Amanda M. and Lisa C. both submitted a recent Toy Story 3-themed commercial for Visa, pointing out how nice it is to see the Buzz Lightyear character advertised to girls.
I won’t disagree that it’s nice that girls are being included in the marketing for Toy Story 3 (especially as the movie appears to be as boy-centric as most), but I don’t see it as revolutionary. In fact, because we largely value masculine characteristics and pursuits, the idea that girls would be interested in boy things (like space travel) is generally regarded as cute, neat, or even awesome (this is why I like to order bourbon neat on a first date — impresses the men every time). The problem is that the reverse is not true. Because we devalue feminine characteristics and pursuits, we rarely respond to boys’ experimentation with girly things in the same way. In that case, it’s worrisome, strange, or even grotesque. We call the valuing of masculinity over femininity “androcentrism.”
So I would argue that this particular advertisement actually fits nicely with the source of gender inequality today: a devaluation of feminine things at the same time that women are required to perform some degree of femininity (the girl in the commercial is still girly, wearing baby blue, a skirt, and hugging Buzz delightedly before she blasts him off). Of course, this means that men’s life options are narrower than women’s because they have to avoid the stigma of femininity (and that must suck, truly), but at least the things men are restricted to doing and being are valued (both abstractly and with money).
More posts on androcentrism: “woman” as an insult, good god don’t let men wear make up or long hair, don’t forget to hug like a dude, saving men from their (feminine) selves, men must eschew femininity, dinosaurs can’t be for girls, and sissy men are so uncool.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
DonBoy — July 11, 2010
There's way more fodder for this site in the film itself. There's a whole bunch of stuff that riffs on the old idea that Ken (as in Barbie and Ken) is really gay; but in this kind of movie, all it can be is "Ken acts more like a girl than Barbie does! Isn't he silly?"
Syd — July 11, 2010
I want to say that Toy Story isn't really boy-centric as it is neutral (the main human character is a boy, so his favorite toys are male, but there are also prominent female toys in his collection, and of course, the movie is about the toys), but that makes me think. It is slightly boy-centric (though much more neutral that typical movies, without any obvious slant), and we still take that as neutral. Had the movie been more or less the same, but with Jessie and Barbie as the main characters and Woody and Buzz as main secondary characters, and instead of Andy's blue-cloud room, took place mostly in Molly's pink room, would it be seen as a neutral movie for any kid, or a 'girl movie?'
Kelly — July 11, 2010
If I read you right, you're saying a movie with mostly boy toys being the main characters and a coded-boy room and boy hero is "neutral"*, and you claim this scenario would be seen as "neutral" as well by a majority of our culture:
"Had the movie been more or less the same, but with Jessie and Barbie as the main characters and Woody and Buzz as main secondary characters, and instead of Andy’s blue-cloud room, took place mostly in Molly’s pink room, would it be seen as a neutral movie for any kid, or a ‘girl movie?’"
Absolutely it would be seen, by many, as a "girl movie", and many of our boys are socialized to find such a movie beneath them, and many fathers/mothers/carers would heavily police their boy-children NOT to like nor bother a movie like that.
(I thought this open letter touched on some points re Toy Story 3. Much like the author, I like a LOT about Pixar's films).
Have you read any of the articles at The Hathor Legacy? There are a few articles dealing with androcentrism and how it continues to work in TV and film even though women buy more than half the movie tickets. The whole site has some great articles.
Tangentially Re:" woman as an insult": my husband was on Facebook and began to object to sexist/mysogynist language. It only took a few minutes before another man posted, "(whispers): Does Ralph need a tampon?". Absolutely "woman as an insult" (and also: woman as irrational and kind of scary if she ever speaks up). See it all the time.
* which is more of the "boys/men are people and women are women" stuff, which SocImages has posted about many times. I'm wondering if you've been reading here long.
Jane — July 11, 2010
"...idea that girls would be interested in boy things"
I object to the idea that things are defined either as boy or girl.
C.L. Ward — July 11, 2010
I personally like to apply the Bechdel Test to determine if a given movie is one I might want to watch. Alison Bechdel featured this in a comic strip (http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/the-rule):
1. It has to have at least two women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
There is, in fact, a review site, http://bechdeltest.com/ that rates movies along these rules into the following categories:
[Red cross icon] Fewer than two women in this movie
[Mute icon] There are two or more women in this movie, but they don't talk to each other
[Ties icon] There are two or more women in this movie, but they only talk to each other about a man
[Smiley icon] There are two or more women in this movie and they talk to each other about something other than a man (does not mean it is at all "good" or feminist friendly, just that it passes all tests)
[Talk bubble icon] There is a comment for this movie
[Article icon] There are links to reviews available for this movie
Lordo — July 11, 2010
It's funny, my boy --2 years old, almost 3-- choose Jessie at the toy store, he laugh a lot with this character. It's his first "Toy story" toy, Buzz and Woody have to wait until Christmas.
