This past weekend, I went to see Catherine Hardwicke’s take on the age-old fairy tale “Red Riding Hood.” Since it received a PG-13 rating, I thought that it might be a film that some of our girls could see, and even if they might be a little young for this type of movie now, it’s what they’ll be watching in just a few short years.
The story of Red Riding Hood is one that most little girls know. Red Riding Hood goes off into the woods to grandmother’s house. She meets the wolf who runs ahead of her, devours her grandmother and waits for Red. When Red arrives, the wolf eats her. Luckily, the huntsman arrives, slaying the wolf and rescuing both Red and her grandmother. Interpretation of the tale has varied over time, but some say that it’s a tale of a young girl’s journey into puberty (hence the red cloak) and her subsequent sexual awakening; girls should steer clear of male predators, represented by the wolf.
So, when the new adaptation marketed itself as turning Red into a modern-day heroine, I’ll admit I was intrigued. I wanted to see a Red Riding Hood that fights the wolf herself instead of waiting to be saved. I hoped to see a young woman that took hold of her own sexuality, instead of seeking the approval of others.
Hardwicke hardly succeeds in these endeavors. Red, now named Valerie, finds herself in the center of a love triangle, much like every other teenage movie. This decision between two guys is what defines her, not anything about herself or her life. She also needs these men to rescue her from the wolves; whenever Hardwicke places Red in danger, a man rushes to save her. The only thing that people talk about in the village is how beautiful she is (and the actress Amanda Seyfried most definitely is that), but this is the only trait that sets her apart. We don’t even get the chance to know this character, except for the fact that two gorgeous guys want her (so we should want to be her).
I worry that movies geared towards teenage girls — and possibly our girls in SWSG as they lie in a vague zone between children’s films and PG-13, almost R-rated movies — focus too much on the Bella Swan “heroine.” These girls only care about their male lover, to the point of self-destruction. They have no interests outside their boyfriends. They’re not capable of carrying on relationships outside of the one with their companion. These women are exactly what we at SWSG are trying to prevent our girls from becoming, yet the media continues to perpetuate that these girls are the stars.
I disagree. It’s definitely our girls who want to be doctors and business owners, who have diverse interests ranging from sports and dancing to art and writing, and who love having relationships with other women (rather than only their boyfriend) that are the real movie stars. I’d rather watch a movie about one of them any day.