Episode-The Next Steps
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This week I watched an episode of Angelina Ballerina.
The theme song has an empowering feel. She can do anything and her friends are supportive!
I like the notion that pink can be strong, so it is cool that the main character is wearing pink and has a lot of discipline.
We are at her performing arts school, and the students have to come up with a routine. There are 4 people in the group: Angelina, Vicky, AJ, and Gracie. Boy versus girl- they are trying to convince Vicky of the type of dance they should do. I don’t know why they wanted Vicky to decide.
AJ (the boy) wants break dancing:
Gracie (the girl) wants tap dancing.
Vicky likes both types of dancing and can’t decide. She asks Angelina, who first suggests a ballet, then says, “How about a hybrid dance?” That is no good and Gracie says to AJ, “Why can’t you ever do what I want to do?” And leaves the room. AJ says and does the same. Crisis! Vicky cedes all authority to Angelina and we don’t really see her again until the final number.
Angelina is going to sort it out by telling them they have to work together. Negotiations begin (badly). Neither side is willing to give an inch.
Gracie and AJ both try to win Angelina’s company at lunch and the battle between the two continues.
Angelina talks to Ms. Mimi (her teacher) and she says Angelina will figure it out (more or less). Ms. Mimi leaves a book behind, Folk Dances from Around the World. Angelina decides they will do a square cheese dance (cuz mice), and Marco will call out the steps so it is OK that they haven’t rehearsed. The dance is brilliant and everyone leaves happy.
I am torn on this. Angelina shows strong leadership and her teacher is female, so there are two strong female characters.
However, once again the female main character is a girl not a woman (well, mouse equivalent). It feeds into gendered stereotypes: She attends a school of dance. There are two boys in this episode, and one does breakdancing and the other is a musician, not a dancer (although I guess he will dance sometimes). No boys doing ballet or tap.
The more insidious issue I see is the group work dynamic. A group project is assigned and Angelina ends up doing all the work. The stronger students are often left to pick up the slack in group projects, because they are the ones that care about getting the project done well.
In this episode, Angelina was focused on the fact that her teacher gave them a deadline, while AJ and Gracie were focused on winning the battle of will between the two of them. Because Angelina wants the performance to happen, she does the lion’s share of the invisible labor: she tries to reason with each of the students more than once, is forced into making lunchtime seating choices, gets advice from her teacher, reads the folk dancing books, finds her friend Marco, discusses folk dancing options, chooses the best dance for them, and presents the idea to the class.
During all this work, what are her group mates doing? There was a missed opportunity to have the group work together to come up with an idea instead of leaving Angelina to sort it all out. To be fair, since Angelina is the main character, it is not surprising that she is doing more. However, I will start watching for the gendered breakdown of invisible labor in preschool shows, because who does the heavy lifting matters.
Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels
In heterosexual relationships, women often end up doing more of the work: housekeeping, childcare, coaxing responses out of their partners, keeping up with scheduling and birthdays. This type of behavior is not inherent, it happens through socialization. When Angelina does all this work without commentary beyond the fact that it has to be done, this normalizes the behaviors. Granted, the other girls in Angelina’s group are not doing the work either, but since she is the main character, it is who the viewer is to relate to. It would have been great if, at the least, someone noted all the extra work that Angelina did, and how it should not have been that way because everyone in the group should have pulled their weight.
Angelina and the Tummy Butterflies
They are going to have a poetry reading in class. Alice has forgotten her the words to her poem!
They are learning jazz steps in dance class. This is very cool. We are going to learn about improvisation in jazz dancing. AJ notes that jazz singers do it in their songs as well. I suspect this is going to help Alice in her poetry.
Oh wait, now I am annoyed. The girls all attend school in dance clothes. The boys don’t. AJ is in dance class in jeans.
Alice ran out of school because she is so upset that she forgot her poem. She is admiring a butterfly and her dance teacher comes along and asks what is wrong. Alice explains that her stomach is upset and her teacher talks about the tummy butterflies she would get before a performance when she was younger. Then all her classmates say they get them before a performance too. Alice will have a chance to perform her poem tomorrow in front of the whole school at lunch! Oh no, now she is super nervous.
Angelina thinks about this and has an idea to have Alice do a butterfly jazz dance. Alice’s friends go on stage with her and do a dance while Alice recites her poem. She is able to remember the whole thing while dancing. Angelina says that Alice forgot about the tummy butterflies so they disappeared.
I really like the empowering messages of this episode: friends helping each other overcome fears, the teacher who is willing to expose her own vulnerabilities, stage fright is normal and can be overcome, the fact that butterflies are awesome.
In both episodes, there are no mean girl antics. This is really refreshing, especially since they are in the performing arts and Hollywood has taught us that girls in these fields are cutthroat. This shifts the narrative and I applaud the writers for that.
Overall, this episode had a strong message and Angelina Ballerina strikes me as a show that is largely aimed at girls, has positive messages, and has a female lead.
Count today- 1 show
Count total- 8 shows
Shows with male lead- 5
Shows with female lead- 3
Shows with a positive message for girls, starring a female lead-2
Shows that have a male adult lead-4
Shows that have a female adult lead-0