How wrong I was.
I should preface this by saying that I like Pixar. A lot. They’re not only responsible for innovating CGI in film, but they’ve made many movies that helped shape my childhood and early-adolescence. Even in recent years, they’ve still wowed me with their bouts of mediocrity in ways that others have failed.
Which is why I’m still shocked that John Lasseter, as well as Pixar themselves, hasn’t lived up to expectations. On some level, I shouldn’t be surprised: Lasseter’s a nerd, and nerds are, at best, somewhat sheltered from reality. Considering that so many predators in the line of fire right now are nerds themselves, Lasseter’s creepy, lusty behaviour toward women shouldn’t be unexpected. But I can’t help it. Lasseter’s always prided himself on incredibly high-standards as a creator and film-aficionado, even introducing many to Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. So to find out what I know about him, well…it hurts.
I mention this because of a relatively-recent article from a former Pixar employee discussing the sexism that plagued the company while she worked there. There was a lot that was uncomfortable, but one part in particular stood out:
“Lasseter set the bar shamefully low for the overall treatment of women in his empire, which also signals troubling themes in the films he’s directed, produced, and overseen throughout the years. These projects, which reach millions of children and adults worldwide, have consistently failed to give women equal voice on screen and behind the scenes.”as evidenced through John Kricfalusi), denied high-ranking positions (as evidence through some remarks made by staffers at Studio Ghibli), or forced to safeguard against unwanted sexual advances from creepy men (as evidenced through Pixar). And this has persisted for decades.
It’s especially bad because, as the article states, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are plenty of talented women who deserve to have their stories shared, instead of being sidelined with the pathetic excuse of “finding the right story”. Like I alluded to in my last piece, you never know if someone’s worthy until you give them a chance. Art isn’t be-and-end-all or all-or-nothing: it’s possible, as “Bao” has demonstrated, to give newcomers a voice and have a quality end-product. This isn’t rocket science.
It’s also bad because hearing stories of predatory behaviour makes me feel incredibly self-conscious. I, like every other man, have desires and urges. Some of them, unsurprisingly, are sexual. But there needs to be an understanding that my urges shouldn’t interfere with others. There needs to be a societal appreciation that, at the end of the day, consent is key in contact with others. Yet there isn’t.
And it’s incredibly-stressful. It’s stressful because it frequently makes men look like creeps, further adding to the “not all men” backlash. It’s stressful because it highlights my own insecurities as someone with anxiety stemming from a learning disability. It’s stressful because it triggers my own memories of being sexually assaulted. But, most of all, it’s stressful because we can, and should, do better.
The women at Pixar, and animation in general, deserve better. Until they get that, this’ll never be resolved, if at all. I’m not sure if there’s a long-term, foolproof solution, but there are definitely a few suggestions that can be made. The most-obvious one is to hire more women in positions of power, something Disney seems to have already done with Jennifer Lee. I only hope Pixar does the same.
As for John Lasseter? I don’t know. I feel conflicted, knowing that he’s both had a hand in many great films and was largely instrumental in bringing Studio Ghibli’s repertoire to the West. I’m glad he’s gone on a “sabbatical”, even though it’s possible he’ll return, but the damage is already there. It’ll take more than a replacement to fix that.
I’ll end this with a quote from the aforementioned article, one I feel drives home the issue: