I went to a sneak preview of Fantastic Mr. Fox last night, and I watched it from three different points of view, all of which are probably too intertwined in my own consciousness/psyche/whatever to really separate, but for the purposes of this post, I'm going to pull them apart. I viewed this film:
1. As a lover, since childhood, of every single thing ever written by the amazing and wonderful Roald Dahl,
2. As a longtime fan of Wes Anderson, which I've been ever since Katie introduced me to Bottle Rocket back in the 90s, and
3. As a feminist.
If I was only the first two, I might be inclined to say this is one of my new favorite movies of all time. It is delightful, adorable, whimsical, hilarious, creative, and the perfect amount of weird. It is so incredibly Roald Dahl and so incredibly Wes Anderson at the same time that the fangirl in me wants to do cartwheels over it.
But, I'm also a feminist. And especially after just spending the last two weeks teaching college undergrads in my Women's Studies 101 class all about the representation of female characters in pop culture, hitting on everything from The Smurfette Principle to the Bechdel Test, I can't help but be a little devastated that this movie completely and utterly 100% drops the ball when it comes to female characters. If you go see it, you'll know what I mean. It's just disappointment after disappointment, and when there's a tiny glimmer of hope in one or two spots, the rug is immediately pulled out from under any possibility of redemption.
I guess Dahl is partly to blame, since the original book didn't have much in the way of female characters, either. But if you look at his body of work, plenty of his stories have interesting and adventurous female characters. (Matilda and the BFG are two of my favorites.) I'm more disappointed that Anderson, in building an entire full-length feature around a short children's story and in interpreting and developing Dahl's characters and creating characters of his own, didn't think give a second thought to girls. What's funny is that if this had been one of Anderson's regular live-action films, I wouldn't have been surprised or let down by its failure to inspire my inner-feminist. I never necessarily expect that from him. But you know as well as I do that this film is different, because unlike Rushmore and unlike The Darjeeling Limited, children are inevitably going to see this movie.
There were lots and lots of kids at the sneak preview, and I'm sure there will be lots of lots of kids who will see this movie, and even though everyone seems to think that ANIMATION = CHILDREN'S FILM, if I had kids, I wouldn't let them see it. It's not good for girls, who will be disappointed yet again that they only get to see themselves as housewives, caregivers, and love interests, and it's not good for boys either, for whom it will be reinforced that action and adventure are for them only.