Via The Mary Sue comes the news that Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as well as Mad Men and Glee) veteran Marti Noxon has been hired by Pixar:
Joss Whedon isn’t the only Buffy alum with big things going on. Writer Marti Noxon, who’s worked on Mad Men, Grey’s Anatomy, Glee, and last year’s underrated Fright Night remake since leaving Sunnydale behind, has just been hired by Pixar to work on one of their upcoming films.
It’s unclear exactly what Noxon will be working on; Pixar currently has several films in pre-production, including a Dia de los Muertos-inspired flick and the latest from director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc.), listed on IMDB as “The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside the Mind.” (I’m envisioning Monsters, Inc. meets Inception—I can hope, can’t I?)
Many of Pixar’s best movies have been about adult men who are unmoored from the sources of their identities, or have them challenged. In The Incredibles, Bob Parr’s been stripped of his right to work as a superhero. In Finding Nemo, Marlin feels that he’s failed to protect his family when his son Nemo is scooped up in a net, and as he journeys to find him, has to explore what and who he is without Nemo around to occupy all his attention and interest. Much of what made the introduction to Up so shattering was its demonstration of how much Carl Fredricksen built his sense of self around his wife Ellie, and how that idea deepened through disappointments like the failure of their travel plans or their inability to get pregnant, an event that would have expanded Carl’s understanding of his role. Wall-E’s encounter with Eve puts his work processing trash in a new context and gives him new things to yearn for.
The company’s made strides with young female characters, both in Brave, which did a lovely job of exploring the complicated relationship between a teenaged girl and her mother, and in the Pete Doctor movie mentioned in the article I quoted, the brain the film explores is supposed to be a girl’s. But it’s notable that both of those projects are about girls rather than adult women, who have never been so fully realized and sympathetic in a Pixar movie since we saw Elastigirl reckon with her husband’s secret-keeping and temper, and then kick into superheroine high gear to protect her family. I’ve always thought that the sixth season of Buffy, which Noxon executive produced, never quite got enough credit for its depiction of women who were in similar senses of crises about their identities. Whether Buffy was reckoning with her lack of job credentials in “Doublemeat Palace,” her lack of prestige relative to her ex-boyfriend Riley in “As You Were,” exploring a new kind of sexual relationship with Spike, or dealing with a dramatic realignment of her sense of her friendships and her sister Dawn after she was forcibly recalled from heaven, Noxon helped craft a portrait of what it means to be reconsidering every element of your identity in your twenties.
If she can identify these kinds of crises and find stories that make them universal (rather than aimed just at ladies) in the same way Pixar’s done for men who are widowed, separated from their children, or fired from their jobs, she’ll bring something special and important to the company—and to our standards for popular, high-quality entertainment. And if she can’t, that’s still something Pixar should pursue as a goal. If the company can sell audiences on the identity anxieties of a middle-aged man gone to fat, a cranky retiree, a voiceless robot, or a fish, it ought to be able to turn them out for stories about a woman.