Last night I took my wife to see Maleficent. Kudos on the storyline creativity, great special effects, Angelina Jolie did a stellar job, but something was off. Perhaps, and this is just a guess, could it be the prince is just an afterthought in the film? Not even sure why they included the guy.
Disney has long been under fire for perpetuating gender roles, but are all gender roles evil?
Does Disney feel responsible for giving girls a false hope of a knight in shining armor? Modern Disney says princesses no longer need a prince to save them, and true love doesn’t exist (not my words…stated several times in Maleficent).
We get it. People feel betrayed by traditional fairy tales. So, let’s rewrite them all, so we can feel sympathetic for Maleficent (which means evil) and men can only be brutally violent like the greedy king or simply spineless like the prince. Though this is basically true of men today, the political-correctness just made the movie dull and boring for me.
Because there is a “tale as old as time” woven into our psyche. There’s a reason girls want to dress up as princesses and boys run around neighborhoods with plastic swords chasing imaginary dragons. Deep down, we want to see an idealism played out on the silver screen. And why should we give up on the notion? Many girls are looking for their hero, and as John Eldredge writes in Wild at Heart, men want a “beauty to rescue.”
Gender roles have become the enemy. If I write, “men should be the leader in a relationship,” scores flip a lid. However, there’s just something wrong if a husband sends his wife downstairs in the middle of the night because he hears an intruder breaking in the house…all for the sake of denying some natural differences between men and women.
Some of the changing gender roles have been good for families and relationships. Guess what? I help clean, I help do the dishes, and I help do the laundry; so does she. These are “to do’s” we tackle together. She’s making more than I am so far this year, and these switching gender roles work fine for us.
But, if you tell me gender roles are stupid, I call baloney. In fact, the majority of Americans still believe in some form of gender roles. An Associate Press-WeTV poll found, “Seven in 10 of those surveyed say it’s unacceptable to expect a date to pay for everything. But most still say it’s a man’s job to pay for the first date.” Why should men pay for the first date? Because even if Disney princesses prefer weak pretty boys, this study shows that most women still look for financial stability and ambition. Women are less likely than men to marry a partner who doesn’t have their money-act together.
There’s still a desire for a man who can put the meat on the table, who is a source of strength and stability.
Not everyone wants to bring chivalry back, but the act of chivalry itself is a gender role. My wife is a strong woman, but she’s also a princess. She likes to feel like a woman. She likes it when I open the door for her. She enjoys me taking her out on dates. She likes it when I pick her up and swing her around. These acts are gender roles.
It’s not ok for a man to ever hit a woman. This is a gender role we should all embrace, but that’s not the case anymore. Some assume women should be able to fight like a man.
Gender roles still have some importance. While narrow and rigid gender roles have been to shown to lead to violence (Hattery, A., Smith, E.; 2012, The Social Dynamics of Family Violence), there is still a need for a man to hold masculine characteristics; a man who is neither a testosterone-raged jerk or a New Age softie.
Society calls for an authentic man; one who can be both transparent and solid in his character at the same moment.
As we move towards this type of man as a society, true heroes will begin to emerge and the defining of or the obliteration of gender roles will yield to men and women understanding equal but different.