I wonder if years from now a man will write a blog similar to mine except his goal will be to right the wrong done to boys and men in modern fairy tales? Shall I explain?
I recently watched a modern fairy tale, Disney Pixar’s Brave (2012). I really wanted my daughter to like it because I needed something to balance out her current affinity for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. For those who don’t know, Brave is about a Scottish princess who wants to buck tradition and not get married off in some contest of strength by men she doesn’t know. It becomes a mother-daughter story of trying to understand one another and lots of magic and mayhem ensues.
That part is fine, but my concern was the father. In short he was ineffectual; never knowing what was happening in his own household and almost killing his wife because he was dead set on catching a bear. It doesn’t sound too bad, but when you think about it, the growing trend for modern fairy tale movies is to cast the male as a dolt. It makes the brilliance of the female characters all the more impressive. But does it?
I know my blog is supposed to concentrate on the empowerment of women by reworking old fairy tales into modern, fully-fleshed female heroines, but a funny thing happened on the way to empowering women. We took away power from men.
I was guilty of it myself. After writing a novel with a strong, independent teenage female lead it was pointed out to me that her love interest was not stupid, but colorless enough to make the reader wonder why she would be interested in him in the first place. Disney’s Snow White, but male. Needless to say, rewrites have fixed the problem.
I understand the push. In order to make the woman more powerful, someone has to play the foil. But does that really mean that men have to become buffoons. It’s like they have to regress in order for us to progress. I cringe every time I see a female powerhouse who constantly has to save her male love interest from one dumb debacle after another. Thank goodness this isn’t a blog that includes sitcoms, or I’d have to make a separate blog. Can’t we have partnerships? Does empowering female protagonists by weakening their male counterparts make for a better message than the weak, helpless female waiting to be rescued?
To men and boys, I’m sorry. I don’t think you should have to become incompetent in order to make us look good. To the sisterhood, I think we should seriously think about what we’re teaching this generation’s crop of kick-ass girls. Soon we’ll come full circle: powerless, ridiculed men and the sexist, overbearing women who patronize them.
For those who don’t remember, feminism was supposed to be about making us equal, about partnerships—not about casting men as the new pretty bimbo.
Here’s the Fairy Tale Partnership Challenge: Look for stories, on TV, in movies and books, where the male lead and the female lead are partners and feel free to share. Both leads should be fully realized characters that somehow complement each other without one or the other having to be a total idiot.