What would be on your family playlist? (And what’s the best-known Beatles song?)

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To celebrate the recent launch of the iPhone 6 handset and its family sharing functionalities (you can now share purchase from iTunes with up to 6 people in your family), I was asked to compile a family playlist and, honestly, I got quite excited. I love a playlist, me, and I make them for each of my books and also for different moods and experiences (currently also compiling both Halloween and Christmas playlists).

UnknownOne of the things I love about iTunes is that I can have books and music and TV shows and films all in the one place, so it’s perfect for a family playlist. In fact, the most-played music on there is Phineas & Ferb. That’s not me. (Apart from Love Handle’s You Snuck Your Way Right Into My Heart. I love that one.)

The boys have also been asking a lot about The Beatles, so we’ve been listening to quite a few of their songs too. In fact, Harry asked me what the most famous Beatles song is. Not the best, but the best-known. Any idea? I think it’s Yellow Submarine. David said Yesterday (which hadn’t occurred to me) and Help, All You Need Is Love and Let It Be have all been suggested.

Remember when I asked for recommendations for Harry’s ‘musical education’ playlist? We still listen to that too. We actually need to add some more for Joe…

imagesFilm-wise, both boys are a bit obsessed with Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – they’ve seen the original, but prefer the remake (sigh) – and have watched it over and over. Also on the playlist is Despicable Me, which none of us ever gets tired of watching (“Curse you, tiny toilet!”). I’m about to download Out of Sight because I haven’t seen it for years and George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez are at their sexiest. No, it’s not family-friendly, but you know what they say, if mum’s happy…

mightybThe TV shows section of my iTunes is like a wander through the boys’ TV obsessions over the past few years. From Teletubbies to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Peppa Pig to Horrible Histories and the Wallace & Gromit Collection. Plus a couple of Peanuts specials forced on them by me (they made me nostalgic when I was a kid, I can hardly bear them now!). One of the most recent additions is Amy Poehler’s animated series, The Mighty B!, which is anarchic and hilarious.

UnknownThe Radio 4 sitcom Cabin Pressure is, I think, essential for a family playlist. For a while, the boys listened to an episode before bed (actually, so did I) and flying back from holiday recently, they both got very excited when ‘cabin pressure’ was mentioned as part of the safety demonstration, thinking that perhaps Martin, Douglas, Carolyn and Arthur were on board. (Almost as excited as I’d have been had Benedict Cumberbatch been on board. But I doubt he flies Ryanair much.)

What’s on your family playlist? 

Watching Frozen with Joe

How we love Frozen. We saw it at the cinema and Joe and I watched it last week on DVD. And then we watched it again. The third time, Joe was obviously familiar enough with the story that he could ask some questions. So. Many. Questions.

I think this is only about the first twenty minutes. May be slightly out of order since it was hard to keep up.

Obviously, there are spoilers herein…

Joe in his home-made Queen Elsa outfit.
Joe in his home-made Queen Elsa outfit.

Why does she shoot her in the face?
Why does she say… *gasps* ?
Why does she say ‘I’m gonna keep you’?
How is he changing them into snow pictures?
How does he change the magic?
Why do they need to lock the gates?
What about if she just climbs out of the window?
Where are they going?
And how do they park if the ship’s gone?
How did they die?
How did Anna and Elsa not die?
Do people hang covers over pictures when people die?
Did she just get the black clothes and give them to the princess?
Who looks after them now their parents have died?
How do they grow bigger in the movie?
How does she not just open the door?
Why can’t they just break it? With a saw?
How does Joan [of Arc] fight? Is she fighting a dragon?
Why do they need to share the carrot?
And how much pounds is a sleigh?
How much pounds is a horse?
Why is the ship back if it sinked?
Is there a real Coronation Day?*
Why does she say ‘a ballroom with no ball’?
How are they going to eat the cake if the man’s in it?
Is she living with her? Is it a flat?
Why is he nice now and he’s still the baddie?
How do his clothes not get wet and in real life they do?
Why does they both say ‘Arundel’?
Where does the Weaseltown really live? Is Weaseltown really real?
Why does his hair flip over when he bends down?
Why does he say ‘I love crazy’?
Why does she laugh?
How does the snowman know they’re there?
How do they make it on a computer?
Does a real lady sing this?
Why does she say ‘I’m never going back’?
So she’s just going to stay in there without any food?! Why did she not even make a fridge?!

