More thoughts.

I realize I like to do analyses of shows and movies, but I don’t really like doing traditional reviews (unless I can add some special insight or a different point of view). They just feel boring to do. And I don’t want to just blandly lay out the history of certain franchises either without inputting my perspective in it. I was going to do something like that for The Jungle Book but I got bored really fast. All you need to know is that I don’t like the third act of the original animated movie and I hate the vaguely separatist propaganda ending (but I enjoy everything else) and the 2016 remake is a cinematic masterpiece that everyone should watch (especially if you’re a Lupita Nyong’o fan). I kind of wanted to add an insight on why The Jungle Book was so beloved in part because it was the last film Walt Disney worked on, buy I couldn’t properly articulate myself so I stopped.

So this blog is mostly going to be me doing analyses. Because I get really creative and passionate when I analysis why a certain character is autistic or lgbt, or why one thing worked and one thing didn’t, etc. Doing reviews is just boring, unless I have something really vital to say.

While I will add some feminist perspective on things, I am not going to talk verbatim on why Disney is problematic. Basing your media criticism/analysis SOLELY on Disney is lazy as hell, and also boring after awhile. So I’m not going to go on and on about Disney having problems with race and gender because literally everyone else has said that. I want to add something new to the Disney Discourse table.

I don’t want to be just another brick in the wall. I want to be unique. I want to encourage people to look at things another way. Most of all, I want to express myself and enjoy it at the same time.

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Is Mulan Non-Binary?

NOTE: For this post, I am referring SOLELY to the Disney movie. 

Out of the official Disney Princesses, I think the one most popular among fans is Mulan. Her narrative doesn’t entirely drive on her getting a man, she can hold her own in a fight, saves an entire nation, and is pretty relatable in her own right.

But one thing I found out through Tumblr and other social media is that she is very popular with trans and non-binary people. To the point where a lot of people headcanon her as such. Yet I’m starting to wonder if she actually might be non-binary in canon.

We all know that in the movie she’s very socially awkward and very clever, but you’ll also notice she’s not very competent with interacting with men or women. She doesn’t seem to have any friends beyond her family and animal companions.

We see that she feels very uncomfortable being overly feminine. She looks almost horrified seeing herself made up in the mirror, and throughout getting dressed and ready she doesn’t look too happy. She’s only really doing it in the hope of getting her family honour (needing notes in order to feel prepared to present) but throughout the whole thing she is extremely uncomfortable (the runaway cricket didn’t help). And then when it all goes south, there comes the famous song.

On the surface, it’s a song about someone who doesn’t fit in and wants to find their place in the world, but take a close listen to the lyrics:

Now I see / that if I were truly to be myself /I would break my family’s heart /Who is that is that girl I see / staring straight back at me? / why is my reflection someone I don’t know / somehow I cannot hide who I am / though I try /when will my reflection show /who I am inside? 

And the first thing she does is take off her makeup and look at herself with confusion and sadness. But it’s now starting to sound a lot like a coming out (trans/non-binary) song.

You can listen to both the original and the extended Christina Aguilera versions with the lyrics HERE, but with lyrics like “and be loved for who I am” “I can’t fool my heart” “Must I pretend that I’m someone else for all time” and “Must there be a secret me that I’m forced to hide”.

Like…that sounds a lot more passionate and beyond just someone sick of traditional gender roles. It actually sounds like a woman coming to grips with the fact that she’s q*eer/not a real ‘woman’ and it’s tearing her up in side.

Then, when Mulan begs her father not to go to war, he tells her “I know my place! It is time you learned yours!”, she gets beyond upset. I think what’s important to note is that she doesn’t just go to her room; she hides by her family’s dragon statue in the rain. This scene can double as being both scared and sad for her father and feeling like she no longer belongs with her family.

Yet because she still loves and is loyal to her family (the original story was about familial piety, and it’s still relevant in the movie) she decides to take her father’s place. When she joins the soldiers, she learns that she’s not comfortable with masculinity either. She becomes good at learning to fight and be a soldier and seems to like it well enough, but she doesn’t like actually being a man, and finds a lot of manly habits weird and gross.

She fights and succeeds in the war, but is immediately outed in a very invasive way (a pretty common narrative in a lot of stories with trans characters). She is soon shunned and left on her own. That’s when she delivers this line:

“Maybe I didn’t go for my father. Maybe what I really wanted was to prove I could do things right. So when I looked in the mirror, I’d see someone worthwhile. But I was wrong. I see NOTHING!”

Depression and self image issues are very common with LGBT people, and while Mulan shows signs of it throughout the movie, this scene, where Mulan has essentially failed as both a man and a woman, is really poignant in hindsight.

When Mulan decides to go defeat the Huns once and for all and gets the help of her friends, she is shown somewhere between being masculine and feminine; she wears a simpler blue dress that she can still fight in, keeps her hair short, and has no makeup. She also manages to use both the sword and the fan to defeat Shan Yu. It’s at the climax, when she is accepted and seen for a hero, when she realizes that she doesn’t have to be either a man or a woman. She can be both. She can be neither.

And ultimately, when she comes home, her family accepts her for who she is. The film ends with Mulan happy with who she is and starting to get to know Shang more without immediately rushing into a relationship with him (another potential piece of evidence of her being q*eer, since during the 90s, every Disney female lead would end up in a relationship with a man at the end).

As you can see, there’s a very valid interpretation of Mulan being a q*eer narrative. And given how Beauty and the Beast has more or less been confirmed to be a q*eer narrative (since Howard Ashman, who was a gay man dying of AIDS, was heavily involved with the story and characters in addition to the songs), it’s not completely out of the question.

Now, a lot of people will have different interpretations. Some people would like to see Mulan solely as a story about a woman defying gender roles and being empowered. Others might say that Mulan’s three male friends dressing in drag is transmisogynistic and therefore would hurt a q*eer narrative for Mulan herself. Others still might say seeing Mulan as non-binary is culturally insensitive, though the movie itself isn’t really culturally or historically accurate, and non-binary genders in China do exist (and in the original poem, Mulan says “How can they tell I am he or a she?”; make what you will of that). And, ultimately, Disney has yet to come out and say if she’s non-binary.

Yet what’s important is that Mulan, no matter what gender she is, has inspired so many people. She has helped trans and non-binary people feel valid, helped cis women feel empowered, and provided a cool and unconventional female lead for cis men. She is a great role model for people of all genders, and that’s what matters the most.

 

Your Fave is Autistic Part 3: The Big Hero 6 Team

(Yes, all of them. Even the robot. Buckle up!)

File:BigHero6Team2.jpg

I’ve made it no secret that I love this movie to my very core. In addition to being a fantastic movie in it’s own right, the characters STRONGLY resonate with me. I mentioned before how this movie makes me feel validated as a person with mental health issues, but I have to say, as a person with autism, I can TOTALLY see myself in each of these characters. The way I see it, the movie is about a group of people with ASD finding each other and becoming close friends and being superheroes together. You can see why this movie is my fave now. And here’s my proof. As a preface, apparently scientists are starting to find a link between prodigies and autism (which all the characters are), and they are all hyperfixated on a special skill which they integrate into their superheroics. That’s the first major clue. I’ll break down each character.

HIRO HAMADA

A lot of people see Hiro as autistic, and for good reason. For starters, his looks. His hair is disheveled, he has crooked and gapped teeth and he doesn’t have a wide range of clothes, staying with loose, comfy clothes. This is common for a lot of autistic people; certain clothes and textures can be seriously uncomfortable, and putting time and effort into their appearance and hygenie can be difficult (brushing my hair is an absolute nightmare, and when I had to have braces, it wasn’t pleasant). There’s also the fact that while he is very smart and talented, he LOVES robots. He fixates on them. He has a passion for them. There’s also the fact that he has no friends (the lack of social skills, plus the fact that he’s a genius probably didn’t help) but he’s VERY close to his brother and his aunt. When he does have friends, his closest and best friend is a robot (for some autistic people it’s easier to bond with nonhuman companions) and his other best friends are all older than him (for me, I find it way easier to connect with older people than my peers; I wouldn’t be surprised if other autistic people feel the same way). He also runs his hands through his hair and uses his hands a lot (a way of stimming). He has trouble getting used to new ideas and routines (he doesn’t feel like he wants  to go to college because what’s the point) but once he finds the new thing he likes he gets very attached to it, almost hyperactively. He is also shown as being obsessive (very common for autistic people), which, in addition to his grieving and his depression (a common comorbidity), explains a lot of his actions. I also like to see it as being related to him being hypersensitive/hyper-empathetic. It’s entirely possible that autism could run in his family, as both Aunt Cass and Tadashi are very expressive with their hands and jump around when they’re excited (I’m not going to focus on them in this post since Cass doesn’t have a lot of screen time and Tadashi dies, so yeah). In short, there’s a lot of room to support Hiro being autistic, and because he’s the main character and portrayed as multifaceted, complex, and sympathetic, it’s really wonderful.

