An Easy Way to Start Noticing the Stories

By design, the protagonists of our myths/cultural narratives are overwhelmingly male. An easy way to begin noticing this bias is to watch movies with awareness of this cultural bias.

The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street

The vast majority of movies showcase male protagonists. Additionally, the leading man (men) are usually white. There certainly are movies that feature men of color as the main characters, but these films do not comprise a substantial percentage overall.

Even so-called “chick flicks” will often focus on the leading male’s story rather than any of the females in the film. Some recent examples are The Wolf of Wall Street, The Dallas Buyers Club, I Love You, Man, the Twilight series, or any superhero film. Sociologist Allan G. Johnson noted in 2001, that by a very  large margin, the Oscars award the highest honors to those films that highlight stories of white male protagonists.

Two more things to notice is 1) how much violence or force is incorporated into the plot of the narrative and 2) what purpose, if any, the violence serves. The violence can be physical or psychological. Here are some questions to ponder:

  • Is the purpose of the violence to merely to protect oneself or the members of one’s community?
  • Is the violence shown to scare the audience?
  • How graphic is the violence?
  • Is the violence used to reinforce the patriarchal idea that men are killers by nature?
  • Is it to demonstrate that no one should ever cross the line with the main character?
  • Is violence the typical way that the main character(s) solves problems?
  • Is the violence tied to sex or sexuality, thus promoting the message that violence itself is sexy?
  • Why is this violence necessary?

Once you start looking at movies, you might be interested in listening more closely to music lyrics, the rants of talk-show hosts, and the slant of particular news pieces. Ask yourself: “Are the voices, perspectives, and experiences of people of color together with women of any color included with the same consideration or length?”

While there is nothing wrong with viewing or listening to stories about men and boys, it is a problem when those stories are predominately about white boys and men, instead of stories that reflect the broad array of men and boys. This problem escalates dramatically when we are not viewing or listening to an equal number of stories about girls and women of all races. Patriarchy doesn’t want news, stories, or images that portray empowered women and girls, or empowered persons of color.

Hopefully this short glimpse into the patriarchal framework of our cultural narratives causes you to start to think about them in a new way.