What is your child's favorite movie and what is that movie teaching him about the role of men and women in society?

Movie makers have made great strides in the last few decades in making movies that do a better job at teaching girls to be strong, smart, and in control of their own destiny.  Snow White has been replaced by Merida.  Cinderella replaced with Katniss.  

But what about movies for boys?  Sure, there are still lots of movies that portray men as heroes, defeating the villain, and getting the girl in the end - but how many movies show strong male characters that are not the sole heroes?

Colin Stokes is the director of communications for the non-profit Citizen Schools.  But more importantly, he's the dad of a son and daughter, and he thinks critically about the movies his children watch and what these movies teach his children about their roles in life.  In his recent Ted.talk, Stokes reflected on what movies really teach our sons about manhood.

When Stokes' daughter fell in love with The Wizard of Oz, he saw it as a good thing - here was a movie in which the characters are a team of men and women, led by a woman, who eventually conquers the female villain by being nice and helping her friends.  When his son became obsessed with Star Wars, on the other hand, he saw it as a movie that showed a rogue male warrior who fights the bad guy, and then claims his reward - a medal and a wink from the girl.

"Why is there so much Force in movies we have for our kids and so little yellow brick road?" asks Stokes, perceptively.

Stokes brings up the sobering statistic that 1 in 5 women report being sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  And while he is clear that he doesn't think movies are directly to blame for his trend, he does wonder if boys are soaking up the message that life is about conquering the villain and then collecting their reward - a woman.

So he's reaching out to dads to teach their sons how to be a real man - someone who trusts and respects his sisters and the other women around them and works together with them to fight the real bad guys. And when it comes to movies, Stokes recommends seeking out movies that pass the Bechdel test - movies that have women in them who do more than simply talk about the men.  Movies that have female characters who are heroines and male characters who are heroes who work together to defeat the villain.

Check out Stokes' Ted.com talk below...

What do you think your son's favorite movie teaches him about manhood?

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