Home > books, media moms, Politics > A frog, an ogre, or Justin Timberlake

A frog, an ogre, or Justin Timberlake

So, I just saw Shrek the Third. If you haven’t, and you care, the following is spoilery.

It terrifies me that I have a daughter in this day and age, in this country, in this place, in this culture. Because there are so many … misogynistic assumptions built into so much of our popular culture that it makes me want to throw things across the room.

What’s this got to do with Shrek? (Which I mildly enjoyed, btw.) Well, the whole premise of the movie is that Fiona’s dad (a frog) is dying. He names Fiona and Shrek heirs. The only other heir is this spindly kid named Arthur who goes to school elsewhere. He dies. Shrek journeys to find Arthur (voiced by Justin Timberlake and drawn like… well, Justin Timberlake ten years ago) because he doesn’t want to be king.

Does no one notice that Fiona’s mom — The Queen — Julie friggin Andrews — is standing right there? This kingdom would rather have a snorting, burping, green monster who doesn’t want the job than a woman. Would rather have a punk 16-year-old loser that a woman. Had a frog, for the love of little green apples, rather than Julie Andrews!

Then there’s the “empowerment” scene where all the fairy-tale princesses decide they are tired of waiting around to be rescued and they burn their bras and get into ass-kicking mode. Except, they don’t… They maybe prod a little buttock and there’s a great scene with Snow White, the trilling birds, and the opening chords from “The Immigrants Song,” but the rest of it is…. lame. Fiona, who has Trinity-like bullet-time moves in the first two movies, doesn’t do a damned thing. When the castle gets invaded, they made good their escape (yay) but then get caught right away.

I just keep thinking about a scene in one of Tamora Pierce‘s novels when someone is complaining that women have always fought, especially while the men were away. Says one character: “My aunt lit barrels of lard and had them catapulted on to Scanran ships this summer.” Replies another: “As would any lady of breeding.”

But Fiona just… fails.

(More on the inestimable Ms. Pierce in a minute.)

And she’s not the only one. Summer movies are pretty down on girls this summer. Nancy Drew — an ur girl=power character — gets mocked mercilessly in a new film this summer. Bee Power features an almost entirely male cast … when all worker bees are females. There isn’t one female Transformer. (Okay, they are robots, but you see my point.)

I know there’s a “boy movement,” saying that our culture really does damage to little boys. I have to say that I’m not sure I buy that. I mean, it’s a toxic culture and tends to be bad for everyone, but this move to make more books/movies/tv shows “for boys” isn’t good for boys or for girls. And I know there isn’t enough out there for girls — or what is out there is just what I call “pink ghetto” stuff. You ever see the “girls’ products” at Lego? It sucks. Check out a popular Amazon list for “Teen Books for Every Girl“. The collected Pepto-pink of the covers, seen en masse, look like Tinkerbell barfed all over your screen. And, please Goddess, dont look at the American Girl website.

The amazing and wonderful Ms. Pierce (she’s a children’s author who writes female characters that really kick ass.  Her Alanna books got me through the years between 13 and 15) once said at a lecture I saw her give: “The movement in young adult books is to write more books for boys, because there’s a feeling they are getting shorted. But I looked through the whole sci-fi and fantasy book catalog for the upcoming season and there wasn’t one book with a female protagonist.”

And I’m guessing in the other genres, all the female protagonists were too-cool fashionistas like the Beacon Street Girls or reading Love Letters from too-cute boys or viciously stabbing each other in the back with other Gossip Girls. Perhaps she’s hoping that I really am a royal in exile and she’ll turn out to be a princess. (Though, wasn’t Julie Frigging Andrews the queen in that, too?) This is the crap they market to my daughter?

I firmly believe that you fight bad information with more information. I’ve always said that if she wants to read those horrible pink books, I’ll just flood her with good role models. But where the hell am I going to find those? Tammy Pierce only writes so many books!

Okay, that was ranty. I’ll stop. But I’m really exhausted that no one even thought to ask the Queen to stay on.

Categories: books, media moms, Politics
  1. C'tina
    June 12, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Check out Queen Gorgo in ‘300’. Although the flick is marketed to young adult male video gamers, I did not mind watching the spartans in their loincloths.

  2. June 12, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    I am so with you on this, counter-intelligence is the only way to go. My older daughter (who is 5) and I have conversations regularly about what’s wrong with the Disney princesses or why Barbie is funny looking. It’s still all out there (in unbelievable quantities), but at least she gets to see the other side.

  3. June 14, 2007 at 1:04 am

    I dont think it had anything to do with not wanting a Queen to rule Far, Far Away. It is more of how it is done. When the Queen of England dies her husband wont become King her son will.

    Anyway, we loved the movie and I didnt see any of the things talked about in the post. It didnt really registered at all. I really like the Shrek movies and dont mind my daughter watching any of it.

    She has already told me who she is going to marry. She is going to his door, drag him out, put on the suit she picks out and then marry him. I am so not worried that she is waiting for her prince to come. I am a little scared that she is going to club him and drag him off. 🙂

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