Since I brought up the subject of gender and women's roles in animation and cartoons, I thought it only fair to link to this 2007 article from Salon. Catherine Price followed up on another short essay, written by Liz Kelly at the Washington Post. They both stress that they are great Pixar fans, and are thrilled by their many terrific movies. But why are the leads always boys? Why can't a girl be the main character?
I think this clip from Liz Kelly's article sums it all up:
I remain thankful that we have such a successful animation studio in Pixar, that we can sit and debate the finer points of gender equality and who gets a seat at the table. 15 years ago, I would have been happy for anything that just didn't suck. Thank goodness song-and-dance numbers have been done away with. No one over the age of six ever liked those stupid singalong songs. I know I was sick of 'em by the time I was seven.
I give Pixar much credit for breathing life into some gutsy, admirable females. Helen Parr of "The Incredibles" not only keeps her household in order, she can stretch her limbs to limits even the uber-flexible Madonna couldn't reach. Sally Carrera in "Cars" is the spunky owner of her own business. And in "Ratatouille," Colette (voiced by Janeane Garofalo) makes an impassioned speech about how, as the only woman working in the kitchen at the chi-chi Gusteau's, she is tired of getting pushed around by all the men. She is femme, hear her roar.
But still, in the end, all of these women wind up playing love interest -- and second fiddle -- to the heroes. The fact that most of the Pixar filmmakers behind these flicks are male could be part of the problem. Interestingly, none of this seems to bother girls, who seem to flock to and adore these movies just as much as boys do. Perhaps to them, watching an animated toy or fish or rat transcends gender. Maybe they see these characters as just beings, neither male nor female. Perhaps there's a lesson there.
And I remain an optimist on this issue. It's downright bizarre that half the population is being ignored by most Hollywood movies. Then when you add in recent animation films like Sita Sings the Blues, Paprika, Persepolis, and Studio Ghibli, this simply becomes a no-brainer.
If I were in charge of hiring new talent at any of the major studios, here's what I would do: hire talented female artists, graphic designers, graphic novelists, and animators. Hire women and women only, and bring the gender ratio to an even balance. How important is that? Consider this fact: one half of the staff of Studio Ghibli is female. And you wonder why their films are so overwhelmingly feminine?
Just sit back and watch Momose's Piece again, and think to yourself, "Why isn't this happening over here? We should be the ones creating movies like this."