GOGO

Out of all the teammates, she is the one who talks the least. And when she does talk, she sounds different, like it’s difficult for her. It’s entirely possible she started as a nonverbal autistic person and only learned to speak later in life (and it’s possible that English wasn’t her first language either), and she’s short, slightly disjointed, to the point, and very blunt and honest. While she definitely emotes she’s not as expressive as the rest of the teammates; some autistic people have trouble copying, using, or identifying expressions. She is also heavily fixated on the need for speed and chews gum a lot (rarely throwing it out). This can be her way of stimming, like flapping and pacing around. I think Gogo might be a bit more lower-functioning that the rest, but she is seen visibly caring for Hiro and is definitely not incapable.

WASABI

A lot of people (both jokingly and seriously) have said that Wasabi has OCD, and to be fair that could be true, as OCD is a common comorbidity with autism (I should know, it’s one for me). Wasabi is shown liking routines and rules to help him function, makes sure everything is neatly organized and gets extremely agitated when those things are disrupted. He needs a plan for everything that makes sense and gives him something to do and keep him calm. It can also be argued that he wears special armour that he’s more comfortable with. He also gets irritated easily with certain sounds (mainly Fred’s singing). He is very precise, is intelligent with physics, and is shown to be adept at wielding lazer blades (which can be seen as a way for him to stim).

HONEY LEMON

This woman is so fascinated with chemistry that she can input chemical equations to create chem-balls on the fly. That says a lot. She loves to bounce (again, there’s a stim/special form of excitement) and she always wears heels (probably another way for her to stim by constantly being on her toes, and/or it could be the best way for her to be comfortable). She’s very affectionate and loves encouraging and being supportive of people, is very sociable and takes a lot of selfies, which almost certainly points to her having hyper-empathy.

FRED

Now this might be cheating a little bit because Fred is sort of implied to be a stoner, but the evidence of him being autistic is still there. He has the special interest/knowledge and hyperfixation of things again, only this time it’s with comics and media. He LOVES media and applies his knowledge of it in real life, just like me (and probably lots of other autistics)! He also comes across as weird and says some silly things when he gets really happy and excited, but I’m pretty sure he’s not alone in that regard. His fave thing ever is kaiju monsters, to the point where he’s totally comfortable wearing a kaiju suit for extended periods of time. He’s also shown loving to jump real high, is very good with waving signs, and points a lot, which are all clues of him stimming and having special habits. He also dresses in loose clothing and rarely wears different clothes (he’s so attached to one shirt that it has holes in it) and doesn’t like changing his underwear every day. But I think he is also hyper-empathetic and hypersensitive; when bad or sad things happen, he always looks like he’s on the verge of tears (when it looks like Baymax is gone forever, we don’t get to see his face; I think he was actually crying). Some more great headcanons for an autistic Fred can be read HERE.

BAYMAX

Okay this is definitely cheating because he’s a robot, but honestly, I couldn’t help but see a lot of mannerisms common in autistic people in him. He has a limited range in voice and expressions and gestures, has a specific way of greeting people (always wave and say “Hello I am Baymax your personal healthcare companion”), is very knowledgeable in safety and medical treatments and relays textbook information, and has trouble understanding certain things (why he has to do certain things, what’s the fist bump for) but once he knows them he integrates it into his life. I know this part was probably not intentionally, but I couldn’t help catch similarities between him and some autism mannerisms. Which, for me, is what makes the bond between him and Hiro even more special.

In conclusion, the entire BH6 team is autistic or at least coded to be neurodivergent and it is awesome and glorious. It also shows how you can have positive portrayals of autistic/neurodivergent people without resorting to stereotypes.

And this is why I love this movie so much.

JSYK to people following/viewing my blog:

I keep having drafts for top ten/five/twenty lists of faves, but after some thought, I’m probably not going to finish and post them all. It’s a surprisingly lot of work and effort, and it’s kind of nerve wracking finding a perfect order of faves from most to least and explaining why. So, except maybe for special occasions, I’m going to stop doing them. I think it’s easier if I just make an appreciation post or analysis of my fave things.

