Watch Out! Classic Movies with Old-Fashioned Gender Roles

Turn cringeworthy moments into a chance to talk about sexism. By Betsy Bozdech
Watch Out! Classic Movies with Old-Fashioned Gender Roles

I understand why my 6-year-old daughter loves princess stories, but that doesn't mean I'm thrilled when her pretend play involves falling in love with a prince, getting married, and living happily ever after.

I don't want to ruin her fun, but I do try to turn tales of true love's kiss into teachable moments about why it's important for girls to take care of themselves (and I try to steer her toward the more empowered princesses, such as Moana and Mulan). When kids see outdated gender stereotypes portrayed over and over in media, it can affect the way they think about themselves and their beliefs about what they can grow up to be.

And as much as we love sharing classic movies with our kids, they tend to have plenty of old-fashioned gender roles. Before you push play, be sure you're ready to have a conversation with your kids -- both girls and boys -- about the messages these films are sending. (And if you want some strong-women alternatives, look here.)

  • Annie Get Your Gun: It's fun and upbeat, but this 1950s musical hinges on the idea of the main character downplaying her skill as a sharpshooter to win her -- naturally -- macho, competitive fella's heart (as the song lyric says, "You can't get a man with a gun").
  • Beauty and the Beast: While bookish, independent Belle usually gets a bit more credit than some of her fellow Disney princesses, pompous bad guy Gaston is a walking stereotype of what makes a man "manly." The movie mocks him for it, but it also doesn't really supply any alternatives. And the jiggly barmaids fawning over him add fuel to the fire.
  • Carousel: Darker than most Rodgers and Hammerstein classics, this musical deals with domestic abuse -- and implies that feelings of love can overcome a woman's physical pain.
  • Cinderella: She's stuck in a life of thankless cooking-and-cleaning drudgery, and her circumstances only take a turn for the better when the prince (who's little more than a rich, handsome stereotype himself) falls in love with her at first sight and whisks her off to his castle. Hardly empowering. (For a twist with more girl power, try Interstellar Cinderella.)
  • Grease: It will always be fun to watch on summer nights, but don't forget that Sandy basically changes everything about who she is to increase her appeal to Danny ... and it works. She and her girlfriends also are the subject of plenty of objectification, and Danny feels like he has to lie to his friends about having sex with her for them to think he's cool.
  • The Little Mermaid: Feisty Ariel falls in love with handsome Prince Eric on sight, then gives up her home, her family, and even her voice just to get the chance to be with him. Why isn't it Eric -- another prince who's loved basically just for his looks -- who should want to live under the sea?
  • My Fair Lady: While grumpy Professor Higgins learns some important lessons about treating people with compassion and humanity, his treatment of Eliza can be pretty appalling -- and she doesn't even seem to mind that much. And then there's his "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?" number.
  • Oklahoma!: Will Parker gets to go check out the bright lights of Kansas City (including the "bur-lee-cue" -- aka "burlesque"), while Ado Annie, who's presented as so endearingly loose that she MUST want everyone's kisses, just "cain't say no" to anyone. Plus, women are auctioned off to the highest bidder -- well, their picnic baskets are, anyway -- and Curly is a traditionally strong, protective "man's man."
  • Peter Pan: Often cited for its racial stereotypes, this Disney classic has many of its female characters (particularly Tinker Bell) caught up in jealous rivalries over Peter's affections. And Peter even says "Girls talk too much" at one point.
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The girls wait at home while the boys head out into the wilds. And when Clarice and Mrs. Donner (who doesn't even get her own name!) do try to help, they almost immediately get captured by the abominable snowman.
  • Sixteen Candles: Girls don't get a lot of respect in John Hughes' beloved '80s comedy: Boys pay to see Sam's underwear, and in one scene it's implied that a guy had sex with a girl while she was passed-out drunk. And why is Sam so fixated on Jake, anyway? He's not all that much more than good hair and a nice car.
  • Sleeping Beauty: Poor Aurora falls in love with her prince (another rather one-dimensional handsome Disney hero) after one meeting but then doesn't even get to follow her heart. Instead she's packed off to the castle to marry someone she's been engaged to since birth, with no say in the matter. It works out OK in the end, but she still barely knows him before they say "I do."
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: After being kicked out by a jealous stepmother who cares only about superficial beauty, Snow White ends up cooking and cleaning for seven men while they're off at work. And despite the fact that she's been warned of evil, she's easily tricked by the witch in disguise -- and then (of course) gets saved by a man.
  • Swiss Family Robinson: The female characters are a bit too dependent on the stereotypically strong, capable boys and men in this classic adventure story. Mrs. Robinson is most excited about her fancy tree-house kitchen, and the boys immediately start fighting over Bertie/Roberta when they discover she's a girl (rather than a "sissy" boy).

