It is no secret that I absolutely LOVE Pixar movies. The animation quality is awesome, the stories are original, and I will shamelessly drag my fiance to the movies to see the movie the day it comes out, us two grown-ups sitting amongst the parents and their children.
This is a love/hate relationship for me though. In EVERY SINGLE ONE the hero is male. Women (if present) are background characters, accessories that must uplift the male hero so he can become the hero. The heroes often have to go through a journey to fulfill their unearthed potential, and the girls must undergo the daunting task of building the hero up so he can see what she sees (Finding Nemo, Cars, Wall-E, Ratatouille, The Incredibles).
Sometimes in these movies, it's all about the bros. Two dudes must overcome their differences, become friends, and eventually they'll both be heroes, and one or both will get the girl (read Toy Story, Ratatouille, Monsters Inc.).
Even where there are girls as heroes, like in The Incredibles, it's still painfully obvious who THE hero is.
In my favorite, Ratatouille, we have a strong female character of Colette. She's badass, and has to be tough because she's in the fast-paced career dominated by men. But the dopey hero is clearly Linguine. It's up to him to find his potential (oh, which is bequeathed to him from his famous chef father, Gusteau). And did anyone else notice the absence of female rats (until the end where they were listening to the male's epic tale)?
All of these movies are highly gendered, even in characters who would have no biological gender (Cars, Wall-E). Eve and Wall-E barely speak, but we know that Eve's a girl (sleek, curved, clean body) just as we know Wall-E is a boy (active, dirty, working-bot). Well, and the names don't help much. In Cars, we have the hero, McQueen, and his love interest, Sally, who is cute and curvy, and even has a "tramp stamp." Ugh.
The latest Pixar movie, Up, has me interested, but still frustrated. In the trailer, I did not see one female character. Even the list of Pixar directors is a sausage-fest--hell, even the list of writers. As far as I can tell, only Toy Story 2 has a woman writer--the rest? All dudez.
How hard would it be to have a woman or girl hero? Couldn't Remy be a girl-rat? Couldn't one of the famous race cars be a chick? Couldn't Up feature a crazy old lady who flew her house away? Couldn't one of the monsters been a girl monster? Oh wait, how would that work out since we all know a boy and a girl can't be friends without it turning into something romantic.
This reminds me of an article on Art at the Auction, where men on t.v. shows are allowed to be quirky or eccentric, and the women super normal to guide the men. This is true in films too. The boys make all the jokes, are allowed to act goofy, and the girls represent the voice of reason (the only exception for this is Dory, in Finding Nemo, but she still exists to make Marlin realize his potential).
And there's still the Disney formula of non-white guy = bad guy (as in Ratatouille). These movies are all white, and the one instance of a darker complexion is on the face of the bad guy. I can't think of any non-white characters in any other Pixar movie--please correct me if I'm wrong.
Non-white people can be heroes too; hell, they can be goofy!
As amazing as Pixar is, it's a shame that their characters aren't more diverse. What I love is that they've managed to break from the original Disney movie formula of princesses and woodland creatures--so why can't they break from the racist sexist patterns as well?
I will now cite the words of Peter Griffin: