Remember the Swamp Fox!

Farah Mendlesohn, an editor and critic, has announced that she will publish a collection of stories in protest of the law currently being sent through the British Parlament that would ban “the glorification of terrorism”. It has already passed through the House of Commons and now must get through the House of Lords. It’s a big deal and is being strongly oppossed by people from many different political parties and ideologies. This law could quite easily and without any real stretches in interpretation ban many stories that are considered classic. Everything from Star Wars and Robin Hood to stories about the American Revolution could easily been seen to break this law, and thus be banned. Farah Mendlesohn is looking for submissions of stories that would break this law. Submission guidelines and contact information can be found at Notes from Coode Street.

*The title of this post refers to one of my favourite legends of the American Revolution – the Swamp Fox, a very Robin Hood type of figure who hid in the swamps with a band of like-minded men and managed to be a huge annoyance to the local British authorities and an inspiration and rallying point for the local patriots. He could easily be described as a terrorist, we just tend to refer to him as a patriot because the people who have continued to tell his story would have been on the same side of the war as him!

Movie News: Bridge to Terabithia

Walden Media (the studio that made The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) has begun filming on Bridge to Terabithia. This is based on an absolutely amazing book by Katherine Paterson and won a Newbery Medal. I can believe that Walden Media could do this right (they’ve proven that they respect the books they base their movies on), but I’m very worried given the description. I really don’t like that they intend to create Tarabithia as a fantasy world. I think that’s a horribly bad idea. I’m still mostly willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment, but I’m worried just the same. Read more about it here.

Gender Bias in Media

A study was recently done looking at several thousand characters from 101 G-rated films, both animated and live-action. The study not only counted the number of male and female characters, but also looked at their relative importance as a character in the movie and at the gender of the narrator. They found that four out of every five characters (and even more narrators) were male. More male characters played the key roles in the movies as well.

This is completely not a surprise. When was the last time you went to a children’s or family movie that had a female protagonist? They are comparatively rare. Looking at a list of the 16 movies that came out in theaters last year with a G rating I see no animated films that I recognize with female main characters (“Chicken Little”, “Pooh’s Hefalump Movie”, “Wallace and Grommit in the Curse of the Were Rabbit”, “Valiant”). I see only two movies that I know had female main characters – “Ice Princess” and “Herbie: Fully Loaded”. Well, the girl in “Ice Princess” needed a make-over to make her the pretty ice princess and succeeded not only for her skill but also by getting the guy. And the other main female characters were catty, mean or just plain evil. “Herbie: Fully Loaded” I haven’t seen, but I do know that Lindsey Lohan doesn’t usually play terribly forward thinking parts and that she shared top billing with a car. Not a good thing.

So we know that it’s a problem, what do we do now? Usually it helps to find out why. Well, the why pretty much comes down to the belief that girls will watch a movie with a boy main character but boys won’t watch a movie about a girl. Why is this? Well, maybe it has something to there not being many movies with girl main characters and the ones that exist tending to be not terribly boy-friendly. I mean, if I were a little boy I probably won’t be facinated by a movie about a girl trying to get the guy (much like I wouldn’t be facinated by a movie just about a boy trying to get the girl). There needs to be more plot than that! Even “The Incredibles” had a plot where the two main female characters were very stereotyped. Helen (the mom) pretty much just wanted to keep her family together and protect her children, as opposed to her husband who wanted those things but also wanted to be a hero and save the day. Violet pretty much just needed a make-over and to be able to talk to the guy, while her brother just wanted to run fast. The movie was great, but it did nothing for the women characters really.

Basically, I think that we should make quality movies with boy and girl characters who don’t totally fall into stereotypes. There really is no reason for boys to not watch movies about girls if they are otherwise appealing. Besides, part of why they learn that prejudice is because we teach it to them through media, pink boxes, and the insistance that some things are for boys while others are for girls.

Sorry for the long rant here, but I spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff. My senior thesis in college was looking at these issues in children’s adventure books. I’ve done a lot of research on it and tend to get frustrated about it.

If you want more information, check out the organization See Jane. It’s goal is to look at gender portrayals in media and work for equality so that both boys and girls can see the potential in each other and break out of traditional mindsets.

