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Peach’s Character in ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Is an All-Too-Common Sexist Trope

Princess Peach holds her hand under a fireball, with a field of fire flowers behind her.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie tries to portray Princess Peach as a badass, instead of the helpless damsel in distress from the original Mario Bros. games. We find out that she completed the obstacle course on her first try! She forms a plan to recruit the Kong army to stop Bowser! She rides a motorcycle!

After my family and I left the theater, though, something about Peach didn’t sit right with us. Even aside from The Mario Bros. Movie‘s many, many problems, we realized that we’d all seen this character trope before—and it’s just as problematic in this film as it is everywhere else.

The badass female sidekick and the average male lead

Way back in my grad school days, when I was earning an MFA in fiction, one of our professors told us to avoid a common problem in our storytelling. This problem starts with a female character. Everything about her—her smarts, her strength, her ability—seems to set her up to take the lead in the story. Suddenly, though, a guy swoops in out of nowhere and takes the job away from her. She’s infinitely more qualified than he is, but for some mysterious reason, she can’t be allowed to do it herself. Her job is to train and support him instead.

The fact that we had to be warned off of this trope in a fiction workshop shows how easy it is to fall into. Thanks to sexism, both storytellers and audiences are trained to see men as the only candidates for heroism.

Where do we see this trope? You can find variations of it in A Few Good Men (when the case Joanne wants is given to Daniel, and by the end Joanne acts as his uncritical cheerleader); Ratatouille (in which Colette has to play second fiddle to Linguini—although, to its credit, Linguini does end up as a waiter); and The LEGO Movie (which comments on the trope, but still relies on it). Filmmakers have tried to subvert the trope in various ways, but all too many of them can’t bring themselves to just chuck it entirely.

The trope in Super Mario Bros. is the most glaring in the Donkey Kong scene. Peach is portrayed as much more nimble and capable than Mario from the start, but Mario is the one who volunteers to fight Donkey Kong. Why? Because he’s Mario. Princesses are for saving.

Look, I know the movie is based on the games, and the games have certain plot points that Nintendo doesn’t want anyone messing with. But how many more times do we have to see this dynamic play out? I’m so tired of this trope. I want to squash it like a Goomba.

(featured image: Universal Pictures)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and covers film, television, and books for The Mary Sue. When she's not making yarn on her spinning wheel, she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. You can check out more of her writing at, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.