Tag Archives: media representation

Mother of a Representation Problem

Ever notice that 99% of the mothers in kid’s movies are dead?

There are reasons for this, I guess—it eases the viewership into a lesson about loss and life, opens the gates for evil stepmothers to stroll in and start wreaking havoc and kind of makes sense given the medieval setting of a lot of the fairy tale-based ones, where surviving past childbirth was rare and only the beginning of your troubles. And, of course, stories about the relationship between female characters are no good and totally don’t sell, so you may as well shuffle off as many as you can to begin with.

Killing off or removing the traditionally steadfast and secure emotional rock of the mother figure is the starting block of plots all over the spectrum, from sitcoms to high dramas. It leads the protagonist, in whatever form, down the “leaving the nest” part of their coming of age story as they have independence thrust upon them, or are caught up in the mess ensuing from their loss (because the mother is often expressed as the sympathetic and wise one who knows how to handle all that mushy stuff, and without her naturally the family falls into disarray. Because of you know, like, motherly reasons. It’s in the female’s hardwiring).

Though it’s not just a case of orphan heroes being the best because fathers are still around, more often than not, creating fun emotional subplots all throughout children’s movies no matter what they’re about. The absence of the mother gets the father-son bonding plotline going—like, off the top of my head, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (widowed father doesn’t understand his son’s dreams to be an inventor, if only Mom were here), Super 8 (widowed father doesn’t understand his son’s artistic passions and his claims the town has an escaped military alien in it, if only Mom were here), How To Train Your Dragon (widowed father doesn’t understand his son’s meek nerdy inability to kill fire-breathing monsters, if only… you get the gosh darn picture).

Elinor and Merida in Brave

“Patriarchy, Merida. Patriarchy”

Which is all well and good, but after a while you get used to the formula and wonder, if only for curiosity’s sake, where on earth the genderflipped version is. Continue reading

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A Disgruntled Ode to Romanticised Depression

Depression is not romantic. There, I said it, topic sentence, tired media-directed muttering of the week.

It is a mental disorder that messes with a person’s biochemistry and leads to mood swings, crashes in self-esteem, anxiety, apathy and a range of other difficult things. It varies from person to person, so I will try to avoid making sweeping generalisations or flippant comments as I know this is an awful, awful affliction that makes life horrendously hard for millions of people all over the world. It should not be brushed off as teenaged moodiness, midlife crises or something people can get over as simply as getting out of bed, and it should not be made into something desirable.

On the one hand, it’s sort of good to have mental disorders making appearances in popular media, as it shows the stigma around them is lifting and it’s becoming accepted enough that we can dare to acknowledge its existence in our fiction, even if the name is not dropped and the characters in play don’t necessarily have depression but merely symptoms, which are, of course, part of human life. It’s only when they reach their extremes by some skewiff neurology that they become illnesses, and we have to remember that. The media of the world, of course, does not always do this, and these inclusive appearances have quickly bundled themselves into a series of recurring and not entirely tactful tropes.

When not parcelled into stock-standard ‘emo’, angsty poet or other horrid suicidal stereotypes, characters with symptoms of depression are made into the stars of the show. There’s been a stream of annoyed blog posts about this recently, and I don’t know exactly what brought them on, but I have to agree with the notion: the picturesque imagery of a troubled, self-conscious lost soul wafting around reading Keats on a rainy day with her hair falling into her face and the expression of a mournful marble angel is one that many a hero has fallen in love with, and this is not necessarily a good message to encourage. Continue reading


Filed under Things We Need to Stop Doing

Fantastically Racist and Scientifically Offensive

"Why are you white?" - Mean Girls

In fictional worlds of boundless possibility and imagination, why are they so often riddled with the prejudices of the real one?

Fantasy and science fiction have a serious problem where it comes to equal representation… which, from my humble point of view, is offensive first of all but mostly just bizarre. I mean, the definition of fantasy is that anything is possible, and science fiction shows us a world that we can strive towards in the future. So why are we so limited to the thought processes of the modern (and the not-so-modern) world?

The most obvious example of this is that fantasy worlds are commonly very, very white. This is a topic of much discussion all over the Intertubes and beyond, and a pretty prickly issue. It’s also really weird if you think about it. If the world itself is completely made up, you can do whatever you wish with it. You can have floating mountains and creatures with six heads and people turning each other into frogs. Your main characters could live in a world covered in volcanoes or hanging over the cliff to different portals of existence, your fantasy landscape designed with any level of implausible ridiculousness in mind. The same goes for the people who populate it… yet most of them seem to look overtly European.

Well, there is some solid reasoning behind this: first of all, if you make your world and its populace too bizarre it won’t be relatable and it will be more difficult for your audience to connect with, whether through a question of empathy or just them going “This is silly” and tossing the book aside. This, and a combination of the infinite inspiration lying wait in history, leads to the Fantasy Counterpart Culture, fantastical or alien civilisations with traits we can recognise in societies that exist or have existed in the real world.

The most common example is the fantasy landscape based on Medieval Europe. This is basically Tolkien’s doing, when it comes down to it, seeing as The Lord of the Rings and company were the first books to really make the fantasy genre cool, and thus authors that followed have looked to their master for example. The fantasy archetypes that we’re comfortably and stereotypically used to all come from Tolkien, from the landscape to the Orcs to the armour to the big dangerous faceless force of evil.

And that’s okay. Let it never be said that The Lord of the Rings isn’t amazing. However, with everyone following Tolkien’s archetype we’ve ended up with a market swamped in Europe-esque fantasy worlds, leaving things suspended in a rather absurdly Caucasian persuasion. Continue reading


Filed under Fun with Isms

Being the Media’s Plaything: Not Actually Gender Specific

The phrase “Why isn’t there a Men’s Rights movement?” is often equated to questions like “Why aren’t there soup kitchens for rich people?”

Of course women have, and have had over the past century, every right to speak out against being screwed over by the rulers of the world, and their demands had every right to be louder than men’s because you know, they could already vote and earned twice as much money. But as a companion of mine pointed out recently, when it comes to things less fundamental to survival but still damaging to society, like my favourite poison media representation, both genders are equally troubled.

I talk a lot on here about how the female gender is preyed on and toyed with by fiction and the media, but less about guys. Because, well, the obvious answer is, they get trapped in its claws less. There aren’t six hundred different books and magazines and films beaming them conflicting and troubling messages about how to love, how to act, how to think and what to like and how to define your existence based on your gender-based position in society.

Hey, wait a second…

Okay, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to take some of my older posts about females being messed with by the media and look at the male side of the issue. That sounds like fun. Continue reading


Filed under Fun with Isms