Msnowe's Blog

The Downside of Pointing Up

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on July 4, 2009
Wait--I think I see a Female!

Wait--I think I see a Female!

m.snowe is no seasoned movie critic, however, she left the theater with an unsure feeling after seeing UP.  One thing m.snowe wasn’t questioning was the effectiveness of the movie itself–it was entertaining and to some extent, (m.snowe cringes to admit) moving. The Pixar people know how to make a movie visually pleasing, and their knack for picking crazy, eclectic stories that actually work for mainstream audiences verges on the occult.


But here’s the rub–how much should we like a finished product, when said product combines good presentation and gratuitous emotional lubrication to slide hackneyed, pre-sexual-revolution values down our throats?



First off, there is  a ~15-minute montage of the main (male) character Carl’s life, starting with when and how he met his wife when they were both children. His future wife, Ellie, is everything a rambunctious kid should be–she’s  adventurous, talkative, bright, happy, and physically active. Once the characters establish their friendship, the montage is set to music and the characters cease speaking, and we see the progression of their lives together as a couple.  But it was a very, very traditional life–as if the writers had taken Walt Disney’s head out of the freezer and asked him to plot out the story–the good wife straightening her husband’s tie as he goes off to work, the good wife cooking, etc. Haven’t we evolved past the housewife model for our married couples?



The only two women characters in the story are decidedly the catalysts for the male action (the two older male characters, anyway). Both of the men believe (wrongly) that attaining some end goal will either please themselves or the women they’ve thrown upon a pedestal. But this is the problem. Catalysts and revered people in this movie don’t have their own voices–they are simply drivers that the true characters invoke in order to do what they want. They are being exploited. In fact, the only time in the movie that Ellie has a speaking line is in her childhood–even though we see the entire progression of her life. Carl speaks for her, and as the ending of the movie proves (in a sappy way) he mischaracterizes. Also, the only time Ellie “appears” unhappy is when we are clued into the fact that she cannot have children. Clearly, that would be any woman’s only disappointment in life. Right.



M.snowe couldn’t help but feel transported back to the time she read David Copperfield as she left the theater and threw out her 3D glasses for UP—both were flat, and two-dimensional despite their best efforts, and both were Bildungsromans that ended with a similar protagonist self-realization. The main similarity has to do with the female characters of Ellie in Up and Agnes in Copperfield. Both are these shadowy, yet instinctively strong women that are invoked to lead the male protagonist to some enlightenment, yet they never get a true voice of their own. And the line that sticks out the most, and speaks volumes of both Carl’s and David’s (mis)understanding of their female companions is this:

“O Agnes, O my soul, so may thy face be by me when I close my life indeed; so may I, when realities are melting from me, like the shadows which I now dismiss, still find thee near me, pointing upward!”

 He sets up Agnes as some godlike creature, “pointing upward,” because she clearly knows better than David, and is the “domestic angel” of his dreams…but her role in life (i.e. the book, and in Ellie’s case, the movie) is only to point–not to live. Living a fun, varied, sometimes messy life is left to the men.


So the wrap up: Enlightening as UP is, and as moral-inducing as it is for the main male characters, m.snowe can’t get over the fact that these good lessons are learned at the expense of the female characters who aren’t even allowed a voice. The woman serves as an example of the idea that “real adventures” need not be what you initially dreamed, and that domestic happiness is just as pleasing as a future of discovery and daring. Excuse me, but have we crash landed upon the 1950’s? Although Pixar hasn’t been consciously picking male-dominated movies on purpose (hopefully!), it would be nice if they entertained an ingenious story of a feisty woman character. Because there must be some out there…

14 Responses

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  1. Repino said, on July 6, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    I’m still waiting for the ALIENS review.

  2. msnowe said, on July 7, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Well, I should probably watch it before I review it . . .

  3. fictionadvocate said, on July 7, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Feisty women characters? Out where, exactly? I’d be curious to hear your examples.

  4. msnowe said, on July 7, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    See, I could name a very limited few, and that tiny number proves my point re:scarcity–and I have a hard time imagining that such female characters don’t exist in many someones’ screenplays or movie pitches; however, movies with these characters just aren’t getting made for whatever combination of reasons.

