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Hey Pixar, where your women at?

I was going to write a post criticizing Pixar for having practically zero central female characters in any of their movies, then discovered someone already wrote that post years ago. And they're not the only one: just Google "Pixar female characters" for a sampling of similar critiques.

I actually like Pixar's movies quite a lot. So much that I didn't even notice the gender issue until this year, when I watched the trailer for Brave and realized it was remarkable that the main character was a girl.

But of course, guess what kind of girl she is? A princess. (*sigh*)

Pixar, I admire and enjoy you, so I'm going to keep giving you more chances. But really, take a page from Joss Whedon and Hayao Miyazaki, who, despite both being men, know how to give girls and women the center stage--and look! It hasn't scared away any of their male fans! Amazing! I assume that's what Pixar is afraid of: alienating the dads and sons of the world. Or are they just unaware of the pattern in the choices they've made so far? Is that possible, in this world of advanced market research?

What is up with this, Pixar? I want to know.



( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 7th, 2011 10:07 pm (UTC)
What is up with this, Pixar? I want to know.

They're owned by Disney.
Aug. 8th, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
That would explain the princess thing, at least. But they weren't always owned by Disney; and in any case, what's Disney's excuse, this day and age? Hrmf.
Aug. 10th, 2011 04:51 am (UTC)
Actually that just makes it weirder, as - princess issues aside - strong female lead characters have been a Disney hallmark since the beginning.
Aug. 10th, 2011 06:11 am (UTC)
Then I guess one could claim that Pixar is simply balancing out Disney's traditional emphasis on girls.

Really, I don't think I ever even noticed the preponderance of boy protagonists in Pixar until mollyringle mentioned it, just like I never noticed how many girls headed Disney cartoons until I ran into feminists when I was a teen. To me, they're just good stories. And since I never wanted to climb mountains or fight bad guys, the princess thing never bothered me, either. (That whole true love thing I could've done without, however.)
Aug. 7th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
I like your icon. Wait, is it base on Boudicea? She was a queen though. Alas...

But they should have more female leads. Female leads are cool.
Aug. 8th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC)
I gather 'Brave' is set in the Scottish Highlands and based on some legend there.
Aug. 8th, 2011 03:42 am (UTC)
It bugs me too. This is a big problem with lots of my favorite works of fiction: no girls. Or one token girl like Smurfette.

As for Pixar, they're (sigh) a product of their time. Movies are about boys and men because (say the studios) everyone will go to see a movie about men but only women will go see a movie about women. And then the movies come out and everyone goes to them because that's what's available. And so it goes, rum ti tum, no one powerful seeing any reason to change. It makes me very cranky indeed, sometimes. I like the post you linked, by the way. It reminds me of the arguments I've seen that the Harry Potter books should be about Hermione Granger because she's more interesting. Much as I like them the way they are, I have to say I see the point.

I've made myself feel better by saying, "I'll change the world. I'll write lots of female characters--heroes, villains, mentors, creepers, brilliant, stupid, scheming, kind, adventurous, brutal, nasty, or pragmatic. All the characters I wanted when I was young, and never got." But you know? I'm not someone many people listen to. I'm not famous or a film director, I'm just a little-known poet. What I do is probably going to matter zilch, in the great scheme of things. Maybe one day there will be people in power in the media who want the same things I want and actually make those movies and publish those books. But it is not this day.

Yeeeeeahhhh, I got my emo all over your thoughtful post there. Sorry.
Aug. 8th, 2011 05:00 am (UTC)
No, I'm totally with you! And you should keep trying in your stories, because plenty of readers/viewers want the same thing. In fact, when revising my own stories lately, I've consciously started changing some of the male characters to females, where it's workable. Might as well aim for a good healthy blend of both sexes, with a rainbow of personalities, just like in the real world, right?

Your explanation is just what I've heard too--that if it's a male-centered story, anyone can go see it, but if it's a female-centered story, guys will shy away and not hand over their entertainment dollars. Ugh. If true: hey guys! Guess what? The doctor cleared us of cooties YEARS ago! You can approach now! Also, menstruation is almost NEVER shown and little discussed in the movies, so you have no reason to worry! ;)

However, I suspect it's not as true as the old-fashioned Disney marketing people believe. I know plenty of Buffy fanboys. And I dare to hope the times are indeed changing, with many stigmas falling away--though of course some level of basic stereotypical differences between the sexes will probably always be with us.

