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:
Holmes lays out the history quite simply:
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.
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?