Monday, February 17, 2014

Women in the Media and Society

So this week we are reading “The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies” by Susan Bordo and we are watching Miss Representation in class. Susan Bordo discusses how images and the media portray ideals for women and girls. Plastic surgery and age defying methods are a focus at the beginning, but then she transitions to gender differences for toys and videos by talking about her daughter. Miss Representation depicts how society sees women and how the media portrays them. For example, how men see woman in politics and how women feel the need to compete with other women.

For this blog posting we have two options for discussion:
Figure 1: Halle Berry - Catwoman.
Retrieved from: http://tytempletonart.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/the-top-ten-catwoman-actresses-2/


Option 1: Miss Representation talked about women in film and television. The point was made that there are very few women protagonists that are complex or have story lines void of love stories or involving any men sexually/romantically. An argument could be made that Catwoman is an example of such a woman protagonist. Not only are there few women protagonists, but also few producers, writers, and directors that are women in the industry. We propose that you find an example of a woman protagonist who is not what the film deems the “bangable” hero or the chick flick heroine. On the flip side, we propose that you find a blatant example of such a “bangable” hero or a classic chick flick heroine. Try to post a video, image, trailer, or movie poster that you can find with one these women and discuss how they are an example of one of these stereotypes or not.


Option 2: In “The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies” by Susan Bordo, there is a point about gender and advertisements along with consumer items. If you ever walked into a toy store there is a girl aisle and a boy aisle. The only aisles that sometimes you can find gender neutral toys are the baby aisles. We would like it if you could find an advertisement that is gender neutral for toys or any other consumer item. Or find one that is so completely stereotypical, that it is very obvious. On the other hand, find a toy or an example from a store that is gender neutral as well. Think about Susan’s article and make argument about how this reflects and affects children in our society. Below we've included commercials that we found are very gender specific, along with one little girl's opinion about toys and gender.
Figure 2: Nerf Strike Commercial. 
Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngjla695Ju0

Figure 3: Easy Bake Oven Commercial. 
Retrieve from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lreImESlrG0

Figure 4: Riley on Marketing.
Retrieved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CU040Hqbas

33 comments:

  1. I will be focusing on Option 1 for this blogspot post.

    The first portion of this prompt was hard to find an image for because the film industry primarily centers female leads around attractive actresses or portrayals of beauty as it is believed to hold the attention of the audience/viewer. I found an image of Ricki Lake's character in the movie "Babycakes", a 1989 film about a heavyset woman who tries to (and succeeds) in wooing the "hunky" male actor. This is an example of the "non-bangable" stereotype mainly because of weight being deemed an issue in our society. Although the film was released in 1989, the standard of health back then also had less overweight people. This movie IS indeed a love story but it does not involve a typically attractive lead female.
    This was retreived from: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-9sSAA4ZWHUo/T_7eGMox2cI/AAAAAAAAAfs/KLeheznVE84/s1600/babycakes-1989-dvd-ricki-lake-65d2.png



    With beauty being in the eye of the beholder, a blatant example of a "bangable" heroine includes the female lead and support in the movie "Suckerpunch'. Image retreived from:
    http://www.btchflcks.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/sucker-punch-movie.jpg
    Emily Browning is the lead and the entire movie uses sexuality and the use of sexual desire as a progressive plot point. The lead character, Baby Doll, does not pursue love in the film. She is mainly fighting to get out of an institution in which she has been put, and ultimately ends up partially brain-dead in. She is also supported by other attractive women who aid her in her adventure.

    If my first example needs to be revised to be a female role that is devoid of romance or the typical "chick flick" portrayal, please let me know and I will search for an alternative one.

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  2. Eric van den TerrellFebruary 18, 2014 at 3:17 AM

    I think this is a great topic to put up for discussion and ties nicely with the PETA ad I used for the first essay. The portrayal of not just women, but gender roles, sexuality, beauty, and the idea of what a "normal" body type looks like is so frequently skewed in media, airbrushed perfection is what people have come to expect. I will be answering option 1 more thoroughly after watching the movie and coming up with some examples of my own, but in the mean time as a side note if anyone isn't familiar with the Bechdel test check it out if you have a minute @ http://bechdeltest.com/ . The test is an interesting gauge of how women are frequently depicted in movies (if they show up at all). There are only three criteria a movie must meet to pass the test: (1.) It has to have at least two [named] women in it (2) who talk to each other (3) about something besides a man. You might be surprised at just how many movies fail.

