Thursday, December 31, 2009

State of Entertainment Franchises, 2009


What has 2009 and the last decade taught us about entertainment and narrative, and what about audiences??

Most of the articles I've read recently have touched on these questions as they relate to specific mediums, but there are obvious trends that transcend each medium and deserve to be restated. In her article, When TV Became Art for New York Magazine, Emily Nussbaum had this to say about the aughts:
You could easily memorialize the aughts as the Decade of Reality TV, that wild baby genre conceived in some orgy of soap opera, documentary, game shows, and vaudeville—it was reality, after all, that upended the industry’s economic model and rewrote the nature of fame. Or you could mark this as the era of the legal procedural, or the age of Hulu and DVRs and TWOP. But for anyone who loves television, who adores it with the possessive and defensive eyes of a fan, this was most centrally and importantly the first decade when television became recognizable as art, great art: collectible and life-changing and transformative and lasting. As the sixties are to music and the seventies to movies, the aughts—which produced the best and worst shows in history—were to TV. It was a period of exhilarating craftsmanship and formal experimentation, accompanied by spurts of anxious grandiosity (for the first half of the decade, fans compared anything good to Dickens, Shakespeare, or Scorsese, because nothing so ambitious had existed in TV history).
The same can be said of many mediums, while more established forms of entertainment, TV, Film, Publishing, have created some of the most lurid, tawdry and viciously mediocre content since their inceptions in the past decade, technology and auteurs have stepped up and used new technology to tell epic stories in which narrative has been explored in new and highly engaging ways. Similarly, The Wire would not be taught in a class at Harvard nor would it be considered an appropriate basis for an international academic conference, or an educational curriculum for young people without a significant number of people agreeing that there is something monumental about the show.

Again talking about Television, writer Charles Kenny describes in Revolution in a Box, the seriously transformative power that mass media, through television, can inform and educate, specifically in less developed parts of the world than the United States.
TV's salutary effects extend far beyond reproduction and gender equality. Kids who watch TV out of school, according to a World Bank survey of young people in the shantytowns of Fortaleza in Brazil, are considerably less likely to consume drugs (or, for that matter, get pregnant). TV's power to reduce youth drug use was two times larger than having a comparatively well-educated mother. And though they might not be as subtly persuasive as telenovelas or reality shows, well-designed broadcast campaigns can also make a difference. In Ghana, where as few as 4 percent of mothers were found to wash their hands with soap after defecating and less than 1 percent before feeding their children, reported hand-washing rates shot up in response to a broadcast campaign emphasizing that people eat "more than just rice" if preparers don't wash their hands properly before dinner.
My main gripe with Kenny's article is that narrative content is they key, and by focusing on the delivery method- television- it limits the scope. Radio Dramas are ubiquitous with similar results in the third world, and cell phone and cell phone content are more available than ever. While Kenny's point is a good one, I'm going to step back and say that it's not television but narrative drama that is educating and that everyone should take note that there are more ways to deliver these messages than just TV.

It was also the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street, whose inception marked the first attempt to create an education show for preschool children and proved that if kids can learn commercial jingles from television, they can learn they ABCs the same way. In 2010, you can bet that you'll be seeing a LOT of this conversation, that story can educate, that mass media actually DOES educate and influence its viewers all the time.
When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.
But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.
You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it."
Since 1961, the "Television and Public Interest" by Newton N. Minow, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, also known as the "Wasteland Speech" has stood as a major critique of television, and associated mass media forms. It's not hard to see how it all still relates to the controversies and critiques of television and narrative today.

Most of the television audience can relate to the phrase "I have so many channels and there is absolutely nothing on" and while alleviating that boredom has always had other options, reading, turning the television off, and later on: getting cable, VHS, Beta, DVD, video games, the Internet, etc... most can also relate to settling on what seemed like the least terrible show on at the time and just letting it play on. There has been a certain oppressiveness to the limited selections available to viewers (no matter how many thousands of channels may exist) in which the passivity of the audience member and the impotence against the flickering banality of the airwaves seemed like some cruel joke, "how can all these options exist, none of which seem like they suit me at all" for those who did not actively create entertainment media,

Listening to audiences and getting realtime input about what is being made for them is a relatively new art, focus groups and survey sampling really only came into vogue in the last 20 years, and while the Internet has democratized a good portion of commentary and allows insight into the inner workings of an audience's mind and groupthink very few established platform producers made real efforts to explore its uses until very recently.

The simple truth on the business end is that production cycles are longer than the speed of the Internet, especially for film, and responsiveness by studios, creators, and others that control what reaches airwaves, bookstores, and movie theatres by big groups that have to implement new concepts across legions of department is slow in coming. While this can and has meant bad news for established studios, publishers, and television networks, it's allowed nimble groups and creators to get a foothold, and allows wide opportunities for those independent groups who are nimble and cunning enough to produce their content on non-traditional platforms with an eye toward long term translation onto mainstream platforms.

Entertainment franchises have to look at the whole range of platforms and think about the best manner in which to utilize each one if they want to be successful, Television is not the Internet, Phones are not Movie theatres, Facebook is not a novel, the business uses and narrative applications in each platform should be considered from the outset, and coming at narrative endeavors with some idea of what that should look like when you start, you are ahead of the game and likely to get some attention in both business and the wider world.

But back to the zeitgeist: there are limitations on production, there are opportunities in non-traditional platforms, and narrative is provably education millions of people in good and bad ways. The last decade has seen brilliant endeavors by committed auteurs on all entertainment platforms, and some of the most mindless drivel imaginable spread across those same platforms.

Let's take a tangent for a moment into a young industry in media: video games, and look at what has recently been going on there. There is a sensibility in the video game industry that girls won't buy action games, that a game for a girl has to be about fashion, about prettiness, about babies or pets, painted pink, covered in glitter, and ideally with some marabou feathers attached to the cartridge. In response to this video from the 1990s, which I linked to last year, Gamasutra had a few interesting points to make in their article "Girl Games: Adventures in Lip Gloss".
in her quest to design games that are "intrinsically meaningful to girls" by addressing "their most important needs and interests," Laurel discounts the possibility that boys learn techniques for success in the business world—including competitiveness and drive for achievement—from "action games." Depriving girls of that training will not change the way the economy operates; in fact, it will more likely serve to perpetuate the sexist status quo.

