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Rats with Balls

November 11, 2007

male ratLooks like my post on the Bechdel Movie Measure got linked to by Pandagon, where they are having a lively discussion about both the BMM, and something I had honestly never thought about before – the regendering of characters. What does this mean? Well, the lead character in the animated movie Barnyard was a cow, complete with udders, but who was voiced by a male actor. Real male rats have gigantic testicles, meaning the Ratatouille rats all had female bodies. In Jerry Seinfeld’s new Bee Movie, female bees were changed from being the active workers of the hive to only taking caring/mothering roles, while male bees (who in reality are just sex slaves) were given all the real jobs. What the hell? These are all examples given by the Pandagon readers, I’ll have to think about it and come up with some more of my own.

I’m sure I read somewhere that since most female reindeer keep their antlers until spring and most male reindeer lose them before Christmas, Santa’s sleigh is probably being pulled by a bunch of females.

Why would characters get regendered? One hypothesis is that girls will watch things with male or female leads, but boys will only watch male leads. I think this sort of begs the question. If most shows feature males, girls don’t have a choice but to watch things with male leads. Maybe if there were more good shows (not just Barbie and Bratz DVDs) featuring female leads, we would see that boys really don’t mind who the lead is, as long as the movie is interesting. Kids don’t seem to have a problem identifying with animals, toys, or vegetables (VeggieTales), so the idea of a boy identifying with a female lead character shouldn’t be so bizarre. Oh, but I forget myself. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. That’s right, nothing in common at all.

Maybe Amanda at Pandagon is right:

I imagine there are still huge numbers of parents that won’t allow their boys to get invested in female characters because they fear that it’s feminizing and not teaching the boys the “right” lessons about their place in the world relative to women’s. Blaming the boys themselves is a way of shifting responsibility off the parents, and allowing parents to indulge their sexist phobias without having to face up to their own issues.

Just like when parents only buy their daughters cooking and housekeeping toys and then say “We only buy them for her because it’s what she wants! She is naturally drawn towards girly toys, whatcha gonna do?”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr. Jim permalink
    November 11, 2007 4:39 pm

    The Easter Bunny is male but only female bunnies lay eggs…

    Does Dora the Explorer count as a positive female role model (at least for little kids)?

  2. VaxLam permalink
    November 16, 2007 2:54 am

    A most interesting observation, but probably one of the most common themes, pertaining to characters at least, in all most all forms of mass media. I have often thought of it as being appealed to the masses. What “commoner” from the back water state of lets say Arizona, wants to watch a movie about female bees doing all the work and the male bees fucking all day? It’s all a matter of demographics you see, appealing to the widest range of audience out there. And the common audience also happens to abide, thankfully enough, to the common patriarchy rules in society. It appeals to them and they would want nothing else to change the gender roles, and to some extent, so would I.

  3. November 19, 2007 9:01 am

    Interesting observation. If characters were regendered a whole lot of shows would have to undergo massive transformation!

  4. Jake permalink
    March 12, 2008 4:09 pm

    I figured since most of your examples are rated-g movies, it’s not a case of males being uncomfortable with their sexuality, it’s the mpaa.org’s fear of showing genitalia and sexuality in movies.

    As far as “The Bee Movie” is concerned, since Jerry Seinfeld is the main protagonist, it’s been gender-engineered around him without concern for reflecting accuracy in nature.

    I can’t think of any movies offhand that adhere to a strict guideline of “nothing but the facts” (unless you’re talking documentaries). Movie magic works because of our suspended disbelief and desire to exercise our fantasies and imaginations.

    Why else would anyone watch “Spice World”?
    (Forgive me, that’s the first shitty movie that popped into my head. Perhaps I should
    seek immediate therapy :D)

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