How movies teach manhood | Colin Stokes | Summary and Q&A

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January 18, 2013
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TED
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How movies teach manhood | Colin Stokes

TL;DR

In this thought-provoking talk, the speaker discusses the lack of representation and gender stereotypes in children's movies and calls for a new definition of manhood.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the main difference between "The Wizard of Oz" and movies today?

One of the main differences is the level of violence. "The Wizard of Oz" has very little violence compared to the movies we watch today. In today's movies, the protagonist often has to defeat computer-generated armies using their special powers, whereas in "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy wins by making friends and being a leader.

Q: How are the characters in "The Wizard of Oz" different from characters in movies today?

In "The Wizard of Oz," all the most heroic, wise, and even villainous characters are female. This is quite unique, especially compared to movies today where the main characters are mostly male. Dorothy, the protagonist, is a strong female leader who wins by forming friendships and leading others.

Q: How are boys influenced by the movies they watch?

The movies boys watch often focus on defeating villains and receiving rewards. There is not much emphasis on other relationships and journeys. This can lead to boys absorbing the message that they are supposed to be dopey animals and girls are the ones who need to be warriors. Boys lack models for defending against the patriarchy and need more diverse representations in movies.

Q: How do the lack of female protagonists in movies impact society?

Studies show that only a small percentage of popular movies have female protagonists. When this lack of representation is combined with the prevalence of sexual assault against women, it raises questions about what boys are learning from the dominant narrative in movies. We need to redefine manhood and challenge the traditional narrative through the movies we expose our sons to.

Q: What can parents do to promote gender equality and redefine masculinity?

Parents, especially fathers, can play a crucial role in shaping their children's views on gender and masculinity. By showing movies that pass the Bechdel Test and featuring strong female characters, we can teach our sons to trust and respect their sisters and other women. We need to model a new definition of manhood that supports and stands up against those who aim to abuse women.

Summary

In this thought-provoking talk, speaker Colin Stokes discusses the portrayal of gender in children's movies. He compares the classic film "The Wizard of Oz" with modern movies and highlights the lack of violence and strong female characters in the former. Stokes also questions the impact these movies have on boys, emphasizing the need to show them a new definition of manhood and encourage them to respect and stand up for women. He suggests that parents can influence this change by selecting movies that pass the Bechdel Test, which measures the representation of women in films.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are some differences between "The Wizard of Oz" and modern children's movies?

One major difference is the level of violence. While "The Wizard of Oz" has only minimal violence, modern movies often feature intense battles. Additionally, the majority of heroic and wise characters in "The Wizard of Oz" are female, whereas male characters are more prominent in modern films.

Q: How does the speaker believe children's movies influence boys' understanding of relationships?

The speaker believes that movies predominantly focus on defeating villains and achieving rewards, leaving little room for exploring other relationships and personal journeys. This may lead boys to believe that they need to be aggressive or even "dopey" to succeed. As a result, they may lack models for healthy relationships and ways to defend against patriarchy.

Q: What is the Bechdel Test?

The Bechdel Test is a simple assessment created by comic book artist Alison Bechdel in the mid-'80s. It consists of three questions for evaluating movies: 1) Are there multiple female characters with lines in the movie? 2) Do these women have a conversation with each other? 3) Is the conversation not primarily focused on a male character? The test aims to highlight the representation of women in films.

Q: How many of the 100 most popular movies in 2011 had female protagonists?

Only eleven of the 100 most popular movies in 2011 had female protagonists.

Q: What did a study published by The New York Times reveal about sexual assault in America?

The study indicated that one out of every five women in America states that they have experienced sexual assault at some point in their lives. The speaker acknowledges that this is not directly caused by popular entertainment but suggests that something is going wrong in the way boys are being raised and the messages they absorb from movies.

Q: How does the speaker propose that fathers can redefine manhood for their sons?

The speaker suggests that fathers should show their sons a new definition of manhood that involves trusting and respecting women. By selecting movies that pass the Bechdel Test and featuring heroic female characters, fathers can encourage their sons to identify with and support women. This shift in perspective allows boys to work together with women to fight against those who want to abuse them.

Takeaways

The speaker highlights the need for more representation of strong female characters in children's movies and encourages parents, particularly fathers, to be conscious of the messages these movies convey. By selecting films that pass the Bechdel Test, fathers can help redefine manhood for their sons and promote a more inclusive and respectful society. It is important to challenge the notion that boys should fight alone and instead teach them to join teams, led by women, to help others and become better people.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker discusses the lack of female representation and meaningful relationships in movies

  • The speaker suggests that parents should show their sons movies that pass the Bechdel Test and have strong female characters

  • The speaker argues for a new definition of manhood that involves trusting and respecting women and standing up against those who abuse them.

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