Experts in the fields of sex equality and socialization agree. "This is just another example of the tawdry history of sex difference research that is driven by stereotypes and results in reinforcing those stereotypes," says Dr. Barrie Thorne, Professor of Sociology at U.C. Berkeley and author of the definitive text Gender Play. According to Thorne, who has 20 years of experience studying play patterns of girls and boys, "most researchers are now focusing on variation among girls, and among boys, and on areas of commonality, rather than on simplistic claims of dichotomous gender difference."
Literally, these points were made over 10 years ago, and the group that designed the game Laurel describes was absorbed by Mattel in 1999. The video game market still has very few examples of characters that do not fit into very narrow stereotypes, regardless of gender; and consequently, hasn't achieved anything like the level of renown or respect as a platform that it could have if narrative became a larger priority. Still seen as the immature younger brother at the dinner table of entertainment media, video games are big enough to make lots of money and have a voice, but not enough seriousness in their subject matter to be listened to. Let's be fair, when big boobs, extreme violence and occasional spacklings of glitter are what you've got to say, not many people will listen for long.

These perceptions of games girls and women will buy are detrimental to both the content of the games (yawn) and to revenues. Women will buy and play games: here, here, here. But their options are limited just as the scope of gaming options for males are limited, by endlessly repeated character stereotypes and plotlines.

The stereotyping of characters seen in video games so profoundly is mirrored in other platforms as well, when publishers, such as Alloy Entertainment, a group that has done quite well in recent years, focus on what people are reading, what trends show they want to read they are highly profitable. But is storytelling by focus group really creating lasting narratives? Gossip Girl, one of Alloy's most famous endeavors, became a TV series and has seen expression in a variety of other platforms. But as the author of the New Yorker article above and the company itself claims, they're making candy, they know they're selling what people want, and not what people necessarily need.

With a new influx of studies, discussions, legal movements, speeches, and arguments about the educational power of narrative, these candy properties take on a slightly more sinister light. If we're constantly learning from the media we consume, what are we learning from Jersey Shore, Flavor of Love and The League?

Lasting franchises are ones that provide not only what someone wants but what someone needs, people are drawn to Star Wars not only for its spaceships, but for it's classic archetypal struggles, just they are drawn to Twilight not only because it has vampires but because of the deep questions it asks (whatever one thinks of its execution) about mortality, love and sacrifice. Stories that resonate somewhere deeply in the minds of the audience, with interesting characters, choices, and actually difficult challenges will, when executed considerately will draw a wide ranging and loyal audience that will stay with a franchise for the long haul. There are elements of what people want in all successful evergreen franchises, but the truly lasting ones, also ask deep questions that give the audience what they need, the substance necessary to follow that question and each time it's explored across mediums and across decades.

2009 Recapitulation: Let the Linking Begin!

Since you haven't seen much new content here I've decided to spend the rest of the day clearing out the ol' link bin and writing a bit about where, at the end of this year/decade people's heads seem to be at. I'm going to follow up my recapitulation with that most blogy of all end of year posts, the volumes of lists! Starting tomorrow, I'm going to start talking about 2010, and try as the subtitle of my blog so suggests to talk about franchises for girls and women with a little more consistency.

But a recap of my own 2009 for you, or at least what I've been doing on this hiatus, I've obviously been writing more for publications that aren't this one, and hopefully, I'll be doing more of that in 2010 I was working on a big case study for the past month, which, it now seems I'm turning into an article for yet another publication in the new year, which is exciting and hopefully the dozens of pages I've turned out will get more than 500 words. But rest assured, once that's wrapped I'll be talking in more depth about THAT particular case study here as well.

But on to the wider world, first up, a grab bag:


Is James Cameron a Closet Feminist?- I've seen a lot of interviews, I even did some work on the extended universe of Avatar, I wouldn't say there's anything closeted about his desire for strong female characters, but he also pays more attention to his characters, supporting and main, than others I've worked with. While you don't always see the full scope of that in the final cut, what you do end up seeing tends to be the result of a really mammoth amount of work, and I think that's a lot of what you see in his films, female characters with more substance behind them than average, and frankly, I think they rock.
Latoya Peterson at Jezebel wrote Memo to the Media: In 2010, Add More Dynamic Female Characters, and suggested some examples of how to treat female characters from Manga and Anime as models.
Part of the issue with finding dynamic female characters is our strict gender binary in the US, which divides entertainment into "male" and "female" with a heavy emphasis on capturing the coveted "male, 18-30" audience and their advertising dollars. However, this has lead to our current environment of condescending programing. How can we fix this? One possible way would be to look toward Japan's pop culture landscape - and its unique view of gender, content creation, and marketing.
I'm going to say strait off, that the best 2010 can hope for is people who were thinking this way in 2008 who got their projects off the ground (tune in tomorrow for lists on how many that looks like) but hopefully by 2011, there will be some seriously interesting, mainstream female characters that have had the influence of this years particularly loud interest in female characters and issues in entertainment.

More Costume Designers Should Be Household Names- yes, I'm an adornment and production design junkie, it's what I majored in in college and I'm unabashedly biased. The art of crafting the visual interpretation of a character and all of the elements that go into that end result, they're monumental and deeply affect the viewer and the pop culture that surrounds a popular narrative in ways that people don't expect or always anticipate.

Rethinking Beauty- a friend of a friend's site, interesting, very compelling visuals, worth checking out.

Check back in a little while for the next installment of my recap: The Cultural Zeitgeist coming out of 2009.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Narrative Experiments in Social Media: Valemont and Circle of 8

Fall 2009 has been a fascinating one for narrative endeavors on social media, three high-profile gaming experiments stand out as the vanguard of both social media and branded entertainment. Valemont by MTV and Verizon, Circle of 8 by MySpace and Paramount Digital are each standout examples of narrative storytelling rolling out utilizing social media to tell its story, create fan communities and market products.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Next Wave of Branded Entertainment

Check out my article (with the blindingly talented Steele Filipek) in next week's Multichannel News both online and in the print edition.

