Pitch Perfect 2
Run Time: 115 Minutes
Director: Elizabeth Banks
This film does a good job of fostering “girl power” and including a diverse group of positive female characters in the storyline. However, the film’s use of satire complicates its attempt to subvert tired stereotypes regarding gender, race, and sexual orientation.
After an a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, are suspended from performing in the Aca-Circuit, they take on the challenge of competing in an international competition to regain their status as performers.
The Book Thief
Run Time: 131 minutes
Director: Brian Percival
Overall, this film does an excellent job of engaging with a narrative, that of a German girl living in Germany during WWII, that is rarely considered in the discourse regarding Hitler’s occupation. Also, the film does a fantastic job of challenging gender roles regarding masculinity and femininity and engages with issues of race and ethnicity. However, while the film does provide some contextual information regarding the atrocities of WWII, it should not be considered as an educational film on the Holocaust. Providing some appropriate contextual information to the audience regarding the treatment of Jewish people and other marginalized identities in Europe and the Holocaust is strongly suggested as the film seems to presuppose that the audience (given its PG-13 rating) already has some knowledge regarding the Holocaust.
Liesel, a young girl living in Germany during WWII, develops a love of reading as her foster parents hide a Jewish refugee in their home.
Run Time: 81 minutes
Directed By: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
Overall, this film tries to engage with a marginalized identity (Native Americans) that is rarely depicted in mainstream media in a positive or uplifting manner; however, the film lacks the historical context necessary to situate the audience as far as the detrimental effects of colonization are concerned and also makes broad generalizations about Native American groups. Also, while Pocahontas challenges traditional gender roles regarding femininity in a number of ways, the film does little to engage with other marginalized cultural identities.
The daughter of Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas, is expected to marry an Algonquin suitor. However, despite the pressures from her father, Pocahontas resists the marriage and falls in love with Englishman John Smith.
High School Musical
Run Time: 98 minutes
Directed By: Kenny Ortega
Overall, this film engages with different racial/ethnic identities. Also, the film challenges the rigid cultural construction concerning traditional masculinity.
Troy and Gabriella struggle to maintain their current friend groups while auditioning for the high school musical.
Big Hero 6
Run Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Don Hall, Chris Williams
In addition to promoting positive messages such as friendship, teamwork, and accepting yourself, Big Hero 6 does an excellent job at engaging with positive representations of gender, race/ethnicity, and the body.
Hiro Hamada, a young engineering prodigy, and his inflatable robot team up with their heroic friends to fight a high-tech villain.
Run Time: 118 minutes
Directed by: Will Gluck
Overall, this film does an excellent job of including marginalized identities (women, people of color) as major and minor characters in a progressive manner. Further, the film challenges traditional conceptions of masculinity.
In this adaptation of the classical musical Annie, a young foster child and a millionaire change one another’s lives for the better.
Run Time: 90 minutes
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Overall, this film mostly adheres to traditional gender roles and reinforces stereotypes regarding race. While it is noteworthy that Disney attempts to portray a non-white non-western culture, the construction of the people of Agrabah as a generic Middle Eastern “Other” culture is problematic as elements of numerous Middle Eastern cultures across time and space are reduced to a singular stereotype.
In this Disney classic, the penniless Aladdin of Agrabah (a fictional depiction of a Middle-Eastern empire) attempts to impress the beautiful Princess Jasmine with the help of a genie.