Oh, look, it's another "been brewing" post
Standard disclaimer: if you are heartily sick of discussions of gender, etc etc, don't click.
There've been various discussions in various places about the idea that Pixar has yet to have a film with a female protagonist. mecurtin argues that Helen Parr is the co-protagonist of The Incredibles, and I think she's right: Helen remembers what it's like to be powerful and active at the same time that Bob learns to appreciate his family (which is perhaps a tad gendered, but the reverse probably would have sent me into spasms of rage, so fair enough).
However, there's no question that what Pixar hasn't had is a movie with a sole or even primary female protagonist. And it certainly hasn't had a movie that is the gender reverse of, oh, pretty much every other movie it's made, wherein the cast is overwhelmingly male, with one or two females of varying significance from "one of the most important secondary characters" to "has a few scenes here and there." And in a genre (we'll call it contemporary CGI-animation) that cheerfully rewrites the sex of entire species to ensure a predominantly male cast, that's a pretty critical gap.
And you know, the more I think about it, the angrier it makes me. I mean, I love the Toy Story movies, I do. But look in the bedrooms of the average boy and the average girl. Which one has toys that are more easily anthropomorphized? So how come we get a movie about a little boy's almost entirely male toys? When my sister was little, we had a book of Raggedy Ann stories that were very much like Toy Story in their basic premise. Instead, though, our daughters get Barbie, the (blonde, blue-eyed, Caucasian) tropical island princess straight to video.
Or, you know, I was kind of glad to see the fathers in Finding Nemo at the school, because hey, positive! But that resulted in, what, about four female characters in the whole cast?
Of course, the standard answer is that that little girls will watch movies/read books/etc with male protagonists, and little boys won't do the reverse. I'm pretty much ready to call bullshit on that, or rather, call self-fulfilling, contemporary-masculine-panic on that one. There's certainly evidence that boys read the Oz books, and not just the very few ones with male protagonists. Hell, are you going to tell me that all those Disney princess movies were attended only by little girls? That only girls went to see The Little Mermaid?* Are you really telling me that if boys were routinely, from birth, presented with smart, funny movies like Pixar's with girl leads (and more importantly, if their parents didn't flip out about a little boy playing with a girl action figure), they'd turn up their noses?
And yes, there have been some great female characters in these movies, but man, I am getting so tired of being handed crumbs and being told I should be grateful for it. I'm so tired of "Look, we made the (one) female character smart and interesting! What more do you want?"
What do I want? I want a reflection that women are half the human race. Hell, I won't even get into the whole "rewriting the sex of entire species" thing. At this point, I'd settle for looking at a list of Pixar's films and seeing one, just one, movie about a girl...something.
*Actually, if you really want to get depressed, go look at Disney's feature animation in the last decade. Lilo and Stitch and Home on the Range. Otherwise, ten years of male protagonists. I suppose we should be grateful they didn't make the cows male. Others have. Apparently, a couple more princess stories are coming up.)