In June, the film rating non-profit Common Sense Media (CSM) announced it would develop a system to rate films on the basis of whether or not they “defy gender stereotypes” and offer “progressive depictions of gender roles.”
“In theory, the system is quite simple: a film will be awarded the organisation’s seal of approval if it presents characters that defy gender stereotypes,” The Economist reported.
Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, thought this was a marvelous idea. “Thank you Common Sense for your work helping parents choose films for our kids with positive gender representations,” Clinton tweeted.
Thank you @CommonSense for your work helping parents choose films for our kids with positive gender representations: https://t.co/kA64ZW8UND
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) August 3, 2017
The proposed rating system sounds almost propagandistic. “Films designed for early childhood (between the ages of two and six) should depict boys and girls as friends and equals,” The Economist reported. “By the time of early adolescence (between 11 and 13), films must demonstrate that worth is based on more than just physical beauty.” Do most films not depict boys and girls as equals for young audiences?
CSM argued that parents “want help choosing content that better reflects the world we live in today,” and cited research that “negative” gender representations on screen “can affect children’s sense of self, relationships and career aspirations.”
Apparently, teaching young children that marriage and family are valuable and presenting historically accurate pictures of relationships between the sexes is “negative.” But the real controversy comes when evaluating Disney films.
At first, Mulan (1998) made the list, thanks to its “strong female character” who fights the Huns, The Economist reported. But wait — “some might argue that these are not unequivocally progressive characters. Mulan can only join the Chinese army by posing as a man—men are, it is repeated, superior to women—and when she is offered a high-ranking job, she turns it down in order to return to the homestead.”
So, the hit Disney song “I’ll make a man out of you,” beloved by kids of all ages, is somehow misogynistic? It’s about training men to be virtuous soldiers, not about minimizing the worth of women. (Mulan ends up accomplishing a feat none of the men can do.) In fact, the song “A girl worth fighting for” suggests soldiers’ lives are less meaningful without a woman to inspire them. Are these somehow “negative” because they show traditional gender roles?
Similarly, Beauty and the Beast (2017) presented problems.
A recent internal discussion revolved around whether the recent “Beauty and the Beast” film, starring Emma Watson, should be considered a force for good. Some pointed to its strong female lead; others made a case for her suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Ms Watson said that she had helped to make feminist adjustments to the character of Belle, but for some viewers the coercive overtones of her relationship with the Beast remained problematic.
So the film featuring Miss Feminist herself, Emma Watson of UN feminism speech fame, is sexist? What passes CSM’s standards?
According to The Economist, CSM already rates films based on multiple criteria: “It provides the minimum age each film or series is suitable for, along with a five-point rating system indicating the amount of sex, violence, sweary language, binge-drinking or drug-taking featured.” These criteria are more or less objective, and helpful for a rating system to take into account.
But when it comes to pushing a “progressive” agenda, CSM will run into numerous problems. Social Justice Warriors will always find something to complain about, and unless a film shows a perfect female heroine, preferably black, lesbian, and transgender, who puts the horrid legacy of old white men in its place, they will remain unsatisfied.
Any historically accurate depiction of women (except Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth I) will automatically fail CSM’s criteria, which is a real shame, especially when that rules out most Disney movies, which are obsessed with the princess finding her Prince Charming.
America is a free country, and Chelsea Clinton can support any rating system she wants, but that doesn’t make CSM’s efforts a good idea. Movies have already started presenting more complex female characters, and this is a good trend, but feminist rating systems like this would reinterpret Disney films as a weapon of the Patriarchy, and any parent in their right mind knows that’s absurd.
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