Class X indulged in a diversion from (or expansion upon) our highly-structured syllabus of government-mandated stories and poems last week to revisit gender roles, as represented in our texts and leading into some pretty interesting evaluation of gender in the wider media.
In one particular period, we enjoyed Colin Stokes’s TED Talk, “How Movies Teach Manhood,” about the portrayals of men as dominant characters in children’s movies, not only jeopardizing young girls in their internalization of their marginal roles, but propagating a culture in which boys are taught to overcome obstacles with force and collect their due rewards. We followed this up with a critical examination of Bollywood movie posters, students noting the size, stance, and centrality of different characters in the advertisements. Finally, we discussed the emergent icon of the Strong Female Character with Nothing to Do—a narrative phenomenon evolving as producers respond to criticism of the film industry’s flimsy, one-dimensional female characters. Yet presently, though many strong and interesting female characters show up on screen, they remain trivial to the plot and wholly supportive to the male protagonist’s quest and development.
By the end of class, students were confidently and with nuance calling out this insubstantial female participation and the repetitive, singular depictions of men and women in their favorite familiar films. Check out poignant end-of-class reflections from a few of the students below!
Pema Drolma A