I sacrificed a beautiful summer afternoon—and $30—to see Adam Sandler’s latest movie atrocity, Pixels, with my 15-year-old son. I watched it so that you don’t have to. You’re welcome! The movie is terrible, the acting lazy and the script dreadful. The plot makes zero sense, even if you accept the basic concept that aliens come to destroy Earth after misinterpreting a 1982 video game arcade championship as an act of war.
But none of those reasons is why I’m suggesting you avoid Pixels; I’m warning you to avoid it because of the racist, homophobic and sexist tropes that pervade the entire movie. What’s shocking is that it earned a PG rating in Canada, meaning parental guidance is only suggested. But your child could technically go and see this with his friends all on his own.
Here are eight reasons why you should avoid taking your kids to see Pixels.
1. Two characters say “slut-seeking missiles” Is this really something you want your child to hear? Adam Sandler and a kid both say it within the first 30 minutes. Or how about this gem? “I made the game my bitch” (and it’s said with a sneer).
2. It perpetuates sexist notions that your marriage is only as good as your body Sandler is surprised to discover that a divorcee he meets is good-looking—he even checks out her butt just to make sure. He’d expected her to have “let herself go” since her marriage ended.
3. It fails the Bechdel test Named after American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, this test asks if a work of fiction features at least two (named) female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. Pixels fails miserably. Of the three women who appear in the movie, the first has an actual name with a handful of spoken lines, the second has a name but zero lines, and the third has some lines of dialogue but is never named.
4. It’s full of awkward jokes At one point, actor Josh Gad slaps the butts of SEAL soldiers. My son thought that moment was “weird and awkward”—as if tossing in a gay joke would work as a cheap laugh. It doesn’t, believe me. Not to be outdone, the script calls for a similar scene again to make fun of Japanese and British people.
5. It suggests women in power are weak There’s a strong woman in the film—or at least it appears that way at first. She’s a corporal and, of course, Sandler’s love interest. She cries in her closet and drinks Chardonnay. She’s a snob because she won’t kiss the video-installation dude. She gets called “Missy” by her boss. She looks hot in a green dress. She kisses Sandler at the end. Ugh!
6. It implies nerds are bad A film about ’80s video games should have nostalgically embraced nerd culture. It doesn’t. It reinforces the notion that the world of gaming is all boys and will always be. The main characters are creepy stalkers and conspiracy-theory nutcases who either live with their moms or are in prison. I would think the target audience for Pixels would be young gamers, so it’s insulting the very people who are watching the movie. My son was particularly offended by these characterizations.
7. It takes a fun concept and destroys it Pixels could have tackled issues about violence in video games and questioned why they’re such a big part of our pop culture. Or it could simply have had fun with Pac-Man existing in the modern world. So many missed opportunities.
8. It suggests women are prizes to be won The worst message comes at the end of the movie (spoiler alert, if you care). Gad’s character, Ludlow, has been obsessed with Lady Lisa, a female video game heroine, since he was 11. He even has a shrine dedicated to her in his basement (reminiscent of shrines seen on cop shows featuring stalkers). She’s a classic blonde sexpot with swords. When she comes to life, they immediately fall in “love”—even though she doesn’t utter a single word of dialogue. And, inexplicably, she’s the only video game character who isn’t pixellated. At the end of the battle, she disappears, but it’s okay because the earthlings are allowed to keep a trophy from the battle. Q*bert, their trophy, magically transforms into Lady Lisa and the two get married—because women are mere trophies to be won by men. To reinforce the point, Peter Dinklage’s character, Eddie, gets his requested three-way with Martha Stewart and Serena Williams, both of whom actually appear in the movie. Who are their agents? I could weep. I don’t think any parent wants to answer the following question: What does he mean by a “Martha Serena sandwich”?
For reasons I’ll never understand, Pixels is currently eating up the North American box office. The critics hate it, as do most audiences (it’s currently sitting at 18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). While I wouldn’t take my younger kids to see it because of the reasons mentioned above, I still didn’t loathe it as much as Sandler’s Jack and Jill. So, there’s that, I guess.
How to raise a feminist>