13-Year-Old's Short Film Highlights Everything We Need To Know About Gender Stereotypes

by Elizabeth Broadbent
"Stereo" via Ella Fields / YouTube

It’s gotten more than 1.6 million YouTube views since it was posted May 28, and its writer, director, and editor is only a middle-schooler. According to the Huffington Post, last school year, now-14-year-old Ella Fields had to make a short film for an assignment at the Cinematic Arts Academy at Millikan Middle School in Los Angeles. The film, Stereo, opens with typed and narrated words: “Ever since the beginning of time, things have been exactly the same. Boys and girls are separated by what they can and cannot do.”

The narrator says, “It’s all so boring. Boys wear pink, girls wear blue. Boys wear dresses, and girls can’t. We’re viewed as the strong ones. We play sports. If a boy develops an interest in football, he’s told to go back to the kitchen where he belongs.”

Ella said that in order to make her film, she had to decide what she was the most passionate about. “One of the first things that popped into my head was gender stereotypes, and how I truly believe that anyone can wear whatever they want, and how colors should not have any gender associated with them; they are just colors,” she told the Huffington Post. So she imagined a world in which gender roles are completely reversed.

Boys wear the makeup and the dresses and nail polish. Girls dress like, well, boys, and are expected to be strong athletes, not “wimpy musical theater kid[s]” as the main character’s mom states.

But the main character, Jamie (Taya Fields) yearns for something different. While she’s shopping with her mom, her eyes fall on a cute dress. Her mom catches her looking at it and reprimands her, saying that this is the boy’s section, and there’s “nothing for you here.” Then we begin to realize Jamie’s main ambition: She doesn’t want to “think about making the football team” like her mother orders her to do. She wants to do musical theater.

But when her mom catches her watching the first female Broadway star on her computer, she finally speaks out, about the dress first and then about herself: “It’s an article of clothing. It’s a piece of fabric. There is no gender assigned to a piece of fabric,” she says. “I want to wear that dress. I want to paint my nails. And I want to star in the school musical, too. … You’re my mom and I love you, but I wish you would support me.” When we hear these words coming from a girl, we’re forced to confront the stupidity of gender stereotyping and traditional gender roles.

Especially when the messenger is a badass 13-year-old writer and director.

The next day, we see Jamie strut into school in that cute dress, hair done, nails shining. The other kids stare, but her confidence, strikingly different from an earlier, tentative gesture to wear nail polish to school, is awe-inspiring. She strides over and tears a tag from the musical theater sign-up sheet. As she leaves, another girl looks around furtively. Then she, in turn, take the last tag. This is a film about being yourself, no matter who that self may be, and about how that being inspires others to do the same.

As Ella says in a follow-up video she shared on YouTube, “All that matters is that I make one person feel like they have a voice and make one person feel like they’ve been understood.” She says that since the film has come out, several people have told her this, so she feels like she’s done her job as a filmmaker, an art, she says, which is “a great way to express your opinion.”

What’s next for Ella? As she says in her follow-up, “I’m going to really put in the effort to make content for my channel because I really haven’t posted that much and … it would be a waste if I weren’t posting … I’m going to keep posting short films, vblogs, storytimes, challenges, and also advice videos, because I don’t know, I like giving people advice.”

That includes us parents, folks. When Scary Mommy reached out to ask what she thinks her film has to say to moms and dads, she said, “Parents […] need to raise their kids in a sense that they need to be accepting of everything and everyone, even themselves. A lot of people can get buried in stereotypes that tell them what they should and shouldn’t like, and in my opinion, I think parents should teach their kids to like what they actually like, and they need to try their best not to expose them to the meaningless stereotypes our society presents.”

Can I get a hell yeah and an amen? This girl is amazing.

As mama to a 7-year-old boy who belts out to Hamilton every chance he gets, I couldn’t agree more. And don’t worry — Ella says Stereo’s got advice for kids like him too. “What I am saying is to just be yourself. […] If you want to wear a dress, wear that dress and own it! We’re only on this planet for a short time. Do what makes you smile.”

And it makes me smile that this earnest, idealistic feminism is out there — in the voice of a 14-year-old girl. This is our future, and that is exciting and inspiring. In this time, in this administration, she’s a shining beacon of hope for us. Keep filming, Ella. We’ll be watching.