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Gender, Movie Reviews, Uncategorized

Newsflash: Women Can Save the Environment Too!

I also went to see the Lorax recently, and I was excited to see a great animated film about the importance of appreciating the natural world around us.  Like Clare said, the Lorax is inspirational, and that message should be the biggest take away from it.  But for me, that take away got a little lost in the sexist attitude toward women in the movie.

I firmly believe that corporate greed is wrong and comes at the expense of our environment – our only environment- and the ability of our planet to sustain itself.  We need to take the message of the Lorax to heart and not take our trees (truffla or otherwise) for granted.  We need to redefine the way we interact with our natural world to include this.

BUT. Let’s redefine this while we also redefine gender norms, shall we?

Secondary character Audrey is the one who wants to find and bring back the trees.  She dreams about it so much that she covers the side of her house with paintings of trees.  Yet it takes a boy to bring this dream to life.  She cannot complete her dream, she is dependent on this boy to complete it for her – to gift her with the realization of her dream. And she promises Ted that she will reward him with a kiss/marriage if he completes this task for her.  So…girls are only muses from which to take ideas and then only serve to reward the brave men with sexual favors?  That’s not the character I want to identify with.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Grammy is another secondary character, voiced by the awesome Betty White.  Grammy knows about the Once-ler, and remembers the trees well.  She has the two things that someone would need to go and bring back the trees, but she does nothing.  She waits with this information until Ted wants to go and bring back the trees.  I can only assume that she does nothing with this information because she is a woman and women can’t go taking on tasks like this, as she is more than enthusiastic about helping Ted achieve this feat.

Finally, we have the last of the supporting women characters: the Mom.  (I’m not even sure she gets a name other than Mom in the movie?) I was doing alright with her, until the scene where she is faced with Mr. O’hare in her house.  He orders her to fetch him cookies so that the men can be alone to talk. Then, when she surprises him upstairs, he just barely doesn’t say ‘Go back down to the kitchen’.  (I think he says, ‘Go back downstairs’).  Those ‘get back in the kitchen’ jokes are not funny when frat boys say them and they are not funny in a children’s movie.

In this whole movie we get no indication of women being more than secondary characters to this.  They are all given a back seat role to play. Why couldn’t Audrey have been the one to go out the Once-ler? Why couldn’t she have been ‘The One’ to save the trees and humanity? (Anyone else pick up a slightly religious tone to some of this? There’s a lot of ‘The One’ business spread throughout the movie).  Why are we still allowing our movies to craft women into secondary characters?

Overall, the Lorax is a good movie.  It’s cute, it’s witty, it’s well animated.  But it’s sexist undertones made me almost miss the important message.  Perhaps if the gender fails weren’t so obvious, if Audrey had been allowed to be the hero in her own story, it could have been a really powerful, positive reminder of the need to care for our environment.

Dr. Seuss’s amazing quote,

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better it’s not

is the message that should be taken away from the movie.  Let’s just make sure that little girls realize that it applies to them as well, that they can stand with the great women of environmental history and make a difference in the future of the planet.

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  1. Pingback: Holy Six Months, Batman! « Redefining Eco - June 12, 2012

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