Pixar/ Disney movies get triple S for stereotyping, not suitable for kids

Kidsmovies.com posted a link to ReelGirl’s gallery of girls gone missing pics of 2011 movie posters. The banner at the top of the kidsmovies site features its own unintended (I think) same-old-same-old-boy based line up: Curious George, Nemo, Toy Story 3, Tangled, Gnomeo and Juliet, Up, Kung Fu Panda (I’m guessing, the picture is the top of Jack Black’s head) and Horton. The only girl front and center out of 9 movie posters is Rapunzel (typical rescue story- can you see why girls are obsessed with princesses? Without that storyline girls hardly exist in kids movies at all.)

There’s not a single poster that features multiple girls and no boys in this particular montage. If I seem like I’m nitpicking, it’s because this same, repetitive ratio is EVERYWHERE! (See the kidsmovies.com gallery here.)

And here’s the irony. Pixar and Disney head, Ed Catmull, is continually celebrated for his creativity, out of the box thinking, and taking chances. Here’s an excerpt from a typical glowing profile (this one on SFGate):

The president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation has a low profile outside of industry circles, but he’s one of the main architects behind the studio’s creativity-driven foundation. And he’s intent on keeping things unpredictable, fighting “conservative forces” that have made the golden ages of other cinematic movements all too brief…

But with Lucas, Catmull and later Jobs in charge, creative types at Pixar were encouraged to take chances. And the results changed the animation genre.

“Ed Catmull brought that to the culture of Pixar, in the sense that he wants people to try stuff,” Lasseter says. “If it doesn’t work, fine. In fact, sometimes you get more excited when it doesn’t work. And that’s the total opposite of Hollywood, where people are so scared to try different things. They’re risk-averse.”

The 30-minute speech that follows is filled with Ed-isms. Anybody should be able to talk to anybody else at any time… It’s OK to be surprised in meetings… Don’t be afraid to fail..

“It’s so easy to go to a conservative place. You know something that works, and you don’t want to change,” Catmull says. “We’re always going to have something that is a little chaotic and messy. …As a company we’re just trying to allow unpredictable things to happen.”

Conservative forces? Keeping things unpredictable? If women were running these animation studios, you’d never hear a quote like “unpredictable” to describe the slew of Pixar/ Disney movies where girls are continually relegated to the role of sidekick or princess. Instead of a G Rating, too many Pixar/ Disney movies should get a Triple S for major stereotyping, not suitable for kids. Makes you wonder how many women are in the MPAA? Or have ever headed the MPAA? Stay tuned.

6 thoughts on “Pixar/ Disney movies get triple S for stereotyping, not suitable for kids

  1. Very interesting commentary in light of recent developments concerning John Lasseter, Pixar’s probably former chief creative officer who is currently on leave as a result of multiple accusations of improprieties toward women at Pixar (and probably elsewhere too; predators don’t confine their predations to a single environment any more than they do to a single victim.)

    Lasseter’s “apology” statement offers this mealymouthed mea culpa: “I deeply apologize if I have let you down. I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form. No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.”

    The “receiving end of an unwanted hug”? “No matter how benign my intent”? Benign? Even if his intent WERE totally “benign,” he still doesn’t get it that he’s a predator. Giving women hugs at work where HE wields all the power and they have none; acting as if his “benign” intent – which, to be clear, it wasn’t; it never is; it’s a tactic of disempowerment and sociopathic “grooming” – excuses his anything-but-benign actions. Ick.

    So the predator set the tone for every other male in that work environment; he essentially gave permission to the men at Pixar to treat women as objects there for the men’s gratification rather than as partners or equal creative forces at the company. No wonder there was such a dearth of films about girls in any roles other than as secondary, supporting characters.

    Let’s not kid ourselves. We can’t separate the two Lasseters, the one a creative genius who made some “missteps,” from the other, a seriously serial sexual harasser. They are two sides of the same coin, and Lasseter’s mindset about women, exemplified by the way he treated them, logically informed his creative output and the projects he greenlighted/directed at Pixar. The fact that he is now supposed to be undergoing some sort of magical transformation through “therapy” or self-reflection after having been INFORMED – he didn’t reach the realization on his own, he had to be hit over the head with a sledgehammer to even begin to figure it out – that his conduct has been disgusting, illegal, and has had a direct effect on the careers of lots of talented women who may have lost their spark and fire for the industry because he ruined it for them, does not mitigate the damage he has done. Who knows what wonderful film ideas have been irreparably lost because of Lasseter’s “benign” intentions? How many women quit the company or refused to come on board at all because of his reputation/actions?

    No wonder Pixar was all about boy action heroes. Girls aren’t heroes, we’re vessels and amplifiers for male heroism. THAT’s the message of John Lasseter’s reign at Pixar. But it’s over now, and that’s a good thing. An excellent thing, for all of us, not just girls.

  2. Hi, thanks for the KidsMovies.com mention. Actually I’m the content editor for that site and a mom of three girls by the way (a couple that like dressing up in frilly dresses and fighting with swords and another who is an xtreme sport fan and shops in the boys/men section for clothes because girl clothes have no pockets and are too pink or frilly – or not modest enough for her). I also used to be site editor at the daughters site on BellaOnline.com, one of the top internet sites for women. I’ve written movie reviews previously published at BellaOnline.com and soon to be republished at KidsMovies.com discussing great girl movies, and probably most of them were not best sellers or mainstream, but they are out there.

    I see no point in being politically correct or incorrect in choosing movie covers based on the sex of the characters. Those images were chosen because they are favorite movies of my daughters and because girls enjoy these movies as much as boys EVEN if someone didn’t take the time to portray the leads as girls. No thought was given to the particular sex of any of the characters in these top movies or attempt to balance the scales. In honesty, movies were chosen based on an Amazon search of kids movies (probably best sellers come first in the search) and my kids and I picked the ones we’ve enjoyed over the last few years (remember we are all female). However this is a temporary theme and header so maybe some consideration will be given in the future when we’re ready to revamp the image better to suit the theme.

    For the record we didn’t intentionally link to your article, your title must have shown up as part of a news feed. In reviewing that article though, I must point out that about half of these stories are traditional story book classics, spin offs of TV classics, or attempts at another sequel of a popular movie. Some of these classics have been favorites of all genders for many years. Hollywood wants to go with what it knows will sell. For the record though, our intent at KidsMovies.com is to cover kids entertainment whether mainstream or not, including special movies you should share with your daughters or your sons.

    Thanks again for your mention and thoughtful article.

    • Hi Violette,

      Thanks for your email. It would be great if you did give some thought to the gender of the characters. I think the omission of girls is often unintentional and that’s part of the problem. It’s so ubiquitous and accepted as normal. Thank you so much for considering more diversity in another header.

      I know kidsmovies.com didn’t intentionally link either, that it was just a Googlesnews feed which it looks like kidsmovies.com just took down? Too bad, I liked it.

      I posted about the problem you refer to of Hollywood’s derivative movies and series recycling the same stereotypes for each generation anew. Also, I get that its about making money, specifically for the men who run these studios. We, the audience, want movies about girls that are cool and exciting. We will pay our $10 for that.

      Please let me know when you post the reviews/ discussion of great girl movies. I will do a link.

      Thank you for visiting ReelGirl.

      Margot

    • Melanie,

      I cannot wait for Brave, I just posted about it.

      LOL on Belle, that’s exactly what my husband said about her– she wants to travel all around the world and then ends up settling with the bad boy on the edge of town!

      Thanks for visiting ReelGirl,
      Margot

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