A Media Comment: Animated Feature ≠ “Kid’s Movie”

"Hiccup" from DreamWorks' How To Train Your Dragon 2

“Hiccup” from DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon 2

Have you seen DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2 yet? If not, do so – it’s a fantastic animated feature that, in a roundabout way, is the basis for this post.  While I was surfing Facebook, I saw Moviepilot Animation’s article:  So Let’s Talk About How To Train Your Dragon’s Gay Character.  Upon completing the article, I read through a few of the responses, but the top rated response said:

“He is not gay…my god its. A kids movie..people are such idiots trying to make something out of nothing…get a hobby!”

While those of you who know me may think this will focus on the emergence of openly gay characters in animated movies, it won’t.  Trust me, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a research article analyzing gay characters in animated movies.  That project looks more like a go every day.  Instead, I’m going to comment on why ANIMATED FEATURE does not equal KID’S MOVIE.

This is something that’s bothered me immensely over the years, leaving me curious to know:  Why do so many people say animated movies are just for kids? Is it the bright and bold color, the catchy musical numbers (ahem, Frozen - I know, I should just “Let It Go”), or is it simply because it’s animated? A cartoon.  I can’t figure it out.

Now, if you’re like me, you love animated features – and you like to go to the theater while schools are in session, so that you may enjoy them without all the chatterbox-children around.  But doesn’t it just so happen that kids are almost always on break when the animated features flood the box office? It does. Then, you go to the theater not thinking much of it and surprise! A million kids.  The kids aren’t the problem though, it’s their chaperoning adult(s), right?

I generally make it a point to see every animated feature that comes out.  I’ve loved them since I was a child – and since the emergence of Pixar, the ante’s been upped!  Many more animated features are sophisticated and contain social commentaries (ex. openly gay characters emerging in animated features), subtle humor and storylines for adults.  The [mostly] breathtaking animation is still there, but that’s for the enjoyment of everyone right? So I can’t figure out why when I walk into a theater full of kids I’m shot a dirty look from time to time.  Am I not allowed to see an animated feature in theaters if I don’t have children?  Because I’m seeing the movie alone, am I weird? …or worse, a suspected pedophile?

On countless occasions, I’ve had friends tell me they wanted to see whatever the newest animated feature was, but they can’t go alone because “it’d be weird.” Why is it weird? Why can grown men or women not go see an animated movie alone? Who says and what authority do they have? Then I think, it all comes back to this idea that animated features are “Kids’ Movies.”

Newsflash: They’re not.

Animated features, like all other Hollywood productions are rated in accordance with the MPAA.  Generally, these movies are rated G or PG (you can explore all that who, how, etc. here), but that alone doesn’t mean the movie is strictly for kids. When I envision kid-centric entertainment, I think of programming like Baby Einstein, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, just to list some obvious (TV) examples.

Carl and Ellie from Disney-Pixar's Up

Carl and Ellie from Disney-Pixar’s Up

Have you seen the Shrek or Ice Age franchises? I don’t think I need to elaborate on all of that adult humor.  What about more subtle movies like Disney-Pixar’s Up?  The entire Carl-Ellie relationship is adult-oriented, as is the “Married Life” montage.  Sure, it’s brightly colored and full of wondrous imagination and imagery, but Up‘s core (its heart) appeals to both children and adults.  My point is, these animated features are made for the enjoyment of everyone.

By design, animated features resonate with each of us differently.  They could inspire a child to become an animator.  They are proponents of imagination (children may want to be ruling princesses or explorers imagining great adventures of their own).  In the same way kids are inspired, adults may find humor, they may reminisce of days gone by, or they may be inspired themselves.  An adult may write that book or screenplay they always wanted to write, or to take the adventure they’d always imagined (I went to New Orleans in 2012 because of The Princess and the Frog), or just to laugh and love as much as the animated feature suggests.  Through the lens of adulthood we “see” and take away more from animated features, we understand their souls and not just the pretty pictures.

Now please, don’t think my last statement discredits a child’s ability to understand a movie (or any piece of media or art).  I’m the last person that would do that.  In fact, in my own endeavors, I find myself fighting for the kids, saying they deserve complexity, subtlety and perfection in the media they may consume.  What I am saying, is that adults have a greater understanding (sometimes) and that just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s not for them too.

