This should be normal. We should be acclimatized to see a boy playing with dolls in the 21st century. How their eyes light up with a Disney princess or if our sons beg us for that cooking set to play with instead of a remote-controlled car. But in all truth, it’s just not happening. It takes a monumental effort for us to comprehend something that’s really not the stuff of rocket science… When we’re born, we don’t come with a gender definition tucked neatly under our arms. We come into this life free from prejudice. We’re completely unaware that our society, as it’s set up today, has established that blue is for boys and pink is for girls. We come into existence oblivious to all the hogwash and social standards. And when we’re kids, still pure as the driven snow, and we enjoy watching a show about princesses, we watch it. Why? Because it’s entertaining. End of story… mic drop.
The problems arise when we begin laying down the law about what kids should be playing with, how they should dress depending on whether they’re of male or female gender and what they should talk about, purely based on whether they’re boys or girls. And that’s where it all starts. ‘Palmer‘, the latest hit movie from ‘Apple TV‘, reignites this debate, best summarized in a conversation between Justin Timberlake and our young protagonist Sam, played by Ryder Allen. “There’s things in this world you can be, and there’s things that you can’t. How many boys do you see on that show?”, Palmer asks when he notices Sam’s watching a show about princesses. “None.”, replies Sam, “What does that tell you?”, Palmer insists, and here comes the line that blows everything out of the water “That I can be the first.”
Boom. There it is. The idea that he can be the first man to dress up as a princess, that I can become the first woman to run a country, that we can be the first woman, or man to walk on Mars. What the hell difference does my gender make! Despite the fact that Humanity has been around for a few years now, we still haven’t grasped that herein lies the crux of the matter. To once and for all discard social constructs and free ourselves from the chains shackling us to our gender. To demonstrate our worth, independently of whether you’re a man who likes putting on make-up or a woman with zero interest in having kids. In a nutshell, to break the rules. And that’s exactly what ‘Palmer‘ shows us. How ludicrous our norms appear in the eyes of a child. And this week, with the celebration of 8M and women’s long-standing demands throughout history, this message is an especially important one.
Timberlake plays a former high-school star quarterback who has spent a 12-year stint behind bars. When he gets out, he reunites with the only person left in his corner, his grandmother and moves in with her. That’s where he meets our child star – nominated for Best Actor by the Critics Choice Awards – and who introduces Palmer to a life beyond his drab, bias-plagued perspective. The relationship between the two evolves from one of indifference to esteem in the moment the actor grasps the child’s innocence and it’s in these scenes featuring man and boy where the movie truly comes into its own. That said, the film’s major weakness is its as predictable as the sunrise. Strung-out mother living in a trailer with her abusive boyfriend who eventually abandon the boy. Timberlake takes care of young Sam, growing ever fonder of the boy.
We can only hope that the message in this movie, directed by Fisher Stevens, provides an opportunity to open some minds and stir up something inside. If anything, it should remind us of the society we’ve created which, instead of bringing us together ostracizes anyone who dares to stray from the beaten path or carry oneself in any manner that challenges the confines of the established. Maybe we should be paying greater heed to voices like that of journalist, writer and feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, who at 86, continues to demand gender equality: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters”. And that’s how we reached the point we’re at today.