This volume examines films produced by Pixar Animation Studios between 1995 and 2013, exploring how boys become men and how men measure up in films from Toy Story to Monsters University. Offering counterintuitive readings of such works, this book describes how the films quietly but forcefully reiterate traditional masculine norms, in terms of what they praise and what they condemn.
Since Toy Story, its first feature in 1995, Pixar Animation Studios has produced a string of commercial and critical successes including Monsters, Inc.; WALL-E; Finding Nemo; The Incredibles; Cars; and Up. In nearly all of these films, male characters are prominently featured, usually as protagonists. Despite obvious surface differences, these figures often follow similar narratives toward domestic fulfillment and civic engagement. However, these characters are also hypermasculine types whose paths lead to postmodern social roles more revelatory of the current "crisis" that sociologists and others have noted in boy culture.
In Pixar's Boy Stories: Masculinity in a Postmodern Age, Shannon R. Wooden and Ken Gillam examine how boys become men and how men measure up in films produced by the animation giant. Offering counterintuitive readings of boy culture, this book describes how the films quietly but forcefully reiterate traditional masculine norms in terms of what they praise and what they condemn. Whether toys or ants, monsters or cars, Pixar's males succeed or fail according to the "boy code," the relentlessly policed gender standards rampant in American boyhood.
Structured thematically around major issues in contemporary boy culture, the book discusses conformity, hypermasculinity, social hierarchies, disability, bullying, and an implicit critique of postmodern parenting. Unprecedented in its focus on Pixar and boys in its films, this book offers a valuable perspective to current conversations about gender and cinema. Providing a critical discourse about masculine roles in animated features, Pixar's Boy Stories will be of interest to scholars of film, media, and gender studies and to parents.
Shannon R. Wooden is professor of English at Missouri State University, where she teaches British literature, critical theory, disability studies, and literature and medicine.
Ken Gillam is Director of Composition at Missouri State University, where he teaches composition theory and writing pedagogy.
Introduction: A Feminist Approach to Boy Culture
Chapter 1: Postfeminist Nostalgia for Pre-Sputnik Cowboys Chapter 2: Superior Bodies and Blue-Collar Brawn: "Real" and Rhetorical Manhoods Chapter 3: "I am Speed": Athleticism, Competition, and the Bully Society Chapter 4: "Hey, double prizes!" Pixar's Boy Villains' Gifts and Intensities Chapter 5: Ornamental Masculinity and the Commodity-Self Chapter 6: "She don't love you no more": Bad Boys and Worse Parents
Works Cited About the Authors Index
Written by a husband and wife team, this excellent book deals with the issues surrounding raising boys in a society that seems to offer young men only rigidly defined gender roles. Wooden and Gillam argue that in the postfeminist era, with the collapse of the traditional patriarchy, boys are given conflicting messages by the media-particularly, as discussed in this book, by Pixar animated cartoons. Jammed into roles of either supportive helpmates or macho superheroes, young boys often emulate the exaggerated heroics of Pixar's characters to become, in the words of the authors, 'relentlessly competitive, aggressive, violent and emotionally restricted,' unsure of how to construct themselves in a new social landscape. The authors demonstrate this in detailed readings of Pixar films that, for them, embrace a hypermasculine culture that is both unrealistic and damaging. The parents of two young boys, Wooden and Gillam worry that their sons are not getting the moral, emotional, or social guidance they need from pop culture, and here they argue for ways to counteract Pixar's limited role models. . . .[T]his is an impassioned and deeply felt book, well worth reading. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. CHOICE Pixar's Boy Stories is an important contribution to boyhood and childhood studies. . . .The authors find some interesting patterns in presenting stereotypical jocks and nerds, often overlooked by critics and the general public. The book is well-written and captivating. IRSCL: International Research Society for Children's Literature
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