On Pixar and the lack of female protagonists

I love Pixar films. I have complete and unfettered adoration of every single film, long or short. I think they’re brilliant, absolutely original and always creative. They make me laugh out loud and cry like a baby and, as cheesy as it may sound, inspire me to be a better person.

However. Is it so much to ask to have a female protagonist in a Pixar film?

This is not to say that Pixar depicts female characters in a negative light, and/or neglects to feature them at all. It’s quite the contrary, in fact. The female characters in Pixar movies are confident, intelligent, witty, and undoubtedly play a central role in the films – and can most definitely be considered as positive role models.

But having said that, it’s difficult to justify Pixar’s film catalog once you realize that never, not once, has an illustrious Pixar journey been conquered by a female as the main character. Inherently, this is remarkably irresponsible and completely disappointing.

Yet still! According to Wikipedia, The Bear and the Bow is currently in production and will feature a female lead. It will also be produced and directed by women.

Although, as Sociological Images points out: “. . . this is Pixar’s ‘first fairy tale.’ So apparently though we get a female lead here, she’s of the spunky-princess type often found in fairy tales.”

Good point. The topic of the Pixar gender imbalance is not new – perhaps this new film is not based on the company’s organic story process, and instead on Pixar bending to criticism? Hopefully not, but it’s impossible to tell.

I’d be interested in finding out more in regards to a gendered profile of Pixar as company. Seeing the meaning behind the phrase “write what you know,” it would make sense that Pixar’s main characters are male if, in fact, most of the staff in directing/writing/producing positions are male. “Make sense” sounds like an attempt to justify the means, but I’d like to think it’s more of a way of trying to see where this came from in the first place in order to aid the problem at its core.

It’s an interesting discussion, at the very least, and I love Pixar so much that I’m nonetheless looking forward to how they continue to develop any and all female characters in their films. Pixar is in the position to change world views and perceptions, and have already successfully tackled some troubling issues, so here’s to seeing what the company has in store.


8 thoughts on “On Pixar and the lack of female protagonists

    • “Oh boy oh boy, a ball! I do want the ball! I do!”

      Absolutely adorable.

      But yeah, we finally get a female lead, and it’s going to be a princess? I’m trying to remain optimistic.

  1. Who cares what gender the protagonist is? I don’t recall WALL-E being male or female. It was a robot.

    The same thing can be argued about cars. They were vehicles. And before someone claims that “the voice actor for the protagonist was male” let me point out that several animated characters have voice actors of a different gender than the character. Bart Simpson’s voice acting is done by Nancy Cartwright. So, to claim that a car has a gender because of it’s voice actor is fallacious.

    People worry about the wrong things. Let’s focus more on health care reform, the demilitarization of North Korea or abolishing nuclear weapons (world hunger could also fit somewhere on this list).

    • Fair enough . . . but I would argue that these supposedly non-gendered characters (robots, cars) are nonetheless put across as inherently male or female. They have very specific male or female characteristics, and are referred to as him or her in the films (especially in Cars). If asked, any average person would likely respond saying that the “he” was the fast car that broke down in the small town and met “her,” the beautiful female car.

      But that’s true about Nancy Cartwright voicing Bart, and she provides the voice for Nelson and other juvenile male characters, which is always fun to witness.

      And while I agree with you that there are definitely bigger problems in the world, let’s not assume that I don’t personally worry and think about said problems just because I happen to post something about Pixar films on this particular blog.

    • “Who cares what gender the protagonist is? I don’t recall WALL-E being male or female. It was a robot.” Well, obviously, the blogger cares, or else she would not have written her post; You cared, otherwise you wouldn’t have replied. At least two people care.

      And, if you are so focused on health care reform or the demilitarization of North Korea, why the heck are you spending time on a blog posting entitled “On Pixar And The Lack of Female Protagonists”? If the topic is not important to you, just ignore it and move along.

      The blogger was just making the indisputible point that, to date, Pixar has yet to create a animated feature featuring a female lead character. 12 films and not a single one that explores a female’s journey or goals. What’s up with that?

  2. apparently pixar is working on a new film with a female protagonist set in scotland. i don’t have any more info about this except for a conversation i had with a friend of mine who works for them. he’s very excited about it.

  3. As an adult male, I have always found the heavy focus on male characters in most media, and in particular children’s films, to be very thoughtless, cheesy, and irresponsible.

    What perhaps bothers me more than the lack of female protagonists is the ridiculously skewed male to female ratio of characters (often it’s about 1 in 5 m:f). In addition, female characters are almost always relegated to the same roles – love interest, bossy brow-beater, or eagerly sacrificing mother/wife. It really speaks to the sexist undercurrent still present in our culture. The male=normal, female = special case nonsense needs to go.

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