Friday, June 22, 2012

Brave Girl in the Pixar Boys' Club

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . eating nachos with Pink Grandma, and petting her little dog Poppy.

. . . Anna smiles.

. . . saying family prayer tonight with both the big kids sitting on my lap.

And another thing . . .

. . .  I'm curious about the Pixar film "Brave," which comes out tomorrow.  I love Pixar and I think they do brilliant work, but as I've shared their films with my daughter and she has looked for characters to emulate, I've noticed that Pixar movies are very male-centric.

The lead character is always a guy.  The villain (if there is one) and his henchmen are always guys (Mirage is a notable exception, but she ends up being a softie who joins the good guys).  The main supporting character is usually a guy, too (Pixar loves buddy stories: Woody and Buzz, Mike and Sully, Lightning McQueen and Mater, Remy and Linguini, Russell and Carl--noticing a pattern?), and any romance tends to be a sub-sub-plot.

Supporting female characters with a major roles in the story tend to fit a very similar mold. They are assertive, no-nonsense types. Most of them are good in a fight--Eve has a wicked laser, Colette wields chef knives like a ninja, Elastigirl has a mean right hook (just ask Mirage), and Jesse can get Woody pinned in about two seconds. If the female character has a job, she does it 110%, whether she's a chef, a mom, a community booster, an ant princess preparing for a grasshopper raid, or a cowgirl toy trying to let a dog out of a bedroom. Dori is one exception to this rule, but while she's one of my favorite Pixar creations, she strikes me more as a fun plot device than a character, and she fits the next rule to a T.

I've also noticed that major female characters never really grow or change during the course of a Pixar film. They are there simply to assist the male protagonist on his journey, and any major personal decisions they make are purely pragmatic. Mrs. Incredible starts using her super powers because they're suddenly needed, not because her view of them has changed. Dori finally remembers a couple things during the course of her story, but at the end she's still her same, loopy self who can't get Nemo's name right. If the female character begins to love a male who used to annoy her, it is usually because he as matured and/or she's gotten to know him better, not because she herself has changed.

For a company that is so creative in so many ways, I find Pixar's narrow range of female characters surprising, especially since their male characters are so delightfully varied.  Perhaps it's because most of their writers and directors tend to be men, so it's easier for them to dream up male characters than female ones.  I'll be curious to see what they do with "Brave."  The main character is female for once, and though she seems to fit the usual assertive mold, I assume she will be more complex than her predecessors, and will grow in some way during the course of her journey.  We'll see.


June said...

It is a great movie - we saw it on our the Disney boat on Friday morning - we couldn't stay up for the midnight showing. The character is a strong - a little tom boy - character. She doesn't need a man to define her, her goal is to not just be a stereotypical princess, but be her own personality. But most of all it is also a story of a young woman and her relationship with her mother and their views of how she should live her life change over the course of the movie. It will make you cry and it will make you not want your little girls to grow up. It was a nice change to the typical "princess" story :) Go see it!

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

Oh, I plan to. :)