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  • I spend most of my time

  • thinking about little girls,

  • which is kind of a weird thing for a grown man in our society to say.

  • But I do. I spend most of my time thinking about little girls,

  • and I think it's primarily because I have one.

  • This one's mine, and I think you would really like her.

  • She is smart and funny

  • and kind to people and a good friend.

  • But when I talk about my daughter, the word I find myself saying most

  • is "athlete."

  • My kid's athletic.

  • She is strong and fast

  • and has great balance and good body control.

  • She is a three-time, back-to-back-to-back state champion

  • in Shaolin Kempo.

  • At nine years old, she is already halfway to a black belt.

  • My daughter is athletic.

  • Now, when a man who is six feet two and 265 pounds stands in front of you

  • and says his daughter is athletic,

  • you might think that's a reflection of him.

  • It is not.

  • (Laughter)

  • My wife in high school was a two-time all-state soccer player

  • and a two-time all-state volleyball player,

  • and I played "Dungeons and Dragons."

  • And that is why,

  • although my daughter is an athlete,

  • she's also a huge nerd, which I love.

  • She walks around our house in a cloak of flames

  • that she made herself.

  • She sits on the Iron Throne --

  • (Laughter)

  • even though she has never seen "Game of Thrones,"

  • primarily because we are not the worst parents who ever lived.

  • But she knows there's someone called the Mother of Dragons,

  • and she calls herself that and she loves it.

  • She's a huge comic book fan.

  • Right now, her favorite character is Groot.

  • She loves Groot.

  • She adores The Incredible Hulk.

  • But my daughter really at heart,

  • her thing is Star Wars.

  • My kid is a Jedi.

  • Although some days she's also a Sith,

  • which is a choice that I can respect.

  • (Laughter)

  • But here's the question that I have to ask.

  • Why is it that when my daughter dresses up,

  • whether it's Groot or The Incredible Hulk,

  • whether it's Obi-Wan Kenobi or Darth Maul,

  • why is every character she dresses up as a boy?

  • And where are all the female superheroes?

  • And that is not actually the question,

  • because there's plenty of female superheroes.

  • My question really is, where is all the female superhero stuff?

  • Where are the costumes? Where are the toys?

  • Because every day when my daughter plays when she dresses up,

  • she's learning stuff

  • through a process that, in my own line of work,

  • as a professor of media studies,

  • we refer to as public pedagogy.

  • That is, it is how societies are taught ideologies.

  • It's how you learned what it meant to be a man or a woman,

  • what it meant to behave yourself in public,

  • what it meant to be a patriot and have good manners.

  • It's all the constituent social relations that make us up as a people.

  • It's, in short, how we learn what we know about other people

  • and about the world.

  • But we live in a 100-percent media-saturated society.

  • What that means is that every single aspect of your human existence

  • outside of your basic bodily functions

  • is in some way touched by media.

  • From the car that you drive to the food that you eat

  • to the clothes that you wear

  • to the way you construct your relationships

  • to the very language you use to formulate thought --

  • all of that is in some way mediated.

  • So the answer in our society

  • to how do we learn what we know about other people and about the world

  • is largely through media.

  • Well, there's a wrinkle in that,

  • in that our society,

  • media don't simply exist as information distribution technologies and devices.

  • They also exist as corporate entities.

  • And when the distribution of information is tied to financial gain,

  • there's a problem.

  • How big of a problem?

  • Well think about this:

  • in 1983, 90 percent of American media were owned by 50 companies.

  • In any market, 50 companies doing something is a lot of companies.

  • It's a lot of different worldviews.

  • In 2015, that number has shrunk to six,

  • six companies.

  • They are NBCUniversal Comcast, AOL Time Warner,

  • the Walt Disney Company, News Corp, Viacom and the CBS Corporation.

  • These six companies produce nine out of every 10 movies you watch,

  • nine out of every 10 television shows, nine out of every 10 songs,

  • nine out of every 10 books.

  • So my question to you is,

  • if six companies control 90 percent of American media,

  • how much influence do you think they have over what you're allowed to see every day?

  • Because in media studies,

  • we spend a lot of time saying that media can't tell us what to think,

  • and they can't; they're terrible at that.

  • But that's not their job.

  • Media don't tell us what to think.

  • Media tell us what to think about.

  • They control the conversation,

  • and in controlling the conversation,

  • they don't have to get you to think what they want you to think.

  • They'll just get you thinking about the things they want you to think about,

  • and more importantly, not thinking about things they don't want you to think about.

  • They control the conversation.

  • How does this work in practice?

  • Let's just take one of those companies.

  • We'll do an easy one.

  • Let's talk about the Walt Disney Company for a second.

  • The reason why I always pick the Walt Disney Company is this.

  • Is there a single person in this room who has never seen a Disney movie?

  • Look around. Exactly.

  • I picked Disney because they have what we call 100 percent penetration

  • in our society.

  • Every single person has been exposed to Disney,

  • so it's an easy one for me to use.

  • Since 1937, Disney has made most of its money selling princesses to girls.

  • It's made a huge chunk of its money.

  • Unless, of course, the princess your daughter is interested in,

  • as my daughter is, is this one.

  • See, in 2012,

  • Disney purchased LucasFilm for the sum of four billion dollars,

  • and immediately they flooded the Disney stores with Han Solo

  • and Obi-Wan Kenobi, with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and Yoda

  • and not Princess Leia.

