Is Pixar a ‘boys only’ club?

Honestly, I’d never even thought about this until Prairie brought it up after we watched one of the trailers for Cars, when its predominantly male-centric theme got her started thinking about the rest of Pixar‘s oevure. We got started talking about it again this morning, after I noticed this quote from Bonnie Hunt excerpted on the Luxo weblog:

One night John [Lasseter] said to me, “The next movie I’m writing, you’ll be the girl in it.”

See that? The girl. Really, that sounds about right. Just where are the girls in Pixar films? Let’s take a quick look…

  1. Toy Story: Bo Peep, Andy’s Mom, and Hannah (the infant sister). All definite supporting characters. Andy’s Mom and Hannah are barely there, and Bo Peep is little more than a cute flirtation gag.

  2. A Bug’s Life: More women, but more characters overall, also: Princess Atta, Princess Dot, The Queen, Gypsy Moth, and Rosie the Black Widow. It’s still a male-dominated cast — even the ladybug is a boy (it’s a great gag, but when looked at from this context, suddenly it’s not as funny).

  3. Toy Story 2: Jesse, Mrs. Potato Head, Tour Guide Barbie, Bo Peep, Andy’s Mom, and Hannah. Jesse, admittedly, is a wonderful character, but still definitely a supporting character — this is still Woody and Buzz’s story. The other additions are an overbearing housewife and a dim blonde. As Prairie said, “Hooray for womankind!”

  4. Monsters, Inc.: Boo, Celia (Mike’s Medusa-like girlfriend), and Roz (the supervisor/secretary). An infant, a neglected love interest, and a stereotypical crone of a secretary (voiced by a man, no less).

  5. Finding Nemo: Dory, Peach (the starfish), Deb/Flo (the fish whose ‘sister’ is her reflection in the tank), and Coral (Nemo’s mom). Dory’s certainly a major character in the film, but still essentially a supporting character (this is, after all, Marlin and Nemo’s story)…and she’s addled to boot. Sweet, lovable, and funny…but addled.

  6. The Incredibles: Helen Parr (Elastigirl), Mrs. Hogenson (who?), Violet, Mirage, Edna Mode, Kari (the babysitter), and Honey (Frozone’s wife). To date, Helen is Pixar’s strongest female character, and the closest they’ve come to a female lead, but again, the movie is about how Bob (Mr. Incredible) adjusts to the changing circumstances in his world. We certainly can’t ignore Honey, who is only present as a voice haranguing Frozone as he tries to find his costume.

  7. Cars: Sally’s the only female character in any of the previews. According to the IMDB, there’s also a Lizzie and a Flo. Until the movie appears, we won’t really know just how strong of a character Sally is, but the trailers make it obvious that this is, once again, a boy’s movie (to the point that Prairie isn’t looking forward to Cars as much as she has other Pixar films, due to the automotive theme).

  8. Ratatouille: This one’s so early in development that the only definite information to date is that it’s about “a rat named Ratatouille who lives in a upmarket Parisian restaurant run by an eccentric chef.”

To date, there’s not a single Pixar film that has a female main character: The Incredibles comes the closest, but even there, both Helen Parr/Elastigirl and Violet are supporting characters, and it’s Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible that’s the hero. Look at the ‘poster wall’ on Pixar’s website. None of the poster designs feature a female character…even the rollover effects exclude every female character save Dory.

As Prairie pointed out to me, where there are plenty of Disney films that girls can spend hours playing and pretending to be the Disney Princesses in (most of them, at least), there isn’t a single Pixar film that she would have wanted to play as a child.

While some might argue that Disney as a whole is sexist, I don’t quite see that. Disney’s older works are often based on traditional fairy tales, where the missing mother/evil step-mother is an integral part of the tale (as is the handsome prince coming to the rescue); newer films have been much better. Tarzan, for instance: while Jane’s mom is conspicuously missing (presumably permanently, and not just left behind in England, as Jane’s father cheerfully joins her in remaining in Africa) and Tarzan’s parents (mother and father) are killed, Kala is a very strong and loving mother figure, and Jane — like Megara, Mulan and Kida before her — is a deliciously strong woman in her own right.

It’s a pity that, as one commenter posited on the Feministing weblog, movie studios in general are both constrained by and unwilling to challenge what appears to be a very male-dominated movie audience, even for children’s movies.

The two big reasons for the dearth of females in G-rated films are that a lot of the source material (childrens’ books, fairly tales) feature male protagonists, and more importantly, a number of very well-made childrens’ films featuring female protagonists underperformed at the box office (A Little Princess, Matilda, Because of Winn-Dixie…), leading a lot of executives to believe that boys won’t watch films with female protagonists. So while studio executives bear a large measure of responsibility for not pushing harder, they’re also reacting to the market in this case.

