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"Peabody and Sherman" (2014) Hates Women

(Apologies for the clickbait-y title.  I couldn't resist.)

I watched Mr. Peabody and Sherman on Netflix streaming awhile ago.  Did you guys notice the weird sexism streak?

I was going to hold my tongue about the Dreamworks Face bullshit, but neither one of these characters makes this face during the movie, so why put it on the poster? Damn, your marketing department needs a new shtick.

First of all, there's exactly one adult woman in the whole film (Penny's mother) that is depicted as anything but a slovenly asshat, and she spends the whole movie standing next to her husband and saying, "Yes, dear."  Everybody else - up to and especially including the central antagonist, Ms. Grunion - is a hideous warthog that's out to destroy Mr. Peabody and Sherman's fun.

But even worse - the film's token effort to include little girls in the fun is a scheming little loser named Penny who starts out as another villain, is immediately chastised and punished when she shows any independence or agency at all, and then becomes the stereotypical maiden in distress the exact moment she crosses over the border to become "good."

Here's the deal.  You know the characters Mr. Peabody and Sherman, right?  Mr. Peabody is an arrogant Genius Dog who invented a time travel machine, and Sherman is a dummy boy that he adopted?  And they go on adventures through time where things go awry and Peabody and Sherman have to work together to fix them?

The movie starts off with Peabody explaining all of this stuff and then he takes Sherman to school.  There Sherman acts like a spotlight hog in his history class and keeps answering all the questions before anybody else has a chance.  At one point, another student, Penny, tries to answer the teacher's question, but Sherman loudly and obnoxiously corrects her in front of everyone.


Penny is angry at being marginalized and condescended to publicly, so she takes out her frustrations on Sherman in the cafeteria and makes fun of him for having a dog as a parent.  From here until maybe the halfway point of the movie, Penny basically just becomes a Mean Girl archetype and the movie spends most if its time trying to play up sympathy for Sherman as the offended party.

Eventually Sherman takes Penny in the time machine and they go on some adventures.  You realize before long that the movie's building up their friendship through adversity, and after a couple of adventures they start to bond.  It's almost cute.

The peak / turning point happens in Renaissance Italy where Penny pulls an Eve and tempts Sherman into taking one of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions, a proto-airplane / glider, out for a test flight.  The two kids go on a grand, sweeping trip through the sky and eventually crash land.

(This scene is where the movie really gives Penny a slap in the face; da Vinci runs up to Sherman excitedly and says, "You just flew!  You're the first person to fly, ever!  All you!"  Meanwhile, Penny stands in the background and says nothing.  Hey, asshole: there were two kids on that plane.)


From this point on, Penny follows all of Sherman's orders and becomes an obedient little girl that occasionally gets into peril so he can rescue her.  She makes a teary-eyed speech later explaining that she was wrong to have ever been mean to Sherman, ever, and she's sorry and she just wants him to be happy.

Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, Sherman never learns a lesson about humility or recklessness.  He continues to be an impulsive little fuckwit know-it-all who ruins things.

In short, I didn't think this was a very good movie overall.  I was on the fence for most of it, but the little touches of misogyny pushed it over the edge.  It wouldn't have taken much to fix things, though, and that's the most frustrating thing.  Give Penny a little more to do, make it more of a buddy comedy, and you suddenly have a winning film.  Or... just get rid of Penny altogether and make Ms. Grunion a man.  I'd rather see a movie without any women in it than a movie with shitty caricatures of women.

A Post-Script About the Original Peabody and Sherman


After watching the movie I went to Amazon Prime and streamed a couple of episodes of the original Peabody and Sherman shorts.  I figured I needed to cleanse my palate a bit.  Also, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't doing that thing where I artificially inflate the grandiosity of a commercial property in my head without having seen it in over a decade.

Um.  This show is crazy racist, guys.  I guess I should have expected that since it was made in the 1960s, but holy shit.  The first episode was about how Pancho Villa's men were upset because all they have to eat are jumping beans and... you know what, that's racist enough on its own.  I'm not going any further.

Anyway.  I guess I'll end this post on a positive note and say, "At least the new Mr. Peabody and Sherman wasn't as racist as the original."  So... there you go.  There's your happy moment of the day.