Criticism, Movies

Women are from Mars, Men are from Venus

12 Comments 11 March 2011

animation, sci fi, Seth Green,Dan Fogler,Aliens,stay-at-home moms,nurturing,motherhood,matriarchy

Crone, left, Warrior Chick Martian

In Mars Needs Moms, odd stereotypes raise their big alien foreheads.

As a movie critic watching a children’s cartoon for a mainstream magazine, some times I’m torn. Do I review an animated movie for all the little kids who can’t read the subtext? And suck it up myself? Well, I suppose, having my own blog this is the place where I ask: what were the filmmakers thinking in the particular case of Mars Needs Moms, an unadulterated piece of anti-feminist propaganda wrapped in an aggressive 3D sci-fi wrapper.

Here’s the plot: Mars is led by a cranky old crone (what, played in the live action by Hilary Clinton?). The leader is assisted by warrior women with very big hips. I can only imagine that was to appease those angry feminists always complaining about the sylph-like figures in the typical Disney princess cartoon, and the negative impact on girls’ body image.

So, these alien women have advanced to the point that they no longer physically deliver children from internal wombs. Infant Martians pop up from the planet’s crust. The female society immediately splits the squawkers by gender. The females are keepers; the males are tossed through a trash chute to be cared for by the outcast men. The males, though a bit crude, are fundamentally jolly, over-affectionate, and wild in the trash heap where they live and circle dance. You cannot make this shit up!

The Martian matriarch raises the female babies using robots. But, apparently, every twenty-five years the extraterrestrials need to snatch a nurturing earthling mother. Then, using weird science, they download her mad mothering skills to the ‘bots in a bit of genetic programming to compensate for the skills that the female Martians have evolved away. This suburban mother (recognized by her ability to get her son to empty the trash) is a stay-at-home mom burdened with that eternal parenting prop: the laundry basket.

There’s more, but here’s the takeaway: the working mothers of Mars have lost their ability as women to love and nurture. They have to import an earth breeder to take care of that one chip necessary to continue the race. And the poor oppressed men, who live in substandard conditions, without a vote, without power, have been totally squelched to the detriment of Martian society.

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the hot air: The reinstitution of the nuclear family – happy mommy, happy daddy, happy baby of either sex — and the annihilation of the cranky crone.  If sci fi plots allow their creators to work out real-life issues, then here we see a bunch of angry Hollywood males crying out against their feelings of emasculation with nostalgia for a reinstatement of the nuclear fifties family. Hmmm.

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Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. Cybergirl says:

    Thelma’s review gets it right. Enough with either submissive or bad mommies, especially after those recently indictable ones in The Fighter, Animal Kingdom and Win Win. Do we really need them invading from outer space too?

    • Thelma says:

      Thanks, Cybergirl. We don’t need evil moms from outerspace — without a sense of irony. Not all moms need to be presented as “good,” but the underlying sense in this movie is that working moms are “bad,” incapable of nurturing.

  2. FilmFanaticPA says:

    I haven’t seen this film, but did read a couple of reviews. While Thelma focuses on the disturbing sexist content and anti-working mother sentiments, the other reviews don’t think much of the film in any respect. It seems odd that the writing team–a man and a woman, whose work I’m not familiar with–would choose to adapt this particular book given it’s regressive theme.

    It’s odd that critics haven’t zeroed in on what it says about working mothers. In the current recession, do most mothers even have a choice to NOT work outside the home?

    I wish I would have seen the film, so I could weigh in in a more substantial way.

    I applaud Thelma for teasing out its disturbing message.

  3. joyrose says:

    Wow. Thanks for sharing this riveting review about this senseless movie.

  4. matilda says:

    Although I certainly can understand the points you made about this film, I actually just went to see this movie earlier today with my son. I disagree. Instead of showing women as the helpless victims, which is the far more common theme among the children’s movie genre, they imagine Mars to be run by intelligent and strong females. Even though the female leader seems to be quite unsavory as a character, all of the other females in the story that were raised by machines were still somehow caring beings who in the end, saved all of the males and chose to raise children with love over efficiency. My son left the movie wanting to hug his mother! I think the anti-feminist stance is subjective at best and certainly not the intention of the filmakers.

    • Thelma says:

      I think raising the “f” word tends to polarize. I’m glad the experience inspired your son to hug his mother. But I still think the universe this movie portrays shows more about male fear of female power than an alien world.

  5. areyoujoking says:

    Did you happen to notice that male babies were thrown in the trash and grew up stupid? Anti-feminist? Try Anti-male and in a big, bad way. Children seeing a happy nuclear family will not harm them. (Shhh, don’t tell the feminists that.) …What WILL harm children is seeing male babies literally thrown in the trash and later bumbling around like idiots.

    • Thelma says:

      Well, I agree to a point, but I must say that what the movie tried to do was show men as victims of this new world order — some thing that clearly hasn’t happened yet. If you look at who’s controlling the Hollywood money, it’s still those male “victims.”

    • mel says:

      um, feminism is also about men — yes, showing the men being thrown in the trash and growing up stupid IS anti-feminist, because feminism is about equality, not excluding men.

  6. Gerald says:

    Well, calling this anti-feminist is a bit of a stretch, because feminist movies tend NOT to show males and females as happily co-existing equals. Instead, they either depict women being brutally oppressed and repressed by both the males in their personal/professional lives and larger society (the patriarchy) or they show women as strong, intelligent and moral while the males are dumb, lazy, neurotic and shiftless at best and at worth psychopaths (which means that any and all success that males experience in this society is due to the patriarchy’s rigging the system in their favor).

    Excluding films that are about police officers and the military (and the minority male leads like Denzel Washington, Jackie Chan and Will Smith that are still allowed to be semi-competent), name the last 5 films that you saw where you walked away feeling “Now THERE’S a movie that had good role models for a 12 year old boy!” instead of the assortment of slackers, losers, stoners, abusers, and overgrown kids that Hollywood has fed us for the last 20 years? Of course, these days the attitude among Hollywood writers, producers, directors (and movie critics) is that 12 year old boys don’t need good role models. Yeah, right … ever check the incarceration rate? How about school dropout rate? Or that women now account for 60% of college degrees?

    Anti-feminist films only seem so jarring because misandry has been the rule in Hollywood for so long. Oh well. Off to await yet another movie where the “hero” is Vince Vaughn, Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler or Kevin James.

    • Thelma says:

      Good point, Gerald. And some food for thought. I pulled out against Mars Needs Moms — but wasn’t looking at the larger scope. A movie like Hall Pass — with its infantilized husbands and wise wives — fits your critique. I loved Winter’s Bone — strong women. True Grit. At least there were adults. Even Kick-Ass. The upcoming Paul is a bromance but sweet, and embracing of both male and female and alien. But strong 12-year-old males? I’ll have to think on that for a bit. Keep me honest, Gerald, I appreciate it.

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