2002: The ‘year Barbie reached sales of 1 billion in 150 countries, for the record there are only 196 countries in the world. It is essential to understand that Barbie fourteen years ago was a lot worse than it is today (when it still has a lot of problems.) It presented girls with the constant idea that one should act, dress and portray yourself in a way which would please the male gaze. Girls as young as three were stuffing Barbie’s ridiculously small and unrealistic proportions into mini dresses and high heels whist their male counterparts were religiously playing with ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ and ‘Fireman Sam’.
2002: The year which spy kids came out and The Queer Guess code wrote an article which sprinkled praise as liberally as it did Trigger Warnings on its articles. It claims that ‘If you want to raise your children (either current or future) in a cultural environment with healthy, non-stereotyped role models… “Spy Kids” should be in your DVD player!’
To be honest on the surface this statement is hard to disagree with, Juni, one of the two sibling protagonists, is allowed to show his emotions and be vulnerable in a way which is rarely seen from male characters on screen. In addition Carmen is independent, often helping her brother out of difficult situations by using her intellect and skill as a spy. She is innovative and strong willed and any trace of sexuality is appropriately removed from her identity. Indeed on the surface it might be easy to see Spy Kids Two as the perfect movie for young girls and boys to watch as it shows them that they can be smart, successful and emotionally vulnerable.
However there are faults in the feminist praise of this movie.
When she dares to venture into the world of teenage relationships her father and brother take immense pleasure in intimidating her potential boyfriend. They assert their power over him through his relationship with Carmen, an unfair action which has its roots ingrained in the sexist idea that women can somehow be property of men.
To add insult to injury Carmen and her mum are seen as a powerful mother and daughter duo but when their spy computer is seen I was incredibly disheartened to see a makeup set because this of course is their primary interest.
In conclusion I do not necessarily believe that Spy Kids Two is incredibly problematic in their presentation of gender roles but I do think that components of it are uncomfortable and could mislead girls into thinking that although they should be as powerful as Carmen in real life (something I am by no means discouraging) but also that they should be submissive to a male counterpart (something I am absolutely willing to fight against.)