The Next Wave of Branded Entertainment

"The fall of 2009 saw several new-media narratives that complemented and challenged the limits of traditional forms, television and film. Circle of 8, by Paramount Digital, Mountain Dew’s Green Label Studios, Blockbuster and MySpace; and Valemont, an MTV and Verizon Wireless co-production, are two prototypes in this wave of branded entertainment that attempt to determine how new models can be created to utilize different platforms and drive additional revenue streams while driving viewers along traditional platforms."

Facebook Fan Page!

Now you can follow The Mystery of Girls' Media on its Facebook Fan Page!

Click the image.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Note

I know there hasn't been much new content recently, I've been hitting some end of year deadlines at work but wanted to let you know, dear readers, that I've got some really interesting posts percolating that you'll be seeing as soon as I shuffle some case studies off my desk =)

Until soon, please feel free to stare at this wallaby, I've been using it as a visual palate cleanser between marketing data and in-depth narrative analysis.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Social Robot- Fandom and Social Networks

Another article of mine is up at The Social Robot. This time I'm discussing the role of fan communities and social networks. Check it out.
"Geek Culture has become increasingly powerful in Hollywood and Fan Communities on social networks are as sought after by consumer product companies as they are by TV shows and feature films. What draws fans to a property, product or community? What is the magic alchemy that gives some properties armies of loyal torchbearers?"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Franchises coming to film!

Two old properties getting the reboot to feature film in the works were recently announced:

Jem, which has Peter Barsocchini, a writer of High School Musical attached to the 1980s Hasbro property and is quite clearly a girls franchise...
...and the Berenstein Bears. While the Berenstein Bears are not ostensibly a "girls franchise" they certainly appeal to both genders, and often presented quite aspirational themes to girls, and touched on many issues near and dear to a young girl's heart without necessarily alienating their boy counterparts.

Walden Media CEO Michael Bostick says it's vital to honor the "goodwill from generations of families" who have enjoyed the books, but he compares the characters to other outcast families "like The Beverly Hillbillies or The Addams Family, who don't quite fit in but manage to survive."

The Berenstain Bears have existed as 2-D illustrations for so long, they are also getting "a slight makeover to bring it into the three-dimensional style, but we'll embrace the core design elements," Bostick says. "It'll be a slightly modern spin on their look."

So yeah... there's that quote. The Berenstein Bears were always part of their community, they lived in a world of other bears in which they dealt with pretty normal issues of growing up and being a family. I have to ask, do they need to be made into another fish out of water story? Haven't we all seen that before? I hope they manage to do something with the screenplay that doesn't seem like more of the same thing we've seen from the reboot of so many mid-twentieth century franchises.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Little Pony gets new life as TV series!

From the Hollywood Reporter:
"My Little Pony" may become the first Hasbro property to spawn a TV series for the upcoming kids cable channel, a joint venture between Hasbro and Discovery.

The newly formed Hasbro Studios, which is designed to be a main supplier of the new channel, has put "Pony" on a fast development track.

Hasbro Studios had been looking into several Hasbro brands as potential series vehicles. "Pony" emerged as a frontrunner following the strong showing of one-hour special "My Little Pony: Twinkle Wish Adventure" on the Disney Channel Nov. 6.

"The runaway success of 'My Little Pony' on the Disney Channel affirms our belief in the long-term value of this project," said Hasbro Studios president Stephen Davis.

"Pony" will undergo a multi-platform development for TV as well as video game and other digital extensions.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Links- Grab Bag

I've been negligent in my blogging (check out what I've been writing for the Social Robot) mostly because work has been busy, nothing I can talk about yet though. So in the meantime, here's an assortment of interesting things that have passed into my "to write about" list but well, I don't think I'm going to get to any time soon.

Mathematicians find a formula for a hit film sequel:
The research, which will be published in the Journal of Marketing this month, examined data from all 101 movie sequels released in North American theatres between 1998 and 2006 and a matched sub sample of stand-alone films with similar characteristics. According to the formula, upcoming sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon should be expected to return $34m more for the producers in its US run than a comparable vampire/ teen romance movie with the same characteristics that is not a sequel.
Here is an interesting review of a book that talks about "The Trouble with Boys" which points out how while girls are thought of as "sugar, spice and everything nice" little boys face the same blanket stereotyping that girls do. Always good to remember and discuss.


From Jezebel: An interesting (but slightly limited) study was recently posted on the Pixels and Policy blog, about attitudes towards "female avatars and gender expectations." The results? For many women players, it's easier to embrace sexualization than to fight it.

The NY Post Interviewed Sarah Haskins, who if you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I love.

“Advertising is so ridiculous because it’s trying to still use some of the traditional gender roles, while also trying to match the changes . . . in the past 40 to 50 years,” says Haskins, who has a background in improv comedy... Haskins says the comedy of “Target: Women” masks serious intentions: “As the Internet and TV and movies all become one scary machine in your living room, it’s important that we all have some level of media literacy.”

TV discovers that DVR is not the horrifying dragon eager to eat its ad sales that it once assumed.
"DVR ratings now add significantly to live ratings and thus to ad revenue... The DVR was going to kill television,” said Andy Donchin, director of media investment for the ad agency Carat. 'It hasn’t.'”
And finally, here are two articles that deal in classic female archetypes: The Stepmother, classically evil, petty, vein and malignant, and the Fairy Godmother, Fairy Godmother Academy specifically, a children's property with a transmedia rollout attached to it that is being developed through Random House.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Violence Against Women more common than previous years on Prime Time TV

The Parents Television Council released a recent report on the violent acts found on prime time TV that stated that violence against women on TV is up when compared to previous years.


Now, the Parents Television Council can at times seem alarmist, like the Gossip Girl Threesome Episode controversy they stoked in the past few weeks, which to many seemed overblown and alarmist (They say that it represents a consequence free act, but the episodes that follow it detail significant fallout for the characters involved who are all depicted to be of age at the time of consent). But that shouldn't invalidate their study on violence, at least in the form of raw data.

The Parents Television Council released its report Wednesday. It says it counted more than 400 violent acts against women in prime time on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox shows in February and May this year. There were just under 200 during those months in 2004.

The council notes that acts against women are a small percentage of violence in prime time.

The report shows there were more than 3,900 violent acts not specifically aimed at women during those two months.

