Where The Girls Are

Where The Girls Are

Apr 10

ginormica

Had a total moment while watching Monsters vs. Aliens. As gentle giantess Ginormica shoved her size-SUV feet into car rollerskates and prepared to zip through the streets of San Francisco, the thoughts, they started to pile up, falling like anvils.

Thought-anvil #1: This movie is about Ginormica. She’s got a bunch of funny dudes around her, but it’s essentially a female superhero origin story.

Thought-anvil #2: Holy shit, a female superhero origin story.

Thought-anvil #3: FUCK YEAH.

Thought-anvil #4: I probably should not have said that out loud in a theater full of children.

Thought-anvil #5: You know…animated movies are doing a pretty kick-ass job with the female protagonists lately.

Thought-anvil #6: Oh! Oh! These are the geek-centric movies fronted by ladies! This is where it’s at! BIG DAMN HEROINES.

Monsters vs. Aliens is messy around the edges — it’s not as elegant a creation as, say, Wall-E or Coraline — but amidst all the gee-whiz-style fun, there’s something sneakily awesome going on. The set-up is the kind we’re used to seeing in a different genre altogether: standard-issue rom-coms. Meek woman (not living up to her potential, obvs!) is set to marry clearly-wrong-for-her guy. But then, rather than getting saved by totally-right-for-her-guy, she gets hits by a radioactive meteor and morphs into a giant with blazing white hair. That’s pretty cool, right there. The fact that Monsters vs. Aliens continues to be about Susan-now-Ginormica all the way through — and the back-and-forth between wanting to be rid of her new superhero status, then accepting it, then prizing it about all else, and so on — is really cool. And though this is all fairly broadly sketched (and amusingly underscored by Seth Rogen’s ever-present chuckle — “HUH HUH HUH”), the general Superhero Struggle themes still come through — enough so that it reminded me a bit of the Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk dilemma as depicted by Dan Slott during his run on the Shulkie book.

The flick hasn’t really been promoted as being about “OMG a LADYHERO” and Ginormica’s ladyness isn’t really a story point. It’s all just sort of…there. This is how you do it. Live action flicks could take a few cues.

And, as I mentioned above, animated movies have really been kicking geek live action ass when it comes to big-time female characters. Coraline — bold, moody, inquisitive — was another great one. EVE was as important to Wall-E as Wall-E. This is all very pleasing to me.

While I don’t want to have to completely retreat to animated fare for my Big Damn (Movie) Heroines, I’m glad that these films are giving me gals I can root for, positioned front and center. Because even though we geeks love complaining, sometimes it’s nice to see something that just makes you go FUCK YEAH.

2,696 comments

  1. Matt

    As always, that is one nice fucking post.

    I do think maybe Pixar is still kinda missing the boat on strong female leads or even supporting characters. I guess Jesse in Toy Story 2 was a good character but Cate’s obsessed with Bug’s Life right now and MAN, the Princess Atta character (voiced by Julia Louis Dreyfus) is SO annoying and poorly written–all she does is whine and worry and make weak decisions. EVE may just be the best female Pixar character (to date).

  2. Sarah

    Thanks!

    Re: Pixar, Helen and Violet Parr are pretty great, no? The early stuff (Toy Story I, Bug’s Life) is indeed quite BOY, but I feel like there’s been solid improvement over the years, with The Incredibles and Jessie and EVE. Hope it continues!

    Is Princess Atta an improvement over Dora, at least? 😉

  3. Oh, yes, Jessie! My niece wanted to be Jessie for quite a long time.

    Have I bitched here about finding “Cars” themed birthday cards filed under “Birthday – Boy” in Hallmark? It was bad enough that Spidey and Superman were, but I can see the reasoning there. But “Cars”?

    And thanks for the heads-up re Monsters v. Aliens. This actually makes me want to see it, while I was going to pass.

  4. Chris

    You have a great point about Susan. She was a strong character and very cool.

    I just wish the movie was more than mildly amusing. Like the vast majority of Dreamworks Animation projects, I found Monsters vs. Aliens to be largely forgettable and almost painful every time it strained to make a pop-culture reference. Dreamworks just aims for the middle and that’s where their movies nearly always end up. This had a good premise with a well-cast set of voices that just felt like it could’ve been so much better. Kung-Fu Panda seems to be the exception.

  5. Stewie

    Dammit.

    The day has come that I have to distinguish myself from one of the legion of Chrises out there.

    Stewie it is.

    I also answer to Stewbacca.

    Excellent post Sarah!

  6. Yes, yes, yes. This is pretty much the exact thought process I had while watching Monsters vs. Aliens. And I was especially impressed that it was so explicitly acknowledged that she deserved her OWN life, her OWN dreams and goals, and that following along after her husband’s would be a horrible choice. When so many female characters lack agency or even desires of their own, this was a welcome surprise.

  7. Matt

    Sarah: Princess Atta is indeed an improvement over Dora. Especially since she comes with Phyllis Diller, the great and missed Joe Ranft as Heimlich (“Truth is my quiver!”) and a truly unsung Jonathan Harris as a queenish praying mantis magician (“Good day to you, sir!”).

    seriously, I know it’s OT, but Harris has like three or four Doctor Smith-esque actor rants in a bug’s life, and they are all equally hysterical.

  8. Allen

    I was also happy to see the “Girls rock!” message in the movie, and also happy that it wasn’t too much beating-over-the-head about it. I’d liked to have had a little more depth to her character, but hey, it’s Dreamworks, not Pixar, so I couldn’t expect too much.

    I was especially glad to see that message since I had my 7- and 5-year-old daughters in the theater with me. They both loved Susan, though I think they both loved B.O.B. more. 🙂

  9. Sarah

    Caroline: Yeah, that’s dopey re: “Cars.” (Though I have to admit, I was so weirded out by “Cars” that I wouldn’t buy that card for anyone, regardless of gender ;))

    Chris: I thought it aimed for a younger set — not as much there for older kids and grown-ups than your standard Pixar flick, but I still thought it was fun. I will admit to laughing at BOB.

    Stewie: You can still be Chris. We have multiple Jeffs commenting on posts, after all. Maybe you should be Chris I.

    Jennifer: Yeah, that was cool — I loved that some of the big moments involved her really getting that. And it was a surprise — definitely not what I’d expect from this sort of flick.

    Matt: Glad to hear it. I love that Heimlich “Bug’s Life” ride at D-land, even though it’s just him trundling through various foodstuffs.

    Allen: I think that’s what’s especially great about it — I could see being 5 or 7 and totally wanting a Susan action figure (and BOB, too). And the Susan action figure would be the *good* one, not the lame afterthought.

  10. I don’t think I even saw ‘Cars’ but my nieces liked it. Though they also liked the creepy rat-chef movie. *shudders* I have rat issues. ..

  11. Sarah

    LOL. I loved the rat-chef movie. “Cars,” on the other hand, totally freaked me out because it’s this world obviously designed by humans…but populated solely by cars! What happened to the humans?! Also, the rules of said world make no sense! Also, cars are not cute! Rargh!

  12. Jeff

    I think they overthrew the humans and live among their detritus.

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