Speaking of analysis, expect those (especially my “Your Fave is Autistic Series”) to come at a haphazard schedule. Sometimes I can be very analytical and thoughtful, others times, not so much. So it’s going to depend on how my day goes I guess.

I’ll try to keep this blog as active as I can, though. I really love wordpress and writing, and I want to make the most of it.

In the meantime, PLEASE go through my categories and check out some of my work. I’d really appreciate it.

Thanks! 😀

The Polarizing Cauldron

A long time ago, after Walt Disney died, his company, then going through tough times, bought the film rights to The Chronicles of Prydain book series by Lloyd Alexander. After several years of development hell and executive meddling, a film based on the series (really a compression of the first two books, leaving out a lot of important characters and plots) was released in 1985, titled The Black Cauldron, in an attempt to bring back the glory days of Disney after several decent to mediocre films released at a snail’s place (and to try to appeal to the teen demographic). It bombed drastically. Disney quickly swept it under the rug and tried to forget about it for over a decade until enough fans urged for its release in 1998. Today, it is mostly remembered for the terrifying villain and how bad a bomb it was and is either loved by Disney fans or detested by them.

When I was a child, I loved the shit out of this movie. I know a lot of people think that this movie is bad for kids, but honestly, I think it’s a great movie for kids (well, kids who don’t get scared very easily, of course). It’s a sword-and-sorcery adventure with simple, straightforward storytelling. It has the dastardly villain, a pretty princess, a young hero, goofy sidekicks, peril, and action. Perfect kid’s stuff, to be honest. Nowadays? It doesn’t quite hold up for me (once our plucky heroes escape the villain’s castle, the pacing gets worse and we’re introduced to characters and settings that don’t really fit the rest of the film), but it still holds a place in my heart. And of course, it’s also fascinating to read about its troubled production history (you can start here HERE and HERE) and some of its analyses/reviews.

There are a lot of criticisms for this film, and I think the main one (besides the conventional, uneven plot, questionable content [there’s a Romani stereotype and a shot of a frog in a woman’s cleavage!] and less than stellar animation) is that the heroes aren’t very likable. For a lot of people, Gurgi is irritating (he never personally bothered me, though his design is seriously underwhelming, it tries too hard to be cute), Taran is annoying and doesn’t actually do anything compelling, and overall the cast is underdeveloped. But I think most people will agree that The Horned King is awesome and scary. Sometimes  I can’t help but feel the movie would’ve been more interesting if he was given more of a focus. Who is he? Where did he come from? Why does he hate the living so much? How did he get all these minions to serve him? He’s the only character non-fans truly remember from this movie, which says a lot about the actual protagonists.

That said I think one of the main reasons this movie is such a base breaker among the fandom is that, in a sense, it’s almost the ANTI Disney film. Think about it: in almost every Disney animated movie (or at least, the ones we remember and love), the hero has a defined goal. They aren’t satisfied with where they are and their current situation, so they seek to change it. If they’re good, they get their wish, contrasting their villains, who also have goals but seek them out by hurting people. They either become true heroes or get rewarded by being kind. Seeing their happy ending after going through their hardships is what makes their respective films worthwhile and resonate with audiences. That is not the case for Taran. He goes through a lot of hardships and horror with little to no relief, is constantly told what he’s doing won’t work, and by the end of the movie, he openly admits that he’s no hero and that he’s better off being a farmhand. Ultimately it’s his friends that lead him to find fulfillment, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if some viewers would feel a little cheated. What’s especially interesting about this fact is that, in the books, Taran actually does become a king and rises to greatness, though with some sacrifices (I haven’t actually read the books, I should hop to it soon, so for here I’m just going to talk about what I have researched). The fact that the film has an overall dark (and in some cases depressing) tone probably didn’t help. For some fans, this was all an interesting departure from Disney conventions; for others, it was too much.

Because of all this, it’s no surprise that Disney wants to forget about this particular film (I’m pretty sure there was a time, not so long ago, when they promised to release the film on Blu-Ray in the summertime, but then went back on that without warning, and only re-released it on a bare bones DVD for its 25th year anniversary in the fall). What is NOT excusable, however, is the fact that Disney is doing absolutely nothing with their film rights to the series as a whole.

