By Brandy Black
After a long weekend solo with 3 kids and lots of support from friends, I poured myself a drink, sat down to catch up on emails and work and found this in my inbox.
I was constantly editing as I read my boys “good night” books, changing the word “Mommy” to “Papa” so they heard a story about a world they found instantly recognizable.
Gay dads don’t get many advantages in the parenting landscape these days, what with cantankerous celebrities and bogus “studies” bashing us at every turn. The one area that CAN be our friend is the local DVD outlet however. For whatever reason due to a patriarchal Hollywood complex or just mere coincidence, there is a full treasure trove of great gay father lead family material available.
I truly wish that I could be writing this article and calling out all great LGBT family material available, but sadly THAT is simply not the case. The horrifying fact is….. it SUCKS to be a mom in animated movies. Being a birth mother is tantamount to being victim of some horrible mysogystic plague …if you are one, the likelihood is that in these movies, you are…. dead (Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty in the Beast, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hoodwinked and more) or absent/abandoning (Sleeping Beauty, Shrek, Tangled). If you are a second mom, it is worse… you are just plain evil (Snow White, Cinderella, Tangled). Even in the latest offering, Brave, I found the mother/daughter dynamic less than ideal , although some of my mom friends found it accurate.
So, lesbian moms, I offer up this “Ten Best Gay Dad-Friendly Movies for Kids” with a little bit of guilt. I wish there were similar offerings for YOUR families. There should be. Whenever you are ready to go picket Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar and others…. I will march with you.
In the meantime… here is my list, from the good to the best. I hope you agree:
10. Despicable Me (2010) Gru is despicable and inept at his profession of being a villain. In the end, he demonstrates what it takes to be a good father, putting his kids first.
9. Cars (2006) Lightning McQueen has all the testosterone of a teen-aged kid. He is finally tamed by the sage gnarly tough love of a surrogate dad, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), and due to that influence, grows up.
8. Lion King (1994) I am sure the question is not why this is on the list, since it has the theme of fatherhood all over it, but why it is not higher. Simba’s guilt over his father’s death, the sainthood ideal of his father and the cavalier silliness of his two surrogate dads may be a bit much for kids in gay dad households to handle. It’s still good, though, but requires some dad hugs and statements like “Don’t worry…I am not going ANYWHERE.”
7. Pinocchio (1940) This movie is filled with gay dad heart, even if it is a little dated. A man denied fatherhood creates a son in the only way he can at his disposal, and through the help of another surrogate dad, who happens to be a cricket, and rites of passage… the created son becomes a real one.
6. Toy Story I (1995) A bit of a flip flop in terms of the dad and child dynamic on this one since the two “dads” are owned by the child. Well, maybe that is not so much a flip flop as it is a deeply accurate perspective. Not only do Woody and Buzz strive to hold the child Andy as the core of their lives, they also father the band of various toys in the nursery. One of the great themes for gay dads… can I be as good as my hype? What happens when my kid finds out that I can’t really fly? The answer? He or she won’t care…in their eyes… you can.
5. Ice Age I (2002) < http://www.themoviedb.org/
4. Monsters Inc. (2001) Unlike the guys in Ice Age, the surrogate dad types in Monsters Inc, Sully and Mike, already have kind of a bromance going sans child. When the human child enters their life, there is a sense of taboo, and an element of “us against the outside world” that they experience. Ultimately, they show that they are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of and love for the child in their lives.
3. The Incredibles (2004) This movie does not have the male parental dominance as the other movies on the list, but the pair of opposite gender parents are fully actualized empowered (literally) people who can save the day on their own. The elements that appeal for a gay dad household is the sense that “our family is special, but not all outsiders will understand” and normal family squabbles do not supersede the fact that we are there for each other at the end of the day. The movie also features the androgynous-ish “E” Mode, super hero costume designer and Helen Parr is the best kids’ movie mom ever. If, per my previous point, great kid movie moms were not an endangered species, I would move to make her an honorary gay dad.
2. Over the Hedge (2006) Two surrogate fathers vie for the heart and leadership of a family of woodland creatures displaced by a housing development. One, RJ, has some self serving motives, but the other, Verne, is for pure fatherly love. In the process, and with some great music by Ben Folds, RJ sees his error and steps up to a real dad role. Plus… this movie has a hilariously skunky Wanda Sykes, who does an inter-species romance thing with a cat.
My contribution for the BEST Gay Dad Friendly movie of all time, however, is………………………………
1. Finding Nemo (Minus the scene before the main title) ( 2003) I am cheating a little. My “best” pick is based on my own edited version of this film. For the past 9 years, my sons have never seen the part of the movie before the titles. I always started the movie, picked “scene selection” and went to the second panel and started it where the title “Finding Nemo” comes up. I would recommend the same to you unless you think your children watching a mother fish and the majority of her offspring being eaten is desirable. I didn’t.
