Before I saw ‘Big Hero 6’ I wondered what the title meant. I’d only seen posters with the balloony white creature and the boy. So now I know. There is a new superhero franchise made up of 6 characters. And guess what? The team is led by a Hiro, a scientist wonder boy and his BFF a healer robot, also male, named Baymax. The whole human team are techies including 2 girls, one in a pink suit but at least the other is in yellow. Typical Minority Feisty ratio.
Before I go on about gender issues, I want to be sure you know I really enjoyed this movie. It’s no doubt one of my favorite animated films this year. The narrative deconstructs what a hero (Hiro is a cool play on words) is in a compelling way that children can understand. Though I would love a gender flip, Baymax is super appealing. His mission is to heal, which includes not only tending to cuts and scrapes, but matters of the heart. When Hiro’s brother dies, at the beginning of the movie, Baymax urges Hero to get lots of the hugs and the support of friends. That sounds kind of chesey when I write it, but the prescription doesn’t come off like that in the movie because Baymax’s character is so well done. He is giant and round with stumpy legs. Watching his body squeeze through obstacles and give hugs is fascinating. Just seeing him move is entertaining. There is no way you cannot like this guy but…
how I wish he had been a she! Before all of you write me that Baymax challenges notions of masculinity, that kind of boundary busting is standard in children’s animation. In “Book of Life,” the movie I just reviewed the bullfighter chooses to be a musician instead of a macho man. (Can you even imagine a narrative based around a female choosing careers– should I fight bulls or compose music– instead of focusing choosing husbands?) When I’ve complained about the lack of females in Monster University, Planes, How to Train Your Dragon, practically every male centered, male dominated movie I review, I always get the reply: well, it’s great to show a geeky, smart, sensitive, artsy, fill in the blank male. You know what would really challenge standard notions of masculinity? Seeing half of children’s films star female protagonists and feature as many females as males in the cast. The icing on the trope cake was the damsel in distress scene. I was super disappointed to see ‘Big Hero 6’ squeeze in that storyline.
In case you’re wondering, I would’ve been thrilled if Hiro had a been a girl as well. And had a older sister inventor-mentor instead of a brother. And if the villain had been female.
I’ll end on positive note. I was so into the mythical San Fransokyo where the story takes place. The city has all the beauty, hills, bridges, Victorians and openess of San Francisco, (where I live) but loses its quaintness, small towny aspect by adding the clumped tall buildings, blinking lights, and crammed streets of Tokyo. The movie itself is a fusion of Disney and anime in the best way.
Reel Girl rates “Big Hero 6” ***H***