The Mailbag, April 6, 2008

Some people have taken the time to email me about some interesting stuff lately, and here it is.

Aerin writes:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89318829
Pete Segal gave this commentary/review of Horton Hears a Who on NPR the other
day. I thought it was great and thought of Hathor.

It’s a review from Peter Sagal after taking his daughters to see a Dr. Seuss movie in which the film makers thought it would be a funny embellishment for the mayor of Whoville to have 96 daughters as well as one son, and only pay attention to his son. Who saves the world. It’s like the girls exist just to show that 96 aren’t even as interesting as one boy.

Or as Wikipedia explains it, having so many daughters makes it difficult for him to pay his son the attention he deserves. Damn females always gettin’ in the way! Just put out and shut up, girls!

Come on. At least someone besides us gets it for a change. What’s interesting is how much heat the man is taking for what he said. Reminds me of C.L.’s review of Ice Age bringing thousands of people in to complain that we dare analyze a children’s movie to see what values it’s teaching kids. Don’t miss this article where Sagal talks to a screenwriter friend:

I do think [your wife]’s right that women are used to having to identify with the male protagonist, while in general the majority of men can’t return the favor. Some of this has to do with socialization, cf. Deborah Tannen’s YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND: WOMEN AND MEN IN CONVERSATION — women are generally brought up to empathize while men are brought up to solve problems and establish hierarchy. Some of it has to do with how our culture encourages men to remain in a state of arrested development, which gives them trouble empathizing with any problem that doesn’t affect them directly (such as the many Republicans who only vote for medical research when they have a relative affected). Some of it may come from the dominant role that pro sports plays in our culture — everybody knows how to root for the Redskins, but not so many for women’s basketball/soccer/golf/tennis.

But the gender divide Tannen analyzes is something our culture creates and perpetuates. And boys can indeed empathize with girls until they’re taught not to. All we have to do is stop teaching kids that girls are decorative objects. Just like racism, sexism does not come hardwired in the brain; it’s taught.

And Liza Brice writes to tell us:

I am writing from Women Make Movies, a non-profit distributor of independent film, to let you know about the upcoming national HBO broadcast premiere of THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO, a groundbreaking documentary that exposes the systematic rape and torture of thousands of women and girls happening in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), being used as a weapon of war.

For those of you who have HBO, it will premier April 8 at 10pm Eastern. You can watch a preview here and learn more about the film here.

Comments

  1. sbg says

    I do think [your wife]’s right that women are used to having to identify with the male protagonist, while in general the majority of men can’t return the favor. Some of this has to do with socialization, cf. Deborah Tannen’s YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND: WOMEN AND MEN IN CONVERSATION — women are generally brought up to empathize while men are brought up to solve problems and establish hierarchy. Some of it has to do with how our culture encourages men to remain in a state of arrested development, which gives them trouble empathizing with any problem that doesn’t affect them directly (such as the many Republicans who only vote for medical research when they have a relative affected). Some of it may come from the dominant role that pro sports plays in our culture — everybody knows how to root for the Redskins, but not so many for women’s basketball/soccer/golf/tennis.

    This is funny. I’ve had at least one break-up revolving around his inability to listen to me…and his demand that I listen to him unquestionably. Yes, demand. I can’t tell you the number of times I tried to enter the conversation he was having with himself, only to be told I wasn’t listening because I was bringing up something other than him.

    And this guy thought he was sensitive and enlightened.

    Great mailbag topics! I mean, it all makes me shudder, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

  2. says

    That’s cool to finally see some debate about this in the mainstream media (though it’s not cool to see that the situation in Hollywood isn’t improving). Hopefully drawing attention to this issue will help bring about changes.

    I’m a little annoyed to see that one of the articles linked above has already gotten a comment that repeats the same indignant tone as the complainers on the Ice Age thread: “Does anyone just watch a movie anymore? Why is it that people are always looking to tear down or grab onto something in the mainstream just to bring attention to themselves.” This irritates me because I swear that if you were to criticize any other aspect of the film people would accept that it’s normal and reasonable for the audience to analyze what they’re watching and share their opinions about it. But for some reason if it’s gender representation, then suddenly it’s “How dare you big mean old individual parents criticize the poor little harmless billion dollar film industry?” Plus the follow-up: “I say leave the entertainment media alone and focus in on your own families.” Hello? Hello??? How do you think I focus on my own kids? Part of it is by caring about what the media is teaching them.

    Take this new Horton movie, for example. I was debating taking my kids to see it in the cinema. Without this review, I might have, but now I won’t. If Hollywood wants my money, then they can produce a better product.

    I don’t need to see a movie about how the one son gets (and deserves!) all the attention while the daughters stand in his shadow — I’ve lived it. I even did some riffs on this theme in my novel, see here for example.

  3. SunlessNick says

    Dr. Seuss movie in which the film makers thought it would be a funny embellishment for the mayor of Whoville to have 96 daughters as well as one son, and only pay attention to his son. Who saves the world. It’s like the girls exist just to show that 96 aren’t even as interesting as one boy.

    Having now seen (or more precisely heard, since I’m facing away from it) the latter half of the film, there’s another gender dynamic there too: the first outsider to hear the noises coming from Whoville (besides Horton himself) is another son; who disobeys his mother to make the rest of his people listen. So the Whoville is saved by a son who loves his father and a another son who defies his mother.

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