It was after my second viewing of the trailer for Brave, the first girl-centric film to come out of Disney's Pixar Animation Studios in its 25-year history, that I met John Lasseter's wife, Nancy. The trailer appears in theaters for the first time this weekend at the beginning of Cars 2, the movie directed by the male Lasseter, who is chief creative director of Disney and of Pixar.
But it's Nancy who represents the single stroke of estrogen in the the Lasseter household, home to not only John but over the years the couple's five boys (only two now remain at home). Is it any wonder it's taken this long for Pixar to give us, the moms of little girls, a movie with a female character at the helm so our little lasses can delight in the kick-ass-ness that is CGI animation too? All we've had is a whole bunch of princesses and then some secondary characters. Sigh.
But now we, the mothers of daughters, have Nancy Lasseter to thank for Merida, the Scottish lass with a quiver of arrows who roams the Highlands and brings a fairy tale for the first time to the CGI wing of Disney. With Nancy's push, John and the crew and Pixar will push out Merida's story into theaters next summer. And so during my trip out to see Cars 2 for The Stir, I marched right over, and I thanked Nancy Lasseter, face to face, on behalf of my daughter. I felt like it was my job, right? She laughed, commiserating that it's tough parenting boys; she doesn't get to see many "chick flicks."
But as I peered at the women around me, many of them with sons, and I instantly felt guilty. That's the thing about parenting a girl. It can make you greedy.
It's hard to argue against MORE female role models for our girls. I was more than happy to see Cars 2 included a kick ass girl -- Emily Mortimer as Holley Shiftwell -- in with all the boys. But I start to wonder if it's wrong to always want more, more, more. Is it bad that they're doing stuff for the boys too?
Disney hasn't done wrong by us, moms. True, Snow White and her ilk were ditzy daisies, but the company has righted the course with the likes of Princess Tiana and Tangled's Rapunzel, offering our daughters role models that are strong, hard-working, not looking for any man to rescue them. We're getting good role models for our girls these days, and it's our responsibility as much as any movie company's to take advantage of that.
Besides, isn't it true that boys deserve good, strong role models too? That without strong men teaching little boys to grow up well, the cycle of chauvinism continues? Strong women can only fight against sexist pigs so long. Protecting our daughters means not just teaching them strength, but changing society as a whole.
To be honest, it's the same thought I had last year when moms were angry that Disney backed off on the princess theme, choosing the name "Tangled" in the hopes that girls could convince their brothers to attend too. Is that so wrong, I had to ask? That boys might get dragged into a theater and see a girl kicking ass? There's nothing wrong with that.
And in all honesty, what John Lasseter has accomplished at Pixar is to give us "boy" characters that are good for little girls to see. Good boys. Kind boys. Boys who aren't all about pushing girls around and treating them like they need to be rescued. Maybe that's John Lasseter's mark on Pixar. Maybe it's Nancy Lasseter's mark on John Lasseter.
But the fact is, as excited as I am for Brave next year, and yes, I'm over the moon, jumping for joy, can't wait to wrap my fingers around through the curly red tendrils of a Merida doll excited, there's a tiny part of me that says, OK, this is great for my daughter. She's going to love this. You can't argue with a good female character. But won't I just leave that theater going, OK, what's next? How can you top this with another kick ass girl?
Do you feel like we demand an awful lot for our girls? Do you ever feel just the teeniest twinge of guilt?
Image via Disney
Disclosure: Disney covered my expenses to cover the premiere of Cars 2 to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.