Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Girl Power

There was an article in this morning's National Post, an article I actually read out to my kids, not because it was particularly gripping, per se, but because it pertained to our favourite animator: Hayao Miyazaki. This article, sandwiched as it was between an article on the heroin poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and an article on Canada's 'near-American in its vulgarity' position on foreign policy, was written by Michael, Taube, a "former speech writer" for the current Prime Minister, which made it all the more startling. Not something I'd expect to see from a former speech writer, not to mention to see in the first few front pages of the newspaper.

The author's main point was that Mr Miyazaki's latest movie effort, Ponyo, had been snubbed by Oscar voters in the animation category. "Politically," Mr Taube writes, "Miyazaki should be a good fit with the Hollywood elite. He's an ex-Marxist, who peppers his work with a distinctly leftist, anti-war tinge...You'd think Miyazaki's passion for environmental issues would have caught Hollywood's eye too." He even cites a comparison to the movie juggernaut Avatar to prove his point.

Now I like environmental issues as much as the next person, although I haven't seen the thing that is Avatar (although my dad has, what's with that). I also happen to love everything Miyazaki, as do my kids (the Teenager might roll his eyes but he doesn't leave the room when the movies are on). I've even written about our adventures into the world of Totoro food, Totoro toys, seeing Haku in the sky, weird things other people do with their Miyazaki love, and Totoro origami and papercraft. So I should be nodding my head with all this Oscar snubbing going on, shouldn't I. Shouldn't I?

No, I'm not. Because I know why Miyazaki has yet to crack the American market. There are two main reasons in my mind:

1. Americans in general don't like weird Japanese cartoons.
2. Sexism. Miyazaki's females are almost to a person all the same: strong, independent, opinionated girls who don't always care if they end up with the guy, or if they do they prefer to call the shots. And if you look at the last 20 years of American cinema you'll notice that those kind of roles for younger women are not a really salient aspect of American cinema. Women might be strong and witty and clever but they always know their place and in the end they always have to buckle down and marry the real hero, even if he is a bumbling, language-challenged, gruff, otherwise-unappealing fellow. Oh, and they have to be beautiful but not know it. Heck, even Pretty Woman had a retrospective in the newspaper the other day: The Honest Prostitute who got her guy. It's insidious, folks.

And that's why I like Miyazaki's movies so much. I have an FDPG in the house and it's good for her to see young girls doing their own thing. Girls who are smart and clever and funny, with no mention of how beautiful they are or aren't. Girls who can think on their own, without needing men to do their thinking for them. Girls who don't need to look or act like young beautiful hookers with a heart.

And that is what Hollywood doesn't like.


::carol:: said...

We LOVE them also!! Great post!

Mrs. Deeply Suburban said...

Case in point: Kiki, who must find her talent. I want to BE Kiki when I grow up.

sheila said...

I think I want to be Sen, because I have a secret crush on Haku.