About Betsy Bozdech

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Betsy's experiences working in online parenting and entertainment content were the perfect preparation for her role as Common Sense's executive editor of ratings and reviews. After earning bachelor's and master's... Read more

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Comments (30)

Parent of a 6, 9, and 12 year old written by Belinda N.

Not every girl is going to like Batman and not every boy is going to like Cinderella. It’s like is using gender stereotypes but the other way around.
Adult written by Joshua C.

Films and other entertainment is not meant to socially and morally guide. However, parents ought to understand what they believe about how males and females ought to deal with each other. Obvisously, different parents believe different ways about these things. A parent ought to inform their children that entertainment is just that. However, some parents do think that entertainment is a way to guide children. I would just say that a parent ought to have and know a methodology of parenting. I being a professing Christian think that the Bible should be the guide on how males and females interact with one another. If you wish to be properly educated on how males and females should act toward one another I recommend a conservative Reformed Presbyterian church in your area that holds the Westminster Confession to start attending and probably joining. Covenantal theology is a very family oriented belief. Every person has a unique and valuable position in a family structure in Covenantal theology. Much love and tranquility is involved in a real Christian family.
Parent written by Sharienne W.

Although not as well-known, the movie Gigi definitely fits on this list. Gigi has such a bright spirit as a girl. But those around her who purport to love her insist that she become a silent, beautiful doll. It's like Grease but with the addition of an older man who leeringly sings "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." I agree with many of the comments already made. Modern depictions of men are no better than those of women in these movies. It's as if the only way for a girl to be confident is to tear down men. It is possible to respect women AND men. Behaving otherwise damages us all.
Adult written by J W

Ugh, have you even watched these movies with any idea of context? Cinderella's parents die while she is a young girl and she is left with her stepmother and stepsisters. What would you have her do? There isn't a CPS around back in those days. I guess she might have been able to go to the orphanage but would that have been a better idea? I'm sure the only reason people adopted kids was to use them as laborers. At least she wasn't being tortured or raped. Cinderella seems to do what she can do: focus on her attitude and accept her fate gracefully. She actually shows determination and spirit - she was about to get the cat (which I would have loved to see) but the door interrupts her and she stands firm to her stepmother about going to the ball. The only reason she doesn't go is because her stepsisters literally tear her dress. At that point, what can she do but cry? Then when she does goes to the ball where the prince is visibly attracted to her - which does happen in real life - and goes to talk and dance with her. They spend a few hours together and he is smitten. And, it's actually the king who is pressuring for marriage because he wants grandchildren. These stories are based on fairy tales hundreds of years old. People used to have arranged marriages and the idea of marrying for love was quite a romantic thought; the idea of striking it rich is still a dream that people have today. There was no real interaction with common folks and royalty so the most reasonable story was to have a prince fall in love with a commoner at first sight. Also, I know tons of men who fall in love at first sight. My father, my husband, some family members and co-workers all tell me "I knew when I met her that I was going to marry her." (Not too many women I know say that, ha ha!) But it's not so ridiculous that it couldn't happen in a movie (when all kinds of uncommon things happen in movies). Sleeping Beauty had the three fairies which were strong female characters that had their own personalities and they argued but still loved each other, so it passes the Bechdel Test. What was also nice is that Aurora was able to interact with the prince in the middle of the movie, not just a kiss at the end. The Little Mermaid is about a mermaid who is obsessed with the human world. She sees a handsome human up close and gets a crush on him - which is completely relatable. Her father indirectly pushes her to see the sea witch where she is surprised to learn that Ursula can turn her into a human. If she is obsessed with the human world, why would the prince turn into a mermaid so they could stay under the sea? Then Eric was spending time with Ariel, getting to know her, and would have kissed her if Ursula hadn't put him under a spell. Looking at the Disney princesses, you can tell they spends time trying to craft strong, relatable female characters for the generation they are currently in. My daughters went through a princess phase, too. It's pretty common which is why Disney is so popular because they know how to exploit it. I love (most of) the Disney princesses (as a mother, I do not Merida) and I see the details they put into these movies to show that their female characters are not push-overs or weak. I like to point out to my children how to stand up for yourself, how to be respectful, how to take pride in your work, how you can't take everyone at face value. Another thing to point out is that these Disney princesses are teenagers. So they do make mistakes. I'm also not sure if all movies need to be about empowering girls. It's nice to have a variety of movies with a variety of characters.
Adult written by Marie B.

