Pixar and gender

// 3 July 2008

Why is this rat male?Via Feministe I found this brilliant takedown of Pixar’s gender problem. Vast Public Indifference was inspired to come up with this rating because of Wall-E, but these are my favourite bits of analysis (some of this might only make sense if you’ve seen the films):

About Ratatouille:

Collette’s right — the restaurant business is tough for women, especially when even the fictional rat-as-chef barrier can only be broken by a male character

About Wall-E:

“Hey, guys, we have this robot with no inherent gender identity. We want to give it an arbitrary gender. Maybe we could make it female. Yeah, no, that would just just be ridiculous.”

About newt:

There are few better ways to tell kids that male=normal and female=weird than to make sure that your male character has the same name as his species and your female character doesn’t.

And in overview:

I suppose what makes me so mad is not that Pixar makes movies about male characters but that they seem to go out of their way to make sure that this remains the case. This isn’t just a problem with their story choices, though they are a little heavy on the buddy film/father-and-son plots. On several occasions (A Bug’s Life, WALL-E), they have defied logic in order to make sure that the protagonist of their tale was male. When good female characters are part of the story (Elastigirl/Helen Parr, Jessie), they still focus on the male character’s plotline and development. They make infuriating choices (female main character = princess in fairy tale). It’s not just the stories they choose to tell, it’s how they choose to tell them: in a way that always relegates female characters to the periphery, where they can serve and encourage male characters, but are never, ever important enough to carry a whole movie on their own shoulders. Unless they’re, you know, princesses.

Comments From You

Anne Onne // Posted 3 July 2008 at 9:46 pm

I couldn’t get over the fact that they gave a bull an udder (in the Barnyard animation), to make him a ‘cow’, or rather, had to have a male voice on a cow. Could they not just stomach the fact that cows are female, and make the main character a genuine cow? Nope, it had to be male, but they didn’t want to lose the udders.

I always point out that it’s not that any particular main character is male that’s the problem. It’s that 90% of the time, the main character will be male, and any female characters will always be trivial in comparison. Female characters get neglected in storylines that are focused on male characters.

This really gets me, and it’s something that’s EVERYWHERE in pop culture and media. Films, animations, graphic novels, books, you name it, the stereotypes and limitations on female characters are there.

Katherine Lopez // Posted 4 September 2008 at 3:32 pm

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