Call it a Family Movie or better yet, just call it what it is – an animated feature or an animated movie – but unless it’s directly stated to be so, don’t call it a “Kid’s Movie.”  Recognize they’re made for the enjoyment of everyone – take away the weirdness and the odd looks.  Give everyone the chance to be inspired, just because you’re grown doesn’t mean you don’t need it.   Go watch any one of your childhood favorites now, and as Beauty and The Beast suggests:

“There may be something there that wasn’t there before.”

I’d like to know, is there a movie you feel bridges the gap between childhood and adulthood?  What are some of your favorite animated moments or quotes?  How about your favorite animated characters and why? What themes do you see in animated features that appeal to adults?  Let’s talk in the comments section!

Bobby James: 2013 by the Numbers

What a whirlwind year – time always move so quickly that it never feels like there’s ever enough.  There isn’t, really, is there? Another year is past and I’m looking forward to what comes next – but before I do, I wanted to take a moment to share with you my 2013, by the numbers.

January 1

Received a call to set up an interview with The Olive Garden.  Interviewed and hired on January 2.

May 17

I received my Master of Arts: Communications degree from Lindenwood University.  That final semester was tough and there was a ton of work that needed to be done (thanks Jill!), but I successfully managed with my efforts earning me a cumulative GPA of 4.0!

100 MOVIES!  and other ENTERTAINMENT

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! This year I sat in a movie theater 100 times!  Of those 100 times, I saw a total of 93 different movies (some I loved so much I saw more than once – hello Jurassic Park in IMAX 3D – 3 times! – yes, I’m a geek like that! What? It’s my favorite movie.  Shut up.)

In total I tracked:  100 movies, 530 songs, 57 albums, 59 TV shows/special events, and 2 professional wrestling organizations (all so I can do the Bobby James Awards! I’m an entertainment guru!) Wowza! I am le tired!

ART

I created at least 16 new pieces of art this year – including my Animal Mask series and Piph the Elephant which can be viewed here.

BOBBY JAMES’ ONLINE PRESENCE

190 twitter followers (as of Dec. 31) - including 11 verified accounts following me (including: Trish Stratus, Chuck Wicks, Covert Affairs, and Brad Maddox) and consistent interactions with PIPER PERABO! 4,450+ tweets! Did I mention that I won the #iSpyCA prize package during the season four premiere of Covert Affairs all because of one simple, teeny, tiny, little tweet.  458 facebook friends.  22,500+ views on www.thebobbyjames.com just this year (an approximate 400% increase over last year!).

August 12

There I was – on my birthday, having a fantastic day! Not only because I received my Covert Affairs prize pack in the mail … or because Lady GaGa released “Applause” one week early, and it just happened to be my birthday!  I was having a great day because I was using my birthday as a fundraiser to raise money for endangered wildlife and organizations that help them! A total of $175.00 was raised and divided between the Wildlife Conservation Network ($50), National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative – Cause an Uproar ($55), and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust ($70).  That wasn’t enough?  I had dinner with 8 of my favorite people (Mom, Dad, Josh, Aunt Char, Uncle Dave, Cody, Lachelle, and Roxi!) and WWE announced … wait for it … a second Diva’s Match for SummerSlam! Crazy, I know!

OTHER CHARITY – MY VOICE

I donated $10 to the Salvation Army for Tornado Relief following the severe weather outbreak in Oklahoma (in May).  Additionally, I signed my name and lent my support to 6 online petitions (against Canned Hunting, to save Olympic Wrestling, against an outdoor gun range 0.2 mi. from my house, against the Thailand Ivory Trade, against the Bristol Bay open pit mine in Alaska, and in support of protections for The Great Barrier Reef).

FITNESS

Well, my best mile time this year was 9:15 (that’s a far cry from my 7:45 last year!) and I’ve successfully stopped, started, stopped, started the program – lost, gained, lost, gained the same 10 pounds throughout the year.  Right now, I’m at the gain. Ugh.  Must…Do…Better! Can…Do…Better! #BestBody2013 was a flop.  A belly flop in fact! You know, I read the other day that only 8% of New Year’s resolutions come true.  In this department, I’m not in the 8%.

FAREWELL

I secretly wish death wasn’t a factor in life – but it is.  As such, I bid farewell to 3 people this year: my mentor and friend – Mr. Rift Fournier, to my Great-Uncle Bud, and to my step-mother Mary.  May they all rest in peace and enjoy the bliss of what follows goodbye.