Again, I must stress that I have yet to read these books. But from what I know, they’ve actually been very well received, with the last book in the series being awarded a Newbery Medal. What’s stopping Disney from doing something with these books now? Are they too afraid the bad reputation of their animated movie will hurt it? That seems kind of fickle, considering how most of the general public probably doesn’t even know it exists or believes it was just a bad dream/vague memory. They could make an ABC series out of it. Or, dare I say it, remake the animated film into a live action movie that is longer and is more faithful to the books.

That is not a far-fetched idea. Just look up all the live action remakes Disney has announced thus far. (I’m not going to bother listing them because Disney will probably keep announcing more and more.) Look at how much the remakes they’ve actually released are doing financially. I don’t think it’s entirely out of the question to breathe new life into a film that initially didn’t do so well but still has its potential and revive an old classic book series.

Because that’s what remakes SHOULD be about; breathing new life into things that had potential but was squandered before it got the chance to truly shine. While remaking films like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast may offer a nice new perspective of a classic story for contemporary audiences, its the animated films that we’ll always remember and love.

However, I have read that the reason why these remakes exist is because the copyrights to their animated films are expiring so they need to make new content so no one else can. If that’s true (and to be fair it does make sense; it’s easier to accept that than them just picking and choosing films at random to remake just for a quick buck), it’s entirely possible Disney WANTS their rights to The Black Cauldron to expire so someone else can deal with it.

The Black Cauldron didn’t quite get the respect and effort it deserved during production and was doomed from the start. But that doesn’t mean it has to be forever scorned. The film could’ve been great and was screwed over initially and it deserves a second chance to become something everyone can appreciate. Though that might just be wishful thinking. But hey, according to Disney, wishes do come true, so who knows? I’m just not expecting it to come true anytime soon.

Oh wait. 

My Top Ten Animated Shows

I must confess, it is much harder for me to watch shows (be it animated or live action) than movies because TV shows tend to be very long, hard to find, and I can sometimes lose interest. So, when I’m able to watch a show and actually stick with it, it becomes very special to me. Here are some of my faves (this time, I will include anime because honestly I don’t have enough ultimate fave American animated shows to make a top ten list). Here we go!

Continue reading “My Top Ten Animated Shows”

Rant: My Problem With Pixar

Warning: serious criticisms towards popular Pixar films. If you can’t handle that, don’t read. This post will likely also go through several revisions, so try not to take EVERYTHING to heart. 

As a child, I absolutely adored the vast, creative world of Pixar. With lush animation, fun and often compelling characters, intricate worlds, and original stories, it was the perfect outlet to satisfy my love of imagination in animated form.

But even as a child (re: as a little girl), I had one major problem that nagged me and wouldn’t go away, no matter how much I loved these movies (and the creative forces behind them).

Where were all the female leads? From 1995 all the way to 2011, all of Pixar’s films had been led by male characters (either white male human characters or anthropomorphic objects and animals coded to be male). Yes, there were awesome female secondary and supporting characters (some of my favourites including Atta, Edna, and Jessie), but it still irked me that there wasn’t a character like them who could be the main star.

So, when Brave was announced for 2012, I was hyped as hell. Pixar was finally going to have a female character in the starring role! And from the looks of the trailers, this female character kicks ASS. Oh boy, this is going to be amazing and wonderful and…

Oh, they (the all-male team of executives) kicked off Brenda Chapman (who envisioned the film in the first place and was going to be Pixar’s first female director) due to creative disagreements and replaced her with a man? Well, okay, at least she’s still credited as a co-director. Plus it’s entirely possible that she’s not the best person to work with. Not to mention she previously worked at DreamWorks Animation (aka Pixar’s biggest rival), so that could have added some tension for all I know. No matter, let’s see how the film plays out!

Ah yes, a lovely movie about the relationship between mother and daughter. And Merida’s a pretty interesting character, though maybe not the badass I originally thought her to be. Still, the movie managed to deliver not one, but TWO well-written female characters with a great relationship and didn’t totally rely on sexist tropes. Great! Except…

Well, I’m not the first one to point out that the film doesn’t exactly have a well-crafted story. Of course, just before this film, Pixar had created the much-maligned Cars 2 (which had come out right after the masterpieces Up and Toy Story 3), so it’s possible that Pixar’s creative juices were starting to slow down. However, one must wonder what Brave would have been like had Brenda Chapman (who based the story off of her relationship with her daughter) not been kicked off the project. One also wonders why Pixar chose to replace her with a man and not another female director (they are rare, but they do exist) to try to (arguably haphazardly) recreate her original film. In fact, why did this have to happen for their first female-centric film? And how come in the end they delivered a movie that is rather underwhelming for Pixar standards? Especially when they needed to patch up their damaged reputation after Cars 2?