Oh no!! Not gender stereo types, the world was such an awful place with "old fashioned" values and the terrible "old fashioned gender stereo types"
Teen, 17 years old written by csreviewer

The topic on gender barriers seems to be the most difficult question out there in regards to what future children take from the media. Although I agree with the fact that men shouldn't be downplayed in today's modern era, and women should be treated fairly, it still is a question as to what seems to be too far in the media. I've seen firsthand films that try to break these gender gaps, and yet they seem to be problematic to the developing minds of the youth. These "solutions" seem only to cause more negative images to today's youth. When will someone say 'enough is enough and draw the line?'
Adult written by M R

Ugh another article with a political agenda. It seems that this site is straying from the common sense moniker and should just go with the actual agenda of We Please quit mocking us with this drivel and write something with meaning and intellect. This article is less factual and rings of abrasiveness and bitterness. I mean geez what man pissed you off so much that you intend on bashing the entire film industry.
Adult written by dave d.

Newer films like "Frost" are designed for girl power, but sometimes older is better. Just as a 1920s Hancock Park mansion is better built than a mod Palisades pre fab, older films can be very refreshing , and also surprisingly realistic. On the other hand, movies today almost always show the male negatively, and it is bad for children, espcially the boys. Today's films usually depict the man as dull, weak and afraid, frequently bossed around by an insulting wife. In real life, many men do not have the same drive to have children as females, yet in the movies they are all practically dying to have kids, or adopt kids that are not their own. This could be confusing to adolescent males- are they supposed to be thrilled about their girlfriend getting pregnant? frankly, the way they depict paternal obsession for nurturing kids is peculiar, almost disturbing, and may be a reason our society is hypersensitive - seeing perversion in anything. I know it's for adults, but for some education, take a look at the classic "Five Easy Pieces" -considered by some to be the best movie ever made. From 1971, Jack Nicholson plays a free spirited concert pianist, and if something seems missing it may be this-KIDS ! He doesn't have any, nor want any, and he is fairly non plussed when his academically challenged waitressing girlfriend (played perfectly by a cross-eyed Karen Black) becomes "with child". You would never see this movie green lighted today, as any male character we are suppose to relate to is expected to jump for joy about the idea of having kids, like some sort of tom Cruise on Oprah's couch. This masterpiece would never have been made today, yet younger viewers should be exposed to iconoclastic, realistic characters like Nicholson's, otherwise gender confusion could become increasingly common. Perhaps it is a reason why it has. My sons and nephews have been shown the newer , misandry laden fare. Yet they seem to gravitate to the older, John Wayne Style films. Just like taking the toy guns and soldiers away from them will only result in them using sticks and stick figures as substitutes, you can take the themes away from the people , but you can't take the people away from the themes. There is an epidemic of men "dropping out", not going to school or getting married, and living at home for free forever. There is also a dire shortage of men willing to teach high school, most fearing a false allegation. Our sons will grow up without role models, we are already seeing the results. Out of control building costs because of a lack of men willing to work (try to get a plumber lately?) and females in their thirties unable to find suitable mates. An exponentially increasing shortage of men in the skilled trades, hard core sciences, and engineering. Women are depicted more positively than men today in almost all films, but, careful what you wish for.
Adult written by Jsivaches

Gender roles exist becuase of time and time passes. Nowadays they might be suggestion but not a rule; girls can like Star Wars, boys can like girl things. Nothing's saying they can't. You people take the gender topic too seriously now; just let people enjoy what they enjoy. Not every boy will like Barbie and not every girl will like Star Wars.
Adult written by Jaden W.