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  3. Justin, you have a perfect example for your take on the stereotypical "bangable" hero. Emily Browning's character from 'SuckerPunch' is actually featured in the movie "Miss Representatio"n as you will see. Also, I believe you have a good example with Ricki Lake's character from the movie "Babycakes". She isn't the first person you would think of, or see, in a romantic comedy in general. It's a movie I've never heard of and I was surprised that you could find a movie with the "non-ideal" character. My next challenge for you would be to find an example of a movie that features women as main characters that there is no plot line having to do with men. It may be difficult and even non-existant, but I'm curious to see if someone else can find one. In the interest of keeping a conversation going, what do you think about the stereotypes of women in the film industry?

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  4. I'm so glad someone mentioned this. Finding a film that passes this test is not easy, even in lesser-known, small budget movies. It's nearly impossible to find in mainstream media.

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  5. I'm not sure if everyone is sick of hearing about it yet, but I think Frozen is a great example for a movie plot line that differs from most. If you haven't seen it or heard of it, it's the story of two sisters who become emotionally and physically estranged from each other after one realizes her magical powers.


    The Bechdel site also features Frozen as passing the test. What I found to be most "progressive" is that the female characters are flawed, Elsa is powerful and vulnerable (it's under the radar but she suffers from anxiety and depression), Anna is desperate for a relationship with her sister and would do anything to just be able to talk to her. They are complex, three-dimensional characters, with displays of a wide variety of emotions and deep human experiences, something we don't always get to see. Especially in a Disney movie, but that's a topic for another day.


    I'd like to add that the Hunger Games books and films feature a woman who is not the "bangable" hero or chick flick heroine. Just like the females in Frozen, Katniss Everdeen is powerful and flawed and complex. Her story focuses on the upheaval of a totalitarian government. She is the face and the leader of a rebellion, and we get to watch her struggle as she starts to accept her new role as the Mockingjay.


    These films both made huge money in the box office. We keep being sold this idea that nobody is interested in watching anything in which girls and women dominate, or at least take up as much space as men, on screen, unless they are subjected to these debilitating and disparaging roles. It's just not true. No evidence supports this statement.


    This was a bit of a ramble, but I'd be interested to hear your takes on it.

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  6. Stephanie, I agree that Katniss is a wonderful hero, however how do you feel about the love triangle in the films/books? It is not necessarily the focus of the plot but it is hard to ignore. Do you think that the love triangle distracts from the more important leadership role that Katniss plays, or does it not really matter?

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  7. Erika, I agree that The Bride is a wonderful protagonist, however, with the violence in the film, do you think that less people would want to see it? And the R rating of the movie could prevent those who would want to see it.

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  8. Jessica Chastain's character Maya from Zero Dark Thirty is a perfect example of a strong female lead that with absolutely no sexual undertones. She is a complex character, and a rarity in Hollywood. At no point in the movie was a scene shoehorned in to attract more male viewers. The movie had immense critical success, and I think it stands as a testament that you do not need a female character to be a slutty stereotype to attract more viewers. Below is a scene where Maya briefs a Navy SEAL team before they are sent in to kill Osama bin Laden. Spoiler: he dies.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yY0JP8lAlo

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  9. When thinking about different characters, my first thought was Katniss from The Hunger Games. I agree with you, Stephanie, that she is portrayed as the plain, non "bangable", girl. For those of you who may not know, Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen. Jennifer is considered a "Plain Jane" in Hollywood, and even considered a "bigger" actress (even though she is MAYBE a size 4, if not smaller). The fact that Jennifer was casted as the lead role in The Hunger Games movies was a big leap for Hollywood. Producers are realizing that maybe people don't want the "bangable" character, but rather the relatable character, who then becomes beautiful because of her flaws.

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  10. I think that Jessica Chastain's character is a great example of a strong female lead. It shows that women can hold a powerful stance and stand strong. Something that according to what we've seen and read has not been represented as well in the media, which then can lead to what society accepts. Do you think that this may lead other movies to have more characters like her? Do you think that her traits as a powerful woman character can be transferred to someone who does not have, what seems like, a high position in government? Someone that you could see in like a romantic comedy. Usually women viewed in power can be deemed as unattractive because they can be seen as threatening. If you've seen a character that possesses the same traits as Jessica Chastain's character but are not in a position that is usually seen holding that kind power, can you post about it?

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  11. For my blog entry I'll be discussing Option 1. The first thing that came to my mind when I read your prompt was Angelina Jolie playing Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. I believe she is a perfect example, like Cat-woman, of a female character that has little to no complexity and essentially just serves as an object of sexual desire throughout the film. The movie was not received well by the public, and in fact Angelina Jolie was nominated for the Worst Actress Golden Raspberry Award for her role in the film, but she lost to Mariah Carey in Glitter. This is mainly due to the fact that her character had no depth, and even the movie itself had a very dry, uninteresting story.I believe it's very clear that Angelina Jolie was chosen solely for the part in this movie to sell her sexual appeal, which is clear in many of the advertisements for the film, such as the one I'm pasting below. As you can see, the composition is very clearly and deliberately selling sex - the center of the image is simply Angelina Jolie's bust, while the title of the movie is directly across her scantily clad thighs and genitalia. What else do you guys see in the advertisement below that supports (or perhaps contradicts) my ideas?