The study noted that depiction of violence overall has changed little over the years — up 2 percent from 2004. Depiction of violence against women, however, was up 120 percent.

It said 29 percent of the incidents were beatings, 18 percent credible threats of violence, 11 percent were shootings, 8 percent were rapes, 6 percent stabbings and 2 percent torture — but that in 92 percent of the incidents, graphic violence against women was depicted, not just implied.

The PTC said the following based on its data:
... the impact of violence on TV had a desensitizing effect, especially on youths and he urged TV networks and TV advertisers to act. He pointed to the rape incident in Richmond and to recent publicity about pro athletes being involved in beatings.

“I believe it is having a devastating effect,” he said.

PTC included cartoon violence in its examination, and the group rapped Fox for violence against women in "Family Guy" and "American Dad," accusing the network of “trivializing the gravity of the issue of violence against women.” Fox declined comment.

PTC said every network except ABC “demonstrated a dramatic increase in the number of storylines that included violence against women.”

It said the number was up 192 percent at NBC, 119 percent at CBS, 109 percent at Fox and 39 percent at ABC. CBS had the highest number of incident.

There is certainly a point to be made about the violence witnessed on television but the question I have to ask is, is there any way to measure the related consequences of this violence being presented? Like the Gossip Girl issue, can the PTC say that the violence presented is presented without context of portraying it negatively, portraying the consequences of that violence on both victim and perpetrator than other years?

Television does impact people's perception of behaviors, but it's also an elegant tool for showing stories in a way that can present the consequences of those actions (like how sleeping with your roommate and her boyfriend who is your best friend is likely to at the very least, complicate the #*@t out of your life). Simply railing against violence in general is just not constructive, drama is based on conflict, and the world has a lot of violence in it. Taking on the seriousness in which violence is treated in mass-media, THAT is an important issue to consider, and one that can be more handily addressed than banning violence altogether.

The Full PTC Report can be viewed here.

The Social Robot- Guest Bloggership

I feel silly for not posting this last week, I'm doing a guest bloggership over at The Social Robot,

My first article on Transmedia Storytelling went up last week, it's a pretty simple definition of what Transmedia Storytelling is and how to recognize it in the marketplace.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Modern Warfare 2, bring back party chat, for the sake of common decency


My dear friend EruditeChick over at AllThingsFangirl.com posted about a simple seeming game dynamic that was cut from Modern Warfare 2 and how not having it can be more than just annoying, it can really ruin your buzz.
Dear Infinity Ward:

Please release a patch or fix that will allow users to utilize party chat in all modes of online gameplay, if only for the sake of your female fans. We shelled out the money for the game, we stayed up all night and missed half a day of work playing it, we write and read reviews and buy MW2 caps for our avatars on the XBox Live marketplace.

Out of respect for us, since, sadly, the majority of the people who play your game online have none, give us back party chat so we can enjoy the wonderful evolution of the online play without being told how unwelcome, ugly, stupid, and useless for anything other than degrading sexual acts we are. Please give us back party chat so we can have tactical conversation with the friends we're playing with, without having to hear how we have no right to be there, no right to play; so we don't have to hear, out of the mouths of sexist, bitter virgins who have clocked months worth of their lives in game time that we are socially defunct and sexually wrong, somehow, for playing.

I would really appreciate it.

Sincerely,

Amanda
Seriously, being able to play your game while avoiding someone's trolling is just so reasonable an option to avoid this kind of behavior. People playing multiplayer games are going to be inappropriate at times, but there are obvious ways to mitigate that, i.e. bring in party chat, make the experience more enjoyable for folks who like to play with their friends without being unreasonably hassled. It's not just an issue of misogyny, it's an issue of game enjoyment for everyone.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ginger Snaps (2000)

I got home from Trick or Treating, my toddler to bed and turned on the TV... to find one of my very favorite strait to DVD horror movies on IFC.

Ginger Snaps, while on the surface might seem another lurid tale of a teenage girl becoming a werewolf and going nuts sexually, is a really solid movie.

While it does have its lurid aspects and is every bit a genre movie, it is primarily a story about the toxic relationship between two sisters, and their loyalty to one another in the face of amazingly terrible events. Their story and the way it is portrayed, celebrated and acted the way it really drives the movie is the reason why 9 years later it has a well earned cult status and why I feel its worth while to post about it. It's a really well executed genre movie.

Happy Halloween

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Slutoween

It's that time of year again, Halloween. As we have traveled through time closer and closer to the 31st of October news has focused again and again on that shocking, startling and never before exposed scandal... inappropriate costumes for little girls.


Now, as this clip from Mean Girls so artfully presents, there's a certain cultural fetishization of Halloween, the anonymity of donning a costume allows people to explore certain aspects of their character they don't feel they might in their normal clothes. Therefore, many women make the choice to wear sexy costumes and let it all hang out for that one night when they are culturally allowed to put on a mask and go out and celebrate. Like Mardi Gras, Carnival or Masquerade Balls, Halloween is a shared liminal space where people can play a part and part of that is expressing sexuality that is otherwise hidden, but the question at hand is... are nine year old girls expressing themselves or simply buying in to what is presented to them?
I've always been the sort that would adjust and amend any costume I got pre-made from the store. One my my very favorite Halloween costumes was the result of going with my best friend to the thrift store where we both picked out fantastic and utterly cheap clothes that we turned into rather fantastic Victorian style ghost costumes, with lace and greasepaint galore. We were 11 or 12 and while it didn't get me any dates at the middle-school dance, I absolutely loved the entire process of getting the costume together. There's a lot of fun and a lot of self-expression that goes into picking out a Halloween costume for child or an adult.
The scandal of "Slut-o-ween", is that Halloween is a 4.3 Billion Dollar holiday where pre-made costumes are more common than others, and quite reasonably for the millions of people without the time or inclination to make their own costume. But the choices for women are often overwhelmingly "Sexy _____" the blank representing any noun in the encyclopedia. Over the years the same principle of "Sexy _____" has trickled down throughout the costume market to little girls, who want to emulate older women and older girls, who are also their, mothers, sisters, and aspirational role models of all stripes.

