Family-friendly strippers? Study finds kids' movies use women as eye-candy
Technology has advanced since the Disney era of "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid," but female characters haven't. A new study of 122 top-grossing domestic family films found that female characters much more likely to be sexualized and used as eye-candy than male characters.
And what's being imprinted are a lot of breasts and not a whole lot more. The study examined G, PG and PG-13 rated family films released between 2006-2009 and found that 24% of the female characters are dressed in "sexy, tight or alluring" attire. Compare that to the 4% of men dressed equally minimally.
Even if they aren't barely-nude, they're far more likely then men flaunt an unrealistic body type, and specifically an ultra-thin waist. Why so much attention placed on the female form? They've got to get their screen-time in somehow. 71% of speaking characters in the movies surveyed are men.
So what, it's just a movie, right? Not according to Dr. Stacy L. Smith, head researcher on the project. "These portrayals of women and girls become so normal to audiences that they do not see the need for gender parity in entertainment content," says Smith.
Movies, especially the ones we see as kids, are formative. They're early indicators of what to expect not only from others, but from ourselves. The concern, then, is that these movies are hammering in a powerful message to kids: women should be seen and not heard. "We just want diverse female characters and more of them," explains Davis. "We know that if girls watch female characters in unstereotyped activities, it heightens the possibility that girls will seek employment in nontraditional vocations."
One solution, according to Davis and her team of researchers, is to get more women behind the camera. Their research found that films with one or more female screenwriters translated to more girls and women on screen. "This is encouraging," says the Oscar winner. "It means women can drive change."
While the research team wouldn't reveal which films out of the122 they watched featured the most scantily clad women, we pulled some stills from their list of family friendly movies. Take a look before you consider screening them on your next family movie night.