I have two points I wish to raise regarding this piece. Both of which I thought hard about before sitting down to write this comment. I hope both the author and readers read it through because - as a female to male transgender individual - I look at things from both side of my gender fence. I hope it sheds some light for readers. 1) Gender roles have evolved over the centuries, going back and forth all over the place. We started with hunters and gatherers, both switching and sharing over the years. Storytelling has been a big player in how these varying roles are enforced and perceived from culture to culture and generation to generation. Just as women have been represented as a submissive role, men have been fed a message that they have to be the stronger, dominant half to their partner. Women do not get to say they are the only victims of gender conditioning. In Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, a story begins with a hero that is eventually burdened with a quest they must overcome to grow as an individual for the sake of themselves or others. A hero can be a man or a woman, but at their core, they have to have some adversity they must overcome by the story's end. Be it a classic or modern work of storytelling, every hero has to be tried by some sort of fire. That is the purpose of a story. Gender aside, the message any child should take away from a movie is the lesson it is meant to teach. As a writer, I understand that characters are a reflection of their creators. Writers are a reflection of their time, and we should not fault them for that. Yes, Snow White and Aurora might not be the most assertive heroines in fiction, but they still had hardships they had to overcome. Snow was stripped of her birthrite as a princess to serve as a servant in her own castle. Did she have a bad thing to say about her stepmother? No! She worked harder than anyone to fulfill the job given to her, and she was rewarded by a young prince who noticed her dedication. The lesson Snow White can teach modern children - boy and girl alike - is not to have a poor attitude just because life is hard on you. They might not have a prince - or even a princess - coming to take them away, but any decent partner will appreciate a good attitude in the face of adversity. Just because you could never see yourself in the shoes of someone different from yourself does not make them wrong. 2) I find the author's view point quite jaded against Disney from this article. When eight of the film's are Disney productions, it makes the weight of the opinion heavily bias. Walt Disney was a creative man that believed in making dreams come true, and while the company has veered from its original intentions, their mission is still rooted to stimulating the imaginations of children and adults to stave off the drought of an uninspired mind. The review of Beauty and the Beast was what stirred me the most. As a transgender individual, this film gave me hope as a child, and after participating in the stage play in high school, I was reminded of the many lessons the story gave me. The transformation of a person from something they hate to something they want to be is a powerful story, and it inspires me and my wife to this day. I am well aware of the negative opinions of the Disney version of the old tale, but the most ignorant and hurtful claim is that Belle's affections stemmed from Stockholm syndrome. This is ludicrous, and I will share why that is. Stockholm syndrome is created from a condition known as learned helplessness, where an individual is forced to endure negative conditions that they are unable to escape from and ultimately accept as normal. It is a heartbreaking state of mind where a person has given up hope of any kind of alternative, and it is why many lose their lives to it without ever asking for help. Belle never felt helpless. She used her brilliant mind to come up with solutions to every predicament she faced. When the Beast beared his fangs at her, she was frightened, but it didn't take her long to stray from his absolute demands, dinner and the west wing being the main examples. She even ran away when she felt he might actually hurt her. She only returned when she saw he had enough humanity to run after her in the blizzard to protect her. This brings me to another point I disagreed with above. Gaston will forever go down in history as the pinnacle of patriarchy. He was the perfect example of what made a strong man for his time: a fearless hunter, a compelling leader, and an attractive physical form. That was the point because the Beast was not. He was cowardly, hiding away in his bedroom as he waiting for someone to come save him from his curse. He was a spoiled dignitary that was eventually discovered to be illiterate! The man had perhaps the largest library in France, and he could not read. Lastly, he was a frightening animal that have himself the chills. He was being punished for his cruelty, and his remorse was clear. He had even given up hope of ever being loved because "who could ever learn to love a beast". The Beast - who has a name, Adam - is a great example of how a person can be a terrible person, but they can change if they want to. Belle and Beast had plenty of fights that showed him he was in the wrong, and he learned over their time together how to be a better person. Love and friendship brought out the man in the beast, and that was what Belle fell in love with, not a werewolf. Her patience with him taught her that beauty is not skin deep. It comes from within, and that is what Beauty and the Beast is really about. Before throwing strong words around, it might be in everyone's best interest if you know what it is you are claiming. Also, find a better story for children about looking past appearances to see what a person is really like inside: a lonely person or a selfish chauvinist...
Teen, 15 years old written by HelenLikesToComment

