Gender Inequity in 'Whoville' Commentator Peter Sagal, father of three daughters, is incensed. In a new subplot added by filmmakers to the Dr. Seuss classic Horton Hears a Who, the mayor of Whoville has 96 daughters, yet only one son. Guess who saves the day? The offspring with a Y chromosome.
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Gender Inequity in 'Whoville'

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Gender Inequity in 'Whoville'

Gender Inequity in 'Whoville'

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

This past weekend, NPR's Peter Sagal took his kids to the movies. They went to see the number one grossing film of the year so far: "Horton Hears a Who."

Peter came out of the movie incensed. Here's why.

PETER SAGAL: I don't know what sins Dr. Seuss committed in his life, to be doomed to have Jim Carrey star in movie adaptations of his books. But I came out of "Horton Hears a Who" with my wife and my three happy and excited daughters irritated by something even more annoying than Jim Carrey's tics.

In a new subplot added by the film makers, the mayor of Whoville now has 96 daughters. He has one son. Guess who gets all his attention, guess who saves the day. Go ahead, think about it; I'll wait. No, I won't. What's so irritating is the sense that the makers of the film didn't really mean it. They seemed mostly interested in riffs on pop culture and jokes about violating bodily integrity.

But what writers are told, you see, in those Hollywood notes meetings, is that every character has to make a journey toward something he needs and ultimately gets. And what they decided the mayor of Whoville needed was a better relationship with his son. Here is a father with 96 daughters. Ninety six amazing, beautiful, unpredictable, mysterious, distinct, glorious human beings - or rather, Whos. But gosh, what in the world is he going to care about? I know, let's give him a moody, silent, uninteresting offspring. But this one's got a Y chromosome. That'll be boffo box office.

Have the clowns who made this movie ever met a daughter? Have they dated one, perhaps? If they did, did they meet that daughter's father? Did they then ask that daughter's father if there was anything more dramatic, interesting, arresting and moving to him than his relationship with his daughter? Did they ask him if he might find that a close relationship with said daughter might be something he would desire?

And there's this: Not only does the movie end with father and son embracing while the 96 daughters are, I guess, playing in a well somewhere, but the son earns his fathers love by saving the world. Boy gets to save the world, girls get to stand there and say, I knew you could do it.

How did they know he could do it? Maybe because they watched every other movie ever made? We got into the car outside the cineplex and I was quite in a lather, as you can tell. How come one of the girls didn't get to save Whoville, I cried.

Yeah, said my daughters, and while we're at it, how come a girl doesn't get to blow up the death star or send E.T. home, or defeat Captain Hook or destroy the ring of power?

That's rotten, cried my daughters. How come Trinity can't be the one who defeats the Matrix, I yelled. What are you talking about? they said. You'll find out later, I said.

But then here's one: How come a girl doesn't get to face down Lord Voldemort? Well, wait a minute, papa, they said. None of us would want to mess with him. Okay, point taken.

But I still wanted to grab that fictional, silly mayor of Whoville by his weirdly ruffled neck and say, you see those 96 people over there? Those girls, those women, those daughters? You know what they are doing every minute of every day that you waste thinking about anything else? They're shouting at you, they're shouting: We are here! We are here! We are here!

SIEGEL: Peter Sagal is host of NPR's quiz show WAIT, WAIT DON'T TELL ME.

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