Oh, how different would the planet now be if it had been the Hermione Granger series? With headmistress McGonagall for the first six books or so? Sigh. Well...maybe not so different, realistically. But it couldn't have hurt to do it that way.

One thing I love about the Studio Ghibli (Miyazaki) films is that the protagonists are often little girls, and it's not an *issue* that they're female at all. They're just humans; endearingly realistic ones, with strengths and flaws, and anyone can appreciate the stories. That's good storytelling there. I want to be like that.
Aug. 9th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Wait, so, I can understand wanting to see more females in stories. I for one want to see more black people in sci fi so I can cosplay someone besides Blade...

But it really has to do with A. the race of the people writing and B. the sex of the people writing. Guys are mostly going to write about stories about guys for fear of not writing a woman correctly. The founders of Pixar are all guys, aren't they? I'm not sure it's something that they're doing on purpose. If they were taking stories with female protagonists and changing them into men, then I'd be pissed. They gotta work with what they have to work with.
Aug. 9th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
Hehe, yeah, while they're at it, it'd be nice if they could make more central characters who *didn't* come across as suburban WASPs (even when they're technically fish or cars). Some ethnic variety would be refreshing.

And I'm sure you're right that the central think tank for these stories is a bunch of nerdy, middle-class white guys. It would not be hard for them to bring a female (or black, or Asian, etc...) writer on board, of course. But probably, instead of bullying them into writing what I want to see, I should be paying (and bringing) attention to shows and books that already do so. Plus, I should write such things myself. I plan to do both those things. But I only lately noticed this Pixar characteristic despite being a fan of their stuff for years, so decided to blog about it. Not much else to do about it, so I can be done now. :)
Aug. 10th, 2011 05:01 am (UTC)
Or maybe it's just a quirk, like Disney's quirk about mothers...
Aug. 12th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
Well, the mother thing, I think, is just a convenient plot device: If your mom is actively present in your life, and is anything like a normal mom, she's *not* going to let you get into those exciting and dangerous adventures that make up the story. So she's got to be out of the picture before the story starts. Apparently dads are more distracted, or too harsh, and let (or inadvertently cause) their offspring get into trouble easier. Hmm. Maybe dads need to take up this issue with Disney!

And though there is a big emphasis on princesses where Disney female leads are concerned, I guess I'll give them a pass on it, since generally they're basing their plots on folklore, in which the girls *are* usually princesses. Meanwhile, in real life, a common girl marries an actual prince, and she doesn't even get to be a princess--they fob her off with a "Duchess" title. Where is the justice? ;)
Aug. 14th, 2011 05:28 am (UTC)
Well, if her husband becomes king, she still gets to be queen. And it works the other way, too- a guy who marries a princess doesn't automatically become a prince. Unless his wife becomes queen in her own right, in which case the best he can hope for is prince consort. So women actually come out ahead in that one respect.
Aug. 15th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
True, women actually get the advantage, at the highest level of royalty! At least in Britain. Wonder how it goes in other countries. Hmm. Oh well; not likely to figure in the lives of most of us. :)
Aug. 10th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
I think there's definitely a fear out there that boys won't read books or watch films if the leads are girls - never mind that kids - yes, boys too - have been growing up on the Oz books for a hundred and ten years now. It's the same mentality that leads to the Hollywood whitewashing of everything from King Fu to The Last Airbender. (The premise there is equally nonsensical: For decades white audiences have been flocking in droves to movies with non-white protagonists.)

The trend seems to be accelerating, too. Toys and kids' books are marketed to boys or girls, but rarely (go Harry Potter!) to both. And too much of the fiction in both categories pushes a corrosively narrow view of gender identity. (Yes, there's more to being male than sports, cars, and jokes about flatulence. Probably.)
Aug. 12th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the trends are still out there, as a glance at the Target toy aisles shows. There's the pink-and-lavender "girl" aisle, and the black-and-neon-green "boy" aisle. I'm trying to do my part by not saying stuff like, "Oh, you don't want to watch that [ballerina/horse/fairy] show" to our sons. And if it does turn them gay, I'm okay with that. ;) (Yes, everyone, totally kidding on the "turn them gay" bit. But it *would* be okay. Disclaimer over...)

Still, I'd say it's far better than it was in the '70s or certainly the '50s, so perhaps the trend isn't accelerating so much as staying static. Might even be declining, just in a hardly perceptible way. Would be nice if the studios weren't wusses about trying new things to challenge it, though.

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )