Feminism and Pixar

I was originally going to write this post before I made it to Toy Story 3, but good thing I waited as I now channel even more anger into it.   One of my (misguided) facebook friends linked to this article with the explanation that she would not be wasting her money on Toy Story 3’s sexism.  Here’s a taste:

Out of seven new toy characters at the daycare where the majority of the narrative takes place, only one is female–the purple octopus whose scant dialogue is voiced by Whoopi Goldberg. Although two of the toys in the framing scenes with Bonnie, the girl who ultimately becomes the toys’ new owner, are female, the ratio is still far worse than the average in children’s media of one-female-to-every-three-males…

While the girls in the audience are given the funny and adventurous Jessie, they are also taught women talk too much: Flirty Mrs. Potato-Head, according to new character Lotso, needs her mouth taken off. Another lesson is that when women do say something smart, it’s so rare as to be funny (laughter ensues when Barbie says “authority should derive from the consent of the governed”), and that even when they are smart and adventurous, what theyreally care about is nabbing themselves a macho toy to love (as when Jessie falls for the Latino version of Buzz–a storyline, that, yes, also plays on the “Latin machismo lover” stereotype).

Umm, give me a break!  As I’ve mentioned before, a major theme in my Gender & Politics class is the fact that although most everyone supports the ideals of gender equality, “feminism” has a really bad name.  I posit that it is ridiculous screeds like this that give feminism a bad name.  This is very much like those conservative groups who claim that any negative report about any conservative is a clear instance of media bias.  And, not to rebut the whole essay, but any toy saying that is funny, especially one is quite admittedly a “dumb blonde” stereotype.  One could easily argue that the movie was making a feminist statement by largely playing Barbie against type.

With all the real problems women face and the many very real negative portrayals of women in mass media, to pick on the utterly appropriate and not at all sexist portrayals of the female characters in Toy Story 3 is just absurd, especially based on the ratio of male/female character in a movie about a boy’s toys.   This is the kind of feminism we could do without.

Oh, and Toy Story 3 was absolutely brilliant.  I was continually amazed at the storytelling and visual inventiveness.   Go see it.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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