Hollywood And Our Girls


So file this under small things that are going to make me cringe one day, when my daughter grows old enough to work the remote control and rich enough to buy something from OnDemand.

But I was watching the new version of Clash of the Titans – the original was a childhood favorite that sparked all manner of imaginary games and led me to a life-long love affair with all things mythological – and I couldn’t help but cringe when Perseus, approaching Medusa’s lair to cut off her head, rallies his troops with a battle cry of brotherhood, saving the world and something else. I forget, exactly. I was too pissed off when the camera focused on his face and with typical action movie jingoism, he snarls, “Let’s kill this bitch.”

Now come on, was this necessary?

Four years ago, before my daughter was born, I probably wouldn’t have thought anything of it. Sure, I probably would have thought it was an odd sentiment, further degrading a rape victim with a sexualized pejorative – as if her deformities were not fit enough punishment for her “crime.” But I probably would have just let it go and enjoyed the action.

But now, now I see things differently. I’m the dad who gets pissed off in the middle of Target or Carter’s baby store and harangues whichever poor clerk comes my way, throwing T-shirts around and demanding to know which nameless corporate flunky decided it was A-OK to sell boys clothes that feature sports players and mottos like “Champion!” or “Let’s play!” and girls T-shirts with butterflies and mottos like “I’m so cute” or “inert princess.” To be honest, before I had a daughter, I never noticed these mild forms of sexism. But now, I can’t help it.

Which brings me back to the new Clash of the Titans and this tiny word I can’t get out of my head.

When I was a young boy, the original Clash of the Titans enthralled me. I was probably too young to watch it when I actually saw it for the first time – I had nightmares for weeks about Medusa and it’s probably not a good idea to start calling your dad the “Kraken” if you ever want to see daylight again. But I remember what it felt like to see these strange, beautiful creatures come to “life” – Pegasus, Medusa, multi-headed hell beasts and swamp creatures. They were something from a child’s imagination. And when I learned that some of the movie’s creatures were real – real in the sense that people long ago believed in them and wrote epic odes about their adventures – I couldn’t help but read up on them. A new world opened up for me and I greatly enjoyed my forays into this distant, archaic land of gods and magic and battle.

We play a couple games around the house that I’m sure sound crazy to outsiders, but what do kids know? We could spend our time playing whatever Dora says we should play or spend our evenings chit-chatting about The Wiggles. Instead, when we’re bored, my daughter will come up to my side, grab my hand gently and say, “Hey, I know – let’s play Odysseus! You get to be the cyclops and I get to blind you and escape!” Then she pokes me in the eye and pretends to be a sheep, escaping my evil lair. But probably her favorite game involves the beheading of Medusa, which I think she enjoys so much because at the end of it Pegasus emerges from the blood of my headless body and she gets to pretend to fly away. I see her smile during this moment of victory and can only imagine her thoughts: A horse! A horse with wings! Fuck. Yes.

At 4, she knows the story of Pegasus and Medusa inside out and, like me, will probably cringe when she watches the movies – both versions – and sees Pegasus strolling around even before Medusa gets her head cut off. But what I’m really nervous about is the day she sees the new version and hears that word. I sat in the theater and thought of the questions she might one day ask, “Why is Medusa a bitch?” “What did she do that was so wrong?”

Her movie-going experience is already going to be bad enough growing up, what with every other cartoon featuring boys who do amazing things and girls who sit around and cheer them on. (I’m looking at you crap-ass version of Horton Hears a Who.) And now here comes a “villain” she knows very well but who is now not only evil but something tinged with sexual wrongness. Why, Hollywood, why?

This post was originally published on the blog Cry It Out: Memoirs Of A Stay-At-Home Dad. Republished with permission.

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