I should have known better, especially given it was an Adam Sandler movie. But, the optimist in me thought there might be some re-visioning of ‘bedtime stories’ rather than a tired re-hashing of all their sexist mores. So much for optimism.
The film drips with delimiting gender stereotypes. The evil mom (ala Hansel and Gretel and umpteen other fairy tales) is replaced by the over-controlling, health-food-obsessed Courtney Cox. Life with her is no fun – she is the purveyor of wheat-grass cakes, the destroyer of kid-fun. At least she has a job – a principal no less – but, even this career is played on to further the over-controlling, mean meme. Here, she is a descendent in a long line of evil female school marms, from Miss Trunchbull in Matilda to Miss Umbridge of Harry Potter.
Thankfully, cool bro (in the form of Adam Sandler) comes in to save the day. He plays a number of positive (read: male) roles – savior, deliverer of fun, bringer of adventure, giver of roasted marshmallows.
Of course, it wouldn’t suffice to only put the story in motion with one evil female; we need an entire cast of second-tier xx types. To fulfill this sexist media imperative, we have Violet, the empty-headed fashionista (who must be saved by Sandler’s character on various occasions and who, of course, rewards him with a kiss – what else do women have to offer but their sexuality?) Then, we have the goody-two shoes babysitter/friend who tries to ruin all the fun with her rule-bound boringness. Thankfully, her saving grace is she is “skinny,” as one fat-hating scene emphasizes. In the scene, a number of women who used to bully Adam Sandler’s character when he was in high school are put in their place when he parades this skinny arm-candy in front of them. So the fat-is-ugly stick can beat the audience a little more, Sandler’s character verbally attacks a woman who – how dare she – is enjoying a plate of pasta even though she is not an acceptable size zero.
To ice this sexist cake, we have the little girl who, though her masculine name Bobby tries to trick us, plays typical second fiddle to her brother. At first we are led to believe that she controls the stories that end up becoming reality, but, no, that would be just too much power in the hands of one without penis privilege. It is, of course, the brother that controls the stories.
And, for the grand finale, said brother is left with a kiss from the older “hot” girl at the movie’s close – because even the pre-ten-year-old-set needs to learn that the main purpose of female existence is their hottitude.
To summarize, this ‘new’ take on bedtime stories offers the same savior boy/hot damsel in distress paradigm. Sigh.
What year is it again?
And Ms. Cox – what were you thinking? You have a daughter for goddess sake!
To be fair, the movie did have its funny moments. But, why can’t we have humor, fun, and adventure sans the sexism? Why can’t we have more movies that don’t drill negative stereotypes into girls and boys heads?
Films are showing some signs of improvement, but still have a long ways to go. This last weekend being a case in point, we had the release of Up. Though I have not seen it yet, from the previews it looks like once again all the main characters are male. And, in the recent Monsters vs Aliens we had only ONE female lead. For more adult fair, take the Star Trek previews – though Uhura plays a significant role in the film, she is sidelined or absent in every preview I have seen. As for Land of the Lost, must the preview feature a boob-grabbing Chaka? Please – Jodie Foster, Camryn Manheim, Tina Fey, Ashley Judd – someone with feminist sensibilities – can you produce a few family flicks?