Rarely do I experience more drama in my household than when the Twins are deciding which movie to watch. As the Movie Selection Committee consists of two highly opinionated two-year-olds, the deliberation process has been known to inspire tears, tiny fistfights, and even the occasional airborne DVD case. In fact, these pre-movie events often rival the actual movies in both intensity and entertainment value. However, once white smoke emanates from our chimney, alerting the throngs of onlookers and international press gathered on our street that a film has finally been chosen, my daughter invariably reminds me:
“I don’t like the Mean Lady.”
This is because in just about every movie we’re currently watching, she has found a female character that terrifies her, and the moment any of these Mean Ladies are onscreen, she’ll literally run away from the TV to find me (yes, even when I’m on the toilet) and insist that I “Skip this part. I don’t like the Mean Lady.”
This is my cue to cuss inaudibly as I frantically search for the stupid f*cking remote (I just had it thirty seconds ago!) and–once I finally extract it from inside the Lego house my son is building–skip the movie to the next scene, which is blissfully devoid of any and all Mean Ladies.
I’m not sure where this phobia comes from. Perhaps she feels that all women ought to be kind and nurturing (like her Mommy) and seeing the flip side of that flips her out. Of course, it doesn’t really help that kids’ movies tend to lay the evil on pretty thick with villains so that it’s unquestionably clear who’s the “bad guy.” At any rate, what follows is a breakdown of the Ladies my daughter finds to be particularly Mean.
1. Mother Gothel – Tangled
Mother Gothel is the original Mean Lady, the one who started it all with my little girl, and I have to say, I don’t really blame her on this one. The second she saw the beginning part where Gothel’s fugly screaming monster face abducted Rapunzel, I knew there was no turning back. While I’m confident Gothel wouldn’t be a real-life threat (her main weapon is long-term psychological damage) and that I could send her away crying like a little girl by mentioning she looked like she was looking a little gray today, I can understand how the devilish facial expressions and sudden changes in volume could freak out my two-year-old.
2. Roz – Monsters, Inc.
I couldn’t tell you why Roz is on this list. Sure, her, um, unique appearance is a little off-putting, but she doesn’t mean anyone any harm. And here’s the thing. For a while, the Twins LOVED her. We had a three-month-long Monsters, Inc. obsession, during which they’d walk around the house all day impersonating Roz’s raspy, underwhelmed voice (“Wazowski, you never filed your paperwork last night”). However, lately, although Roz is “always watching” Mike, we’re never watching her, as she has been inexplicably dubbed “Mean.” It seems Mother Gothel was a gateway Mean Lady of some sort.
3. Malificent – Sleeping Beauty
Many people regard Malificent as the ultimate Disney villain–the evilest of the evil–and I have to say I’m right there with them. Of all the Mean Ladies, she is by far the last one I’d want to piss off. Not only is she a towering seven feet tall even without her pointy hat, but she also has that creepy green skin, the self-control of a belligerently drunk cage fighter, AND can turn herself into a freaking dragon. Yeah, that’s okay Malificent. You can go ahead of me in line. I have way more grocery items than you, anyway. And what a well-behaved scary-ass crow you have perched on your shoulder!
Of course, because Malificent has so much screen time, our Sleeping Beauty viewing experience typically winds up being about 20 minutes long–basically the “Once Upon a Dream” part and the fairies bumbling through cooking and sewing without their wands. Which I’m actually okay with because I’ve recently realized this movie is terrible. But that’s a topic for another post.
4. Sergeant Calhoun – Wreck-It Ralph
Now this one kind of pisses me off, partly because I love this movie and never want to skip any of it, but also because I want the Twins to understand that Calhoun isn’t actually Mean. Sure, anyone voiced by the always-fantastic Jane Lynch is going to have an edge, but you’d probably be a little intense, too, if you fought enormous half-bug/half-robots all day, every day, and they killed the love of your life seconds before you were about to marry him. Sure, the part when Ralph’s in Hero’s Duty could be particularly scary for toddlers and I’m okay with skipping that, but for the rest of the movie, the worst she does is speak with a slight growl. I try to tell my daughter that Calhoun’s good and that she’s helping Ralph and Vanellope, but unfortunately, her all-black clothes and volume problem lump her in with villains in my kids’ minds. Such a shame, because in reality, she’s one dynamite gal.
5. Miss Hattie – Despicable Me
Kudos to my daughter for picking up on this one. If you think about it, in this movie that’s full of “villains,” Miss Hattie is easily the meanest. Even Gru winds up finding compassion for Margo, Edith, and Agnes as an adoptive parent, but this woman should NOT interact with children, especially as a career.
6. Susan/Ginormica – Monsters vs. Aliens
You’d think my daughter would be freaked out by–oh, I don’t know–the Monsters or the Aliens in this flick. But no, she actually insists that we begin movie at the part when Susan has already transformed into Ginormica and wakes up in the government facility to meet the monsters, and she’s completely fine with watching the the movie skip-free from this point on. The scene that horrifies her the most is when Susan is in the church and starts growing at an astronomical rate. It upsets her so much that she refuses to watch any scene where Susan is normal-sized and has brown hair. In fact, I’m pretty sure my daughter thinks they’re two entirely different characters.
. . .
In reflecting on my kids’ reactions to these allegedly mean ladies, I find myself in an interesting spot as a parent. And I’m not talking about the fear of scary things in movies–I think that’s a given with kids. I particularly remember being terrified of Malificent myself when I was around their age.
No, I’m talking more about the bigger picture–the idea of judgement. On the one hand, I want my kids to not assume that someone who is odd-looking (like Roz), intense (like Calhoun), or ginormous (like Ginormica) is bad or “mean.” As we all know, appearances can be deceiving, so in talking to them about these ladies, I hope they begin to understand that. At the same time, the papa bear in me also wants them to trust their instincts. If they instantly get bad vibes around someone (think Malificent or Mother Gothel), I want them to recognize that–to talk about it with me or their mom or someone else they trust. And really, there can be a fine line between these two scenarios, but I guess that’s what parents are there for.
In the meantime, I’ll keep the remote close. While I won’t always be able to skip every Mean Lady life throws at my kids, it’s nice to know that for the time being, I can.
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If not, I’m so telling Malificent on you. We’re friends now, ever since the grocery store.