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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The sexism of Ratatouille

I wrote this article for The Scotsman at the weekend:


I'VE just watched the new Pixar animation, Ratatouille, and I'm aghast. In a cast of 16, there is only one significant female character: Colette, a chef, voiced by Janeane Garofalo. Although she starts off with a plucky speech against the male domination of the food industry, within a few scenes even she has blanded out into the hero's love interest. What kind of message are we sending to our children when every story is about dynamic boys and lovey-dovey girls?

The problem doesn't stop at Ratatouille. With the possible exception of The Incredibles, which does have two or three juicy female parts, every modern cartoon is dominated by men. Of 45 named characters in Cars, a mere seven are female. We're talking cars here: metal things that have no innate gender characteristics. It was the same in Madagascar, a film entirely populated by animals with roles for just three women.

Unthinking sexism is to blame, as is the film industry's obsession with ambitious sons and dysfunctional fathers. Ratatouille is about a food-loving rat misunderstood by his garbage-gorging dad. Finding Nemo (six women out of 24) is about a timid father summoning up the manliness to rescue his son. Chicken Little (four women out of 24) is about a feeble child proving himself to his macho father. In most of these, the mother figure is written out altogether, giving us one-sided visions of the world that are as short in positive role models as they are lacking in satisfying narratives. I say rats to that.