this one, which today included an interesting tangent about Pixar. You know, the animated film company everyone loves. The co-host, John Siracusa, had the previous week been comparing Pixar to Hayao Miyazaki, and finding the former inferior, for various reasons: all of them, in my view, very valid. This week, though, he pointed out that almost all Pixar movies feature male protagonists, and most of Miyazaki's feature female ones.
This in and of itself doesn't really concern me--I think children are perfectly able to identify with the other gender in a narrative, should their parents adequately encourage them to. But this got me thinking about what I do hate about Pixar: their storylines.
Don't get me wrong--I really quite enjoy these films, particularly The Incredibles and Ratatouille (which, if nothing else, provides the extraordinary spectacle of Patton Oswalt not swearing). They are visually stunning and often quite funny. But they depend, by and large, on the same dreary goal/motivation/conflict plotlines that Rhian criticized in this post. There is always some quest, or some search for self-actualization or self-improvement. There always has to be a moral, a life lesson. There always has to be a danger that forces people to embrace their better selves. The world must always prove, in the end, orderly and sensible.
I find myself thinking of this as a "masculine" storyline, though I'm not particularly eager to defend that characterization; I will say, though, that the primary way girls get to be the heroes of contemporary children's movies is by proving that they can do the same stupid shit boys can. Miyazaki, on the other hand, makes movies about intense, often directionless exploration. He is contemplative, and his films often remain movingly unresolved. Pixar movies look great, but the visuals are illustrative. In Miyazaki, the images are the movie. They make the story. I can't, for the life of me, remember the plot of Howl's Moving Castle--but I will never, never forget the sight of it. Is this perhaps a feminine ideal--that it is sometimes enough simply to be? In any event, it is a worthwhile ideal, gendered or not.
Is this "better"? It is to me. My middle career (and, I fear, accompanying slump in book sales) has been largely about an effort to abandon the kind of heavily directed plots I love to indulge in as a casual reader, and concentrate more on the enigmatic things that move me. I certainly haven't abandoned plot, nor have I become remotely experimental. But my forthcoming (late 2012 I suspect) novel is about a woman who gets horribly lost in an increasingly confusing spiral of impossible domestic events, against a backdrop of impossible sci-fi phenomena, and I had more fun writing it than anything I've done in ten years. It's the result of an obsession not with story, but with motif, situation, and emotion.
I dunno--I think we're stuck in this country in a plotline that's so familiar we can't even see it. We keep telling ourselves the same damned stories over and over, are comforted by them, and live our lives by them, when in fact they are bankrupt and getting us nowhere. We are never going to win the big game, or make people love us at last, or find what we're looking for. Friendship isn't going to conquer all, we are not going to find the treasure, and we aren't going to land the deal. If the worst thing that's going to happen to us is that we're just going to keep living for a while, we are in luck. There are a million ways to write about that experience, many of them profound and beautiful. Maybe we can do that now.