The pressures are only compounded when you look at the costumes of celebrities, and even child stars like Noah Cyrus, Miley Cyrus's little sister, who at 9 has been splashed all over the news because of her "inappropriate" witch/vampire costume.Did her parents let her out of the house like this? Obviously they did and have before, can we talk until we are blue in the face about this one girl's possible exploitation for publicity? Sure, but let's not. Let's instead take a look at what drives the production of sexy costumes for little girls?

1) Girls want them, and they are easily available.

Why might this be? Might it be that they are considered scandalous and seem cool? They make it to the newsstands and news reports EVERY Halloween as though this is the first time something questionable has ever been marketed to the under-10 set? (A Scary NEW Trend, NY Daily News... really?) The free publicity that these costumes get from the news of the scandal rocking the good name of Halloween only add to their bad-girl mystique, and while turning a blind eye to them is silly, this yearly outrage obviously drives sales.

2) Parents purchase them for their daughters and allow them to wear them out in public.

I don't think there's an easy answer to the "my daughter wants to wear this risque outfit" issue. On one hand, as a parents you're totally aghast that your little moppet wants to wear something that might make a stripper blush out to Trick-or-Treat with her friends. But it's not as simple as "that's inappropriate and I'm not going to let you wear it out," for many parents. One wants to allow their child self-expression and as girls get older they want to emulate older girls and women, and you might consider "if I let her wear this now, maybe she won't be as fascinated by it when she's older, it'll become something she did when she was a little kid."

On one hand, its obvious that for most kids and parents, this is a discussion that can be done reasonably, the child isn't accustomed to getting everything they want all the time and some sort of compromise can be reached that satisfies both the child's desire for a particular look and the parent's particular standards of aesthetics and propriety. From everything I've seen, read and experienced, it helps to go costume shopping prepared so that both parent and child know what the ground rules are when picking out a costume.

Here's my list of requirements for any costume I buy or make for myself or my kids, it's based on my years as a costume designer, event planner and wearer/buyer of Halloween costumes:
  1. Can one move in it?
  2. Will it be appropriate for the weather?
  3. Is the fabric comfortable enough that I won't claw off my skin?
  4. Will I be visible in the dark? (Especially important for Trick or Treating)
  5. Am I going to be comfortable with what this outfit covers or uncovers? (also think about how it's going to act when you move? will the hemline rise if you walk?)
  6. Is this something I'd want to wear more than once?
The answers to these questions are different for each person and each situation, but if you go in having some sense of what you need from a costume and what you want from a costume you'll end up with one more appropriate for you or for your child than you might if you go in without any ideas. Not every costume is one that you end up wanting to remember forever, and there are still options out there for people who don't want to wear something raunchy for All Hallow's Eve, but make sure that you're not settling for something you don't like just because it's available, and if you do want to dress up in a sexy manner... at least put some thought into it.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Followup: What the Disney Princesses teach about Attracting Women



Barbie and the Three Musketeers, I have almost no words



I think it's fair to say that Alexandre Dumas is spinning in his grave fast enough to power Europe if it were somehow harnessed in a turbine.
Also, while at least they're out to protect a prince they don't even use Muskets, they use sparkly fans...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Disney Princess: From Sociological Images

Jezebel- How Do You Solve a Problem Like Amelia?


From Jezebel.com:
Well, for starters, how about having it actually be good? Oh, and throwing out "Strong Female Characters" (tm) once and for all?

It's unfortunate that we can't just talk about Amelia as a bad movie. As another unwieldy, under-characterized, over-cliched biopic trying to combine legend and humanity into one half-baked, generic panini, the kind made, inevitably, with chicken, crummy cheese and a few overwhelming hunks of roasted pepper. But when Amelia fails, it's an indictment of women's movie, of "older women's movies" (that's us ape-leaders over the magic 25) and of those with "strong female characters."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hue and Cry: Amelia Earhart Edition

"Women must pay for everything. They do get more glory than men for comparable feats, but, they also get more notoriety when they crash."
-Amelia Earhart
Hilary Swank's latest film, Amelia, is currently taking quite a critical drubbing, bad news for the film, and, as Ann Hornaday explores in today's Washington Post, for the increasingly small pool of strong female roles for women in Hollywood.

Hornaday argues that Amelia's box office results will essentially be a failure either way: "If 'Amelia' earns respectable receipts," Hornaday writes, "chances are it will be dismissed as a lucky break. If it fails, it will be cited as yet more proof that strong female protagonists are box office poison."

That's right, to have a strong heroine, not only does she have to be old and dead...

From the NY Times:

For actresses, it is no longer enough to be young and beautiful onscreen, they have to be dead and famous, too — one of history’s immortals. Filmmakers have long resurrected the dearly and notably departed with actors and actresses who flatter their memories, of course, partly because Academy members like to reward other success stories. Last year, Marion Cotillard warbled her way to the awards podium for her turn as Édith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.” Since 2000, six of the best actress awards were for biographical performances, most of dead women. This year, Julia Child, Coco Chanel, Queen Victoria, Keats’s great love, Fanny Brawne, and now Amelia Earhart are all making a run for it.

You can’t blame filmmakers (or actresses) for raiding crypts. It’s rarely been more difficult to be a woman in the movies than now, particularly in the United States, where for the past few decades most blockbusters and microbudgeted D.I.Y. enterprises have been overwhelmingly male. Last year, only one movie about a woman — “Twilight,” the vampire romance about a living teenager and her undead but supercute boyfriend — squeezed into the ranks of the Top 10 grossing titles, a chart dominated by superheroes and male cartoon characters. Another two female-centric stories climbed into the Top 20. That sounds shocking except that only three such stories made it to the Top 20 in each of the previous two years.

...if you want to watch a movie about a powerful, interesting, difficult, believable, remotely recognizable woman these days she should certainly be famous and probably dead... Female stories have become so marginalized on American movie screens, we should be grateful filmmakers are raiding the history books.

... but even if the film is successful it will be dismissed as a fluke.

From the Washington Post:

Swank -- who also executive produced "Amelia" -- was optimistic. "I think things ebb and flow, and someone out there who crunches numbers probably affects that," she said regarding studios' reluctance to make films about strong women ("Amelia" was produced and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox). "Then I think art has to override it, and the numbers people say, 'Oh right, that works.' It comes in and out."

