I’m a joyless feminist – Toy Story 3

Two nights ago I emerged from Toy Story 3 feeling inexplicably depressed. Actually, it wasn’t really inexplicable—I  just didn’t want to admit the source of my feelings: I have become the joyless feminist who can’t even enjoy Toy Story. I am that person.

I’m sick of apologising for it though. I don’t want to apologise anymore. 

I found Toy Story 3 depressing because of the lack of female characters. This was compounded by the advertisements that preceded the feature which were all for children’s movies—all of which had male central characters.  I don’t have kids so I’m not concerned for my kid. I’m concerned for girls and women. I’m concerned that, by omitting females or including them as mere tokens, popular culture tells girls and women over and over again that they aren’t as important and boys and men. I’m concerned that the representation of girls and women by the media is too narrow, and more often than not, negative.  I’m concerned that I’m writing this in 2010, when we’re supposed to ‘have equality’ by now. I’m really concerned by the negative comments posted in response to the Ms magazine review . The review is a good feminist analysis of what is wrong with Toy Story 3.

If I’m a joyless feminist, then so be it. If joyless feminists are the only ones pointing out that ‘blockbusters’ like Toy Story 3 are bad for girls, then the world needs more joyless feminists.

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12 responses to “I’m a joyless feminist – Toy Story 3

  1. I watched Toy Story 3, well, of them in fact, I found it disgusting, too. I have been complaining about this very thing all month long. My boyfriend is sick of it so I came on here to bitch about it. I can’t stand all the movies, you know? All the movies have male protaganists and female cahracters continue to be side characters. The value? Well, they are valued by their beauty and ability to commit to the almighty male. *Sigh*

    • womanvsfeminist

      Heather, I’m so glad you think so too. I know what you mean about your boyf being sick of you ‘complaining’. I haven’t even bothered talking to my partner about it because he would metaphorically roll his eyes. The blogosphere is a haven for feminists like us!

      I actually came home from watching toy story 3 and googled ‘toy story 3′ and ‘feminism’ in the hope that someone else had written about it, and was relieved to find the Ms magazine article!

  2. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » 7 Things I Disliked In Toy Story 3

  3. I officially join this club. Everyone I’ve pointed this out to has disagreed with me, saying that Barbie got to tie up Ken and threaten him, which somehow makes up for the fact that all the main characters are male.

  4. Oh, puh-lease! You have yourselves to blame, my dear joyless feminists. You see, pop culture isn’t permitted to portray women as anything except one of these: (1) incredibly smart, completely well-adjusted, and chronically put upon by an oafish male mate and their children; (2) tough “like a man,” meaning much tougher, much meaner than any male hero (you know — a bitch). Women can’t be portrayed as human beings who do stupid, selfish things, who sometimes get beat up (remember who got pounded, Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head? Even people who didn’t see the film know it has to be the Mr.), and who are anything but perfect.

    Women must be the model of feminist stardust wishfulness. And that is damn boring. That wouldn’t make a good film, at all. They’d have to shut down Hollywood if they were forced to make films with leads like that.

    But, you see, if MRS. Potato Head got beat up, you all would be protesting that. If women were portrayed as the bad “guys,” you’d protest that. If women were portrayed as incompetent or stupid, you’d protest that. So Hollywood knows it can’t win with a noisy, angry, self-righteous little group kicking it in the shins all the time.

    All pop culture walks on eggshells around women, thanks to joyless feminists, like you.

    • womanvsfeminist

      I don’t think you understand my point. I’m not complaining about how the female characters were depicted. I was criticising the lack of female characters in Toy Story, as well as in other movies. I actually thought Barbie and Mrs Potato Head were ok. Sure, most of the characters were cliches, female and male – but that’s often the case in movies. That’s not what my post is concerned with.

      In kids’ movies and television, there are TWICE the number of male characters to female characters on screen. Most children’s movies, including animations, have a male lead character. The females are usually support characters – there to support the male character’s story. To name a few children’s movies that have come out this year where this is the case – the Tooth Fairy, The Karate Kid, Mamaduke, Prince of Persia, How to Train your Dragon, Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. I can’t think of any recent children’s movies where this isn’t the case. I haven’t seen it, but Alice in Wonderland might be one. There is a fair amount of research going on with regards to how damaging this is for girls.

      There is systematic evidence that women and girls are deliberately and consistently avoided as central characters in movies.

      I don’t know what you mean by ‘model of feminist stardust wishfulness’. I’d hazard a guess that you don’t know what you mean either. I don’t want any ‘model’ of woman on the screen – I just want to see more.

  5. Oh wow, I thought I was the only person who say Toy Story 3 in this way. Maybe it’s because I grew up with the originals (oh my gods, I feel young) and didn’t notice the overwhelming sexism in them, but after watching the third one last night, it’s good to know that nothings changed at all since I was a little girl.

    ” saying that Barbie got to tie up Ken and threaten him, which somehow makes up for the fact that all the main characters are male.”

    This! It just reeks of tokenism and reversal of stereotypical bullshit.

    Pierce Harlan, fail comment is fail.

  6. Personally, I thought that Barbie, although the stereotype of a “Barbie” at first, used her femininity as a practical tool in getting Ken to admit what they had done to Buzz. I too, noticed the lack of female characters, but the female characters who did appear in the film had an equal part in solving the issues of the plot.

    • I don’t believe the females did have equal parts. Jessie followed Woody on a horse while he rescued the orphans from the train and then Buzz really rescued them from the train. At the end, Ken took over the day care as the leader while Barbie literally became a cheerleader in a short skirt and figuratively played First Lady.
      And before anyone says it, no, I don’t think there is anything wrong with cheerleaders or short skirts. Do I think there is something wrong with Woody’s plan (yes, he came in and told Barbie this was her job) in which Barbie had to use her femininity to hoodwink Ken as if sexuality is a female’s only power? YES!

  7. Oh, wow. I consider myself a feminist (and you can see me really angry and really annoyed about certain views on women on various forums), but I didn’t even think of Toy Story in that way. I thought it was just a story about friendship that targeted young boys… but that happened to be so well-received and so well-liked by most of the population that the creators had to pop out a sequel or two using the same premise.

    Also, I thought it was nice that they picked a little girl with an overactive imagination to be the next owner of Woody and the gang. Maybe someone should write the script for TS4 and it could have significantly more female characters just because of the ending of TS3. (Although on the other hand, I’ve always hated it when people try to capitalize on the success of a perfectly good movie and use the same title when the story has nothing to do with the original.)

    • womanvsfeminist

      Thanks for commenting Lisa. Interesting take on it. I like your idea for the ‘next’ toy story. I’d be very happy if TS4 came out with plotline that didn’t revolve around boys and men!

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