    But if you really need one Feisty lady, this might hold you over:

  5. […] were ones of hilarity (I won’t spoil it for you, but there are talking dogs).  The fabulous m.snowe addresses the movie’s almost complete absence of lady characters much more eloquently than I […]

  6. Ryan said, on November 18, 2009 at 5:00 am

    This is the most idiotic review I have ever read. Just because the wife helps the main character with his tie in the morning doesn’t make it a “tradition life” it shows the wife’s love for the man. And did you not see how they cleaned the house together? It’s giving small examples of their love for each other. The whole movie is the main character keeping a promise to the love of his wife. Don’t bash the love out of the story. You are probably just mad that nobody would take your house to a hidden land.

  7. msnowe said, on November 18, 2009 at 8:19 am


    I’m sorry you had to read the most idiotic review of your life. From my perspective, the movie was touching, and the main character obviously was motivated by a genuine love for his wife. What bothers me about this story (and to an extent all the Pixar films I have seen) has less to do with what the stories contain, and more about what Pixar repeatedly neglects, especially the absence of strong female characters. Why hasn’t there been a story where the woman is the protagonist who goes on an adventure? I can also assure you that I am not angry in the least that someone has not taken my house to a hidden land, though from your response, it looks like you’d be a prime candidate for hiding my blog away so no one else will have to read my horrible reviews.

  8. Ryan said, on November 24, 2009 at 6:15 am

    But do you honestly think its sexist they haven’t made a story about a women’s adventure? I think it is totally understandable they used an old man as the protagonist in this movie. It plays on that “grumpy old man” theme. I just don’t think they should have to add in characters to make every minority/sex happy. And by the way, Pixar is making a movie titled “The Bear and the Bow” where the protagonist is a girl.

  9. fictionadvocate said, on November 25, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Nice. I like “minority/sex.” Like 51% of the planet is a negligible minority.

  10. msnowe said, on November 25, 2009 at 4:38 am

    I’ll be glad to see a Pixar movie with a lady protagonist. For me, it’s not about throwing in extra characters in some sort of affirmative action approach to screen-writing (cough*disney*cough), it’s about picking a variety of movies that span demographics.

    And totally–women are numerically in the majority, so Pixar would be doing itself a favor to cater to them a bit more.

  11. Ryan said, on December 14, 2009 at 8:09 am

    alright fictionadvocate,
    you can play your little game where i say something and you put it in a diferent contex so you sound inteligent but in truth your just imature.
    i was merely saying that people shouldn’t have to add characters to make everyone happy. thank you msnowe for stayin mature and actualy trying to have a conversation about this.

  12. fictionadvocate said, on December 14, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Ryan, I didn’t put anything in a different context. You said, “I just don’t think they should have to add in characters to make every minority/sex happy.” I think that’s a funny statement. Because you’re implying that, when it comes to serious issues like making an animated Pixar film, we have more important thing to worry about than whether we’re giving short shrift to women and minorities. Which is a wacky way to prioritize things. Plus you seem to think women are a minority. (Maybe you got that impression from watching Pixar films?)

    I agree with your main point, though. “People shouldn’t have to add characters to make everyone happy.” That’s true in the sense that Pixar is free to make movies about anyone they want. But it’s also true the sense that, ideally, they would be making movies about all kinds of people in the first place, and nothing else would need to be added.

  13. Direct Disparity « Msnowe's Blog said, on December 31, 2009 at 3:16 am

    […] was pretty outspoken a while ago about how some production companies didn’t seem to entertain ideas for strong female heros in […]

  14. Andrew said, on January 11, 2010 at 9:28 am

    msnowe is sexist. the worst review of a movie i have ever read in my entire life.

    “And totally–women are numerically in the majority, so Pixar would be doing itself a favor to cater to them a bit more.”

    they don’t have to if they don’t want to. the fact is that if pixar wants to make movies all about men, they have the constitutional right to do so. another fact is that if pixar only makes movies about male protagonists, people will watch them because they are entertaining.

    msnowe, get over yourself.

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