Today I watched a TED talk by an unassuming dad named Colin Stokes. Using a dry sense of humor, he compared the two favorite movies of his daughter and son: The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars (respectively) and how they have influenced them both. As a new dad who got hooked on Star Wars early, and enjoyed (but never dwell on) the Wizard of Oz, the subject matter was up my alley.
There were many memorable lines, from the then-prescient:
"I think if the Wizard of Oz were made today, the wizard would say 'Dorothy you are the savior of Oz that the prophecy foretold. Use your magic slippers to defeat the computer-generated armies of the Wicked Witch.'"
To the topics of how the heroes in each movie succeed:
"I wonder what my son is soaking up, and I wonder what he is soaking in: is he picking up the themes of courage and perseverance and loyalty? Is he picking up on the fact that Luke joins an army to overthrow the government? Is he picking up on the fact that there are only boys in the universe, other than Aunt Beru, and of course this princess who's really cool, but who kinda waits around through most of the movie so that she can give the hero a medal and a wink and thank him for saving the universe by using the magic that he was born with?
"Compare this to 1939 and the Wizard of Oz. How does Dorothy win her movie? By making friends with everybody and being a leader. That's kind of the world I'd rather raise my kids in. Oz. And not the world of dudes fighting, which is where we kind of have to be. Why is there so much Force--capital F force--in the movies we watch with our kids and so little in the yellow-brick road?"
The conversation goes on from there to address the evolution of the Disney princess yet how male characters have stagnated. Additionally, he cites his informal study of top Hollywood movies rate against the famous Bechdel Test, which powerfully shows how far the movie industry has yet to go to flesh out the character makeup of their stories. From there he extrapolates how an improvement in this area could help to reduce sexual assault.
It was an effective speech at getting me to see these films from a new angle, and I will keep its notions in mind with each children's movie release.