  • Why? Because this princess messes up the public pedagogy

  • for these princesses.

  • So Disney did not put Princess Leia merchandise in the store,

  • and when people went to Disney and said,

  • "Hey, where's all the Princess Leia stuff?"

  • Disney said, "We have no intention

  • of putting Princess Leia merchandise in the store."

  • And fans were angry and they took to Twitter

  • with the hashtag #WeWantLeia.

  • And Disney said, "Wait, that's not what we meant.

  • What we meant was,

  • we don't have any Princess Leia merchandise yet, but we will."

  • And that was in 2012, and it is 2015,

  • and if you go to the Disney Store, as I recently have,

  • and look for Princess Leia merchandise,

  • do you know how many Princess Leia items there are in the Disney Store?

  • Zero, because Disney has no intention of putting Princess Leia in the store.

  • And we shouldn't be surprised because we found out that was their policy

  • when they bought Marvel in 2009

  • for the sum of 4.5 billion dollars.

  • Because when you make a lot of money selling princesses to girls,

  • you also kind of want to make money from boys.

  • And so what better to sell boys than superheroes?

  • So now Disney had access to Captain America and to Thor,

  • The Incredible Hulk,

  • and they had access even

  • to a group of superheroes no one had ever even heard of.

  • That's how good Marvel was at selling superheroes.

  • Last year, they released a film called "Guardians of the Galaxy."

  • It's a film that absolutely should not work.

  • Nobody knew who they were except for comic book nerds like me.

  • One of the characters is a talking tree.

  • One of the characters is an anthropomorphic raccoon.

  • It should not work.

  • And they made a killing off of "Guardians of the Galaxy."

  • This character here in the middle, her name is Gamora.

  • She's played by Zoe Saldana,

  • and she is strong and smart and fast and fights like a ninja,

  • and she is played by a beautiful black woman,

  • and my daughter fell in love with her.

  • So like any good nerd dad, I went to buy my daughter Gamora stuff,

  • and when I got to the store, I learned a very interesting thing.

  • If I wanted to buy her a Gamora backpack,

  • well, Gamora's not on it.

  • They probably should have marketed this as "some" of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

  • (Laughter)

  • And if I wanted to buy her a lunchbox, she wasn't on it,

  • and if I wanted to buy her a t-shirt,

  • she wasn't on it.

  • And as a matter of fact,

  • if I went to the store, as I did,

  • and looked at the display,

  • you would find a small picture of Gamora right here,

  • but if you look at any of the actual merchandise on that shelf,

  • Gamora is not on any of it.

  • Now, I could have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #WheresGamora,

  • like millions of fans did across the world,

  • but the truth was I wasn't even really that surprised,

  • because I was there when Disney had released "The Avengers."

  • And just this year, we got a new Avengers movie, the "Age of Ultron,"

  • and we were very excited,

  • because there was not one but two female superheroes,

  • Scarlet Witch and Black Widow.

  • And we were very excited.

  • But here's the real thing about this.

  • Even though Scarlett Johansson,

  • who is one of the most popular actresses in America, plays Black Widow,

  • and Black Widow is the star

  • of not one, not two, but five different Marvel movies,

  • there is not a single piece of Black Widow merchandise available.

  • Not one.

  • And if you go to the Disney store and look for a Black Widow costume,

  • what you will find, is you will find Captain America and The Incredible Hulk.

  • You will find Iron Man and Thor.

  • You will even find War Machine,

  • who isn't even really in the movie that long.

  • Who you will not find is Black Widow.

  • And I could have gone to Twitter with the hashtag, as many people did,

  • # WheresNatasha.

  • But I'm tired of doing that.

  • I'm tired of having to do that.

  • All over the country right now,

  • there are kids playing with the Cycle Blast Quinjet play set,

  • where Captain America rides a motorcycle out of a moving jet

  • and it's really awesome.

  • You know how awesome it is?

  • So awesome that when it happened in the movie,

  • it was Black Widow that did it.

  • Not only has she been erased,

  • but she has been replaced with a male figure.

  • And so what is this teaching us?

  • I mean, over the next five years,

  • Disney and Warner Bros. and a bunch of movie studios

  • are going to release over 30 feature-length films

  • with comic book characters,

  • and of those 30 feature-length films,

  • exactly two of them will have female solo leads.

  • Two.

  • Now, there will be females in the rest of these movies,

  • but they will be sidekicks, they will be love interests,

  • they will be members of teams.

  • They will not be the main character.

  • And if what we learn, what we know

  • about other people and about the world we learn through media,

  • then these companies are teaching my daughter that even if she is strong

  • and smart and fast and fights like a ninja,

  • all four of which are true of her,

  • it doesn't matter.

  • She will either be ignored like Gamora

  • or erased and replaced with a boy

  • like Black Widow.

  • And it's not fair.

  • It's not fair to her and it's not fair to your sons and daughters either.

  • But here's the thing:

  • I'm raising a little girl, and she has a little tomboy in her,

  • which by the way is a terrible thing to call a girl.

  • What that basically is saying is, those traits that define you,

  • they're not really yours,

  • they're just on loan to you for a little while from boys.

  • But do you know how much grief she's going to take in her life

  • for having a little tomboy in her?

  • Zero. None.

  • People will think it's cute.

  • They'll call her feisty, because in our society,