Okay, I really enjoyed this movie. It was funny, well-done, genuinely scary at times, and my eyes welled up at the expected moments.
But I have complaints.
1. The femme-baiting of Ken. Quoting Professor What If?: “As for Ken, he is depicted as a closeted gay fashionista with a fondness for writing in sparkly purple ink with curly-Q flourishes. Played for adult in-jokes, Ken huffily insists “I am not a girl toy, I am not!” when an uber-masculine robot–type toy suggests as much during a heated poker match. In the typical way homophobia is paired with misogyny, the jokes about Ken suggest that the worst things a male can be are a female or a homosexual.”
Seriously, being a girly little boy sucks. It’s five or ten years of fairly unrelenting torture by your peers combined with a definite note of disappointment from parents. I don’t think every kid’s movie has to contain a “it’s okay not to be a boy’s boy” preachyness, but it would be cool if they’d refrain from mockery. Even when it is funny.1
2. Yet another film that’s mainly about white boys. There’s nothing wrong with any one film being about white guys, but it’s part of an larger, and dreary, pattern.2
3. There’s just something so… 1950s3 white suburbia about everything in this film. (You can say the same about many Pixar films).
4. So how many toys did that big baby doll destroy before it changed its heart at the end? 3? 10? 20? Sure, it’s a mass-murderer — but it joined up the good guys at the end, so HEY! All is forgiven! What sort of bad sport allows mass murder to be a barrier to a brand new friendship?
5. I hate that thing where we see the protagonist toys hiding by ducking below the curb. And then the big baby doll hears something and starts walking towards their hiding spot. And we see that there’s nothing at all obscuring the baby doll’s view of the area around the curb where our heroes are hiding, so they can’t move out of their hiding spot. As soon as big baby moves to where they are, so it can see over the curb, they’ll be nicked.
So how did they escape? Well, apparently they teleported to another hiding place or something. That’s just CHEATING, Pixar! BAD filmmakers!
6. The premise of the film is that toys are sentient and the worst tragedy they ever experience is when their owners grow up and stop playing with toys. This resonates with the parents in the audience for the obvious reasons. But… if the premise of the movie were true, then the way humans treat toys would be monstrous. Why don’t the toys rebel? Why does the movie approve of them not rebelling?
Seriously, how about a film in which the toys were plotting to kidnap Andy and chain him hand and foot and force him to play with them? Sure, that’s horrible, but at least they’d be fighting back. Or, even better, maybe they can try to find a life for themselves not based around being played with (or abused) by human masters? They sort of do this, briefly, when they think the day care center is the promised land… but even this slight bit of independence is shown by the filmmakers to be a false utopia. (Woody is the most morally upright of the toys… and the film demonstrates this by having him be the toy that most passionately believes that toys must accept whatever fate their owners deliver.)
No, there’s only one happiness available to these toys, and that’s for the protagonists to meekly accept their place in the order of things — owned by a new master, who in ten years or so will at best give all these toys away or store them in the attic or very likely throw them away.
And the toys, like the filmmakers, can’t imagine a better world than this. The toy’s existence is pathetic and can’t be anything else.4
7. I know that I’m overthinking this, but really, it bugs me. Compare this to Monsters, Inc or The Incredibles. In both those films, the happy ending involved the status quo changing. The monsters overthrow their cruel corporate overlord and replace the meanness of scaring children with the joy of making children laugh. The Incredibles take up being superheroes as a family, instead of hiding who they are. (Well, still hiding, but hiding less, anyway.) But the Toys? Their big victory is setting the clock backwards ten years, so they can live in a blissful illusion of being loved and treasured for another brief moment before this one outgrows them, too, and then it’s back to the dumpster for them. Am I wrong to find that depressing?
- Yes, I thought a lot of the jokes were funny. I’ve never understood “is it funny or is it offensive” debates, as if the answer can’t be “both.” [↩]
- And if pointing this out makes me a joyless feminist, then at least I’m not alone. [↩]
- Well, 1960s, really. But the 1950s actually took place in the 1960s, if you know what I mean. [↩]
- I swiped that sentence from Maia. [↩]