Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Percy Jackson vs Transformers 3: Media Messages and Boys

This article is cross posted from the blog Marketing, Media, and Childhood written by Erin McNeill. I’ve been exploring the messages that media sends to boys about what it means to be male. Erin, along with Crystal Smith of Achilles Effect are two of my favorite writers who explore the messages that the media sends to boys. When I read this post about two popular movies with young male characters, I knew that my readers would find it interesting.

Erin’s background is in journalism, and on her blog, she says that her mission is to raise awareness of negative messages directed at children in advertising and other media. Erin and I both have similar interests in helping parents learn to guide their children through the messages that they receive as well as promoting media literacy. Her blog combines her passions for journalism and media literacy. If you haven’t visited, check it out, it’s a great resource for information about marketing and its effects on children .

Percy Jackson vs. Transformers 3: Media influences on your boys. Which message do you prefer?

I came across two reviews of current media offerings directed at young boys, from the perspective of what they teach children about gender and stereotypes.The difference is stark. At Achilles Effect, Crystal Smith finds the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, shows boys a positive male role model, along with a portrait of gender equality. 

On the surface, says Ms. Smith, it seems like a story with many of the usual tropes: boy doing poorly in school, an absentee father, and the dramatic separation of a boy from his mother.

However, she says, often when the boy is separated from his mother in stories, he is then surrounded by male mentors. But Percy encounters both male and female influences.

Also, as a male role model, Percy is a good one: “He worries about crying and showing emotion or fear in front of others, but the reader is privy to his inner thoughts and sees him admit to being scared, react happily to hugs from his mother, and show empathy for others…”

Meanwhile, Transformers 3 teaches your boys that degrading women is funny and female leadership is a joke, according to Caroline Heldman writing at Sociological Images.

Transformers 3, which is rated PG-13, is “pitched as a ‘family movie’ and the film studio carefully disguises it as such with misleading movie trailers showing a story about kid’s toys,” says Ms. Heldman.

There are only two main female characters in this movie, she notes; one a sexual object and the other a “caricatured mockery of female leadership.”

Here’s what your little boys will see in the first scene of this “family” movie:

This is the woman as “object:” Carly,  the one-dimensional, highly sexualized girlfriend of the protagonist. She is compared to an automobile, ogled constantly by men and robots, and threatened with sexual violence by a machine. In the opening scene, above, she is portrayed as merely a body part. That’s objectification.

According to this analysis, the character of Director of National Intelligence Charlotte Mearing, meanwhile, is “a caricature  with ‘masculine’ leadership traits – arrogance, assertiveness, stubbornness, etc. – who is ultimately put in her place at the end of the movie with a forced kiss.” Her authority is challenged by virtually everyone she encounters and finally evaporates, when another agent comments, “…moving up in the world, and your booty looks excellent.”

I didn’t care for the first movie in this series, in which the main female character was nothing more than the love interest, the scantily clad prize for the nerdy guy who becomes a hero (another trope). Looks like the series hasn’t improved much.Take a look at the full review to see clips from the movie the writer has selected to prove her point.

Another summer movie-watching weekend is coming up. Wouldn’t it be great if a lot of parents decided not to support this movie when they decide what their kids see? Instead, perhaps they will substitute a trip to the bookstore to support positive media.

Originally posted on www.marketingmediachildhodd.comFriday, July 8, 2011

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