by Julia Buckley
Yesterday I watched HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON with my youngest son. This Paramount picture came out in 2010 to much acclaim, and I can see why: splendid animation, a neat story, a wonderful dragon who reminded me a lot of my cat, and talented voiceover actors. But I ended up with the same complaint about it that I have about a vast number of movies like this: there was no mother.
Yes, the mother was CONVENIENTLY DEAD, as are many mothers in the patriarchal scripts of Hollywood. Even more troubling to me is that the most common movie offenders in this vein are movies for kids. Don't believe me? Let me list them for you:
1. Bambi (yes, mother is there, but not for long).
2. Snow White . This poor girl has no parents, but does live with AN EVIL QUEEN who wants her dead.
3. Cinderella (just a father and an EVIL STEPMOTHER. Mother figures are bad, says the subtext).
4. Beauty and the Beast. It's just Belle and her good ol' Dad, and then of course her beast boyfriend.
5. The Little Mermaid. In both the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and the Disney movie, a mother is significantly missing; Ariel's conflicts are with her father, Triton, and an EVIL SEA WITCH named Ursula.
6. Finding Nemo. No Mom. The movie is about Nemo's father trying to reunite with his son.
7. Ice Age. Mom dies in the first minute. The rest of the movie is about three male animals trying to reunite a male child with his father.
8. Pinocchio. All a little wooden boy needs are his father/creator, Geppetto, and his conscience, Jiminy Cricket. All of the main characters are male except for the Blue Fairy.
9. The Lion King. Yes, there is a mother here--she just barely has any significance in the story. The tale is about a father and son. Read the summary of the film on Wikipedia to see how influential the mother is in this movie.
10. Pocahontas. Mother is dead. She is present only in a necklace that Powhatan, the chief, gives to his daughter. Where does Pocahontas go for motherly advice? To a tree called Grandmother Willow.
11. Tarzan. Tarzan has no parents at all, but does have a gorilla mother. Jane has only a father, a non-threatening absent-minded sort of fellow.
12. Aladdin. Aladdin has no parents at all, and Jasmine, his love interest, is the daughter of the Sultan. There is no mother; instead Jasmine has a male tiger as a companion.
13. Pirates of the Caribbean. Jack Sparrow, the pirate, has only a father (played by Keith Richards). Elizabeth Swann's mother is dead, and her father is her sole (and protective) influence. Will Turner's mother is never seen, but there is much talk of his pirate father, with whom he is eventually reuinted.
14. Star Trek (the new JJ Abrams film). This one is the worst recent offender. There is a mother, who gives birth to James Kirk in the first scene. But her SOLE PURPOSE in the film seems to be that moment of giving birth to a hero, after which WE NEVER SEE HER ON SCREEN AGAIN, despite the fact that Kirk has some important moments which are attended by father figures. The message seems to be: in giving birth to James T. Kirk, the mother has done her job and now has no more significance in the story.
These are just a few off the top of my head. I'm sure you could name many more. Am I framing this criticism through a feminist lens? You bet I am. And I am more and more disenchanted with Hollywood for continuing to downplay the important role of women and of mothers simply because they don't know what to do with them in their scripts.