If you were thinking about it. I didn't like all the wimpyness, 'Ooo, I'm just so determined to get better' <tinkly laugh> and the dad saying, 'That's the spirit!' I've always been very easy to patronise though. That said I will concede Totorro -- and not just because the horse has bolted on this one--

We have Kiki's Delivery Service, the whole, cat-is-in-possible-danger-but-turns-out-not-to-be meant we turned it off without getting to the end. We did watch some of some Toystory which happened to come up on the telly but DP was concerned with the (pantomime) violence between Woody and Buzz. Which I'm realising sounds ridiculous but our kids are tiny and have just never seen anyone fighting like that. DP was shocked by how casual and extreme it was and we weren't 100% sure that DS can sort out the pretend violence and its lack of consequence for plastic stuff. Which maybe he can now? I'm such a childhood development amateur.

So we did try some Buster Keaton, because DP and DS watched some at SiL's birthday party a while back and DP loved that he and DS could watch something together and both appreciate it. It was dreadful, the woman was pathetic (though you had to be able to read the subtitles for the detail of that) and then he blacked up, I am not kidding. So fuck Buster Keaton.

Okay, what do you think of Bedknobs and Broomsticks? I've never seen it. And Chittychittybangbang? I vaguely remember a child snatcher in that which may not suit our little boy's temperament...

ReallyFuckingFedUp Tue 03-Jun-14 22:09:01

I like both as a child but haven't seen them recently... it's when you watch them as an adult you suddenly get that "oh my god" feeling.

Bedknob and broomsticks seems like it should be though.

I go back and forth on Mary Poppins...

Try one of the early Mr Bean episodes.
The Fox and the child is good too. And Swallows and Amazons is excellent.

Greythorne Wed 04-Jun-14 08:04:41

Chitty Chitty bang bang is a game of two halves. Starts off wonderfully, ends up as a nightmarish journey into the heart of darkness. My kids hate it. If your DC is at all sensitive, avoid.

Greythorne Wed 04-Jun-14 08:09:00

Going back to Mary Poppins....
I don't think the mother is absent because she is a suffragette. I think she is absent because she is an upper class woman of her time with a full household staff (cook, a maid and a nanny).
Her suffragette song near the beginning is FAB!
And it gives ample opportunity to introduce the suffragettes to the DC.

Plus Mary Poppins is a wonderfully intriguing strong female lead.

And it passes the Bechdel Test!

pleaseaffixstamps Wed 04-Jun-14 08:28:12

I'd second/third/whatever Despicable Me. The girls in it are fabulous. (Bonus points for positive portrayals of adoptive families, which has only just occurred to me as I type this!)

Possibly not quite yet, but when he's a tiny bit older, get a box set of The Sarah Jane Adventures. They are every bit as good as Doctor Who, less scary, and are HEAVING with positive role models (but not in an obvious preachy way).

Eg: the heroine is a single mother in her late fifties/early sixties, who earns her own living as a journalist, and who regularly saves the world. My DS has grown up without finding this remarkable at all, but perfectly normal, which I love.

Her teenage sidekicks are realistic but positive, and have included plenty of strong teen girls, who carry the action every bit as much as the boys. There's a really good mix of white, Black and brown teens, and a sort of analogy for an autistic teen who is adopted by Sarah Jane (he's an alien, and brilliant, and there's a bit of Explain This Earth Custom For Me at the beginning). There's some great acting: the actor who played Clyde Langer I expect great things of.

The plots aren't just Monster Of The Week (though there are those there, certainly), but deals well with larger themes of loss and loneliness, getting older (for both the children and for Sarah Jane), change, all kinds of things. It's a brilliant series.

BillnTedsMostFeministAdventure Wed 04-Jun-14 09:08:39

Excellent idea about The Sarah Jane Adventures, ds1 is nearly 7, do you think that's about right?

pleaseaffixstamps Wed 04-Jun-14 09:13:46

I'd say so, depending what sort of level of Mild Peril he's OK with! My DS absolutely loved it at that age, certainly, but other kids (ie me at that age) might find some things scary. Try it out when he is asleep, and if you think it might be too much, just hang onto it for a little while longer.

