Monday, 25 March 2013

Ug… are all Dads cavemen?

Due to this cold weather we've been having (I don't know if anyone has mentioned it?), a trip to the cinema has become a staple of our weekends of late. What better opportunity for a Dad to have an afternoon nap?

On Saturday, we went to see The Croods, an animated film about a cave-dwelling family dealing with continental drift and the dawn of ideas. Now, let me say from the outset, I liked it. The boys loved it, with my youngest declaring it even better than Top Cat: The Movie, which – given that TC gets an average rating of just 2.8 out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes – doesn't sound like much, but believe me it is.

But unfortunately, my enjoyment of pretty much any film at the moment has been scuppered by a mild obsession with the Bechdel test and my own Dad equivalent, the Sutton test.

In brief, the Bechdel test is three simple questions used to identify gender bias in fiction:

1. Are there at least two women?

2. Do they talk to each other?
3. About something other than a man?

The Croods has four female characters (I think the baby is a girl) – 50 per cent of the cast. One big tick. 'Eep', the curious young woman wanting to break free from the shackles of her family, is potentially a really strong role model, but then it turns out really she just loves shoes and boys and is mainly struggling to choose a different man to follow aside from her Daddy. DrMathocist writes about that here.

Those female characters do talk to each other, a couple of times I think, for a few seconds. But I can't recall them discussing anything other than the Dad or the new boyfriend. I'm happy to be proved wrong, but it does seem pretty amazing to me that it's so hard to find a film that passes the Bechdel test!

Anyway, how about the Sutton test? Just to remind you, this is also three simple questions:

1. Is there a man in it?

2. Is he a Dad?
3. Is he being anything other than a dickhead?

It's a tricky one, this. Yes, there are men in it, and one of them, Grug, voiced by Nic Cage, is the Dad. He spends much of the film being a dickhead. His main rule is 'Never not be afraid', he tells depressing stories and he gets punched in the face by monkeys (much to the amusement of his family). So far, so familiar. There's also a rivalry with his daughter's growing love interest which I'm sure many Dads would relate to, and it reminded me of the fantastic 'Cuckoo' and this Phil Jupitus routine.   

But as the film develops, so does Grug. The key exchange with the boyfriend, Guy, has Grug defending his stifling rules by saying:

'I guess I was just busy keeping them all alive'.
'It's ok, that's what Dads do', replies Guy.

Despite bemoaning 'I can't change, I don't have ideas, but I have my strength and right now that's all you need', Grug does then go on to have an almost painful moment of cognitive enlightenment… we are seeing thousands, millions of years of evolution and brain development compressed into a few seconds. And I suppose the film is encouraging an audience of sleepy Dads, dragged along to see the film, that they too can change – they can keep their family safe while encouraging creativity, independence, in short to let their children live a little.

I think most Dads are aware of this. But when I do lose the plot in parenting terms, it tends to be over 'rules' that probably aren't anywhere near as important as keeping them safe from a prehistoric monster, so it doesn't hurt to have the odd reminder.

So I think The Croods passes the Sutton test. I realise I may be reading too much into all this, but hey at least it kept me awake!

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