Kit M. — July 11, 2010
Of course it's not revolutionary, but it's not just a case of "girl playing with male toy" instead of "boy playing with female toy" (which would be awesome to see). It's a case of "girl being used to ADVERTISE 'male toy'", which means that unlike a zillion other advertisers, they are not worrying that showing a girl in the ad will alienate boys, and they're not defaulting to male where they easily could. And, whatever else might be going on here, that makes me happy.
Paul Harrison — July 11, 2010
Buzz Lightyear is happy because his brother has scored a cute blonde girl.
Anonymous — July 11, 2010
"Of course, this means that men’s life options are narrower than women’s because they have to avoid the stigma of femininity (and that must suck, truly), but at least the things men are restricted to doing and being are valued (both abstractly and with money)."
This is the best response to the "what about teh menz?" meme I've ever seen. I hope you don't mind if I steal it.
oliviacw — July 11, 2010
The ad, with Buzz being bought by a girl, does reference the plot of the movie. At the end of Toy Story 3, Andy (the original owner of the toys) gives all of his favorite toys - including Woody and Buzz - to Bonnie, a little girl who shows the same kind of creative play as he did. I think it's appropriate to the movie - having a boy buying Buzz would actually have lost the point. So, kudos to the advertisers for staying with the plot line, at least.
joanna — July 11, 2010
I saw Toy Story 3 this weekend and I was kind of annoyed at the depiction of Andy's sister. She was in an all pink room, her toy of choice was Barbie and I think I remember her also talking inanely on a cell-phone. There is also a running joke throughout the movie about questioning Ken's sexuality and laughing at the stereotypical closeted gay/metrosexual things that he does. Barbie is presented as a typical dumb blonde stereotype and there is a joke towards the end where she says something smart and all of the other toys act surprised. Jesse is a great character - strong, independent, smart - but in the end SPOILER ALERT it is implied that she and Buzz are going to get together (as much as this can be implied in a kids movie about talking toys), so while she is independent, ultimately she still ends up with a dude. Throughout the movie Buzz is presented as having a very obvious crush on her, but does he mention being attracted to her strength or independence? No. He says something along the lines of her 'striking good looks.' So all in all, the movie wasn't bad but it wasn't perfect. I did love the depiction of Bonnie, the girl who Andy ends up giving his toys to. She is not gender stereotyped at all and the way she is dressed is so cute. But why do they have to ruin a good depiction like that with the depiction of Andy's sister??
Greg D. — July 12, 2010
I have a problem with this statement: "the idea that girls would be interested in boy things (like space travel)". Why would time travel be a boy thing to start with?
Norm — July 12, 2010
Has anyone noticed that the 'Real' Buzz lightyear wouldn't be caught going home with a girl?
Perseus — July 13, 2010
I don't think there's an innate problem with having a male-centered story. Pixar has been doing it forever. Toy Story one was about the cowboy and space man archetypes fighting over who gets to be a surrogate father to a developing young man. Toy Story 2... I honestly forget, it's been some time. Finding Nemo was about a father trying to find his son. Monsters Inc was about two working men trying to make it through life and then have to deal with unforeseen circumstances. The Incredibles was about a man going through his mid life crisis and just wanting to be (even for a moment) his old famous powerful self again. Up was about an old man facing the modern world approaching his doorstep, trying to remember fond memories of his wife, and being surrogate father to a boy (with a single mother), with the adventure only correlating to the subtext. Cars... is about cars.
Well they can't all be winners. But Pixar has run consistently on a theme of male centered movies. Toy Story 3 isn't a surprise here. None of those movies are considered horrible. Anyone, regardless of sex, can appreciate and connect with the main characters and plot lines.
A lot of commenters keep regarding Ken's actions in a negative way. As a guy, I think it's kind of refreshing to at least show someone as such. You know he's strait, and you know he's feminine, so the audience then fills in the blanks with what they want. I didn't get the interpretation that they were belittling him, just that his actions seemed strange, but not right or wrong. Nobody tried to change him, or tell him he was bad.
Those are just my thoughts.
Liv — July 15, 2010
Well, most of this restrictions to boys, and homofobic lessons for life stick to persons in a funny way.
You see, my boyfriend is extremely homofobic, but still he let's me play with all the new makeup I buy, and paint him a beautiful doll face. Just for the sake of being pampered and messed with, just as he loves me to: cut/wash/com his hair, groom his beart, cur his finger-toe nails, massage end etc, and just as much I love him to do: wash/comb/cream-massage my hair, exfoliate my skin, cut my toe nails, massage cuticle oil on my fingernails, apply body lotion, etc and all stuff touch related.
He removes the makeup aftes, veeeery well. For flawless pore-minimized, redness-minimized, color-even, blemish-free perfectly powdered grease free skins are not atributes that suite a MAN man's skin, while it is a utmost requirement for girls. Girls are nothing whithout a perfect face.