Strong women, for now anyway, are out. Two years ago, when the Jodie Foster vigilante thriller "The Brave One" failed at the box office, industry blogger Nikki Finke reported that a Warner Brothers production executive announced to staffers that the studio would no longer produce movies featuring female leads. This past summer, actress and writer Nia Vardalos blogged on the Huffington Post that when she was pitching a project to a studio executive, he asked that she change the female lead to a man. Why? Because "women don't go to movies," he told her. "When I pointed out the box office successes of 'Sex and The City,' 'Mamma Mia!,' and 'Obsessed,' he called them 'flukes,' " she wrote.

It is symptomatic of a production emphasis away from dramas in general:

"Dramas are dead," says producer Lynda Obst ("Contact," "The Invention of Lying"). "Some of the greatest parts for women -- the Academy Award parts for women -- are often in dramas, and this is the worst time for dramas since I've been in the business for the last 10,000 years." More than ever, Obst adds, the movie business is geared toward the young men who go to movies most frequently. "And by and large that's a comedy audience and an action audience. To get a project greenlit now, studios are requiring more and more what we call 'unaided awareness,' which is where you get this addiction to toys and comics and old titles. And dramas don't live there."

... One reason why we see fewer strong female leads these days is a changing business model, notes Silverstein. In the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s -- years when stars like Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, Sally Field and Goldie Hawn were making movies in a diverse number of genres -- studios were not, as they are now, subsidiaries of multi-corporations, responsible for contributing to quarterly bottom lines. With economic pressures greater than ever, studios are looking for movies that are guaranteed to make $100 million their first weekend out. The result: More Paul Blarts, fewer Erin Brockoviches.

The upshot, Obst says, is that "it's easier for male executives to get jobs now, because they want to develop male-oriented material. Girls don't grow up reading comic books or playing video games, or with Transformer or G.I. Joe toys. So the material they're looking for isn't necessarily as familiar to female executives who read books, which is becoming practically a liability. That's a real problem. That's how it becomes systemic."

I worry that the dialogue about the greater issue of women as an underserved market is that EVERY SINGLE MOVIE that stars a women becomes the life or death of women in the entertainment industry.

I'm glad Amelia is prompting people to write about these issues, I obviously think they're important ones, but one bad video game movie (let's say Doom) didn't stop people from making video game movies, one low-grossing action movie starring Nick Cage (let's say Bangkok Dangerous) isn't going to stop Nick Cage making movies, or people from making action movies.

Let's take a step back from the cliff, not all movies starring strong female characters will be great, nor will all movies staring strong female characters will be ludicrously successful. Let's stop acting as though an individual failure, or even one film's success is the end all and be all of women in Hollywood. In the words of Amelia Earhart herself:

"Please know that I am aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others. "

So regardless of the whether not Amelia succeeds at the box office, male executives are getting better opportunities in the studio system, or what stories feature female characters or their quality; there is only one mentality that will ever get women into Hollywood, and female characters the same screen time as male counterparts...

"The most effective way to do it, is to do it."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tinker Bell Wears Pants

I have some serious affection Disney's Tinker Bell movie, and Disney Fairies in general. I think it's a cut above a lot of girls franchises out there, based on several points: 1) male and female characters all working together and being friends without weird undertones, 2) personal pride in talents and celebrating one's interests and actions as what makes someone special. Story was taken seriously in development, as can be seen in their decision to retool the story completely, pushing back the DVD's release for nearly a year, predated by a fantastic set of books and consumer products releases.

I could go on and on, which I will at some point, but right now, I'm going to talk about my favorite scene in Tinker Bell and why it makes me really excited about the "new look" that Tinker Bell has in the upcoming release . Tinker Bell has looked many different ways over the years, and that slide show I've link barely scratches the surface. If you think about mythical pixies and all their interpretations over the years there's a lot of lore to cover. Tinker Bell, as she appears in the Disney version of Peter Pan and also, in Disney Fairies, was based on Marilyn Monroe and for years has been seen as a teensy sex symbol as well as a beloved children's character. In rebooting her for a new generation of girls as an aspirational character, they did something amazing in Tinker Bell, they explained why she wore the clothes she did.

Upon arriving at her new home in Pixie Hollow, she is presented with some leaf-clothing that is about 8 sizes too large. In order to get down to the business of being a tinker, frolicking, exploring and generally being active, Tinker Bell cuts the clothes down to size so she can move and not be impeded by the sleeves of the dress. She also finds that her hair is in her face during the process, and pulls it back into her trademark pony tail.

The whole scene lasts about 20 seconds but speaks volumes to anyone watching about the kind of gal Tinker Bell is and why her clothes are a choice she makes. A functional and practical decision on her part is also one that ends up being stunning is not a bad thing, nor is the fact that her friends react by complimenting her, she's pretty but it doesn't affect how they treat her later on and she doesn't get a big head about it, despite the dramatic reveal in the next scene.

This scene warmed my costume designer's heart, and makes me feel happy as a parent to show the movie to my daughter. So, I'll eventually pick up the next DVD that comes out Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. John Lasseter seems to be continuing the emphasis on making sure Tink's apparel makes sense as you can see in her new look for the film.
"I began thinking what the costume design would be for each season," he says. Since Lost Treasure is set in autumn, "the weather is cooler, and her outfit should reflect that."

The result is a tad tomboyish and covers more of her body, yet still clings to her curvy figure. "We wanted to make Tink as real as possible in Lost Treasure," says director Klay Hall. "It made sense she was going to put on a jacket, leggings and boots. This is sort of a new phase for Tink, and the look brings her up to the current feeling we are trying to convey," such as the belt she uses to carry items she needs.

