Okay, we’re all grown up now and there’s no need for this discussion, right? Wrong. Kids are often at that age where their opinions are forming and when they can distinguish reality from fiction and fantasy. So these movies do much to further a bit of debunking on gender stereotypes. I’ve gathered a few of my favorite films and critiqued them on a feminist level.
- National Velvet (1944)
This film starring a young Elizabeth Taylor is a about a young girl that wants to compete in the male only Grand National, a horse race, accompanying her is her friend who masquerades her as a boy and her supportive mom who has remembered her own experiences with sexism when she swam across the English Channel. This aces the Bechdel Test, for conversations about horses and following your dreams: there’s also a scene where Velvet chastises her older sister for dragging her from school because of a “silly boy.”
- Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Some you might be skeptical about it because it’s an old Disney film, but it does buck a few tropes surrounding women and girls. Alice is a very impatient young girl who wonders why her world as to be so stodgy and repressive. Other females she interacts with are her sister/mother/governess who represents British Victorian society, Dinah her cat, the flowers in the flowerbed who oust her out because they thought she was a weed, the large mother bird, and the very tempermental Queen of Hearts. Alice experiences her psychedelic trip to Wonderland and like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, she doesn’t finish her journey with a suitor and/or wedding.
- Pollyanna (1960)
Another Disney heroine butting against stodgy Victorian society, Pollyanna, is an optimistic orphan who introduces the crabby townspeople to “glad” thinking, urges a Reverend to remember that he is to lead his congregation, help her rich aunt gain back her humanity and fall in love with a pragmatic man, and Pollyanna even participates in a Town Fair that unites the townspeople. A further argument is made in Disney and Woodstock.
- Charlotte’s Web (1973)
My favorite, with a very pragmatic and wise spider, who counsels a pig in the lessons of life and death. Very far off from being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, in that she is practical.
- The Secret of NIMH (1982)
Undeniably Don Bluth’s best film, about a plucky and courageous single mom that seeksto save her young son and protect her family. Nostalgia Critic calsls it a great mix of magic and science.
- My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Before the english cut by Dakota Fanning, there was a previous one that was shone to a 1st-2nd grade class that I attended. About two sisters who move into the Japanese countryside in the 1950s, where they discover their house is inhabited by magical spirits, soon meeting that large cat Totaro who takes one girl to visit her ill mother..
- Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Different from most girl-centered stories, where a girl aims to be a skilled witch who has to make her way in the world as per tradition. A temporary bout leads her to realize her own inner strength.