So how about it, Pixar? You’ve shown the world that not only does Disney not have a lockdown on animated films, but that “children’s” films can be made that are good family films as well, rather than aiming the films so low that the unfortunate parents have to grit their teeth for an hour and a half whenever they take their kids to the movies. For over a decade now (since Toy Story‘s debut in 1995), you’ve consistently produced some of the best films — not just animated films, or children’s films, but best films — around.

How about letting the girls in to play as well?

iTunesAnother World” by Beborn Beton from the album Tales From Another World (1997, 4:25).

The Need for Speed

My parents gave me my first car, in my family’s usual style. For my birthday that year, mom and dad handed me a wrapped present, about the size of a shoebox. I unwrapped it to discover the expected shoebox, took off the top — and found a stuffed bunny with its eyes X-ed out with yarn.

A little confused, I raised my eyebrows. “A dead bunny?”

“Close. A dead rabbit.” And dad handed me the keys to his 1981 VW Diesel Rabbit, currently parked out on the street awaiting brake repairs.

I loved that car. I’d learned to drive in my friend Rod’s VW Cabriolet — basically a convertible Rabbit — so I was quite comfortable behind the wheel of that little car. Bright yellow, five-speed manual transmission, a sunroof — and diesel powered, which at that point, was truly a beautiful thing. No emissions tests to worry about, no spark plugs to struggle with, and gasoline was under a dollar a gallon back then.

Now, being a diesel, speed was not high on the list of features on this car. I think the best I ever managed to coax it was around 85 mph, heading downhill (the big run down into Eagle River from Anchorage, just before you cross over the bridge, for all you Anchorage-area readers) with a tailwind. Realistically, this was probably a good thing, as I really enjoy driving, and if there’s a good song on the stereo…well, having a fairly low top speed probably saved me a few tickets over the years. ;)

However, as fun as high speed can be, it’s often no real contest against someone who knows how to drive and how to handle their car in various road conditions.

One winter day, I was sitting at a stoplight in Anchorage, heading down Northern Lights Boulevard towards the airport, when a guy and his girlfriend pulled up beside me in some fancy little go-faster. I looked over, and apparently he took my glance as a challenge, as he looked somewhat disdainfully at my little Rabbit, and lightly gunned his engine.

Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.

So I gunned mine. He revved his engine up, and I did the same. After a moment, the light changed, he stomped on the gas — and went absolutely nowhere as his tires spun wildly on the icy street. Meanwhile, I lightly touched the gas and pulled forward, handily making it through the light before he had even managed to coax his little sports car into movement.

He caught up just in time for us to hit the next stoplight, and he started revving his engine again. I laughed — once wasn’t enough?

Apparently not. My little Rabbit beat him off the line three stoplights in a row. He was getting more aggravated with each attempt, and I was getting more and more amused.

Eventually, we made it to the intersection of Northern Lights and Minnesota. This being a more major intersection in Anchorage, the streets weren’t quite as icy, and by now he’d actually started to figure out what he was doing wrong. We sat at the intersection, watching traffic move by in front of us, each of us occasionally glancing over to the other car.

The crosswalk light switched from “WALK” and started blinking “DON’T WALK”. Engines revved up a bit.

“DON’T WALK” turned solid, and the traffic light on Minnesota went yellow.

Red light. Engines were gunned — this was it.


He pulled out, this time keeping control and starting slowly, letting his tires gain traction. I did the same, pacing him for the first half block, then starting to fall behind as his more powerful car started to gain speed. At the end of the first block, as he started to pull noticeably ahead of me, we hit the crest of a hill — and while he let his car leap forward, using the downhill slope to give him one last advantage, I tapped my breaks, let myself fall behind him, and watched his car go flying down the hill.

And a few minutes later, I gave him a jaunty wave as I passed by him one last time. I must say, those pretty little white sports cars do reflect the red-and-blue lights of the police cruisers quite nicely as they sit by the side of the road, waiting for the officer to write out their speeding ticket.

(This was inspired by The wrath of the Evil Elle\~Noir.)

Best of times, worst of times

I’ve been thinking about the weddings I’ve been at or involved in lately — James and Stacey’s last month, Casey’s tomorrow, and possibly two scheduled for next summer. It got me thinking back to one of my favorite weddings that I’ve been part of — which, unfortunately, led to more problems than I ever wanted to have to deal with.

