Thursday, 28 March 2013

When Nostalgia Hits

I confess, I am and will forever be a little bit obsessed with animated films. There's something about re-watching the films I grew up with that keeps the child within me free spirited and forever young. Yet the more films I re-watch the more I notice the powerlessness of female characters in comparison to their male counterparts.

It seems as though the previous representations of women or the female in general in the cinematic world is extremely out dated, but has it really changed that much?

Take the much loved Toy Story, the two protagonists are Woody and Buzz, two male characters; the only female character I can recall vividly is Little Bo Peep, the ever feminine female character. Now let's go back further - who remembers The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Esmerelda as empowered as she is, must still be rescued by Quasimodo and Captain Phoebus from the wrath of Claude Frollo.

I recently felt a pang of nostalgia and decided to rekindle my love for the Hunchback only to experience something I can only explain as being a harsh awakening. This movie that I had once loved so much, to the point of breaking the tape in the VCR, (yes, VCR I said it) was not as amazing nor as innocent as I thought it was.


What surprised me most was this obsession with the persecution of Esmerelda, the female protagonist, who drove Frollo to 'sin'. Illustrated as the temptress, the woman who causes men to sin, the only way to avoid persecution was to give herself entirely to Frollo, to become his woman, his possession. So I have to ask - what are these films trying to say?

Perhaps it is that in order to be safe in society a woman must be a possession of the man? This is not helped by the portrayal of the 'damsel in distress' figures we see in films.

Why do we never see heroic female figures in films which are highly influential to young children? Even though modern films such as Tangled, a remake of the famous Rapunzel, depicts the heroine as empowered, she still must be saved essentially by her male counterpart.

We're in an age where women are celebrated with International Women's Week and where a new feminist is born every day. I hope one day I will watch a film where a female protagonist heroically rescues the male in distress from fire breathing dragons and things of a similar nature.

Until then however, I will continue to embrace the child within, in the hope that I don't discover any more distressing facts about some of my much loved childhood films.

By Farah Chowdhury  (@seefaraway)

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