Oh well, even if the film itself wasn’t the best (or at least, the best of Pixar), it still managed to deliver two great female leads. Merida was bratty and brash at first, but matured, realized the errors of her ways, and chose to make amends with her mother, Queen Elinor, who, despite being a bear for most of the film, was still a multifaceted character in her own right. That’s pretty impressive, especially given Pixar’s track record of making so many male-centric films.

Then I watched Wreck-It Ralph.

I know feminist critiques for Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 2012 film range from favourable to unfavourable, but if you asked me, I must admit, I found Wreck-It Ralph more empowering and—dare I say it—feminist than Brave. I could go on for hours on end why I love it so much, but for now, I’ll focus on one very crucial aspect: the character of Vanellope Von Schweetz.

Vanellope is a little girl character who, despite being programmed to be a princess, has her position of power forcibly revoked from her (by an older man no less), most of her memories swiped clean, and is pigeonholed into a position of essentially poverty and is made into a glitch in her own game. She faces what is implied to be several years of bullying, hatred, and neglect from absolutely everyone in her world, and is forbidden from racing (even though she only tries to do so to become a respected member of society). Everyone assumes that she will never be able to control or to maintain her ‘glitching’ and is therefore undeserving of a second chance. Yet despite all the odds, she perseveres, becomes snarky yet still optimistic rather than cynical or downright aggressive and loathing, and does whatever she can to make her dreams come true. When she forms a great relationship with the titular character, she slowly becomes a sweeter person. She is confident in who she is and who she wants to be, decides on her own to maintain her glitching, and ultimately saves her friend, fulfills her role as the greatest racer of her game, and chooses to become a president rather than a princess and keeps a close relationship with her male friend and reconnects with her citizens. She is not a supporting character or sidekick; I argue that she shares the role of ‘protagonist’ with Wreck-It Ralph himself.

Holy shit! Where has this character been all my life? Speaking as someone who has felt often felt awkward, out of place, and also ‘glitches’ when I get very upset or very excited, I could have used this character growing up.

And here’s where the biggest paradox comes in. While Merida is still a character I love to death, it does feel irksome how her main conflict at first revolved around her trying to avoid getting married and feeling out of place in traditionally femininity. That’s not necessarily bad, but Vanellope’s conflict doesn’t feel as gendered; the fact that Vanellope is a girl makes the conflict more compelling and interesting, but it doesn’t totally depend on her being one.

So what’s my main point, you may ask?

Merida feels like a character that could arguably be more at home at WDAS, the company that has been widely decried as reinforcing old story formulas and rigid gender roles and stereotypes and only taking baby steps to progress. Yet Vanellope, whose character is very groundbreaking in more ways than one, could arguably be more at home at Pixar, a company that has been widely praised for being innovate in story and characterization.

As you can see, this would boggle my mind. I should be extremely excited for Pixar finally making something that many feminists absolutely adore. Why do I feel more empowered from and satisfied with another film? Why does the Disney film feel more original and progressive than the Pixar film? Brave winning the Oscar for Best Animated Film only added to my confusion and frustration; on one hand, I’m glad that a female-centric film with a female director got awards and recognition, but on the other hand, Wreck-It Ralph had a better crafted story and arguably better female characters, and one wonders if Brave even won for its merits or if the Academy just picked the Pixar film (or the only animated film with a female lead to prove a point, if you know what I mean) of the year. Was it really a victory for feminism and Pixar?

So, that kind of soured my taste in Pixar a bit. But no matter, they could improve later on, right?

Unfortunately, no. Because right after Brave they released Monsters University, a movie which, while enjoyable and did have a great moral, did not garner the same praise as its predecessor, Monsters Inc. (a movie I hold dear to my heart). But what bothered me about this film is that, in addition to proving that Pixar hasn’t quite gotten its creative mojo back, is that, right after the  portrayal of women in Brave, it becomes…really uncomfortably sexist.

