By Maya Brown
So the other day I went with my friends to see The Adventures of Tintin at the movies. On my way out the door my mom told me she had heard that the author of the Tintin comic books was really sexist, so I went with a mind to watch out for any sort of sexism or stereotypically portrayed women. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that, because there were absolutely no women in the movie at all. Okay , you got me; I exaggerate a little bit. My apologies. There were two.
That’s right, two women in the entire feature-length movie. It wasn’t like there was a small cast either. There were 16 characters of some importance, with multiple henchmen, pirates, and reporters gracing the film. And not only were there only two women, out of the multiple scenes, conversations, and action sequences the guys had, those two women literally had two scenes. One each. That’s right, not only were there only two women in the whole movie, there were only two scenes in the whole movie that included women speaking at all. And who were these women, might you ask? One was a famous opera singer, clad in a tight pink dress, and used as a pawn in an evil plan to crack a glass case with her voice (oh, real important). In her brief moment of fame she did a good job of looking stupid, confused, and oversexualized. The second woman was Tintin’s landlady, who I think had all of two lines.
The sad part is that this wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill action-y “boys movie.” Tintin was directed by Steven Spielberg, got huge press, and has been very well received by critics—the movie made New York Magazine’s Top 10 List for 2011, and HitFix’s top 10 films of 2011. Yes, the visuals were amazing. Yes, the action sequences were great. But where were the freaking girls?
So let’s connect the dots between Tintin and our protest of LEGO’s new Friends line. LEGO has told us that after four years and millions of dollars in research, new pink and purple, Barbie-fied LEGO sets are what girls want. This may be what girls are saying they want, but why? Because they’re not offered anything else! Girls do not come out of the womb oo-ing over pink blankets and obsessed with looking prettier; they are taught these things by companies that now include LEGO. And not only are they constantly shown images telling them to like pink and to care about what they look like, but when a movie with pirates and sword fights comes along, they are all but shoved out of the picture. By not including any interesting girls in Tintin all the millions of girls who watch are told that they don’t belong in this world. Their job (our job) is to party, lounge by the pool, or go to spas. And if we want that one small scene, we better play it just right: stupid, confused, and oversexualized. No adventures for us.
Girls aren’t interested in regular LEGO sets because we’re wired differently? Not remotely. Girls aren’t interested because media never tells us that we’re allowed to be. So when LEGO makes a set geared specifically towards girls, they are just exemplifying what movies like Tintin have been telling us on a regular basis: that we don’t belong center stage.
Girls need to be represented in movies like Tintin because seeing ourselves in such films tells us that we can like anything and do anything we want. Marketing the LEGO Friends line doesn’t give girls more options; instead it reaffirms what girls are supposed to want and allowed to play with. We need to see ourselves in the media doing unique things, brave and adventurous things, like fighting pirates or trekking across the desert. Now those are options.