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Why Big Hero 6 is not just for the boys

Pitched at being this year’s Disney hit for the boys, you will be forgiven for assuming this is a film for the little guys. While packed full of robots, techno-babble and a high speed car chase to rival Liam Neeson’s Taken series, this film is as empowering for girls as it is for boys.

The main plot explores the bond between two brothers and the effect of grief at the onset of puberty when their relationship is shattered. Hiro Hamada, a 13yr old robot building genius, goes on to create a team of unconvincing, superhero geeks to join him and his robot Baymax in taking down the main villain.

The film trailer fist-pumps animated testosterone and boy-stuff galore but it is the frequent and blatant references to female empowerment that is the real winner. With phrases like ‘Woman-up!’ – instead of ‘Man-up’, and two kick-ass female superheroes taking the lead in team nerd, there is so much in this film to give young girls (and boys) a realisation that this is no longer just a ‘man’s world’.

GoGo, a dark and unflinching college student who is reinventing the notion of speed using technology and Honey Lemon, a science buff whose obvious femininity becomes integral to her superpower, take charge during the main battle. They work together to take down the masked villain, while Wasabi, the muscle-man of the show, panics and the annoying but lovable Fred is taken out instantly. Despite the team being defeated this time, the girls definitely show they are made of tough stuff and aren’t there to simply decorate the storyline with pretty girl razzle-dazzle. As a side note, it is also interesting to see that Disney picked a female astronaut for the film’s mission into space, without the need for explanation of its gender choice.

It is Baymax’s character that is the real winner in the gender stereotyping quashfest. A large squishy and instantly lovable inflatable, you can’t help but wish you had your own Personal Healthcare Robot. Rather than being built to punch down walls, Baymax is designed to care, support and heal anyone who is sick or injured. With a built-in database of every known ‘owie’, he can instantly diagnose, treat and heal, throwing in a good squishy hug for good measure. This role immediately differentiates Baymax from the masculine, fist-pumping, character-type. He is a male role model that shows it is more important to nurture than to fight. He still packs in a few awesome karate moves and punches when he is reprogrammed, but Hiro soon realises that it is Baymax’s soft and caring side that is most important and he misses that most when his reprogramming turns Baymax into a fighting machine.

At a time when kids are understanding that gender is much more of a unique and personal experience than the black and white, male/female stereotyping of previous generations, Big Hero 6 is the perfect animated family flick to get kids thinking about what they can achieve, no matter who they are.

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