Bronxbee points out to me A.O. Scott’s review of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which includes this passage:
[W]hile the filmmakers have updated jokes and themes about dogs and boys, their ideas about boys and girls have a musty, regressive feel.
At school, Sherman meets Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter; her parents are voiced by Leslie Mann and Stephen Colbert), a blond-haired, blue-eyed pixie who parrots incorrect information about George Washington in the classroom. Penny’s job in the course of the film is to be mean to Sherman, to get him into trouble, to be rescued by him, and then to marvel at his resourcefulness and bravery. During the airborne scene in Florence, she helps him become “the first man to fly.” The main historical women in the movie are the gluttonous Marie Antoinette and the frivolous Mona Lisa.
It is odd that big-studio animators have taken so long to get to “Frozen” and to “Brave,” and more than a little dispiriting that otherwise imaginative father-son stories like “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” and “The Lego Movie” default to sexism and tokenism. You would think they would be smarter than that, but I guess even a clever old dog has trouble learning new tricks.
Scott is not wrong about any of this. I certainly cringed momentarily at Penny’s line about “the first man to fly,” particularly when (as you can see in the still above), they’re both flying. She could just as easily have said, “We’ll be the first people to fly.”
Now, I didn’t mention this in my review of the film, because it was relatively minor in the grand scheme of the film overall, and it did not impact my overall enjoyment of the film, which remained enormous. (And, see: I don’t always find feminist things to complain about in my reviews! I am capable of ignoring such slights.) Still, the fact that I am even capable of ignoring such stuff is an indication of what women have to do all the time if we want to be able to enjoy most movies at all.
But my main point is this: Do you imagine that anyone — any single person — will accuse Scott of dragging feminism into everything and “complaining because apparently there aren’t enough female heroes in Hollywood movies” and being “some sad [man] desperate for grrl power” and that he’s all “‘Hollywood’ waaaa women can can kick ass too waaaa” and that he should “please [not] ever write another review again, thanks”?
No. Of course not. In fact, quite the contrary: plenty people will now hear such a complaint precisely because it’s coming from a man. Mark my words: You will see commentaries about how Hollywood is treating girls and women that will refer to Scott as if he has made an important point that no one else has made before. Because it’s only been women saying it, and who cares what women think?