The fact that a female character is changing clothes in a property may seem small, but like my favorite scene, these small moments where motivation is addressed add so much to the story and the depth of character that can be displayed in a property. One small step for pants, one giant leap for storytelling.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Women in Hollywood

I've been seeing a lot of Women in Hollywood lists lately, in Forbes about their marketability, November's issue of Elle having several covers to celebrate different working actresses hint: they're not the same women pictured in Vogue's November issue on iconic women, Variety's Women's Impact report-- which honors women of a certain stature in the entertainment business for their philanthropy... and well, it shows some disparity when you look at asexual lists honoring the same thing, women just don't make it into the top 10 positions, or even in many cases, the top 20.Women seem to be getting into more positions of power in Hollywood beyond the movie star; which is fantastic, it really is, but they're still a minority, they still make less than male counterparts, and are still considered a novelty. It's still a big deal that the first female Brit was hired to run a major studio, people still say "well she must have been sleeping with him" for a female writer to rise quickly from production assistant to Emmy-Award Winning Writer. That's why it's still important to talk about women and girls in the context I try to here. I would absolutely love it if there were enough women writing, producing, direction and overseeing intellectual property that I could start venting my spleen exclusively about not taking characters, primary or secondary with enough thought and respect, that would be amazing.
As it stands now, women still are under-represented as creators and implementers, and as characters are often relegated to subordinate positions in narrative that do not get fully considered and are two-dimensional. These decisions often lead to narrower story lines and narrower perspectives that make stories less interesting, not just to me, not just to women, but to everyone. If you have a guy ask why he doesn't understand women, ask how many women were depicted seriously in the stories he was exposed to from infancy to adulthood.

Let's hope that with a larger number of women in positions to talk about stories and the characters in them, people will take these characters more seriously and in turn, we can all learn more from our entertainment.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Of Marketing and Men...

Last week I ended up talking a lot about marketing, specifically how male-minded marketing, and more prevalently, stereotype-minded marketing tends to alienate many who would be interested in products or properties and how people might change that.

It seems clear that there's a perception that if you market something to a man or a boy, women and girls who might seek it out would go see it anyway. Just as a boy who is interested would go and seek out a toy or property marketed to girls, theoretically. But, if you aren't describing that product or property accurately, how are they to know they would want it?

In the past month there have been two examples of properties where their creators have articulated that their properties are stories about women, or dealing with strong women, that you might not have seen that way if you just went by the marketing.


The really poignant example on this list is Jennifer's Body. Written, Directed and Starring women, is a story about the friendship between two high school girls, one of whom is actually literally, a demonic, homicidal monster. I seriously did not get that from the promotional material I first saw, the first poster I saw (the one at the top of the article) made me say "wow, that's something I will never, ever see."

Yet,

But the problem is that Jennifer's Body is not an ejaculatory explosion movie like Transformers 2. It is a horror movie, which means its built-in audience is already predominantly female (stats show that horror movie-goers are often over 60 percent women). Megan Fox is also not the main character; and she's not the boy hero's plucky sidekick (there are no boy heroes in this movie). Instead, she's the toothy, gory, puke-soaked object of repulsion and disgust. In short, she is the monster.

And she's a very specific kind of monster, too. She embodies one of the scariest demons who haunts girls' dreams: The popular, pretty girl who pretends to be your friend while secretly trying to steal your boyfriend, your pride, and your life. Written and directed by women, Jennifer's Body is a film made in a women's genre about women's problems. It's a movie about why women want to stab Megan Fox in the tit with scissors.

What many reviews from friends and in the press have told me is that my initial impression of the movie was just not accurate, and not only would it be for me, it would be for a guy who went in for a romp in lascivious voyeurism and got a story of female friendship mixed up in his gore.
There were many more reviews by men (77) than women (26). The majority of these were culled from the Rotten Tomatoes site . . . Here's the breakdown: Male movie reviewers: 39% liked it, 61% disliked it; Female movie reviewers: 54% liked it, 46% disliked it.
The director also explicitly stated that the marketing aimed at men looking for a standard horror movie "isn't doing us any favors."

The campaign wasn't aimed at me, but well, both the creators and the numbers seem to think it should have been. As a 25 year old female moviegoer, my demo is the one that led the charge to the box office that made The Final Destination's multi-week number one numbers starting last Labor Day such a shocker. (Though again, if you look at the numbers, this should NOT be such a shock.)
Secondly, the case of Dollhouse.

Dollhouse's Second Season started up a few weeks ago, and in its first season, Dollhouse performed abysmally, leading to its budget being cut and a "new creative direction" that has yet to really make itself known, that said, if things continue as they are, it may never get that far.

The ratings are low, the second week had a 20% drop off from the first, and the numbers say that re-runs of House would have higher ratings and be more cost-effective.

Now, that's some bottom line thinking, but to be honest, as much as I love the cast, which I do, and many of the characters (Especially what's going on with Amy Acker so far this season) Dollhouse is a show that has always run very hot or cold for me, as scattered as the personalities of the brainwashed characters, and I mean that in a very bad way.

The problem with this, and in my opinion many, of Whedon's creations is the balance between episodic shows, where anyone can understand the story who hasn't seen a previous episode, and the compelling concept and super-arc of the characters. My personal opinion is that the concepts are great, but the super-arcs have suffered massively from the episodic format, and that this isn't the first time this has happened in Whedon's work.

But putting that aside, Whedon described the show as the story of a strong woman trying to get her identity back from brainwashers. Is that the story you see when you look at the marketing?

Maybe Yes, Maybe No. io9.com's review of the "Virtual Echo" makes a lot of good points.
The "Virtual Echo" app, which runs on the somewhat insecure Adobe Air platform, is reminiscent of those "virtual girlfriend" programs that proliferated in the 1990s. You can customize how often Echo struts out onto your screen (wearing a different outfit each time) and does a trick. (When she's hostage negotiator Ellie Penn, she throws a card, which "hits" your screen and reads, "Your Boss Is Coming!" or "Why Be All Business?" or "Call Me." Which is sorta cute, I guess.) If you're missing her fashion catwalk strut, then you can always click "see me now," and she'll come when you call her.
The best point, I think, is made in the article's title: "Virtual Echo" Turns Dollhouse's Squick Factor up to 11. Let's talk about "Squick", to the urban dictionary...
1. Noun. The physical sense of repulsion upon encountering a concept or situation one finds disgusting.
2. Noun. A situation or concept which engenders this reaction.
3. Verb, transitive. To cause someone to have this reaction.
4. Verb, intransitive. To experience this reaction.
This word is great, visceral and frankly, I felt the Squick factor for the first poster I saw for Jennifer's Body as I often feel for Eliza Dushku's character, Echo, in Dollhouse. For Echo, each week is a different adventure during which she is often doing highly exploitative things that create that squicky feeling. This is an important part of the series, would her core personality do the same degrading sexual things she often does? would she breastfeed a child not her own if she had the choice? would she consciously make the choice to involve herself in these situations?