So… for me, it is about the REST of the movie. In my opinion, this is probably the best dad and kid movie ever made. Single dad Marlin has trouble not being over-protective. His world revolves around his son, Nemo. Nemo embarks on an adventure where he inadvertently falls from beneath dad’s protection, but is then guided by a surrogate father, Gil. Nemo learns to become self actualized, and Marlin learns to let him. The movie is weaved with parental axioms of life like “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” to the crux moment of “ ‘He says it’s time to let go” “Let go? How do you know something terrible isn’t going to happen?” “I…..don’t…!” …and then, letting go to find an instant later that you are exactly where you needed to be.
The father/child bond in the movie is complex and perfect. My sons watched this movie literally thousands of times, and I still never tire of it. In the end… Marlin does learn to let go, enough, and to respect his son… and he has Ellen Degeneres as a best friend. I mean…come on…how gay dad is that??
So there is my “best” list…what is yours? And to lesbian moms: what would you like to see in a kid’s movie?
Parent alert: the Walt Disney Company is now offering refunds for all those “Baby Einstein” videos that did not make children into geniuses.
They may have been a great electronic baby sitter, but the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect.
“We see it as an acknowledgment by the leading baby video company that baby videos are not educational, and we hope other baby media companies will follow suit by offering refunds,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has been pushing the issue for years.
Baby Einstein, founded in 1997, was one of the earliest players in what became a huge electronic media market for babies and toddlers. Acquired by Disney in 2001, the company expanded to a full line of books, toys, flashcards and apparel, along with DVDs including “Baby Mozart,” “Baby Shakespeare” and “Baby Galileo.”
The videos — simple productions featuring music, puppets, bright colors, and not many words — became a staple of baby life: According to a 2003 study, a third of all American babies from 6 months to 2 years old had at least one “Baby Einstein” video.
Despite their ubiquity, and the fact that many babies are transfixed by the videos, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children under 2.
In 2006, Ms. Linn’s group went to the Federal Trade Commission to complain about the educational claims made by Disney and another company, Brainy Baby. As a result, the companies dropped the word “educational” from their marketing. But the group didn’t think that was enough.
“Disney was never held accountable, and parents were never given any compensation. So we shared our information and research with a team of public health lawyers,” Ms. Linn said.
Last year, lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit for unfair and deceptive practices unless Disney agreed to refund the full purchase price to all who bought the videos since 2004. “The Walt Disney Company’s entire Baby Einstein marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development,” a letter from the lawyers said, calling those claims “false because research shows that television viewing is potentially harmful for very young children.”
The letter cited estimates from The Washington Post and Business Week that Baby Einstein controlled 90 percent of the baby media market, and sold $200 million worth of products annually.
The letter also described studies showing that television exposure at ages 1 through 3 is associated with attention problems at age 7.
In response, the Baby Einstein company will refund $15.99 for up to four “Baby Einstein” DVDs per household, bought between June 5, 2004, and Sept. 5, 2009, and returned to the company.
Lawyers in the matter refused to comment on the settlement.
Last month, Baby Einstein announced the new refunds — or “enhanced consumer satisfaction guarantee” — but made no mention of the lawyers’ demands.
“Fostering parent-child interaction always has and always will come first at The Baby Einstein Company, and we know that there is an ongoing discussion about how that interaction is best promoted,” Susan McLain, vice president and general manager, said in the statement. “We remain committed to providing a wide range of options to help parents create the most engaging and enriching experience for themselves and their babies.”
The founder and president of Brainy Baby, Dennis Fedoruk, said in an e-mail message that he was unaware of Baby Einstein’s refund announcement and could not offer further comment.
An outside public relations representative for Baby Einstein said there was nothing new about the refund offer.
“We’ve had a customer satisfaction guarantee for a long time,” she said, referring a reporter to the company Web site. However, Baby Einstein’s general “money-back” guarantee is only valid for 60 days from purchase and requires a receipt.
In contrast, the current offer, allowing parents to exchange their video for a different title, receive a discount coupon, or get $15.99 each for up to four returned DVDs, requires no receipt, and extends until next March 10.
“When attention got focused on this issue a few years ago, a lot of companies became more cautious about what they claimed,” said Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But even if the word ‘education’ isn’t there, there’s a clear implication of educational benefits in a lot of the marketing.”
The Baby Einstein Web site, for example, still describes its videos with phrases like “reinforces number recognition using simple patterns” or “introduces circles, ovals, triangles, squares and rectangles.”
“My impression is that parents really believe these videos are good for their children, or at the very least, not really bad for them,” Ms. Rideout said. “To me, the most important thing is reminding parents that getting down on the floor to play with children is the most educational thing they can do.”
More on this article THE NEW YORK TIMES