For starters, the cast is almost entirely male-dominated. Celia and Boo are nowhere to be seen, Roz makes a brief cameo, Dean Hardscrabble desperately needed more screen-time, and Sheri Squibbles, while funny and likeable, serves mostly as supportive comic relief (and nothing else). Worse still, there’s an entire sorority team of female monsters that all look exactly the same and fall into the negative (and overused) stereotype of ultra-girly, ultra-spoiled, vapid brats. The other sorority teams and female characters have no real development and one-dimensional characterization, and there’s even a(n unnecessary) scene where Sulley does his ‘cool shtick’ of pointing at someone and making clicking noises at two passing female monsters. It’s mostly inoffensive, but as someone who has men make rude noises at me, it struck a bit of a personal nerve.

What the hell? You were finally starting to make progress with Brave, why did you regress so drastically? I tried to keep my hopes up for the studio, but things only started to get worse.

I kept hearing cringe-worthy news on how a film initially slated for 2014, The Good Dinosaur, was going through major developmental and story problems, to the point where it was pushed to late 2015, the original director (Bob Peterson) was kicked off midstream in August 2013 and a new director (Peter Sohn) wasn’t announced until October 2014. After the fiasco with Brave and its creators, I wasn’t holding my breath that Sohn (Pixar’s first non-white director) and crew would be able to properly construct a good film.

What finally reinforced the bitter taste in my mouth was Inside Out. For starters, something is wrong when your very first trailer relies on showing clips of your previous works in an attempt to say “You liked us before, please like us again!”; then you show that all your main characters rely on gendered stereotypes, from Sadness being fat, Joy being pretty, youthful, and skinny, Disgust being vain and haughty, Fear being emasculated and Anger being an aggressive male.

In fact why are there any males in this cast in the first place? This is taking place inside a little girl’s head, and, unless Pixar is bold enough to actually make Riley non-binary, none of these emotions in this character’s head should be male. Putting that aside, though, the whole concept was really disconcerting in more ways than one. According to the trailer, everyone is ruled by five basic emotions that dictate people’s thoughts and actions. So…how are you going to explain autism, neurodivergent people, and people with mental disabilities and mental health issues? Speaking as someone who is on the autism/PDD-NOS spectrum and has had experiences with anxiety and depression, I’m not sure if I like the idea that five little people inside my brain are the ones deciding that I don’t like myself, or that I NEED to do this in order to be stimulated or relax, and so on. It would be one thing if it the movie implied it was JUST Riley personifying these five emotions in her head, but the film purports that everybody’s brain works a similar way. Sorry, that’s not how it works. There are ways of showing children how emotions, personalities, and inner thoughts work without resorting to a simplistic and potentially offensive and harmful degree, especially when Riley is described more as a set piece for the emotions than a character actually going through emotional problems.

The first major peek of the film had an abundance of even MORE gendered stereotypes, from the intuitive but subdued Mom whose ruling emotion is sadness to the aggressive Dad who seems disinterested in his family to the exotified Brazilian pilot whom the Mom wishes she had…gross.

Then Pixar released the second, official trailer. From what I could discern, Joy (the ruling emotion) and Sadness (the perpetual fuck-up, apparently) get lost inside Riley’s head, and the rest of the emotions have to pilot Riley while they try to find their way back. Under normal circumstances, I’d be thrilled (two distinct women going on an adventure together, yay!), but in this case, I couldn’t. Not (just) because of the fact that the trailer includes a gay joke (“There are no bears in San Francisco” “I saw a really hairy guy, and he looked like a bear”) and Pixar has yet to actually include an explicitly LGBT character, but the fact that, on their journey, Joy and Sadness end up accessing (and potentially damaging/altering) Riley’s thoughts, memories, and emotions.

Let me make this clear: as someone who suffers from severe mental health problems (in addition to my aforementioned diagnosed disorders), the idea of these sentient forces beyond my control messing with my brain is really, very, fucking, HORRIFYING. Like I can accept chemicals in my brain malfunctioning, or even a concept of how my body, mind, and soul are at war with one another, because it’s either still me who’s in charge or a biological force with no ulterior motive. But five little people controlling my every aspect and the slightest flub can severely mess me up? That came dangerously close to honest to goodness triggering me.

