If DreamWorks is ‘female driven studio,’ where are female protagonists?

The headline and photo from Hollywood Reporter:

“How DreamWorks Animation Became One of Hollywood’s Most Female-Driven Studios”


DreamWorks Animation's Dream Team

Jeffrey Katzenberg now employs far more women producers than men: “You can have a life and still work here.”

Great photo, nice quote, but I have two questions. How many directors of DreamWorks movies are women? How many protagonists in DreamWorks movies are female?

I think I can answer the second question.

Here’s a list of films from Hollywood’s “most female driven” studio. Out of 21 movies, 2 feature female protagonists. TWO. “Chicken Run” and “Monsters and Aliens.”

That’s great, Jeffrey! Awesome job.

The movies:

Shrek 1, 2, 3, all starring…SHREK!

Puss In Boots (Shrek spin off, giving another male protagonist his own film)

Prince of Egypt (Obvious, right?)

Wallace and Gromit (2 males)

Chicken Run (females in this one)

How to Train Your Dragon (Boy trains male dragon)

Kung Fu Panda 1, 2

Madagascar 1,2,3 (gang of 3 males, 1 female)

Over the Hedge (centers on male raccoon)

Bee Movie (Jerry Seinfeld, need I say more?)

Flushed Away (stars male rat)

Antz (stars Woody Allen)

Shark Tale (centers on a fish voiced by Will Smith)

Monsters versus Aliens (Reese Witherspoon stars in this one!)

Sinbad Legend of the Seven Seas (Obvious?)

Rise of the Guardians (Guardians are 4 males/ 1 female; centers on Jack Frost)

Did I miss something?


Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E, & more fat jokes

Garfield isn’t the only cartoon hero relentlessly mocked for his weight.

I was shocked at the continual stream of fat jokes while watching the animated hit, Kung Fu Panda. The story is about a panda, Po, who dreams of becoming a martial artist instead of a noodle seller like his father. What holds him back is his weight. The Furious Five, a pack of martial artists he idolizes– who are all male except for a token female voiced by Angelina Jolie– constantly make fun of Po’s weight. When these characters mock Po, surprisingly they retain their hero status; they are not portrayed as cruel bullies. Kids watching this movie see that it is OK and justified to put Po down for his body size. It’s espcially odd to witness teasing behavior shown as acceptable and funny, because making fun of others is a constant theme in kids movies; but it’s always potrayed as bad and wrong, acted out by the villians, not the good guys. Unless, I guess, the teasing is focused on fatness. Then it’s OK, just funny and true. Po’s teacher, Si Fun, constantly beats him up to convince him to quit his training, because he’s too fat to succeed. This prediction seems justified also.

In one scene, Po explains that the brutal training and beatings he suffers are mild compared to the pain

he experiences every day “just being me.” Then he looks down sadly at his big stomach, equating “me” with his body size, obviously  feeling a lot of shame.

Po explains that when he’s upset, he eats. The turning point in his training comes when Si Fun realizes that Po can be motivated to perform amazing acrobatic feats by a jar of cookies on a high shelf. They begin to train with food as a reward. Po does pushups over hot coals while trying to slurp noodles from a bowl of soup. Po and Si Fun battle over a bowl of dumplings. It’s good, I guess, that Po doesn’t end up becoming thin in order to be a master. But the way this movie uses fat and food to advance its plot line and character development  is truly odd and confusing if you’ve taught your kids– as I have–  not to experience food as a reward and not to think fat people are bad, or to be made fun of, or that they are not as good as thin people. After about two hours of fat jokes, my kids came out of the movie with lots of questions about why being big is funny and bad why don’t I think so too?

Another popular  animated movie, Wall-E (also named for its star male character) has a central plot line where the fat aliens are mocked. The aliens have evolved into an existence where machines do everything for them. They are fat, lazy, and nasty. Lucy asked me during the movie, “Why do they all look like that?” I guess I was supposed to say, “because they don’t get exercise. They’re lazy.”  The message that fat people lie around all day and that if you don’t work out, you will look like a fat, pink alien is not something I want my daughter to learn. She’s six years old. I’d rather her do the monkey bars and play soccer because she loves it and it’s fun. I’d like my girls to learn to use their bodies out of joy and pleasure, not fear, for as long as possible– their whole lives?