* I said our Queen has been on the throne since 1952. Joe said, “How does she wee?!”

A trailer for a film I’m never going to watch

Last week, we went to the cinema to see The Heat and one of the trailers was for a film called 2 Guns.

A couple of minutes into the trailer I said, as I am wont to do these days, “Are there any women in this film?”* Immediately after I asked, a female character appeared, shown from behind, naked but for knickers (you know the shot, we’ve seen it so many times), getting into bed with Denzel Washington’s character. She turns up again later, for a second, tied-up and gagged as the baddie (I assume) asks Denzel “Have I properly incentivised you?”

Having watched the trailer again, it seems that the female character, played by Paula Patton, is a police officer, but the point of her in the trailer at least is as the love interest whose kidnapping is motivation for a male character.

* Paula Patton’s character had appeared briefly already, but the cast was overwhelmingly male. I subsequently looked it up on IMDb and, of the ‘first billed’ cast of fifteen characters, Paula Patton’s character is the only woman. (Mildly interesting side note: Paula Patton is married to Robin Thicke.) In case you’re thinking “Ah, but you went to see The Heat – that has two women in the main roles and 2 Guns has two men, what’s your problem?” Well the Top 15 billed cast on IMDb for The Heat is made up of three women and twelve men.

Oh and Denzel Washington is 58 and Paula Patton is 37, but we already knew that leading men age, but their love interests don’t, didn’t we?

Sexism in kids’ films: Wreck-It Ralph

MV5BNzMxNTExOTkyMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzEyNDc0OA@@._V1_SX214_We saw this for the second time today (paid full price when it came out, saw it for cheap at Kids AM today) and while it’s mostly pretty good, there was one thing that bothered me.

As with previous posts in this category, I’m assuming if you’re reading you’ll understand why these things are a problem and I don’t need to explain male gaze, objectification, gender stereotypes, etc., these posts are just a way of acknowledging/noting these issues within kids’ films. And also that if you do want to leave a comment saying I’m taking it too seriously, I should get a life/sense of humour/hobby, etc., I’m just gonna go ahead and ignore you.


Well first of all there’s the fact that it’s another film with – and named for – a main male character, but I actually found Vanellope to be the star. Love her. I groaned when she’s discovered to be a princess, but almost cheered when she rejects this with the line “I’m thinking more along the lines of a constitutional democracy. President Vanellope Von Schweetz. Has a nice ring to it, don’cha think?”

The main thing that bugged me was the character of Calhoun, who is a sergeant in Hero’s Duty. She’s described in the Disney Wiki as “the tough-as-nails, take-charge leader who fights for humanity’s freedom.” Until, that is, Fix-It Felix rescues them both from a swamp and she’s suddenly making, as the film calls it “goo-goo eyes” at him. (It reminds me of a bit in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island when Josh Hutcherson’s character rescues the previously uninterested Vanessa Hudgins – when she falls off a giant bumblebee, no really – and you see her suddenly start to see him in A New Light.) Later, Felix calls Calhoun a “dynamite gal” and she flashes back to her previous lover calling her the same before their wedding is interrupted by a Cy-Bug.

“On the day of their wedding, Calhoun was too distracted by her ceremony to complete one of her highly important perimeter checks. The neglect caused one of the Cy-Bugs to break into the wedding chapel and devour Brad, killing him. The story left Calhoun with a hard heart until Felix came into her life and showed her the brighter side of things.”


Sexism in kids’ films: Robots

imagesJust a quick one because I only watched a bit of the film, but fairly early on the parents of the main character (who is, you know, a robot) bring him his “12-year-old parts” which, they say, are a hand-me-down from his cousin Veronica, adding “You know how popular she is!”

It’s a torso and it’s pink and shapely (as you can see from the photo, in the rest of the film his torso is blue) and as the mother hands it over, another robot wolf-whistles.

