Jan 21, 2014

Dear Pixar

Dear Pixar,

You make great movies. You really do. Up, Monsters Inc, the Toy Story trilogy, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, WALL-E: all fantastic.

I just have one request, and it's not just mine; my daughter wishes it too. 
This is the request:

Can you do a movie with a girl protagonist? 

I know you're owned by Disney, and I know THEY do plenty of girls, but see, they're not NEUTRAL girls they way Pixar protagonists are neutral boys. The Disney girls are all beautiful, princessy and plucky. They're either princesses who want to be more than princesses, or girls who don't know they are princesses. They are the kind of game, doesn't-know-she's-beautiful heroine that has plagued girls' stories forever. (I love Tangled, but you KNOW what I'm talking about).

In contrast, the hero of every Pixar movie is Just A Boy. He's not special, or handsome, or a lost prince or a particular personality. He's just a boy. He can drive the story and be the star and every kid can relate to him because he's not spelled out or limiting in any way. Boys in stories can be that, you see. Because most writers are men they create a kind of neutral, go-to story protagonist who's Everykid.  When those same writers create a girl, they are suddenly creating someone "different", who is not Everykid. Hence all the lost princesses, the beauties, or the tomboys.

Can we have girls that are just Everykids? 

Not princesses. Not beauties. Not tomboys. Just kids. Who are girls.

If you're not sure how to do that, try this:

Write your next movie, starring your usual boy hero. Then after you've written it go back and change all the pronouns from he, him and his to she, her and hers.

Then get your illustrators to make the smallest number of changes possible to change their drawing from a boy to a girl. It should just be a matter of face and hair, in most cases.

A girl wearing jeans is not a tomboy. She's just a girl wearing jeans.

Can you try that - maybe?

Because I think that would be very cool.

If you want to see what that might look like, please take a look at the only two movies I know of which have "neutral girl" protagonists:  Coraline and Matilda.

You know what though - even those two use the girl's name as the name of the movie, which I don't think they would if the star had been a boy, so they're not entirely neutral. (The girl's name as the story name means the girl is "special"). But within the movie itself, I think both of those get this right.

My daughter was at first curious, and is now increasingly irritated, at why every movie has a boy as "the kid" in it. When she asks me about it, or voices her irritation, that's one thing. But worse is when she is bewildered and even - not to over-dramatise what may seem a trivial issue - a little hurt by it, and she asks me why this is how things are. Then I have to explain things to her that I wish were not the truth, and I say "this will change" and I really hope it's changing already and she doesn't have to wait until she's grown up and write these movies herself for things to actually change.

I know there are more pressing problems in the world and compared to them this is not a big deal. But it's an annoying thing, and it should be easy to fix.

So, if you could give this a go (and NOT name the movie after the girl in it) it would be much appreciated here.

P.S. Can you also please pass this letter on to Dreamworks, Sony Pictures and Paramount when you're done.

Thanks very much.

Jackie, A and M.


  1. And rather a lot of writers too. As one example have you ever seen a male described as 'feisty'? And the dictionary definition doesn't specify gender, but I cannot remember ever seeing it used to describe a male.

    1. Oh yes. And I have never seen a klutzy male character who blushes, stammers or falls over in front of good-looking women...

  2. I'm waiting for a story with a female protagonist who is middle aged +, wrinkled, arthritic, crabby and post menopausal and is a love interest for a 25 year old male.....and she damned well better be 'feisty'.

  3. I've never given this any thought, just hadn't occurred to me, but you're right.
    I hope Pixar does get to read this somehow and things begin to change.
    Delores; Estelle Getty died already, otherwise she'd be the one. They'll have to find someone else.

  4. I've just been watching videos from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media this morning, so a very apt post to read. It is sadly too true. For every female speaking character in films, there are three male ones. In crowd scenes, only 17% of the crowd are female. Women are just not represented, and if the media changes then society will follow. They do have the power.

    1. Very true. Things definitely are better than they were, so we're getting there... slowly.



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