I completely disagree with this article. Although stereotyping is bad, obviously, young girls need to get used to it. It's not going to go away, and if they see it in a movie and talk it over, they'll be perfectly fine.
Teen, 17 years old written by FantasyFan001

The only one that I agree with is Grease. I'm sorry, I know many people love that movie but I am really bothered by the messages it sends. Girls like the old Sandy shouldn't be ashamed of who they are and they shouldn't try and impress a guy who doesn't respect who they are. A person who truly loves you won't require you to change who you are. As for the other ones, I think you're just overreacting especially when it comes to Disney. I believe that the old-fashioned princess tales are actually positive because the princess shows a lot of optimism and trust as she awaits her savior. Also, the prince is willing to go to any lengths to rescue his princess and it's not just "I'll go as far as I can use you". Also, many of these princesses are kind, hard-working, and optimistic. Let's also not forget that while Eric did save Ariel in the end, she saved his life twice.
Parent of a 4 year old written by tonyhutchins

Dear Common Sense Media Bloggers, I am not following your website in order to learn which films I can best use to teach feminist values to my children. If I wanted to teach my children all about feminism, I would. That is all. I'm clearly not the only one to make this comment, but I have to ask: Are you really saying that I shouldn't be showing Snow White to my kid? Because a woman gets saved by *gasp* a MAN!?!?! Who cares?
Adult written by Res Buen

My Fair Lady: sure, her eventual loyalty and love for Higgins is perplexing (and I think was a Hollywood revision of the original plot) but that movie is also such a witty and sensitive take on the Pygmalion tendencies of our culture. People have already pointed out that it's satire, and I'd add that the playwright George Bernard Shaw qualifies as a feminist to me. In any case the movie deserves more than the shallow interpretation here! And Eliza Doolittle is a perfectly smart, strong, remarkable female character. Old-fashioned is not the word for it. Don't talk of stars, burning above, if you're in love, show me! Grease, on the other hand... yeah, cute songs, but from what I vaguely remember, probably just pop garbage.
Parent of a 4 year old written by Knitpicky

Old-fashioned doesn't mean out-dated! And old-fashioned gender roles seemed to have resulted in a much more successful society than we have today! Gotta love modern feminism "choose any life you want ... unless it goes against what we think you should choose!" Women in traditional (what you call old fashioned) gender roles are certainly not weak! The women in my life who have filled traditional gender roles are the strongest women I know and have seen! I'm sorry you feel that such women lack strength!
Adult written by Randompersongurl

