So it looks like Hotel Transylvania is getting a sequel. I’ll be honest: every reminder of that simple fact sets my teeth on edge. Heck, my teeth are on edge right now just from writing this.
But why? you might be asking. Well, as it so happens, I’ve just rediscovered a thing I wrote back in 2013 about this precise subject! I’ve cleaned it up a little bit and gif-ified it. Here goes:
In a nutshell, movies like Hotel Transylvania and The Croods infantilize their teenage female characters by sympathizing unduly with their overbearing and at times creepy fathers.
Hotel Transylvania, I’d say, is the more egregious example of the two. The entire movie was basically Dracula and Johnny running around, getting into trouble, and discussing Mavis without her actually being present. Drac in particular made a concerted effort to keep Mavis in the dark about everything… in multiple senses of the word, actually, if you’ll forgive the vampire pun.
For goodness’ sake, he specifically creates a fake town of scary humans so that Mavis would be tricked into thinking the human world was really as bad as he’d always made it out to be. And it works, too. She runs back to Daddy’s castle and Daddy’s loving arms, and Drac is satisfied.
That is an unbelievably low, manipulative thing for Drac to do. But the film doesn’t focus nearly as much as it should on how wrong that is. Instead, we get an entire movie’s worth of borderline-fawning character development for Drac. “Oh nooooo, my tiny helpless baby girl might have her own ideas! What a tragedy!”
This might have been more forgivable if Mavis had gotten just as much character development, but her agency throughout most of the movie is blatantly disregarded. She’s just kind of clueless (not of her own volition, either, like I mentioned), and the movie and all its characters seem far more concerned with Drac’s feelings than hers. Good grief, people, if this is going to be a story about a girl gaining agency and becoming a full-fledged adult (which it REALLY should have been), then she needs to be the frickin’ heart and soul of that story.
The Croods is in this same vein, but the theme of a father losing power over his daughter is sort of a sub-theme of the larger story: a set-in-his-ways patriarch falling in the face of change. That doesn’t excuse, however, the crappy way this film handled the Eep/Guy romance, and just Eep in general.
YOU WASTED EMMA STONE, PEOPLE. HOW COULD YOU.
For one thing, all Eep’s character development (which really wasn’t much, compared to Grug’s) was related somehow to the men in her life – her repressed-emotion relationship with her dad, her obvious crush on Guy, her bickering relationship with her brother. I can’t recall one scene in the movie where Eep had a quality conversation with her mom or grandma, or even where she played with Sandy or something.
Regarding Eep/Guy, it felt as if Guy and Grug were competing to be the dominant man in Eep’s eyes, which is weird and creepy on a lot of levels. Another disturbing thing is that Grug’s systematic denial of Eep’s agency was often played for laughs – I’m thinking in particular of the scene where Grug shoves Guy-trapped-in-a-log away from Eep and sleeps between them. Just from the way that’s framed, you can tell that’s meant to be funny, but to me it was literally the exact opposite of funny.
Yes, the entire concept of the movie is kind of that Grug is really overbearing. But he still gets much more quality character development than Eep does, and that sucks.
But you know what? Epic actually had a far healthier model of a father-daughter relationship than either of the above movies.
This one, in case you had no idea what I was talking about.
I won’t deny that it had its own problems – the fridging of the only black character, the subsequent damsel-in-distress-ness of that seed-fetus-thing, and the repeated apparently-comedic come-ons from those two slugs come to mind immediately.
Seriously, whose idea was it to kill off Beyoncé’s character?!
But Professor Bomba was the farthest thing from overbearing when it came to his daughter M.K. He assumed at the beginning that M.K. would be all too willing to help him research his mysterious forest creatures, but (1) that seems to have stemmed more from a scientist’s obsession than anything, and (2) once M.K. told him she wasn’t interested, he backed right off.
M.K. is never fridged, either – her disappearance definitely advances Bomba’s character development, but it also facilitates her doing her own thing, having her own adventure. That’s something neither Mavis nor Eep really gets to do. The fact that Bomba was right about the Leafmen’s existence does imply a sort of father-knows-best attitude, but that’s mitigated in a sense by the presence of scientific inquiry rather than just a deep-seated and ill-supported belief. Furthermore, Bomba is shown to be perfectly fine with M.K. and Nod’s relationship – no overbearing-ness here.
Now that is how you dad.
Somehow, though, I doubt ol’ Drac Attack is going to learn that before movie #2.
And with that…
P.S. Speaking of Drac Attack, I swear I’ll get around to finishing Dracula soon! I’ve been toiling away at job applications lately, but I’ll try to go back to livetweeting this weekend.