Monday, January 24, 2011

So who here has a lady problem they'd like to talk about?

I'd like to see more representations of women in movies. I think little girls would like that too, and little boys, and men, and women. I think it might be better for everyone to see a wider range of perspectives represented in the films we see. It might make people think more about how other people see the world, and open themselves to more experiences and viewpoints.

Just by googling "female characters pixar" I found four separate articles, easily, on the lack of lead female characters in Pixar Films. I found something written on the subject before Cars came out here, a Cinematical article sparked by the first post linked, and another blog post giving examples of how easy it would have been to turn several characters into females. I've loved every Pixar film I've seen. They're good films with great stories. But once you notice, or have it pointed out to you, that they have no lead females, it's impossible not to see it.

The first article I found on the subject said it best:

Pixar's continued failure to posit female characters as the central protagonists in their stories contributes to the idea that male is neutral and female is particular. This is not to say that Pixar does not write female characters. What I am taking issue with is the ad-nauseam repetition of female characters as helpers, love interests, and moral compasses to the male characters whose problems, feelings, and desires drive the narratives.

When I say Pixar has no "lead females," I am referring to the main character being female. In all of Pixar's films (that I have seen - the exception being Cars, but that's not really going to discredit my point one bit), it has been the male's thoughts, ideas and actions that drive the story. The female's role is to help him along.

Now, there is a movie in the future with a main female character, written and directed by a woman. I look forward to it. I'll see it, as I've seen almost every Pixar film. But as of now, every movie in Pixar's catalog is male-driven. Brave, formerly titled The Bear and the Bow, will be one movie out of the then twelve released or set to be released. And it will have taken them sixteen years - beginning from the release of Toy Story to make a film written by or directed by or starring a woman. And, it's interesting to note that it's slated to be Pixar's first fairy tale. I'm disappointed that it takes a fairy tale, a typically female-oriented type of animated film, for Pixar to have the main character be a woman.

Noticing something and being unhappy with the status quo isn't looking for something to get irritated about. I'm sorry if you feel personally hurt by the fact that I'm noticing some sexism in a movie studio. I certainly hope my feelings don't injure you, and I hope you can continue to enjoy Pixar films without boiling over with the need to make sure that I feel satisfied with the female characters that Pixar has so generously given us.

Of course there's writing what you know, but part of being a writer is writing things you don't know. If Pixar's male-dominated staff can only write about their own male perspective, those are some shitty writers. And if the reason Pixar is making mostly male-oriented features is because it's all their writers know, they need to either get better writers or hire more women.

The problem I find with Pixar is there's reason after reason why certain movies don't have more females. But there's no reason why the studio overall can't have more female characters.

Ask Pixar to make a movie about a girl? Why, that's just PC BS!

Cinematical wrote a response to the open letter to Pixar on I swear, either they must have been reading this forum too, or the responses to women's queries have been the same all across the board. This article addresses not the argument itself, but the response from people all across the board. I was incredibly saddened reading the comments that the article detailed.

"I suppose all the Disney Princess and Tinkerbell movies don't count for anything? You have to try to force your P.C. B.S. on Pixar now?," writes one of the earliest commenters. "Come on! I'm sure when an interesting story with a female protagonist develops organically at Pixar, they will make that movie. Until that time, stop trying to ruin the fun for the rest of us."

This commenter, bless his heart, went on to immediately amend his statement after reading the article, and conceded that the writer had some really good points and he now agreed. Why can't more people listen to the other side and realize that agreeing wouldn't hurt them, wouldn't take away the movies they already had, and that a film, a Pixar film in particular, could still be good and you could still love it if it was about a woman?

"Let Pixar make the movies for boys and leave the chick flicks/teenybopper movies to Disney itself," writes another (male) reader, while yet another fellow says, "Everybody has an agenda. I'm sorry if this delightful movie didn't service yours."

I honestly couldn't say it better than the writer herself:

Why is it that when women -- who make up over half of the species, by the way -- respectfully point out that they're underrepresented in movies, it's seen as some sort of angry feminist screed?

I've seen this point made so many places, so many times, and it's upsetting to hear it every time. Yes, why is that? Why have we come so far and yet every single inch farther towards equality even in movies is seen like some irrational shriek from some firebreathing feminist who doesn't shave her armpits? Noticing something and being unhappy with the status quo isn't looking for something to get irritated about.

And then, there's the other side of the coin, the point of view I've seen even here.

Some readers respond not with anger, but with puzzlement that we womenfolk aren't satisfied with the secondary roles that we continually play in films. Regarding Holmes' Pixar piece, one commenter wrote, "What about Jessie from Toy Story 2?? She is not the main character of the film, but her story is an integral part of the movie and I hope she will be back for Toy Story 3?. Eve also has an integral role in Wall-E."

Well, yes. But in each case, the movie isn't about them. It's not their adventure, just as Finding Nemo isn't Dory's adventure, and A Bug's Life isn't about Dot.

Even in the comments it's almost like no one read the article at all. So many people try to just form a rebuttal to every point in the article.

Last I checked, eventhough Sully and Mike were main characters of Monsters Inc., BOO (a female) was the story. If it weren't for her, there would be no real story progression for one of the better Pixar films. Sure she may have been a 'baby', but she was the integeral part to moving the story along.

I've heard the same argument with regards to Up. Ellie was a fantastic female character whose actions in the first ten minutes sparked the plot of the movie, but it's still not her story.

Pixar hasn't made a movie about a girl yet because they haven't had a good idea for a movie about a girl. They aren't going to just make a movie about a girl to please feminist rants, they make *good movies* precisely because they don't pander to what they think people want. I don't know why this is so hard for people to understand. Not everything is some sexist conspiracy.

I'm terrible with conclusions, so let me just say this. Unfortunately, wanting equal representation in media is viewed by many as a fringe opinion. I have always valued strong female characters in the media I consume, but that doesn't mean that's all I want to see or read or hear about. Wanting more movies with female characters in them doesn't mean that I want to see Sex and the City 3. (Please. Please no.) It just means I'd like to see more female characters doing all kinds of things in all kinds of genres.

For now, Boo can hold down the fort.

(gif: fuckyeahpixarmovies)