Ehhh, isn't the whole idea of feminism equality and choice? If a woman wants to be an old fashioned 50s house wife and she's in a relationship without abuse and she chooses that of her own free will, so what? If that really makes her happy, so be it. One such example in the media I can think of is Alice from the United States of Tara (great show.) She's an alternate personality of the main character and she's the epitome of 50s idealistic "woman's role" but in the show she's quite strong, very dominant and at times a BAMF. She cooks, cleans and thinks that she's the true personality. That's not Tara being sexist (though *spoilers* she did base Alice off of her old foster mother) that's just what makes Alice happy. That and she might legitimately think she's from the 1950s, I'm not entirely sure. But regardless, who cares? Many of the classics you cite are given very superficial criticisms, imo. Beauty and the Beast you say that there are no alternatives for positive masculinity. Umm, did you forget about the freaking BEAST? And it's not Stockholm Syndrome. When Beast lets Belle go she LEAVES. She wouldn't do that if she actually had Stockholm Syndrome. The only reason she even goes back is because she doesn't want Beast to die! Like did you even pay attention to the movie, mate? Cinderella is also very patient, pretty strong emotionally (she deals with abuse quite reasonably) calm and optimistic. The Prince also doesn't have any real agency either. Again, did you even watch the movie? And it's made in the 50s. Why do people expect a freaking 2015 version of something when it's made in the 1950s? Disney's The Little Mermaid might be rather shallow in comparison to the original tale, I agree. But did you forget that Ariel has to win over Prince whatever with just her personality alone? My Fair Lady is satire, perhaps you've heard of it? Sleeping Beauty again I ask did you even see the movie? Both Aurora and Prince what's his face are nothing more than pawns. The main villain is a woman who is extremely powerful and rules over minions and everyone men and women fear her. The actual heroes of the film are 3 elderly women who basically defeat "The Mistress of all evil." And both Aurora and Prince Generic fight against the idea of arranged marriage and marry because they love each other. (Granted they fall in love over the course of a song, but whatever. Disney logic.) Snow White? A movie from the 40s based on a tale from the middle ages is outdated? Alert the media! Okay granted Snow is really gullible but one must assume being a princess and all she's led a really sheltered life. On the other hand she's very hardworking, diligent, caring and she is very upbeat and optimistic. Why do you focus on the negatives of women portrayed doing housework? Don't you encourage your kids to pitch in around the house and do their chores?
Adult written by paladinjoshua

It's surprising to me how many people have bought into the myth that "old fashioned" gender roles are somehow bad and that girls have to be "strong". Every woman I've ever known; whether she grew up in the 20s, 50s or 90s; whether she is a stay at home mother, teacher, lawyer or executive; and whether she is married or unmarried; is strong. Criticism of stories about "old fashioned" princesses and princes, etc., is demeaning to women who choose to live their life other than that of a politically correct feminist. If you really want to employer girls, teach them that they can choose to be anything they want, even if what they want to be is a fairy princess.
Adult written by Randompersongurl

Yes!!! Thank you! We tell ourselves that women should be whatever they want and then criticize women who choose to be stay at home mums. Like hypocrisy much?
Parent of a 9 year old written by mountain mama

I totally agree with this list, even though I love most of the movies here. My husband and I are both feminists and have raised our children (boy and girl) to value men and women in a variety of roles. They enjoy old movies (just watched the wonderful "On the Town" the other night) but also understand that many depictions are either out-of-date and/or were considered sexist even at the time they were made. To me, and I think to the author of the article, the goal is to help children understand what's going on. I watched Grease with my daughter (in hindsight, it was really too adult for her), but I explained that Sandy changing for Danny was a bad idea, just like I pointed out that smoking is stupid. My son has noticed that dads on t.v. aren't like the dads he knows in real life because t.v. dads don't cook much. In reference to "Adult's" comment on the stereotypes of feminists, I agree with that too, and we point out the differences between what they see on the screen and what they encounter in real life--which is actually probably good advice for most of what appears in movies or on t.v.
Adult written by thehandyman

Unfortunately I disagree, I would much rather prefer the "out dated" principles and morals the older classics have to offer over the newer movies. I would also be careful of the many feminist stereotypes you see in most of these newer movies. It really boils down to what your standards are based upon and your beliefs on the role of women.
Adult written by dtakos

I know Betsy has to write an article for her job, but really this article goes too far. First of all, she wants her daughter to take care of herself? There is nothing wrong with promoting marriage where the mom and dad work together to raise their children. Too many women are doing it by themselves and it is a hard road, for the children too. These stories are vehicles to having discussions with your children and also for spurring their imaginations. Lighten up.
Adult written by chrijeff50

The whole point about a "classic" anything--book, movie, you name it--is that it comes out of a different time, when people had different notions of what was appropriate. The question isn't whether they're "sexist," but whether the person in question seems content and productive. Political Correctness, being a blanket concept, is just as bad (to my mind) as what it's supposedly intended to replace. On the other hand, everywhere there were mavericks. Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine was twice married (once divorced) and bore 10 children, but she also went on Crusade with Hubby #1 and led her sons in a revolt against #2. Calamity Jane, Belle Starr, Pearl Hart, and dozens of other Western women assumed more or less of a "male" role.
Parent of a 11 and 16 year old written by fmontell

