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Watch: How movies teach manhood to boys

"A real man is someone who trusts his sisters and respects them, and wants to be on their team, and stands up against the real bad guys, who are the men who want to abuse the women." 

Published: November 27, 2019 4:14:34 pm

 

When Colin Stokes’ three-year-old son stumbled into a screening of Star Wars at home with his father and sister, he was obsessed. This made the dad question the message he was absorbing. In this talk, Stokes, who works for non-profit Citizen Schools, makes a case for movies that send positive messages to boys and show them that cooperation is heroic.

He said in this Ted Talk, “The movies are very, very focused on defeating the villain and getting your reward, and there’s not a lot of room for other relationships and other journeys. It’s almost as though if you’re a boy, you are a dopey animal, and if you are a girl, you should bring your warrior costume.”

Stokes also mentioned the Bechdel Test, recommended by comic book artist Alison Bechdel, where she asked people to ask just three questions about a film — “Is there more than one character in the movie that is female who has lines? So try to meet that bar. And do these women talk to each other at any point in the movie? And is their conversation about something other than the guy that they both like?”

He adds, “There are plenty of exceptions, and I will defend the Disney princesses in front of any you. But they do send a message to boys, that they are not, the boys are not really the target audience. They are doing a phenomenal job of teaching girls how to defend against the patriarchy, but they are not necessarily showing boys how they’re supposed to defend against the patriarchy. There’s no models for them.”

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He noted, “We have tools at our disposal like “girl power,” and we hope that that will help, but I gotta wonder, is girl power going to protect them if, at the same time, actively or passively, we are training our sons to maintain their boy power? I mean, I think the Netflix queue is one way that we can do something very important, and I’m talking mainly to the dads here. I think we have got to show our sons a new definition of manhood.”

“A real man,” pointed out Stokes, “is someone who trusts his sisters and respects them, and wants to be on their team, and stands up against the real bad guys, who are the men who want to abuse the women.”

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