These motivating films, from a heart-wrenching coming-of-age narrative to a Disney sing-along classic, will inspire you to question the norms.
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Isn’t it true that rules are meant to be broken? It’s hard to know what to make of these rules and preconceptions. There is evidence that children who grow up with gender preconceptions ingrained in their minds may carry those traits into adulthood. There was an increase in tolerant views of sexual harassment and the establishment of gendered behaviors in romantic and sexual relationships, as well as riskier behavior in boys and career choices limited by gender norms, according to researchers who studied the effects of gendered media on children.
Our gender roles are rewritten as we enter adulthood in the context of a new set of gendered expectations: those imposed on us by the world of employment. Women who deviate from gender norms, such as being forceful in the workplace, are viewed as less appealing and less likely to be employed, according to a recent study. It is not just women who are affected by societal norms that restrict men’s ability to feel and express their emotions; it is men as well. An 18 percent drop in income and a lower assessment of managerial ability were found among “agreeable” males who were viewed as warm, kind, supporting, or empathetic, compared to their more macho counterparts.
Many people also have to deal with the cultural and familial conventions and customs that have been imposed on them. Many young people nowadays are struggling to find their place in a quickly changing world of increased globalization and instantaneous sharing through social media. They must also contend with the dynamics of their own families if they want to defy tradition in some way. A classic case of a childhood identity dilemma is that of a youngster growing up in a conservative household who is LGBTQ and who has never lived in the country of his or her parents’ birth.
In order to be, you must see it.
To better define what it means to have “positive gender portrayals” in a film or TV show, Common Sense Media introduced a rating system in 2017. Despite “depictions of violence, drugs, and sex,” the New York Times notes that films on our list including “Moonlight” were awarded the thumbs-up for audiences aged 17 and up. Common Sense Media executive editor for reviews, Betsy Bozdech, said, “I can’t think of another title that has inspired more talk about what it means to be an African-American young man, about opening up more opportunities,” to the paper.
Gender in Media Institute, founded by actress Geena Davis, works to eradicate damaging stereotypes and develop an abundance of diverse and intersecting female characters in entertainment through balancing onscreen portrayals. “If she can see it, she can be it,” reads the institute’s motto.
For this handpicked selection of some of our favorite movies that defy preconceptions and break ceilings, we’re going to take that term and run with it—from one of the best Disney sing-along flicks to laugh out loud classics and a tear-inducing new picture that eloquently conveys delicate family dynamics.
1. Best for space-lovers: “Hidden Figures”
Three African-American women and their careers at NASA are the subject of the 2017 film “Hidden Figures.” Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae play Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, respectively. Taraji P. Henson plays Katherine G. Johnson. At NASA in the 1960s, the US and Russia were engaged in a space race, with both attempting to put a man into orbit at the same time. The film “Hidden Figures” is chock-full of grit and wit, as well as a catchy score by Pharrell Williams.
2. Best to sing along to: “Mulan”
No of your age, you’ll find something to enjoy in this G-rated Disney classic that both you and an 8-year-old will appreciate. It’s also a great time to rewatch “Mulan” (1998) because the live-action version of the 1998 film is set to premiere in 2020. When a young woman has reached the age when she is supposed to find a spouse, a stern matchmaker steps in to help her find one. The original animated version is based on a Chinese folk story. Her father’s health is in stake, so she goes to war as a man to avoid the draft and keep him out of harm’s way. An Eddie Murphy-voiced dragon sidekick adds levity to the otherwise serious story, and the film concludes with a triumphant, upbeat note.
3. Best for athletes: “Bend It Like Beckham”
When it comes to a classic watch-any-time movie, “Bend It Like Beckham” (2003) explores the world of women’s soccer (football) while also dealing with crucial problems such as racism and the difference between old and modern ideals. The story takes place in and around London and centers on two young men, one of whom comes from a highly traditional Indian family, who are both determined to pursue professional careers in competitive sports and the difficulties they face along the way..
4. Best coming of age: “Moonlight”
“In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unproduced semi-autobiographical play, served as the inspiration for the moving drama “Moonlight,” released in 2016. This is the narrative of a young black man who grows up in Miami and tries to hide his sexuality and true identity from the world. As a powerful depiction of black homosexual manhood in the United States, Moonlight received three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
5. Best family flick: “The Farewell”
A movie based on a real-life hoax Awkwafina portrays the tenacious Billi in “The Farewell,” a 2019 film in which she and her family journey from New York to China to see their dying grandma. What exactly is the source of this dilemma? The family has devised an intricate plan to fake a wedding so that they can visit their dying grandmother one final time, and they intend to keep it that way. While capturing the cultural split between East and West, it manages to do so in a lighthearted manner.
6. Best Bollywood: “Dangal”
Another film based on a true story, “Dangal” (2017), tells the story of an Indian wrestler who failed to bring home the gold for his country at the Olympics. He plays an ex-wrestler who now helps his daughters train to be champion fighters despite social expectations. Aamir Khan plays him as Mahavir Phogat. For this film, Haryana, a region with the poorest gender ratios in the country, serves as its backdrop. That country has one of the world’s worst gender inequalities, and it rapidly became the top-earning foreign picture in China without Hollywood involvement.
7. Best superhero film: “Wonder Woman”
In “Wonder Woman,” Gal Gadot portrays one of cinema’s most popular superheroines (2017). Once a princess of the Amazons who was being trained to become an undefeated warrior, her life is abruptly flipped upside down. When an American pilot crashes on her island and alerts her to the devastation taking place elsewhere, Wonder Woman departs the island to continue her quest for justice.
8. Best for finding your voice: “The King’s Speech”
Just one problem stands in the way of Prince Albert (Colin Firth) becoming King George VI after his father’s death and Edward VIII’s abdication: He has a speech impediment. Because the country was on the verge of war and in desperate need of a leader they could trust, his wife hired an unconventional speech therapist to help him prepare for a large radio address to the nation. It’s an amazing story that not only demonstrates the strength of male friendship, but also shows that a speech impairment doesn’t mean you can’t govern a country.
9. Best for teenagers: “Easy A”
“Easy A” (2010), starring Emma Stone as an innocent high school student named Olive Penderghast, is a lighthearted and cheerful film that’s easy to watch. To make herself feel better about her lack of glitz and glamour, Olive makes up a story about losing her virginity, which a school bully overhears and spreads to the rest of the school. Olive’s life and social image undergo a dramatic shift as she becomes known as the “school slut.” By ignoring rumor and her colleagues, she uses the scarlet A on her chest as a means of self-discovery and empowerment.
10. Best for adventurers: “Into the Wild”
Christopher McCandless, a graduate of Emory University, was an athlete, a good student, and the son of an affluent family. Instead of pursuing a career after college, he decided to defy societal conventions and embark on a life-changing expedition into the Alaskan tundra. To prepare for his voyage, McCandless donated much of the money he had saved to charity and gave away most of his personal belongings. It’s an uplifting account of the human spirit’s resilience and perseverance, based on a true story.