(Has he ever watched Doctor Who? It's less scary than that.)

BillnTedsMostFeministAdventure Wed 04-Jun-14 09:31:51

No, he knows he's not allowed to watch Doctor Who until he's older wink so he might be interested in the DW-SJ link.

He seems ok with "cliffhangers" (is Lucy going to escape in Despicable Me 2 etc) so I think Mild Peril is ok.

pleaseaffixstamps Wed 04-Jun-14 09:33:34

Watch an ep or two and see what you think!

BillnTedsMostFeministAdventure Wed 04-Jun-14 09:37:12

Will do! I've never seen it, might be nice to watch it together from the beginning...

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Wed 04-Jun-14 09:40:19

Monsters Vs Aliens is great - very strong (literally a giant) central female character and a reversal of 'getting married and living happily ever after' in the storyline plus enough monsters, aliens, chases and comedy for a little boy to enjoy.

BillnTedsMostFeministAdventure Wed 04-Jun-14 10:06:09

I like Monsters vs Aliens but I think it might fail the Bechdel test sad - wish one of the other monsters or one of the soldiers had been female.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Wed 04-Jun-14 10:47:21

Yeah that's true. It seems that whenever there is a "strong female lead" - she must be surrounded by men as compensation eg Ripley, Lara Croft etc

ReallyFuckingFedUp Wed 04-Jun-14 14:37:27

Finding Nemo is quite good. It's not specifically feminist but it isn't unfeminsit, iyswim

OutsSelf Thu 05-Jun-14 10:06:32

Not-feminist is fine! It's not that I want the films to be feminist, I just don't want them to be sexist. It's actually quite a low bar that Hollywood is insistently tripping over....

ReallyFuckingFedUp Thu 05-Jun-14 10:12:38

Then Nemo is pretty good. It's not sexist (the mother is dead in typical disney style though) the dads all do the school run that sort of thing. Unlikely to pass Bechdel but a nice movie.

schoolrunfiend Tue 10-Jun-14 00:09:01

Apologies if I missed someone already saying this (it's late!!) But have you looked at the bechdel test website - rates films by following criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.
Wryly amusing and then terrifying when you realise how few mainstream films actually manage all 3!

gamescompendium Tue 10-Jun-14 21:19:29

101 Dalmations is pretty good from a 'several female human characters' viewpoint but the dogs are mainly male. We watched 'Hoodwinked' at the weekend and it is pretty fab, there's a good story arc about Red and her Grandmother.

I think Bedknobs and Broomsticks is OK from a Bechdal Test viewpoint but there's some dodgy sexism or racism in there. I'm vague because I've not seen it since I was a child, I suspect that comes from commonsensemedia which is excellent at telling you if there is anything dodgy in a film, although since it's American they are very uptight about nudity, the wonderful film Babies gets negative reviews because (shockingly!) it shows small babies being BF.

OutsSelf Thu 12-Jun-14 00:23:44

Right, we.tried Finding Nemo, he wept from the start and we ended up.skipping to the end for the reunification, and putting Totoro on. I'm reminded of.myself weeping through Lassie as a kid. It seemed quite cathartic though, he gave up all attempts to injure the baby/ start a fight with a parent for.the rest of the day

Maybe he is just too young, I don't even know why I've become mildly obsessed by the need to "solve" this problem. No screen is fine, right? Mad how difficult it is, and interesting to watch stuff through the eyes of an innocent...

ReallyFuckingFedUp Thu 12-Jun-14 08:05:45

blush I'm so sorry.

The shark dead mother bit is really only the first 10 minutes you could easily fast forward through that and be out the other side.