It was all about Travis and Lana…

This all happened quite a few years ago. Let’s see…I was DJ’ing at the Lost Abbey, and living in a condo behind East High School in Anchorage that I’d rented with my girlfriend Becca (though she had left me to live with someone she’d had an affair with at this point), which would put it around ’95 or so. I’d known both Travis and Lana for quite a while, Travis from the clubs and around town, and Lana — well, Lana I first met when she was dating my little brother. While I wouldn’t have put either of them in my ‘close friend’ category, I thought I knew them fairly well, and that we were decent friends. Little did I know….

Anyway, Travis and Lana met, dated, and after a while, decided to get married. Being a couple of club kids, though, they were determined to make their marriage something (ahem) ‘special’. That they did — and, even given the problems that followed, I still have very fond memories of that particular wedding.

The wedding was held at the Lost Abby, on a Saturday night, right at midnight. This was back before the Abby started on its self-destructive spiral downwards, so we were getting a lot of people in there every weekend — and midnight on a Saturday night was not exactly a sparse hour for the club. I think part of the motivation was to get as many people there as possible, whether or not they knew them — but I think they also knew that when dealing with a lot of kids ranging from 14 to their mid-20’s, many of which were carless, this was the best possible way for them to have all their friends at their wedding.

Their ceremony was a thing of beauty — in a twisted, dark, pesudo-gothic sort of way. They got their friend Ben to perform the vows, and just before midnight, I finished the song that was playing and asked everyone on the dance floor to open up a space in the middle, and then explained to them what I’d been told the ceremony was going to be. Travis, Lana, and Ben took their spots in a triangle in the cleared space in the middle of the dance floor, and when they were ready I started playing Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hotrod“, an eight minute-long high-speed industrial noisefest. As they recited their vows, the entire assembled masses moshed in a circle around them for the length of the song. Once the song and their vows were over, they’d given me free reign to follow up with a song of my choosing — so, given both my sense of humor and the spirit of the event, I chose “Love American Style” by X-Calibur, featuring the lyrics, “Being in love really sucks / being in love really sucks / a kiss and a hug and a couple of fucks / being in love really sucks / babies cost a lot of money / please don’t make me fuck you honey.” What can I say? They loved it!

So that was the wedding — one that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. One of the most bizarre I’ve ever been around, but a lot of fun, and greatly enjoyed by all involved, even those that showed up at the club with no prior knowledge of a wedding that night! Cool stuff.

But, of course, all good things must come to an end.

Not too long after the wedding, Travis and Lana came knocking at the door to my condo. They were struggling a bit, and needed a place to stay for a week or so while they found their own place. Sure, no problem — I’m always willing to do what I can to help out my friends, and have a tendency to be trusting (sometimes possibly to the point of being naïve, something dad and I have talked about in the past as being a trait we share), so the two of them moved into my living room for a week or so.

A few weeks after that, they were still looking. I’d gotten a bit tired of having them in the living room, so I let Travis and Lana set up shop in the second bedroom. Things were fine that way for a while. Then…well, you never seem to see things heading downhill when you first start treading that slippery slope, do you? As I said, I like helping people out when I can…and suddenly, there were all these people that Travis knew, or met at the club, who needed a place to crash for a night here, a night there, a couple days every so often. The first wasn’t a problem…the second wasn’t a problem…but they just kept coming. The road to hell being paved with good intentions, it all seemed okay at the time.

Even I can only pull the wool over my own eyes for so long. After a while, it was a little too obvious that in addition to the number of people going through my house, there were a lot of other things working their way through. What amazes me today is that it took me so long to hit my breaking point. The drug trafficking I could cope with most of the time — usually, it was restricted to what at the time were the ‘big three’ drugs of the Alaska counterculture scene: pot, acid, and ‘shrooms. I did find it necessary to mention to Travis that I was less than thrilled when I caught word of a little cocaine having passed through at one point, though to my knowledge, that was a one-time thing. Turning a blind eye to the car stereos that would occasionally appear and disappear was probably not the best thing for me to do, though those are so easy to move that there most likely wasn’t much I could do about them.

I did throw a minor fit, however, when one day I sat down on the couch and felt something hard poking me. I reached down between the cushions, figuring there was probably a remote or something shoved down there — and pulled out a rifle, holding it by its muzzle. Even better — the fool thing was loaded. Had that trigger caught on anything…well, seeing as how I’d just sat on the ‘business’ end of the rifle, I don’t want to think about exactly what portions of my anatomy had just been endangered. Even then, however, that wasn’t enough for me to put my foot down…saying ‘no’ is something I’ve since worked on, but at the time, didn’t happen nearly enough.