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  12. Erika, I really like your example with Beatrix from Kill Bill. While at first glance she may seem like another typical "bangable heroine", for those who have seen the films it's very clear that this isn't the case. Her character has a lot of depth, and as you said, men in the movie "that subject her to their sexual desires do not get away with it". I definitely agree that this is the case, but I'm curious if you can bring up a specific example of this happening within the film? I'm trying to think of examples myself, but it's been so long since I've seen the films. I think it would be interesting to examine a particular case where Beatrix puts a man in his place for subjecting her to his desires.

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  13. This film was the first to come to mind as well when I was reading Option 1. I think you are spot on by saying that the movie really had no depth to it at all nor did Angelina Jolie's character. The entire movie revolved around her being an object of desire for people to gawk at for two hours, without much of a story line.
    I think this extends back even to the video games, although there seemed to be a little more of a plot line than in the film. Even as a made-up, cartoon character, Lara Croft was meant to be seen as an object of desire, who easily could have been replaced by a male character. I think that this point would also draw from Option 2, where these video games (and the film) is geared towards men and selling her sexuality. Generally, women are not the targeted market for video games, especially the ones depicting scantily clad characters. To make another point, in which younger boys who buy video games like these could be influenced by them and concoct unrealistic expectations of what women should look like, dress like, and behave.

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  14. Looking at Option 2, which has yet to be discussed much, I was able to find "gender neutral" advertisements for toys. This ad for Playdoh depicts both a boy and a girl playing with the toy. Although there are many ads like this that show both boys and girls playing with the toys, the toys themselves don't really have a stereotyped gender assigned to them. For example, Barbies are traditionally a "girl's toy" boxed in pink or floral patterns. Barbies, as a girl's toy, can often give the wrong impression of what women are supposed to look like, especially for young girls who do not yet have hips, breasts, and other curves that women have (although none could compare to the impossibly tiny waist and long legs of Barbie). Barbie does, however, seem to reflect the standards that society, especially Hollywood, hold for women. On the other hand, toy tool sets and lawnmowers are marketed to boys, which can influence young boys, telling them this is what they are supposed to like. Stereotypically, boys and men are supposed to be handy and fix things, they are supposed to do all the manual labor, and they are supposed to be fascinated by cars and tractors. Toy companies are going to market things in order to sell the most of their product. When society says this is what girls are supposed to play with and this is what boys should play with, that is what the companies are going to put on their box, however stereotypical and narrow-minded that might be.

    Do you think that children are influenced by these "gendered" toys? Do you think girls are deterred from buying toys that are "boy toys" and vice versa?

    photo from: https://www.google.com/search?q=playdoh+ads&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS552US554&espv=210&es_sm=91&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=P28GU8aoEMvL0gHB74DICA&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1300&bih=654#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=lwL14u0-JnaoqM%253A%3BmJoCd5yNxZXC9M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fimages.amazon.com%252Fimages%252FG%252F01%252Ftoys%252Fdetail-page%252Fc26-B0083TXWMI-1-l.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.amazon.com%252FPlay-Doh-Sweet-Shoppe-Candy-Cyclone%252Fdp%252Fproduct-description%252FB0083TXWMI%3B750%3B602

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  15. I'm also going to focus on Option No. 2 for my blog post.

    One commercial stood out to me when this blog post was introduced, which was the Dr. Pepper 10 commercial. Although portrayed in a humorous sense, the commercial mocks the idea that "low-calorie" and "diet" sodas are strictly geared towards a female market. The commercial features the stereotypical "manly action" movie taking place as a plot-line, with explosions and giant guns and fast moving jeeps in the jungle. The actors are burly and dressed for combat.