But, I decided to give the movie a go. Everybody was loving it, so I figured I might as well see it. Well, while my suspicions weren’t entirely correct, it still did one thing to piss me off: instead of focusing on the actual character with supposed mental health problems (Riley) and exploring how she overcomes them, we focus on this ridiculous adventure of two very unlikable characters (Joy was incredibly mean and controlling, and Sadness was more of a plot device than an actual character) messing around with her mind, we can’t tell how much control Riley actually has, and in the end everything is all better after some hugs and tears. THAT’S IT? Wow. I’m sorry. I’m tired. I’m bitter.

If this is a movie about mental health, it does a terrible job at it. I hate how, in order to sympathize with people (especially women) going through serious mental health issues, we can’t actually deal with and sympathize with the character; we have to see them through a neurotypical-friendly lens. Instead of focusing on a little girl going through trauma and hardship, we need to go inside her head through five hideous and annoying ’emotions’ that seem more like separate entities than extensions of her. Riley isn’t treated like an actual person going through a difficult time; she’s a vehicle for other characters who do a terrible job at keeping someone mentally healthy in an incredibly bland and boring landscape. But it’s okay, we won’t ACTUALLY focus on the mental health and the recovering process, we’ll just make it a silly adventure for the kiddies! Can you imagine what Frozen and Big Hero 6 would be like if, instead of actually looking at the characters of Hiro and Elsa as actual characters and witnessing them dealing with their mental issues, we kept going inside their minds and finding out they’re not REALLY angry and sad, it’s people inside their brains saying so? As you can see, I don’t like this movie. Not one bit. And I wouldn’t mind so much if this movie was looked as solely as a story about puberty and growing up (which makes more sense and makes the film MUCH less problematic), but SO MANY PEOPLE are praising it as the beacon of depicting mental health correctly, which ultimately cements my distaste for it. (Even if most people understood that it was a movie about growing up, I’m still uncomfortable that we can’t actually focus on Riley and the emotions aren’t very good characters; and if the movie is about how sadness is a necessary emotion, the director made a sweeping statement on how too many people take medications to not feel sad. You can understand how I might have a problem with that. Not to mention people who do feel sad all the time don’t need to be told that sadness is necessary.)

The final nail on the coffin came with the release of The Good Dinosaur. Like…what is this movie? It’s literally nothing but a serious of events where Arlo gets beaten, bitten, bruised, threatened, traumatized, knocked out, or otherwise hurt or scared. How is that entertaining? This movie could’ve been redeemed if he actually got to stay with Spot and we could actually explore a potential idea of humans and dinosaurs working together, but nope, we can’t have that apparently. Not to mention, again, the cast is male dominated. And with that, my unquestionable love for Pixar evaporated.

Basically, I’m really disappointed in Pixar at this rate. They have the power to marry awesome storytelling, themes, morals and animation with awesome representation of women and minority groups, and I’m so very TIRED of seeing them ultimately not bothering. Female representation is still flimsy, racial diversity is practically nonexistent (Frozone, Mirage, and Russell are the only prominent characters of colour from Pixar I can name off the top of my head, and you wouldn’t know that Edna Mode was half Japanese until you checked out the supplementary material), fat and disability representation are few and far between and aren’t always flattering (it’s a little upsetting when the more respectful depictions of disabilities are handled with talking fish, and do we NEED Mr. Incredible’s weight to be the constant butt of jokes?), and it’s really sad when fans speculating that Edna is a trans woman because she’s voiced by a man and that two cars are gay because they spend so much time side by side is the only smidgen of LGBT+ representation (that people will argue isn’t even representation in the first place) you can crank out, especially when we live in a world where other shows and movies aimed at younger audiences are trying to incorporate inclusion given their restrictions. Don’t even get me started on the lack of mental illness representation. It says a lot when Walt Disney Animation Studios (the people behind the classics from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to Zootopia), which has frequently been labelled as racist, sexist, homophobic, fat-phobic, ableist, etc., somehow manages to have more visibility of minority/marginalized groups than Pixar, even if they aren’t the best portrayals.

I’m not saying that I completely hate Pixar or look at their past works with scorn. Many of them will forever remain my favourites and are classics in their own right. But I must admit that I can no longer hold them to as high a value as I did before, and I can’t really get excited for any of their new films unless they do something honestly groundbreaking. Like making a film about a well-written, multifaceted, likable and uniquely designed woman of colour going on adventures with all the humour, heart, and creative storytelling that we’ve come to expect for Pixar (and whose mental issues are dealt with respectfully). But since we’ve proven to Pixar that we’re satisfied with reserving that for white or nonhuman men, I won’t hold my breath.