There you have it.  That’s all.  My 2013 in review, by the numbers!  I’d say it was a semi-productive year, but I can do better! Want to know what I’ve got in store for 2014?  Check back January 2 for my New Year’s Resolutions!

Feminism Fading: the Rise of Social Media

Feminism Fading

photo feminism1Susan B. Anthony. Gloria Steinem. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Eleanor Roosevelt. Harriet Tubman. Cleopatra. Joan of Arc. Hillary Clinton. Queen Elizabeth. Princess Diana. Boadicea.  Hatshepsut. Audrey Hepburn. Moms. All feminist icons from different eras – all leaders or revolutionaries who have made a change for, and continue to inspire women around the globe – but what effect has social media had on the “entitled generations” of women?

Social networks – i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr – are groups of internet-based applications driven by user-created content and interaction.  Facebook reports that on average, there were 618 million active users per day as of December 2012.  Users are spending as much as one out of every six minutes on social networking.

More Social Media Statistics

Dr. Kay Blalock, professor of history at St. Louis Community College: Meramec said, “We share way too much…and [we have] social media that’s not very social. Women have become, in being empowered, disempowered.”

Dr. Blalock cited the social media presence of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ bikinis and backsides, instead of their gold medal beach volleyball victory at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Blalock said, “the media does this…women are so sexualized in everything they do. Susan B. Anthony once said, ‘until women become subjects instead of objects, they’re never going to have any power,’ I think women have become objects again, or have allowed themselves to become objects again…you have a few generations of women who have always had it all, so this idea of what they have had to be fought for is somehow lost.”

Are women, particularly the, “entitled generations,” forgetting the struggle and sacrifices made for their rights?  To compose a list of the most influential figures in women’s history, a poll was distributed on Facebook.  Two women from under the age of forty responded. Kacie Bauman, a biomedical sciences graduate from Maryville University, was offended and stated, “The fact that I’m the only 20 something female that responded to this is concerning…young women today are getting their rights walked upon, and don’t have a single word to say about it.”

fading feminism piktochart

Learn more from Catalyst about Women’s “Firsts”

Silence is a deadly component for any movement and may be a result of an overabundance of information in people’s daily lives, or perhaps it’s the result of what Dr. Blalock identifies as a lack of socialization and development of support systems. According to Dr. Blalock: “I don’t think we know how to do that anymore [build support systems]. We have to talk.  Social media can be used positively, but I think unfortunately, the way most young people, in particular, see it and use it and are aware of it are not those positive ways – I don’t know how that changes.”

photo feminism3Perhaps there’s a sense of invisibility by young people, women in particular.  Dr. Blalock expressed her concern but held out hope, “I think they [young people] have been shut up and shut down for so long they don’t see how it could ever be worth it, which is a really, really bad thing for my generation.  I kind of see it with the fact that there are individuals – women, feminists from the 60s, 70s period who are not connecting as they should with the younger women to really in part the necessity.  I think we have a lack of communication between generations, I think this has to be inter-generational.  You have to have all of those talents and all of those experiences brought into it and reformulate your understanding, but then how you’re going to express that to where it will be understood by various generations.”

Social networks, and blogging, have this appeal, but according to Dr. Blalock, one movement, feminism, isn’t strong enough to support itself. Dr. Blalock said, “One could say, where’s the women’s movement?  Where is a group of activists who are fighting?  The whole idea of feminism is that it’s not just about women, it’s about human rights – that’s what the early feminists were all about, and I think we’ve lost that.  Where are the activists when it comes to rape, violence against women, human trafficking?  Women still don’t get equal pay for equal work, but that’s shifted extensively – they get education, they can go to college, they can get scholarships, they can play sports – you have women who are lawyers and engineers, but the idea of women’s power has become more individualized and has become associated with how one dresses, it’s become associated with sensuality and sexuality.”

Dr. Blalock concludes, “The women’s movement has kind of lost its focus, it’s become more individualistic and more grassroots than a national movement.  I think one person can make a difference. If you are passionate enough about an issue, you have to make a committed effort, not to wait around for something to be done, but do something yourself – form a group of like-minded individuals and start being actors, rather than passively complaining and [use social media to] make a difference.”

Johanna Blakley talks Social Media and the End of Gender

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Kay Blaylock (language disclaimer):