That's the core of the story, her choice to volunteer for this, how could it have possibly included all of the situations where the choice is made for her? and was that initial decision entirely voluntary?

There's sex in the series, there's skimpy outfits, but might part of the point to be that squicky feeling? Does the marketing you're seeing make you feel a little gross for wanting to play with Echo without her consent? The same way the author of io9 suggests that the marketing says "this show is for creepy teenage masturbators" I think that a lot of Dollhouse's marketing does ignore the squick factor, regardless of the show's internal storytelling question marks. If you watch the show, there's a very real chance you might feel icky about looking at the naked Eliza Dushku commercial entr'acte and feel that way when you see her sexing it up as Echo on the promos on the street.

The argument I'm trying to make here is that marketing without considering your story, or marketing to a specific group over the idea of marketing the property as it exists in reality is not helping either of these properties. It creates an uphill battle for the property to live up to perception created in the eye of the potential audience member. When it doesn't live up to the expectation created audience members have to get over their initial confusion or even revulsion before they commit themselves further.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Swedish Schoolkids Censure Toys R Us

US-based toy retailer Toys"R"Us has been reprimanded for gender discrimination following a complaint filed by a group of Swedish sixth graders about the store’s 2008 Christmas catalogue.

This is interesting for many reasons, and I'm going to list several of them here. Firstly, there is a body in Sweden designed to hold advertisers to task, and while it has no legal authority, it exists and seems to be newsworthy.

Secondly, their school curriculum clearly includes some basic lessons in marketing and advertising. I was very lucky in junior high in that I had a speech class that was mandatory and included many lessons on manipulation and media manipulation, it really gave me a different perspective.

Finally, the kids observations were that by limiting the gender of who was playing with each toy, they also pointed out that it created a lack of interest in the toy in the opposite gender, when a sales bottom line would say that if you appeal to both genders, you would sell more product.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Femme Den- Marketing to Women, not Stereotypes

In the news this week Femme Den is popping up quite a bit on my radar.

Their website describes the need for their company:
The women’s market is a huge business opportunity, as women buy or influence up to 80% of consumer goods. Yet, the gender dialog is missing from the design world today, probably because there are so few women in the industry to provide a female point-of-view. We are here to fill that gap. Gender needs to be a part of every design project in the same way we consider ergonomics, function, aesthetics, etc. Understanding gender is a new way forward; it is an untapped design tool that can make a difference in design and business.
What they do primarily seems to be actually researching the market and also affecting the design of projects as they actually relate to women's needs, including design based on a woman's physicality and some of their experiences are described in this article in Fast Company.
Companies recognize the need, but most are clumsy -- if not patronizing -- in their attempts to address it. This often leads to what the Femme Den calls the "shrink it and pink it" reflex, the kind of mindless design that produces such works of genius as mini pink tool kits and Dell's pastel-saturated Della Web site, stocked with tips about "finding recipes" and "counting calories." (Dell dumped Della within two weeks of its launch.) What women really want, the Femme Den argues, is intuitive design. In a Yale University study, 68% of men asked to program a VCR using written instructions were successful, compared to just 16% of women. That doesn't mean women are less intelligent than men (please), but that they're less tolerant of complicated interfaces -- more willing to skip new tech than to slog through manuals. "Men will walk into an electronics shop and look at the white cards that list the features. Women will pick up the cameras, flip them around, and look at the buttons," Lin says. "They want to know: Is it intuitive?"
While the Della is an example of stereotypical choices backfiring there are some compelling ideas that seem to be crossing markets because of their utility that were built with women in mind.
"They don't just understand our products," Sampson says. "They understand how our brands fit into women's lives."

Or how some products don't. When Cardinal Health, the $12 billion health-care-supply company, wanted to rethink the design of hospital scrubs in 2007, balancing the needs of both sexes helped set its product apart. "Probably 70% of the health-care population wearing scrubs is female," says Carl Hall, Cardinal's director of marketing. "But scrubs are really designed for men. Smart Design identified the gender thing early on as an opportunity and helped us really evolve that." Endura scrubs, introduced in March, swapped out V-necks for stretch collars, and added straps and snaps to make the hem and rise adjustable, breathable mesh at the back and knees, as well as a kimono sleeve to increase range of motion.

And that unisex cut? "We used the female form for measurements, so the fabric doesn't strain across the bust and hips," Hopkins says. "Men don't even notice the extra room." Cardinal has already fed two new projects to Smart Design and the Femme Den.

When companies ignore the research that they pay for about the female market, it might even be dangerous to consumers, even more than their bottom line.
Unisex skis are a major misstep: Wider hips and looser ligaments make novice women skiers nine times more likely than men to tear their ACLs. K2'S LUV WOMEN SKIS are specifically tailored to the female physique, without being hot pink.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

All Things Fangirl Interview! Part 2


Part 2 of the Interview with Me and Jeff Gomez by the fantabulous EruditeChick is up at AllThingsFangirl.com

Jeff Gomez:
One thing that I’m kind of re-geeking on is introducing my daughter, six years old, to the StarWars movies. She came home with the question that I’ve been waiting for all my life: “How did the Clone Wars start?” Because the cartoon is on the air and of course her friends at school are talking about it, and she doesn’t know. And I said, well, you know, there was a queen, Amidala, that this all kind of rotates around, and she goes, “Really?” And I said, “Let me show you!” We started watching the films. And to look at the films from the perspective of a child, first of all, and from the perspective of a child who is gravitating not to young Anakin but Padme, and watching her progress through the films trying to contend with the decisions Padme’s making, particularly about this “Ani” guy, who seems a little shifty, well it was fascinating. So when Anakin comes back form murdering all the Sand-People and he tells Padme what he’d done, I ask my daughter, “Well, what do you think? I mean, was it okay for him to do that? He killed women and children Sand-People.” And [my daughter] goes, “Well…” She’s trying to side with Amidala, who kind of overlooks this horrid massacre for the sake of her romance with Anakin. So my girl is like, “Well, if it was my mother, I’d have killed them all too."