I didn't even think to warn you, sorry. although it is Disney and dead mothers are kind of their "thing"

ReallyFuckingFedUp Thu 12-Jun-14 08:07:05

I weep openly through the first ten minutes of Up, but luckily that goes completely over Children's heads. (Infertility and then the wife dies)

OutsSelf Thu 12-Jun-14 09:49:25

Oh, don't worry, I'm just storing it for the future.

Why oh why is there no Sarah and Duck, the movie? I don't want the TV on at all and we have tried watching just videos or copies of okay TV shows but he really struggles to regulate himself - he'd just watch it endlessly all day, but flipping between episodes on a shorter and shorter loop. It seems so unhealthy? Or am I a dinosaur?

WisemansBridge Thu 12-Jun-14 21:42:48

Oh bless him, we have sensitive dc too - we skip the beginning of Nemo, fast forward the stampede in the Lion King..

Someone up thread mentioned Curious George and I'd second that. It's a really lovely film, one of my favourite children's films and there's no danger/death so I'm sure your ds would be okay. Not many females in it unfortunately but there is one who's a teacher and comes across as strong and intelligent and is the voice of reason.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Thu 12-Jun-14 22:15:37

you can also make him a youtube list. I have one for my dd who is also 3.

I search for TV shows that seems safe, and then filter the results to 20 mins plus so as to only get full episodes.

The shows below are from PBS, so educational. I Daniel Tiger teaches children about feelings and emotions. Peg and cat is about Math.

peg + cat

daniel tiger

sid the science kid

OutsSelf Fri 13-Jun-14 15:58:23

We used to do the YouTube videos thing but stopped because he learned to operate it and used it in a really unhealthy way - watch a bit of this, skip, watch something else for a minute, change again... it was like he was going into overload and his behaviour afterward was appalling. Our current compromise is that one day a month he can watch videos. I think as he gets older we'll work proactively on self regulation.

The thing with Nemo is not just the sad start but basically that they are in this terrible situation for.the whole film. He just couldn't bear the ongoing risk and unhappiness. Gorgeous and annoying.

Might look out Curious George next....

gamescompendium Tue 17-Jun-14 23:05:58

Studio Folimage looks promising, it's a French animation studio that does hand drawn animations that seem to include lots of female characters. We've got A Cat in Paris which has 3 main female characters and 3 main male characters so easily passes the Bechdal. But Mia and the Migoo, and Aunt Hilda! (not released in the UK yet) look good as well.

Michel Ocelot's film Kirikou and the Sorceress is suppose to be good as well, and although his other work doesn't seem to have lots of women it does look incredibly gorgeous.

My girls are refusing to watch anything but animations at the moment but there are lots of lovely book adaptions with lots of female characters.

gamescompendium Tue 17-Jun-14 23:08:43

OMG! I didn't realise my link would do that!

IWillOnlyEatBeans Wed 18-Jun-14 10:41:54

My 4 yr old is really sensitive and a lot of films are unsuitable for him as they are too scary.

Our 'staples' are Cars, Cars 2, Planes, Wall-E and any of the Thomas The Tank Engine films.

I don't think there are many female characters in any of these, but there is no real peril either, so they are a winner in this house.

DS also likes Frozen, but we just end up fast forwarding between the songs!

gamescompendium Thu 19-Jun-14 18:09:38

I've seen an interpretation of Wall-E as a non-heteronormative romance which makes it much more interesting to watch.

We have a Cat in Paris as well and DD loves it. Oddly IMO. Studio Ghibli as well. Despicable Me as well.

OK, I want to put a pitch in for My Little Pony and Yo Gabba Gabba. <sigh> I know it's TV and evil and all. My Little Pony, however has great messages. Friendship is Magic, leaders are female, all the ponies work to help each other. Yo Gabba Gabba is very balanced. There is an annoying pink robed female character but also Toodee, cat-dragon and cool animal all-round. The team do babies and animals and healthy eating. What's not to like? Good music too.

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