    The narrative is interesting in that it comes off as offensive when considered outside of a comedic context. It basically mocks that women can't enjoy action movies and can keep their "romantic comedies and lady drinks" as said by the narrator. The slogan for the product is "It's Not For Women." Do you think this commercial has a sexist message, whether meant in a comedic fashion or not? Do you find this commercial to be offensive? Can you think of other examples of media such as this that, although trying to mock the idea of being sexist, they actually end up coming off as sexist?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zza3GqEL5B0

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  16. Option 1:

    I think Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" could be considered a strong, non-sexualized female protagonist. Her story line is void of promiscuity and any romantic attachments. Throughout the movie, Dorothy focuses on finding her way back home and aiding her friends, not on finding love or being a "bangable" woman. She dresses conservatively, behaves modestly, and thinks strategically. She joins forces with those she meets in Oz and overcomes numerous obstacles. She is a loyal, caring figure who sees the best in everyone. Dorothy does not rely on her sexuality or show herself as a damsel in distress; she is a tenacious female protagonist.

    Image from a Google search:
    http://www.energyburrito.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/the-wizard-of-oz.jpg

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  17. Hi Alexia,

    I think gendered toys and the images they represent can be major influences on children. Toys for young girls, such as Barbies, portray an unrealistic ideal of the female body. Young girls could assume that Barbie's tiny physique, long extremities, and defined curves are features they should ultimately try to attain. In "The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies," Susan Bordo states that, "In the world in which our children are growing up, there is a size zero, and it's a status symbol" (Bordo B7). Toys have the potential to shape perceptions of what is considered normal in society.

    Do you think if Barbies came in a wider variety of shapes and sizes, young girls' perceptions of the female body would change? If Barbies could be short, plus size, flat chested, or have narrower hips, how would that affect the standard "ideal" of a woman's body?

    -Brittany



    Citations:
    Susan Bordo's article "The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies"

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  18. The example I had in mind was one of the hospital worker named Buck who had been raping her while she was in a coma for the past four years. Once she discovers what he has been doing to her AND letting other men to do her, she swiftly kills both of them in the hospital room. The scene is kind of gruesome, but that is what you get dealing with a female in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Beatrix has zero tolerance for men in a very male-centric culture.

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  19. I believe Tarantino's films do not appeal to every age group, but Kill Bill is such an iconic film among his work and mainstream media that without watching it people will still know the movie because of Uma Thurman's yellow jumpsuit. Personally, I do not think the rating of the film has much effect on it after ten years. Kill Bill is played on TV channels with little editing. When the movie first came out it may have been depicted as extremely inappropriate, but in 2014 I think we are used to shocking/violent things in media that Kill Bill is no longer deemed to be super intense/brutal content. If that makes any sense. haha

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  20. Option 1: One film that sticks out in my mind with a strong female role is Brave. This is mainly due to the fact that the majority of Disney movies containing a princess include a need for romance and ending up with a prince or male figure in the end. This story was more about breaking the tradition of having a princess find her true love/focusing on romance. Brave centered around the strengths of Merida's independence and wanting to be free, while repairing the bond with her mother who only wishes for Merida to go through with the tradition of an arranged marriage.

    http://careergirlnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Brave-Merida.jpg

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  21. I agree that Dorothy is a great example of a female protagonist that does not use her sexuality to get what she wants. I'd also like to point out that while there are some other women in the movie, Dorothy is the main one and thus is surrounded by men. The makers of the movie could have easily made Dorothy a "bangable" character that gets home quickly. The movie and Dorothy are both pretty innocent compared to today's characters.

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  22. Another female protagonist that I was able to think of was Tracy Turnblad from the 2007 version of Hairspray. Tracy was not concerned about anything as much as she was with dancing and the television show that she wanted to dance on. There was a boy that she crushed on but she did not objectify herself to win him over. Throughout the movie she wore clothing that covered herself and showed that she had respect for her body. The image was take from Google search: http://www.projections-movies.com/images/hairspray2007.jpg

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  23. Eric van den TerrellFebruary 21, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    Finding movies that have women as the main character is problematic, finding a movie that has a woman as the main character without her focus being somehow related to a man is almost impossible. A couple movies that came to mind for me were the recent movie "Gravity" starring Sandra Bullock and the "Millennium" trilogy movies (the SWEDISH versions NOT the American ones!) I think "Gravity" comes the closest even though there is the banter between George Clooney and Sandra Bullock that alludes to the typical Hollywood trope of woman needs man to save her, not to mention the completely unnecessary scene of her pulling off her space suit to reveal skin tight shorts and a tank top. By the mid point in the movie she is on her own and eventually gets to a point of self reliance albeit after a "man saves the day" fake out... see the movie if you have no idea what I'm talking about, it was awesome.
    The Millennium trilogy movies prove to be a bit more problematic for several reasons. On one hand Lisbeth Salander is strong, independent, and quite frankly bad-ass, at the same time there is a male protagonist as well (and of course sexual tension) but she tends to save him instead of the other way around. The most interesting aspect of comparing the two versions of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is just how much Hollywood changed in order to get Daniel Craig (a.k.a. Mikael Blomkvist) to be the focus when in the Swedish movies as well as the books Lisbeth is and should be the focus.

