If you haven’t already stumbled across the letter from NPR’s Linda Holmes to Pixar, read it now. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.
Wasn’t that worth it?
I love the tone of “Dear Pixar, From All The Girls With Band-Aids On Their Knees” and I wholeheartedly second its message. Fundamentally, Holmes thinks Pixar movies are great, but that doesn’t mean she’s willing to give them a pass for being all about the boys. And so I echo her plaintive request to the powers-that-be at Pixar:
Please make a movie about a girl who is not a princess.
Holmes lays out the history quite simply:
Of the ten movies you’ve released so far, ten of them have central characters who are boys or men, or who are anthropomorphized animals or robots or bugs who are voiced by and imagined as boys or men. These movies feature women and girls to varying degrees — The Incredibles, in particular — but the story is never “a girl and the things that happen to her,” the way it’s “a boy and what happens to him.”
Now, I love many of the girls in the Pixar movies. Helen Parr (a.k.a. Elastigirl) in The Incredibles kicks ass and, except for the whole stretching thing, has a quasi-realistic woman’s body.
Plus the daughter, Violet, is voiced by the inimitable Sarah Vowell.
Whenever I watch Finding Nemo, Dory is the character who stays with me.
For days afterward, I keep repeating, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”
And I’m moved when Jessie, in Toy Story 2, laments her broken heart to the strains of the lesbian-sounding “When She Loved Me.”
But, like, Holmes, I want to see girls who don’t just support and take car of the boys.
The next two releases, Toy Story 3 and Newt, are likely to be more of the same. But number 13, The Bear and the Bow, will star Reese Witherspoon as a princess who wants to abdicate her crown to become an archer. (Emma Thompson and Julie Walters have also been cast as the queen and the witch, respectively.)
So we’ll finally have a girl — and an amazing cast — but, in the Disney mold, she’ll be a princess. Holmes sums up the princess-problem quite well.
Well, the…world has a lot of little girls in it, too. And not all of them are princesses — and the ones who are princesses have plenty of movies to watch.
And even many of them who do aspire to be princesses are mixing their princess tendencies with all manner of other delicious things. Their tiaras fall off when they skin their knees running at top speed; they get fingerpaint on their pink dresses; they chip their front teeth chasing each other in plastic high-heeled shoes.
There’s nothing wrong with the movies you’re making … I’m just saying, keep them in mind, those girls in Band-Aids, because they want to see themselves on screen doing death-defying stunts, too.
Some of us will certainly identify with a girl who’d rather be an archer than a princess. But many of us might prefer to identify with a girl who was a fish or an ant or a monster — or just a girl in search of adventure. But as a blogger who is much less patient with Pixar than Holmes is notes, “male is neutral and female is particular.”
In other words, the default protagonist is male. If she’s female, it’s because there’s something about the character that requires her to be so. And that’s what Holmes (and I) would like to see change.
Nevertheless, I’m glad that Holmes wrote the letter that she did rather than a “Dear Pixar, you’re sexist and you suck” letter. I certainly understand how what’s not in a movie could undermine or overwhelm what is there. But sometimes I just want to enjoy what’s good while noting what could be better.
What do you think? How bothered are you by the representation of women in Pixar movies? And where do you stand on the princess issue?