An axiom: Finding Nemo is a visually decadent masterpiece. Though we may indulge in the cheap and strangely commonplace pleasures of cultural fatalism ([fill-in-the-blank] today just isn’t what it used to be!), I seriously dare you to shrug your shoulders at the imaginative and technical opulence of Pixar. It would evidence dishonesty or insanity to take me up on it.
Producing no less impressive a catalog than Toy Story, Toy Story 2 (superior), Wall-E, Ratatoullie, The Incredibles, Cars (okay: meh), A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo and Monster’s Inc, Pixar has had a remarkable run since it made its revolutionary debut just over 10 years ago.
But there’s one thing in particular I’ve noticed about all of the above films and that is the conspicuous absence of represented humans.
Well, to be fair, not entirely: Toy Story featured some humanoid characters, The Incredibles were all humans, and the others feature people here and there, but the precedence of the human-based children’s story has been totally undermined in Pixar’s reign, whose anti-human bias has extended to other CGI productions not affiliated with Pixar.
Mori’s hypothesis states that as a robot is made more human like in its appearance and motion, the emotional response from a human being to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong repulsion. However, as the appearance and motion continue to become less distinguishable from a human being, the emotional response becomes positive once more and approaches human-to-human empathy levels This area of repulsive response aroused by a robot with appearance and motion between a “barely-human” and “fully human” entity is called the uncanny valley.
I consider the absence of porn video-games on the market to be irrefutable proof of the “Uncanny Valley” theory. If someone could’ve made it work, it would be the most popular product of all time. Leagues of XY chromosome-bearers would never see the sunlight again. Thankfully, it’s not possible (30 Rock’s Gorgasim: The Legend of Dong Slayer notwithstanding).
Obviously this holds with CGI animation as well. The humans we do see represented have to be made cartoonish and bizarre in order to not give us Freudian nightmares.
Everyone over 15 reading this blog grew up with a canon of children’s animated films, which, barring the possibility that your parents hated you, were Disney productions. Most of the “big ones” were built on a Princess-model. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast etc. were all more or less hetero-normative romances about which gender theorists have been triumphantly making statements of the obvious since what feels like maybe forever. Okay! Yes– Disney reinforces traditional/repressive whatevers which has effected the minds of little boys and girls in a maddening infinity of ways we can’t even begin to fathom– the horror. One day it’s watching your Pocahontas VHS for the six thousandth time, the next, you’re vomiting up lunch in the girls’ locker room, addicted to meth or becoming some demented MySpace pedophile in the suburbs of Baltimore or any other equally plausible nightmare scenario we can (and do!) trace back to the magical world of Disney.
Now I wonder, what might it mean for the construction of gender identity to have the monster children’s media fundamentally preclude the once near ubiquitous romantic drama (and the gendered implications therein) in lieu of the endless parade of CGI’s scrappy and hilarious ambassadors from the animal kingdom at BEST engaging in a romantic-comedy sub-plot? Assuming children today don’t obsess over the Disney Classics as we did, we’ll have a whole generation of men and women and anyone in-between as test-subjects for what the world might look like without evil Disney mind-control. For the record, I don’t feel Disney tinkered with us as insidiously as most feminists seem to (same goes for Barbie), but I’ll still be interested to see how a medium poised at the edge of the Uncanny Valley will change the way children are socialized, or what conclusions we might draw should it fail to.