NEWSFLASH: The newest Disney princess (Anna from Frozen) has eyes bigger than her wrists.
Yep — thanks to work by sociologist Philip N. Cohen — we can now chew on that fact for a while.
While cartoons certainly aren’t the number one source for realistic portrayals of the human form, Cohen’s work finds surprising patterns in the way Disney films portray male and female characters‘ bodies. Male characters boast hands that dwarf female counterparts, and female leads have eyes sometimes twice the size of their male partner — trends that romanticize wide-eyed innocence for girls and strength and dominance for boys.
Mr. Cohen isn’t the only person disrupting our ideas on popular kids’ movies. Last year, TEDxBeaconStreet’s own Colin Stokes gave this fascinating talk on how movies teach manhood, which totally challenged how we look at gender in kids’ movies. 
Over at the TED Blog, Colin unpacks the messages he sees in more movies that are favorites for kids — and recommends some great picks for enlightened watching. Here’s a sampling:

Movie formula: The QuestTypical Version: A boy’s world is threatened by an evil male force. He must train and mobilize other boys to defeat the enemy in a violent conflict. There is essentially one female, who is granted to the hero as a prize.Examples: Star Wars, The Hobbit, The Lion King—-Enlightened version: A boy or girl (or team) seeks to heal an injustice in the world. They must make friends who share their goal to change the culture of an older generation, by modeling a better way.Examples: The Wizard of Oz, The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal, Castle in the Sky (Japan), Spy Kids 1 & 2, Tangled

Read his whole guide here» 
(Photo: Flickr user Dollyclaire)

NEWSFLASH: The newest Disney princess (Anna from Frozen) has eyes bigger than her wrists.

Yep — thanks to work by sociologist Philip N. Cohen — we can now chew on that fact for a while.

While cartoons certainly aren’t the number one source for realistic portrayals of the human form, Cohen’s work finds surprising patterns in the way Disney films portray male and female characters‘ bodies. Male characters boast hands that dwarf female counterparts, and female leads have eyes sometimes twice the size of their male partner — trends that romanticize wide-eyed innocence for girls and strength and dominance for boys.

Mr. Cohen isn’t the only person disrupting our ideas on popular kids’ movies. Last year, TEDxBeaconStreet’s own Colin Stokes gave this fascinating talk on how movies teach manhood, which totally challenged how we look at gender in kids’ movies.

Over at the TED Blog, Colin unpacks the messages he sees in more movies that are favorites for kids — and recommends some great picks for enlightened watching. Here’s a sampling:

Movie formula: The Quest
Typical Version:
A boy’s world is threatened by an evil male force. He must train and mobilize other boys to defeat the enemy in a violent conflict. There is essentially one female, who is granted to the hero as a prize.
ExamplesStar Wars, The Hobbit, The Lion King
—-
Enlightened version: A boy or girl (or team) seeks to heal an injustice in the world. They must make friends who share their goal to change the culture of an older generation, by modeling a better way.
Examples:
The Wizard of Oz, The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal, Castle in the Sky (Japan), Spy Kids 1 & 2, Tangled

Read his whole guide here»

(Photo: Flickr user Dollyclaire)

[A] thing that’s really unique about The Wizard of Oz to me is that all of the most heroic and wise and even villainous characters are female.

Now I started to notice this when I actually showed Star Wars to my daughter … At that point I also had a son. He was only three at the time. He was not invited to the screening. He was too young for that. But he was the second child, and the level of supervision had plummeted. So he wandered in, and it imprinted on him like a mommy duck does to its duckling, and I don’t think he understands what’s going on, but he is sure soaking in it.

And I wonder what he’s soaking in. Is he picking up on 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 except for Aunt Beru, and of course this princess, who’s really cool, but who kind of waits around through most of the movie so that she can award the hero with a medal and a wink to thank him for saving the universe, which he does by the magic that he was born with?

Compare this to 1939 with 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, right? — 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 have for our kids, and so little yellow brick road?

From Colin Stokes’s TEDxBeaconStreet talk, “How movies teach manhood.” Watch his entire talk here.