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  24. I think that if marketing companies were willing to offer Barbies in a variety of shapes, sizes, and skin tones, then young girls, and eventually women, would be able to see themselves as beautiful, as well as others who may not look like them.
    Unfortunately for this to happen, I think that society's views of an "ideal" women's body would also have to change, starting with magazines and advertisements. If they offered a wider variety of women, of different shapes, sizes, skin tones, and things we consider "flaws" that would certainly change how people saw the "ideal" women's body, which of course, is actually something that is subjective. When society stops seeing ideals as something objective, then I think we will be taking this issue in the right direction.

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  25. To add to this, I would say that I found it refreshing that the movie centered on the conflict between mother and daughter (not as "evil" mother who needs to be vanquished, but as a relationship that needs to be strengthened by listening/communication) that is resolved in the end (spoiler alert!). Merida is still a thin, white heroine and there was a bit of controversy when Disney altered her body to market her as a toy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/merida-brave-makeover_n_3238223.html

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  26. She is surrounded by men who shape the action of the film with her. There are two other powerful female characters: Glinda the Good Witch who seeks to protect the munchkins and seems to be fine with the rule of the Wizard and the Wicked Witch of the West who is trying to avenge her fallen sister and get the family shoes back. Am I getting this right? Is this positive representation of women all around?


    I am persuaded by the points made about Dorothy.

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  27. I dont think that movies are in a situation where they are hesitant to put in a strong female lead. I think that if a movie calls for that type of character, then they will be included. While movies like Zero Dark Thirty have strong female leads, I do not think that the archetype of the strong independent female needs to be proven or tested. It should already be an accepted character type.

    I think that the air of authority Jessica Chastain has in Zero Dark Thirty is because of her position. Her job calls for her to be in command, just like any other job in the military or intelligence community would require, male or female.I think that this type of behavior may be off putting in rom coms, but only because these movies are cheap one offs, not intense character studies.

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  28. I agree with Brittany. Like I said in my opening comment, I think Bordo's article, written 11 years ago as a reflection on her book written--I believe--21 years ago, is still fairly persuasive in its critique of media representations of women and the everyday consequences of these impossible body ideals.


    Alexia, I was just at a birthday party for a 6-year-old boy at McDonald's. The crown McDonald's gave him was a pirate hat but it was clear that if you flipped the hat around, it would be a bedazzled gold-pink-purple crown (for a princess? or queen?). This boy was not offered a choice--simply given the pirate one. The media and everyday behaviors/actions had influence in this moment right?


    Brittany, I think Barbie has put out dolls representing different ethnicities (I think in the same impossible shape) and then 1 plus-sized Barbie. All dolls prompted conflicted debates. The argument could be made that these few exceptions just prove the rule: these are "special" dolls (not the normal one "most girls" should/would want). But perhaps you are prompting us to consider what would happen if the majority of the Barbies were diverse shapes and sizes. . .

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  29. Did you disagree with the argument forwarded in Miss Representation Cole? Do you feel movie producers support films that have strong female leads? Are there enough films being written/circulated that feature strong female leads?


    Will we get to a point (or are we there already?) where the kick-ass, smart, savvy, female character is not thin and white?

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  30. While I don't think that movie producers are overly supportive of strong female leads, I think that despite being few and far between, past movies including such a role have shown that they can be successfu. My hope is that these precursors will influence future producers to write in more strong female leads instead of the stereotypical eye candy roles. However, I do agree that the kick ass, smart, savvy female character is overwhelmingly skinny and white, a role which I hope will become more diverse in the near future.

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  31. Brittany, I wholeheartedly believe that if Barbies came in all different sizes, girls would feel less obligated to have the same shape as their Barbies. Instead they may choose to buy the doll that most resembles them. Also, perhaps if there were more Barbies based off of real people, such as Amelia Earhart or Anne Frank, girls would have great role models.

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  32. Brett, I completely agree that Lara Croft is a shallow sex symbol character. I believe this movie is based on a video game, do you think that if the director had cut down on the sex appeal and added some depth to her character, it could have been a decent movie? On the surface, being a kick-ass archaeologist seems pretty cool and she could have become a sort of female Indy. What do you think?

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  33. If Elsa had been the villain I don't think that she would have nearly the same effect that she did. There are likable villains but most of us aren't villainous and it would be harder to relate with Elsa. We like Elsa so much because everyone has a little bit of Elsa in them and to make her a villain would probably make everyone feel a bit like a villain. And being afraid all the time to show your true self should not be consider villainous. Okay I'm done saying villain now.

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