Saw Pixar’s Up today. Beautiful animation, and I wanted to like it, but … in the end what I kept seeing was this: we have the story of a woman who dreams of having adventures and the man who wants to give them to her. By the time they save up the money though, it’s too late, and she dies first. So the man (eventually) has the adventure she wanted in her honor instead.

Except … everyone who’s a part of that adventure is then male: our hero, now an old man; the boy scout who accidentally follows him; the villain; every one of the (many) dogs. Okay, I take it back–we do meet a bird who’s female–and she’s the character most in need of rescuing.

So at the end, when the old man and the boy take off in the airship, with their goggles firmly in place, I found myself more angry as uplifted: because in the end, I felt like I was being told–a little more subtly than usual, maybe not even on purpose, but told nonetheless–that adventuring was a boy thing after all.

Shortly before this, the old man finds a note at the back of his deceased wife’s adventure journal, essentially thanking him for the adventure that was (it’s implied) their life together and telling him to go off and have more adventures.

So what we have–yet again, yet again–is a movie in which the woman’s role is ultimately not to have adventures, but to inspire the man in her life to have them. It’s subtler than it often is, and it’s couched in terms that make you feel as if you have no soul if you’re not deeply moved … but it’s still there.

Especially since in the end, the man decides his house is only a house, after all, and he sacrifices it to the adventure. I couldn’t help thinking then–and throughout the movie, really–that if he’d sacrificed–or, say, sold–the house about 20 years sooner, his wife could have had her adventures, and not just him. The movie tried to make his wife’s missing out seem like sad inevitability, but the story was rigged to get us there–it really wasn’t all that inevitable after all.

In a way, it was Ratatouille all over again.

Really stunning animation though. Visually, the movie was pretty amazing.

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