I have written often about my issues with the lack of women in the media—especially the lack of girls in children’s films. We often only see them as helpless princesses or smiling, pleasing best friends, and many of us are well aware of how most films fail a test as simple and easy to pass as the Bechdel Test
But something that has slipped my notice until recently is that boys are not fairly portrayed, either. They definitely have it better, seeing as they are usually the hero—or at least the main focus of the film altogether—and are in the movie to begin with, but instead of giving young boys the depth and character that, say, Ramona Quimby has in Ramona and Beezus (almost the perfect film, in my opinion!), boys are made out to be these selfish, monstrous little creatures who need to get into trouble before they realize what jerks they are—and even then, they may not truly make a character change, but only a temporary one to get what they want.
Take Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequel, Roderick Rules, for example. These are highly enjoyable films that are primarily focused on boys, and they are a lot of fun to watch. The main character, Greg Hepley, gets into trouble throughout the entire first film (and much of the second), and is often a complete jerk to his best friend, a sweet boy whom Greg sees as a bit of a loser. The film has a great message, since the friend ends up being more popular just by being himself, but Greg doesn’t seem to learn as much as we’d like to think he does, since he pulls some of the same shenanigans in the second film.
My daughter unfortunately caught wind of the dismal and crude Mike Meyers film, Cat in the Hat, which might have been funny if it hadn’t had so much adult content in it. She saw it and laughed a lot-with me having to explain a few things afterward—and then she said to me, “Boys are mean and stupid, aren’t they?”
This is from a little girl who always tells me she wants to be a boy, mind you.
I explained to her that no, boys are not mean and stupid, but that all people can be mean and stupid sometimes. We all make poor decisions and we suffer the consequences from them. She seemed to get it, but it began to worry me—what else is she picking up that I didn’t notice without her help?
Perhaps we should petition Hollywood for more accurate, layered portrayals of boys while we demand that our girls get film time in the first place.