It seems that Internet Personality Jason Kottke linked to my old Pixar post, thus sending quite a flood of readers and commenters my way. Thanks, Jason — I appreciate the attention!
Many of the people who have commented on or linked to that post have engaged meaningfully with my central arument: Pixar movies generally present a male=neutral, female=particular understanding of gender. I appreciate the feedback and the constructive criticisms offered in good faith. Some good points from commenters/friends/linking sites include:
- WALL-E has the potential to be gender subversive.
- The Incredibles might deserve more than 5/10. (This is a perfectly valid argument that hinges on criteria — I was thinking that 5/10 indicated balance and was a perfectly respectable score.)
- Reading these movies through other categories of analysis might also be fruitful.
Yet, there is one criticism I just can't wrap my head around. Several commenters (especially at sites that have linked to this one) have argued that Pixar movies are not appropriate texts for serious analysis. This generally takes the form of They're just kids' movies!!!! or Movies are just for entertainment!!!!, etc. These commenters usually accuse me of over-analyzing the films and/or projecting "gender issues" onto them. Occasionally, they accuse me of wanting to censor Pixar or enforce some sort of animation affirmative action policy.
These people are not arguing that my analysis is wrong, they are dismissing it on the grounds that Pixar movies can bear no serious analysis.
I firmly belive that cultural productions (movies, novels, art, clothing, furniture, architecture, etc.) embody cultural values and are appropriate texts for analysis. The idea that a movie is "just entertainment" makes no sense to me. A film's primary purpose can be to entertain or to make money for a studio, but it is also a rich cultural text.
Do these commenters go into museums and limit their comments on Monet to, "Ooh, pretty?" Do they read Longfellow and say, "Yay, it rhymes!" I know that my definition of "text" is fairly broad — as a material culture person, I believe that anything from hairstyles to bones in a trash pit can be read for cultural meaning — but surely we can all agree that fine art, books, and films can bear critical analysis, can't we?
By treating Pixar movies as serious texts, I mean them no disrespect —in fact, I would argue that I am showing them more respect than people who seem to think that they are mere baubles for distracting children (I also have a healthy respect for children and their capacity to look beyond "shiny"). Maybe people heard "criticism" and thought "hate" rather than "a meaningful engagement with the ideas presented in this piece of art."
What do you think? Are all artifacts fair game for cultural analysis? Or is a talking fish just a talking fish?