Design a Game!

Editor Lou Anders is looking for a good game design! He is publishing the second book in a trilogy by Mike Resnick soon and they want someone to come up with rules for a game talked about in the book. The rules will be published in the book as an appendix and the designer might get money if the game is ever published on its own as well. Guidelines are all on Lou Anders’ blog (link above). If you have any good ideas after reading the guidelines, submit them! The book is supposedly a space opera and the game might be alien, so it should foster some interesting responses. I might even check out the book to see the results (I definately will if I know the designer who wins).

Found via Emerald City.

Ken’s Makeover Complete

Remember a while back when I reported that Ken was getting a makeover from a famous Hollywood style guy as part of his plan to win back Barbie? Well, it’s complete, but we can’t see it yet. He has two new looks: a “trying to impress Barbie” look and an everyday “don’t care so much what you think” look. His polished new look is going to be avalible for the first time on Valentine’s Day as part of a gift set (no, I don’t know what else is in the set). The set will be sold for one day only (Feb. 14) from for $500 (seriously) with all proceeds going to charity. The set is called “I <3 Ken”. The “everyday” look, which is sort of a surfer boy look, will be avalible starting in March. Both looks involve longer hair, a more distinctive and less “Barbie’s arm candy” style and less tanned skin (Ken finally realized that being orange isn’t terribly attractive). I look forward to seeing the results and hearing if Barbie takes him back (since that was really the long-term goal here).

New Disney Princess Animation

As you all know, I adore fairy tales and stories that take their inspiration from fairy tales. Included in this are the Disney movies of fairy tales. Despite this, I’m really sick of the plethera of Disney Princess merchandice out there, particularly the Disney Princess DVDs. They have never had new animation on them, so they tend to be static art and rearranged clips from the movies and television shows. How boring and cheap is that? That said, I’ve been fairly pleased with some of the Disney Princess books that have been published. They tend to have new art and new stories, often taking place after the movie events. Some of the stories and books have been worse than others, but there have been a few gems. They don’t stay in print very long, it seems, but there have been some good ones just the same.

Given that Disney has shown no interest in the past to create new non-full-length-movie animation about the princesses, it is pretty exciting that UltimateDisney is now reporting that they are working on just that! A new Princess DVD is set to come out in the fall called “Disney Princess Fairy Tales”. It will have two new fully animated short stories about Belle and Aurora with all new animation! Not much more than that is known, but one of the last awful DVDs in the Princess series had a preview of the Aurora story. Some screenshots can be found here. The story is about Aurora trying to plan a birthday party for Phillip. I have no idea what the quality of this will be (either in animation or storytelling), but I can promise that I will Netflix it and see!

…And sometimes they sound awesome!

The Jim Hensen Co. is planning on making a sequel to The Dark Crystal set 100 years later than the original. It sounds really interesting. For those of you who like his stuff, you may be interested to hear that they have signed Genndy Tartakovsky to direct it. Read about it here.

Movies Scare Me Sometimes

Ok, so I understand that when you are famous and rich you can do pretty much whatever you want, but seriously, is there any way to stop Marilyn Manson from making an “arthouse horror” movie about Lewis Carroll? Is there any way to stop him from playing the title character himself? Please tell me there is! I can’t even explain how much the very concept of “Phantasmagoria – The Visions Of Lewis Carroll” horrifies me. Maybe that’s what it is intended to do, but still…

Caldecott and Newbery Winners Announced

The ALA has announced the winners for 2006 of the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Medal. I haven’t read either at this point, but I will attempt to as soon as possible! I have read a few of the Caldecott honor books, and they were excellent.

Allende Trilogy to be Made into Movies

Walden Media, the studio that is producing the Narnia films, has recently bought the rights to a trilogy of children’s books by Isabel Allende. The trilogy consists of City of the Beasts, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon, and Forest of the Pygmies. The stories are set in the Amazon rainforest.

I haven’t read this trilogy, but I’ve been meaning to. I look forward to seeing what Walden does with them! I am also looking forward to seeing Walden’s upcoming live action version of Charlotte’s Web.

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