The other day I was talking with some friends about animated films and one of them made the offhand comment that DreamWorks (and in relation Pixar and Disney) tend to work in an alternating fashion, releasing a "boy" movie one year and then a "girl" movie the next. I stopped for a moment and tried to force recall the movie releases of the last couple years. All I could remember was Brave then Wreck-it-Ralph then Frozen, which would fit the pattern. When I later came home I did some research and realized my error. I was remembering movies I had seen in theatres, but there were a number of others that hadn't interested me at all. The pattern was all of a sudden void. (See full list here for Disney (ex. Brave (2012), Frankenweenie (2012), Wreck-It-Ralph (2012), Monsters University (2013), Planes (2013), Frozen (2013)) and for DreamWorks Animation).
However, the overall comment still gnawed at my consciousness. I couldn't help but think, "what makes a boy movie? What makes a girl movie?" Is it based on the gender of the main character or whether there are masculine machines vs frilly clothing? If the Lion King is a boy movie, and the Little Mermaid a girl movie, would Aladdin then fall in the boy category? How can we add labels based on categories like that? Rise of the Guardians, Wreck-it-Ralph, How to Train Your Dragon, Monsters University... these would most likely be labeled as "boy" movies. And yet (except for the last which I haven't seen), I loved these films and I know countless other girls who felt the same. Likewise, Tangled, Brave, Frozen--classic "girl" movies are also liked by an audience of boys.
What kind of impressions are we placing on children when we teach them that certain movies, certain stories--certain ideas are strictly reserved for specific genders?
Even with adult films--why are action movies considered primarily for guys and RomComs for girls? We have freedom of opinion and our likes and dislikes change as we grow. Everyday we are surrounded by gender stereotypes that we have self-created and I, for one, get tired of playing into their rules. I don't like having these categories resting over my head. I will choose to like what I like--whether it's considered masculine or feminine or both.
Thank you for reading my food for thought.