I read the most hilarious article today in the Herald Sun, it was talking about the gender bias in so many classic fairytales and how we must as a society ban our children from watching these, why did I find it hilarious? Because while I am passionate about equality and eliminating gender bias, I do not think we need to ban fairytale classics, I believe we just need to be more conscious and selective in what we see and read and how we unpack it with our little ones. Censorship is not the answer.
I am a Mum of two beautiful little girls, they are the best humans on earth and I am 100% unashamedly biased and a proud Mumma bear. Stella is 14 months and doesn’t watch TV or any devices actually, she runs and joins in for a dance at the end of the movie but that is about the extent of it. Sienna is nearly 4 and absolutely LOVES books and movies. We don’t watch a lot of TV per say but we do sit down and watch family movies as I feel they are a wonderful opportunity for us to cuddle on the couch and discuss important life lessons – each to their own, but if you’re into movies like us then I thought you might like to see my top 10 movies with empowering messages and life lessons.
I’m pretty conscious about what I expose my children to. As a psychology major and qualified hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner, I know that every experience they have and everything they are exposed to is creating their understanding of the world and their very reality. I do not subscribe to the intense advice of those advising that children shouldn’t have any screen time ever, because the reality is that we live in a connected world and things are continuing to evolve faster than we can even imagine, so we must teach our children to moderate and engage with technology with self control (an egg timer is a handy way to introduce self management), if we say 5 more minutes, Sienna will hand back the remote or device when the 5 minutes is up – it took a while to train but was worth it, yes my nearly 4 year old has more self control than most of the professionals I have met in my life.
So here we go, my top 10:
- Trolls – I will start here because it is so joyful and laden with life lessons about self esteem, happiness and kindness with enough singing, dancing and hugging to keep you entertained whilst these wondrous lessons about not eating happy people to try and find your own happiness and powerful girls who lead the way and save the tribe gently set in.
- Moana – I am SO glad that Disney decided to scrap the original story about a young girl sailing the seas to find her love, the story they went with is empowering, clever and beautiful dealing with leadership, being bold and breaking the mould, we had lots of discussions about death and reincarnation as a side note but that can’t be a bad thing (the Grandma in the film dies and comes back as a sting ray), so now every time my nearly 4 year old sees a bird now she exclaims “oh look Mum, that is what you will come back as when you die because you have a bird tattoo” – yep, daily discussions about my hopefully very distant passing.
- E.T. – OK, this one isn’t for everyone but Sienna absolutely loves it and I do to. We have friendships being formed with people from different planets, a little adventure, tolerance and discovery – I do tell Sienna that I would never leave her at home as young as Elliot and that she isn’t to drive cars until she has her licence – also I swear if I had an alien in the house there is no way my kids could keep that from me, but the adventure and friendship themes are pretty awesome for encouraging imagination (and maybe preparing our kids for the first inter galactic discovery of other beings?? who knows!).
- Brave – This makes Sienna and I laugh, because she turns her Mum into a bear and then realises that she loves her Mum, so that is good – but we talk about why it isn’t very good behaviour to want to wish ill upon others and how we need to talk about what upsets and annoys us to make sure that nobody ends up a bear. Great adventure story and nice to have a big sister being so brave along the way too.
- Neverending story – Another oldie but a goodie! Part of ensuring that we do not have gender bias is showing stories where little boys and girls are the hero and that they are winning with good values more than anything. In this movie, we like the hidden messages around believing in yourself, standing up for yourself and always engaging in imaginative play.
- Beauty and the Beast – She saves her Dad! Hello, how awesome is that??? She actually trades places with her Dad to save him. I am conscious there may be a little bit of Stockholm syndrome playing out here, but the overall story about understanding how pain can make people act in unacceptable ways but that forgiveness is possible if they change their intentions and their behaviour is a good one right? We did have a lengthy discussion about the beasts behaviour at the beginning of the film – apparently according to Sienna it was not star behaviour but when he started being nice to her and said sorry it was good.
- Zootopia – The hidden messages are so brilliant, we are all one tribe, we may look like different species but we can all live in harmony if we put aside our differences and connect as one tribe – yep, love it.
- Robots – I’m all about inventing, trying your best and of course recovering from failure, Robots has it all! We like the twists and turns that take place and the fact that the team who all seem to be outcasts, come together and believe in each other and themselves to prevail. Love the hidden messages around experimentation, invention and resilience.
- Sing – Again, big fan of movies with animals rather than people as they strip away the gender and make it about the character and their values rather than their sex. Well again, we have giving it a go, failure, believing in yourself and finding your unique gifts and talents as hidden themes – we like the elephant at the end when she finds her confidence! Go girl!
- Frozen – How could I leave off frozen? I was absolutely amazed by the cleverness that is frozen, a movie about the solidarity of the sisterhood – how you shouldn’t just run off at 16 with a man you just met and marry him (sorry Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella!) and how true love prevails, especially the sister to sister kind. We all particularly like letting it go around the lounge room singing at the top of our lungs while we break free and let our inner light shine – yep, you’re onto a winner there Disney!
We have come so far on the journey to equality and I know that the world my girls will experience is already changing, shaping and moving every single day. Consciously selecting the content we engage with is one way that we can help shape their reality and ours. Just by taking the time to think about the hidden messages, key take outs or unacceptable behaviours we see or read about open up wonderful communication opportunities with our children. The key for us is in the download afterwards, there will always be values, ideals, words and experiences that we do not agree with – but my aim is to help my girls understand wrong from right, acceptable from unacceptable and give them enough exposure to ensure they know the difference.
What are your favourite movies to watch with your family and why??