You go a little too easy on Peter Pan too. The show's message that you should never "grow up" only applies to boys. Wendy is brought to Neverland just to be a mother to the "lost boys." Peter is a boy who refuses to grow up, but girls still love him and want him. And in the end Wendy basically gives her daughter to him. Ugh! The character is so pathological that there is even a psychological syndrome named after him: Peter Pan Syndrome, where a grown man refuses to become a responsible adult and thinks he can get by forever on his "boyish charm." This goes way beyond a little sexism to a downright dangerous message.
Parent of a 11 and 16 year old written by fmontell

I don't really agree with your critique of many of these movies, but in the case of Grease, you do not go far enough! Grease is the WORST! Everything about this show sucks, except that some of the songs are catchy. There is no plot or character development, just a question of "will she or won't she." And the *overt* message is that it is better for a girl to be a slut than to be a tease. The show literally tells girls that the worst thing that they can do is excite a male and then not "put out." I can't believe people are still watching and performing this piece of crap show.
Parent written by kkbeil

I would have to agree with the other people who have posted. I think this article is a little too nit-picky. First of all - Mulan may be brave, but she disobeyed her father! And went against cultural expecations. Is that the message I want to send to my daughter? Belle does give a description of why the Beast is a better friend and man: he is kind and gentle. The song in My Fair Lady is supposed to be satirical - that's why it's funny. Peter Pan is a little boy; little boys DO think girls talk too much! (I have 3 boys and one girl - and it's true.) Yes, Aurora had an arranged marriage - that's how things work in an arrange marriage. It was the NORM throughout history. And last: when was the last time you stepped into a high school? John Hughes movies aren't a thing from the 80's - it's still true today. My 16-yr-old and I often have talks about why school is hard because the popular boy from the football team (with good hair and a nice car) gets all of the girls. So you might want to lighten up a little on the "classics" - and of course, we all agree that we need to be having discussions with our children about the messages in all movies.
Adult written by SandraML

The majority of these "films" you cite are cartoons. Many go back centuries as European folk tales. This is at least the second article you've done on classic films. Yes, there is sexism, there is also racism, nationalism and creationism. So now that we've nit-picked these "-isms," why not think about the negatives of today's films..."nudism," "foul languageism," "horrible role modelism" (where was the outrage when Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" portrayed a stunningly-beautiful prostitute--when most mug shots of these women show blank stares, missing teeth and overall, a pathetic demeanor?). Many of today's films are super-hip with the kids obviously much, much smarter than the bumbling, clueless adults around this now "parentism?" I would hope you would have enough integrity to also post an article on classic films that are positive for children. You might start with Lilies of the Field, Mrs. Miniver, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, I Remember Mama, Friendly Persuasion, Lifeboat etc. No genre is perfect and above all, no era--including this one--is immune to stereotypes.
Adult written by dlgrowe

I am a strong mother of 5 girls, and while I don't want them growing up to epitomize the gender limiting stereotypes of the past, I think they need to be familiar with them. Those who don't know their past are doomed to repeat it. Women's roles and value in our culture have ebbs and flows. But the most important thing to teach our girls--and boys--is that it is she who wears the pronoun "she" who gets to determine what that she will be. We can watch all the movies we want, but then it's our responsibility to have active discussion on the positives and negatives of the themes, settings, and yes, the way women are portrayed. That discussion, not just new heroines, is from where the true change will come.
Parent of a 8 year old written by troymiller319

I'm always amazed at how people can read so deeply into simple fairy tales and stories. Most of this is ridiculous. Girls and guys alike make changes to appeal to one another. In Grease Danny changes also. There are plenty of scenes where he tries to be athletic to impress Sandy. It's not all one sided. And he lies because of the peer pressure of being "cool" not because they are being sexist. Totally ridiculous. Kids below 14 or so shouldnt be watching Grease anyway.