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Male Role Models in Children’s Media Film Theory Finale: Don’t Trust Your Heroes

by Allen
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The Neglected Middle Child: Film Theory

Film theory often gets overlooked or forgotten in the world of media. However, it covers important topics that shape our beliefs and influence public thinking. While some episodes may seem silly, film theory also delves into deep topics such as deepfakes, propaganda, net neutrality, and the impact of fragmented pop culture on our collective sense of identity. Today’s episode focuses on the lack of positive male role models in children’s media, and why it is essential to address this issue.

The Search for Wholesome Father Figures

When thinking about wholesome father figures in children’s media, many people struggle to come up with a list. While there are some examples such as Bandit from Bluey, Arthur Weasley from Harry Potter, and Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender, the process of finding these characters is surprisingly difficult. Sitcoms often portray fathers as bumbling buffoons, deadbeat dads, or individuals in need of anger management. Even classic cartoon characters have been sanitized but still exhibit negative traits. This lack of positive father figures extends beyond sitcoms and affects male characters across all age groups in various forms of media.

The Scarcity of Positive Male Role Models

In today’s era of diverse and inclusive children’s entertainment, it might seem surprising that there are so few male characters that embody positive qualities. Shows like The Owl House, Amphibia, and Kipo and the Age of the Wonder Beasts have given voices to historically underrepresented groups. However, when it comes to male characters that parents want their sons to emulate, the options are limited. This scarcity is a problem that needs to be addressed.

The Influence of Media on Children

The media children consume plays a significant role in shaping their beliefs and values. As a father, the content I share with my son is of utmost importance to me. However, finding shows with characters that I want him to look up to can be challenging. It is crucial that we have male role models in children’s media who display positive qualities and values. The entertainment industry has made progress in creating diverse and empowering female characters, but it is time to give boys the same level of representation.

The Problem with Male Characters

While there are male characters in abundance, the quality of these characters is often questionable. Many of them exhibit negative traits or engage in violent behavior. Classic superheroes like Captain America, Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man may be admirable in some aspects, but their stories revolve around war, crime, and physical violence. Other male characters, such as Johnny Bravo, Timmy Turner, and Jimmy Neutron, are portrayed as whiny, arrogant, or mean-spirited. Even seemingly positive characters like Phineas and Ferb constantly break rules without facing consequences. The portrayal of male characters in media sends implicit messages that boys are violent, problem-solving is synonymous with physical violence, and there are no real consequences for negative actions.

The Historical Roots of Gender Stereotypes

To understand why male characters in children’s media often fall short, we must examine the history of pop culture. The concept of “toyetic media” emerged, where movies, cartoons, and TV shows were created explicitly to sell merchandise. Star Wars became a prime example of this, with toys being a significant source of revenue. This influenced the creation of other toyetic franchises in the ’80s and ’90s, where the focus was on designing characters and settings to sell toys rather than creating positive role models. Boys were seen as directors, shaping the action and narrative of their play, while girls tended to play in the first person, immersing themselves in the characters’ shoes. This difference in play styles led to the development of media that resonated with each gender’s play preferences.

The Need for Positive Male Role Models

While female-targeted media has made significant strides in empowering girls and providing positive role models, male-targeted media has lagged behind. Boys deserve characters that embody qualities such as kindness, fairness, intelligence, and respect. Media can still be exciting and fun without promoting violence, stupidity, or cruelty. It is important to create shows and movies that allow boys to grow up with characters worth looking up to, just as girls have been given the same opportunity.

Making Positive Change

Over the past decade, there has been a positive shift in the media landscape. We have seen the emergence of empowering female characters and diverse representation. It is now time to focus on providing boys with equally positive role models. This won’t be an easy task, as it requires challenging long-standing assumptions and making changes in the way male characters are portrayed. However, by creating media that showcases admirable traits and promotes positive values, we can shape the next generation of boys to become kind, fair, and respectful individuals.


It is essential to address the lack of positive male role models in children’s media. Boys deserve characters that inspire them to be their best selves, just as girls have been given empowering role models. By challenging stereotypes and creating media that promotes positive values, we can ensure that all children have access to diverse and inclusive entertainment. Let’s embrace this opportunity to let our boys grow up with characters worth looking up to and create a brighter future for all.

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