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Saturday, July 14, 2012

4 Reasons "Megamind" is a Feminist Movie

I watched "Megamind" recently- a nontraditional superhero cartoon from 2010- and loved it!  It was very funny (I especially enjoyed the running joke about Megamind being unable to pronounce words- for example, he said "shool" instead of "school") and it had really good music ("Highway to Hell", Michael Jackson's "Bad", old songs like that).

But most importantly, it wasn't sexist!

Yep, as the movie started, and Megamind (the villain, but he's also the main character- it's complicated) was holding Roxanne, a beautiful woman, hostage, I was cringing and imagining what stupid sexist tropes were coming, and how after the movie I'd have to analyze it and point out all that stuff, to be sure I don't subconsciously accept it. 

Because kidnapping is sexy...?  Image source.
You've seen this trope before, right?  She's the damsel in distress, and the villain is about to start hitting on her.  Fantastic.

But I was wrong.  Instead the two of them started joking about how many times he's kidnapped her, and his plans always fail and she's totally not scared of him.

And from there, the movie subverted a ton of other tropes, and it was funny and unpredictable.  Here are my 4 reasons "Megamind" is a feminist movie:

1. Roxanne was absolutely not helpless.  She was incredibly dedicated to saving the city, fighting the damage that Megamind (and later Titan) had done.  She worked together with Megamind (yeah... I promise this does make sense- I'm not going to explain the whole plot now), and she was the force behind a lot of their ideas and plans.

2. Roxanne's coworker, Hal, makes a few failed attempts to ask her out at the beginning of the movie.  Later, he gets superpowers and becomes Titan, and he agrees to work towards "being a hero" only because "the hero gets the girl."  The movie makes it very obvious that Titan is a creepy sexist jerk, and quite directly mocks this whole "the hero gets the girl" thing.  (Megamind even laments that "the bad guy does not get the girl" when he is discouraged that he might never be with Roxanne.)  At one point, Titan grabs Roxanne and flies around over the city, expecting her to be impressed by his superpowers and immediately fall for him.  He even tells her "the hero gets the girl."  She rejects him (for obvious reasons, plus she already has a boyfriend) and he suggests maybe he should rescue her a few times and then she'll want him.  Yeah right.

3. For a while, Roxanne and Bernard are dating, but Bernard is actually Megamind in disguise.  (Also, can we give a shout-out for a nerdy guy having a girlfriend?  There's a stereotype that says that's bizarre or impossible.)

Bernard and Roxanne.  Image source.
When she finds out that he's lying to her, she dumps him.  Later, as Titan is destroying the city, Megamind comes back to ask for Roxanne's help to stop him.  He tells her "you're the smartest person I know" and they begin to work together again- not dating, just working as a team to figure things out and save the city.  Because, believe it or not, women can do other things besides be someone's girlfriend.  A man and woman can work together without a romantic connection between them.  He had lied to her- it's not like they're just automatically back together.  They rebuild trust and stuff as friends first.

4. Roxanne was beautiful throughout the whole movie- wearing clothes that were beautiful and feminine, ranging from a formal dress to a t-shirt.  Yes, she was beautiful even when she was working to solve the problem and figure out how to save the city.  The fact that I was surprised by this kind of scares me.  Because, you know, women should look beautiful and feminine when they're being captured by the bad guy, when they need to be rescued, and they should look not-that-beautiful and gender-neutral when they're thinking and being smart and figuring stuff out.  But in "Megamind", no matter what Roxanne was doing or wearing, she looked very feminine and hour-glass-y.

She's in this formal dress when she gets an epiphany about Titan.  Image source.
Again, I was surprised that a movie had a woman figuring things out and being beautiful AT THE SAME TIME.  This is why we need to look for these little patterns and stereotypes in media- it seems that I had just believed that one without realizing how totally sexist and messed-up it is.

(In fact, even as I do some image-searching on google and see her wearing those dresses, my reflex response is to question my conclusion that this is a feminist movie- because she looks beautiful and so clearly the movie must not have respected her as an actual human being.  But no, it did.  It's just my mind that's screwed up.)

And here's my last disclaimer:  Okay, so I'm afraid that when I use the term "feminist" I'll lose some people.  Because surely a "feminist movie" is about women getting all upset over some phantom sexism.  No.  "Megamind" is a nontraditional superhero movie.  It messes with a lot of the tropes from that genre, and I'm just happy it messed with the sexist ones.  I call it a "feminist movie" because as a feminist I can watch it without constantly cringing at predictable sexist tropes.

And no it doesn't pass the Bechdel test.  Roxanne is the only female character.

I'm happy to say I enjoyed this movie, and I'm sure my family members are glad I didn't need to debrief it afterwards.

Image source.
And I have to include this relevant xkcd...

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