Sexism in kids’ films: G-Force

UnknownYeah, I know it’s an old one, but we watched it today. Or rather, I only half-watched it since I was getting on with a few things around the house, but I saw enough…

The poster: four main characters – three male, one female. There’s also a mole, also male.

Penelope Cruz voices the female guinea pig and her character appears in the same way as the ‘sexy’ female character in so many films: in slow motion, flicking her hair. A male guinea pig immediately comes on to her and she says she’s interested in someone else. And she’s interested in him because he’s not interested in her.

She’s bought from a pet shop by a young girl, who says she wants to put bows in her hair and “I’m gonna put nail polish and lipstick on her… and a dress!” When she does, she shows the guinea pig her reflection and says, “Don’t you look pretty?”

The pet shop is run by an attractive young man and an older woman with a shrill, nagging voice. “Wow. This woman’s really abrasive,” comments one of the guinea pigs.

There is one further woman in the main cast and whenever I was in the room, she was just standing next to Zach Galifianakis’s character and nodding.

Yes, I know most of the above relates to guinea pigs, but research has found (no, really, it has – it was in Delusions of Gender) that children don’t differentiate between animal and human characters, so the lack of female roles (and the stereotypical nature of the roles) matters just as much with animal characters as it does with human.

Sexism in kids’ films

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while – in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve started to blog about it more than once, but then decided not to. Because I picture people reading it and rolling their eyes and, you know, I don’t like to picture that. (I prefer to imagine them punching the air with joy, laughing with delight, shouting “She’s right!” Just me?)

But two things: 1) It’s important. It’s not nothing that I notice sexism in every single film I take my children to see and 2) If I made anything like a New Year’s Resolution it was to care less about what people think about me. If people think I take things too seriously, if they think I bang on about feminism too much, if they roll their eyes and say, “Jeez, lighten up, it’s just a film” well… so? I’m 41. Fuck it.

Hotel-Transylvania-PosterSo this morning we went to see Hotel Transylvania. We all really enjoyed it. I laughed out loud quite a few times, it was entertaining enough that I didn’t keep checking the time and it was well-written. But. Look at the poster: eight characters, only two of them female. And that little wolf girl on the right? Barely in the movie at all.

Now there’ll probably be spoilers here, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know. Oh and I’m assuming if you’re reading you’ll understand why these things are a problem and I don’t need to explain male gaze, objectification, gender stereotypes, etc., these posts are just a way of acknowledging/noting these issues within kids’ films. And also that if you do want to leave a comment saying I’m taking it too seriously, I should get a life/sense of humour/hobby, etc., I’m just gonna go ahead and ignore you.


The story is fairly typical – Dracula wants to protect his daughter, Mavis, by keeping her away from the world entirely. Like Marvin with Nemo. I can identify with this, presumably most parents can. But Dracula is happy to release her once he’s approved a boy for her to leave with (this also seems to be a theme in the forthcoming movie, The Croods*) and Mavis argues for her freedom by saying, “You know I’m going to get married one day…”

There’s also a scene with a few zombie builders – on a site, with hardhats – all male, of course, and a female zombie shuffles past and the males all stop to letch. Later, a zombie looks shifty as he tries to take a female mannequin from a shop window, Dracula tells him to leave it, he doesn’t need it.

The main boy in the film, Johnny, thinks a female skeleton is a person in a costume and puts his hand through her ribcage, a male skeleton immediately threatens him, saying “Don’t put your hand in my wife.” Later, Dracula and Johnny open a door onto the female skeleton in the shower and again the husband bursts out to threaten them and defend her honour.

Frankenstein’s wife is a stereotypical nagging wife (voiced by Fran Drescher, so I’m sure you can imagine).

The little girl wolf on the poster? She comes forward when her dozens of brothers are too wild to be of any help and basically saves the day. Dracula dismisses her with “Thank you, cutie.”

* The trailer for The Croods features the love interest boy making a pair of shoes for the girl who immediately freaks right out, screaming “OH MY GOD, I LOVE THEM!” Yawn.

If you want to read more about this (not from me, I mean) then Gender Diary wrote a brilliant post for Bea and Sally Whittle wrote an excellent post about Playboy bunnies in Hop.