The last straw, when it finally happened, was a doozy, though. It happened on a Sunday morning — I’d spun at the Abby that Saturday night, and we had the usual (at that point) post-club bodies littering the condo. I don’t know what time it was — probably not as early as it felt, but I’ve never functioned very well in the mornings, and when you’re up ’til 4am DJ’ing, “morning” is a very relative term. In any case, I was woken up by the sound of repeated pounding on the front door. It went on long enough to convince me that it was probably something important, so I worked my way out of bed and made my way downstairs. As I scanned the living room, I realized that I could probably only come up with names for about 5 of the 10 or so people scattered across the floor.

As I opened the front door, it became all too apparent just why the pounding hadn’t stopped, as I was greeted by the none-too-friendly faces of two Anchorage Police Department officers flanking Mike — a friend of Travis’s that had had a falling out with Travis a week or two earlier. They asked if they could come in and as I didn’t know of anything illegal on the premises (at that particular point in time), I said sure. They were somewhat surprised by the number of people gathered in the living room, and had me go through and wake up those that hadn’t already been awakened by this point so that they could do an ID check of everyone on the premises. I still wasn’t too sure what all this was about, but Mike cleared that up rather quickly when he went to the back sliding door, opened it and took the officers to the carport stall where Travis had parked a VW Minibus earlier that weekend.

As it turns out, that Minibus was actually Mike’s. Travis claimed that he had bought it for Mike, but that as Mike had not repayed Travis the money for the van (a staggering $50, if I remember correctly), he had taken it upon himself to ‘repossess’ the vehicle. In essence, I found myself in the unenviable position of harboring a stolen vehicle in my carport — and as the sole leaseholder on the condo, it was my legal responsibility. I, of course, wanted nothing to do with it — I had my own car already, and had no need for a stolen VW Minibus (that, incidentally, Travis had apparently spent much of the previous day attempting to disguise by spray-painting the bus a different color — a fact not lost on either Mike or the police officers, which didn’t do much to bolster Travis’s claim that the van was actually his). I turned the van over to Mike, and the officers discovered that in addition to the current brouhaha, there was an outstanding warrant for Travis’s arrest for unpaid traffic tickets.

I decided at this point that I’d had more than I could take, and while Travis was sitting next to me, handcuffed and waiting for the officers to take him downtown after they finished the ID checks on the rest of the assembled riffraff, I called my landlords and gave them my one month notice of intent to leave.

The next month turned into a very interesting one. Travis ended up being bailed out the next day, and within the next week came through the house while I was at work and cleaned out all of his and Lana’s possessions — along with a fair amount of mine, some of which I discovered immediately, some that I didn’t realize I was missing until long afterward, almost none of which was ever recovered. Once I went in to clean out the room that Travis and Lana had been inhabiting, I found that they had done a fair amount of damage, from (apparently forcibly) removing the blinds from the windows to staining the walls with soot from cheap candles and incense. There were knife marks in the banister from where Travis had decided to practice his knife throwing, and down in the kitchen, much of the molding had been broken off of the counter top when Travis had climbed up onto the counters to place things on top of the kitchen cabinets. All in all, far more damage than my security deposit was going to cover.

So, I did what I could to clean up, salvaged everything I could, and left. It was definitely a learning experience — and was a major motivating force in my finally learning that no matter how much I like to help people out, there does come a time when I have to think of myself and my welfare first and say “no” to a request for help. I’m also much better at determining when a given situation is starting to progress beyond the bonds of where I’m comfortable, and actually saying something about it, rather than just continuing to plod along, hoping that things will change. It’s a shame that it took this severe of a kick in the ass to get me to realize that, but, at the same time — I could have learned this particular lesson much later, or never at all.

A silver lining to every cloud, eh?

In any case, that’s the long and sordid tale of myself, Travis, and Lana — one of the coolest weddings I’ve ever witnessed, and one of the most bizarre (and, looking back on it, quite possibly dangerous) instances of my trust being abused that I’ve ever gone through. I’ve not heard much of either Travis or Lana over the years since then — the occasional random rumor floats through the rumor mill, but not much more than that. I’m fairly sure that they ended up getting divorced a couple years after all this happened, and I’ve heard various rumors connected with Travis. What the truth is, I’ll probably never know — and, to be quite honest, I think I’m happier that way.

Ah, well — ya live, ya learn, so it goes, c’est la vie, que sera sera, and innumerable other cliches.

I’m still here, and in my world — that’s what counts.