January 23, 2011

ARTICLES: Girls on film

Children's entertainment features too few female characters, even in bit parts, sending the wrong message to youngsters of both genders.

WHEN my niece was three years old her favourite film was Jurassic Park. Of course, she should never have been allowed to see that film at her tender age, but let's leave that conversation and its associated allegations of irresponsible babysitting aunties out of it. The point is, she saw the film and was immediately enthralled. She would beg to watch it and then sit silent and wide-eyed for two hours, before begging to watch it over again as soon as the credits began to roll. We adults tried to break her addiction with age-appropriate dinosaur books and cartoons, but she wasn't interested. It had to be Jurassic Park.

She was almost five before she revealed what it was she loved about the movie: ''Lex. She's a little girl, but she climbed the fence and fixed the computer and saved everyone.'' It suddenly made perfect sense. Books and films for kids her age were either adventure stories about boys or princess stories about girls. My niece enjoyed both of these genres, but in Jurassic Park she found what so many children crave: a character she could both look up to and imagine becoming.

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