Wednesday, June 10, 2009


In between arguing about Raul Ibanez's relationship to both bloggers and steroids and laughing at the similarities between 30 Rock and The Muppet Show (it wouldn't at all surprise me, by the way, if 30 Rock manages to work in a reference to that blog post next season), the internet's been focused on deconstructing Pixar movies and What They Mean.

Is Pixar sexist, because their movies haven't featured a female protagonist? At least some people think so.

Is the Kevin character in UP, as Hunter Stephenson put it, "a Nod to the LGBT Movement?" Hunter Stephenson, obviously, thinks so.

Is Pixar even more sexist than we originally thought two paragraphs ago because their 2012 film, The Bear and the Bow, which finally features a female protagonist turns out to feature a female protagonist who is a princess? Linda Holmes thinks so.

It's important that people are thinking about what our contemporary fairy tales mean. Louis Althusser, in his essay Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, describes the ways in which a ruling class maintains it's hegemony: "However, it is not enough to ensure for labour power the material conditions of its reproduction if it is to be reproduced as labour power. I have said that the available labour power must be 'competent,' i.e. suitable to be set to work in the complex system of the process of production." He goes on to relate the ways in which the dominant culture inculcates it's values and ideologies, mentioning--in addition to the obvious ones like the army, police force, etc.--as examples of Ideological State Apparatusses:
  • the religious ISA (the system of the different Churches),
  • the educational ISA (the system of the different public and private "Schools")
  • the family ISA,
  • the legal ISA,
  • the political ISA (the political system, including the different Parties),
  • the trade union ISA,
  • the communications ISA (press, radio and television, etc.),
  • the cultural ISA (Literature, the Arts, sports, etc.)
So yes, our cultural artifacts, including kids' movies, matter.

But it's important to investigate them in the right way. With the exception of Stephenson's Kevin theory, the focus has shifted away from the movies themselves. Speculative grumblings about a movie that won't be released for thirty months doesn't help anyone. Holmes's post reflects almost entirely on herself and her feelings, which would be fine if it hadn't masqueraded as a comment on UP and Pixar's upcoming movies.

All this chatter only distantly related to the source material detracts from the film itself and what makes it special. The touching wordless montage retracing the steps of the Fredericksen marriage. The simple Pixar storytelling which is never simplistic. The rounded characters with motivations. The protagonist who--while not a woman--takes the form of an elderly gentleman. (What's the last animated film to do that?) The call for adventure.

What is readily evident in UP is quite good. There's no need to look at the film for what it is not.

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