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Geniuses and Neurotics

Over at Fitful Murmurs, Kyle Deas jumps off my post on Disney’s gender issues and comes up with a good exploration of how Pixar’s writing staff influences the kind of characters its movies focus on. It’s not just that they make movies about men, but that they make them about certain kinds of men:

When you’re a screenwriter, you write what comes naturally to you — that’s what makes you good. Stanton, for example, obviously feels at home writing about duos: his films usually feature a conservative, neurotic character (Woody, Marlin, Sully, Wall-E) who finds himself unexpectedly paired with a rogue outlier (Buzz, Dory, Mike Wazowski, EVE) who throws his life into disarray and sends him on some sort of zany quest. It takes serious talent to write films as good as Stanton’s; it’s little wonder that Pixar has tried to mess with his style as little as possible.

Ditto for Brad Bird, whose men are stifled, or undiscovered, geniuses. I think that’s a useful insight that Pixar’s invested in very particular kinds of maleness. And I don’t think they’re malignant gender conceptions. Stanton’s movies tend to strike for a middle ground: his duos tend to emphasize that pure adventurism can be irresponsible and delusional, while making the case that a life lived without risk is incredibly and depressingly circumscribed. Bird’s movies may focus on men, but Mr. Incredible is clearly depressed about his wife’s acquiescence to the anti-superhero regime, and Colette is clearly a full partner in Linguini’s success. I think Kyle and I both agree that the problem isn’t the particular characters and conceptions, but the idea that only male perspectives can be universal.

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