Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Girl Power

I wanted to see Up before commenting on this article. Not necessarily because Up has anything specific to do with the open letter to Pixar, but I figured I should see the latest film before making judgments about what Pixar is doing/should be doing.

(Plus, Up is amazing!)

Basically, Linda Holmes would like Pixar to feature more girls in their films. Not just as side characters, like Dory or Colette or even Helen/Elastigirl. Characters with their own adventures and problems. (Not that these female characters don't have problem and aren't well-rounded characters. They're just not the central figures in their stories.) She claims "the story is never 'a girl and the things that happen to her,' the way it's 'a boy and what happens to him.'" I feel like this is a fair point. When I was little, I loved watching movies/reading books about thoughtful, strong, creative, smart, etc. girls.

Still, I'd also say that Pixar should make a 'girl movie' just because I want a girl movie. I think Pixar isn't out for boys or girls. I think they just try to make good movies, and it just so happens that the ones they've made feature male characters. When you try to force a characterstic on a story/character, it doesn't turn out well.

For example, check out the trailer for the new 2D animated Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog. It's supposed to bring Disney back to the era of classic, musical full-length animated films, but it doesn't look right. I think they were too focused on making sure the African-American angle was right, but forgot that classic films like Beauty and the Beast weren't about one characteristic. It wasn't like "Oh, we need a brunette girl, let's develop one." It was more about the character of Belle herself. So I might be too hard on the Frog movie, but it doesn't seem like a cohesive, engaging story yet. You can't force characterstics on a character and hope it all comes together. The story should be more organic. And it seems like that's the case with Pixar and the boys. I'm sure that someone will come up with a great Pixar movie about a girl and her adventures; but I hope it's the right story, not just a movie about a girl because they feel like they need one.

Also, I kind of don't like how people knock the princess characters nowadays. When I was little, I never thought of Ariel or Belle as "the princess." They were stronger characters than that. Ariel was basically an anthropologist, and Belle loved reading. Those are the characteristics I remember. The princess thing was just because their stories are fairy tales, and that's how fairy tales end. I didn't aspire to be a princess and wasn't freaking out over ball gowns. So what's wrong with princesses as long as they're strong characters in their own rights? Belle didn't aspire to be a princess; it just kind of happened. She was definitely one of the "girls in Band-Aids" that Holmes thinks should be featured in a Pixar movie. Why can't a girl be a princess and have adventures? And I think, even though parents may worry, little girls get that.

Of course, I also didn't grow up in the era of the Disney Princess brand. My association with the characters extends to the movies and dolls and backpacks, not to an enormous Disney subculture.

So Pixar, keep doing your thing--making good movies. And hopefully soon there will be a movie about a girl and her adventures. But mostly, just concentrate on quality and don't try to squeeze in gender.


Ron said...

The reason Linda Holmes is frustrated with Pixar is precisely why I love Pixar. Practically nowhere else in the movies can you find good father/son relationships and positive, realistic role models for boys.

Boys are constantly marketed to with superheroes and other "manly" characters who will ill suit them as examples later in life (or later on the playground). There is at least one place, and most likely only one place, Pixar, that even comes close to addressing this audience. The boy who wants to be a chef (not a spy or soldier), the boy who wants to be an adventurer and misses his father (Up), a man struggling with a life that's not fulfilling and a boy who is struggling to use his full potential constructively (The Incredibles) are all characters you will see in almost no other movies kids can watch.

Some, like Holmes, may criticize Pixar for focusing on realistic young male characters; I commend them for being the only place that seems to know they exist.