Vesko J. sent in several images from “Bee Movie,” the cartoon with Jerry Seinfeld as the voice of the main bee character, Barry. He says:
Female bee workers exist in the movie, but are hardly visible (unless sexual presence is needed.) They can be seen only for a few seconds in the distant background and don’t have any lines of dialogue (as opposed to random male bee workers, who are clearly visible and have lines of dialogue).
Even the bees, that pollinate the flowers, are male. They are called “pollenjocks” and all the female bees fall for these strong, muscular, brave guys.
These are the pollenjocks. In case you didn’t know, it’s actually female bees who collect pollen.
The pollenjocks are big, muscular male figures who tower over the females, who, as far as I can tell, could be called pollengroupies. They aren’t really individuals with personalities; they exist as background to show how awesome the pollenjocks are. On the other hand, the female characters that are treated as individuals tend to be in the home, such as Barry’s mom. Barry’s love interest is not a female bee but a human female, a florist.
Now, I get it. It’s a kids’ movie, and there’s going to be a lot of anthropomorphizing and such. But how animals are anthropomorphized tells us a lot about our social assumptions and what we’re comfortable with. There’s no reason the worker bees’ sex has to be changed, except that it makes more “sense” to us that the hard-working providers would be male. The choices to make the males the center of the story, to make them bigger than the females, and to portray female bees as fawning groupies desperate for male attention tells us an awful lot about the gender stories we tell ourselves about humans, and that they’re important enough to us that even children’s movies have to recreate those stories, no matter how much fiddling with reality it takes. And even though this is an animated children’s movie about bees that talk, flirt, and wear clothes, I bet an awful lot of people will think the gender hierarchy in the movie is fairly accurate.
Thanks, Vesko!Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.