Aaron R. Davis
Back in June, I wrote about my weird friend Harlan and his horrifyingly convincing theory that Steven Spielberg’s movies are all about conquering or mastering the penis. Back then, I teased you with a future column devoted to Harlan’s theory that Pixar movies are all about sexual inadequacy. And, well … here we are.
How are the Toy Story movies about sexual inadequacy?
“This is actually the most obvious one,” he says. “I’m certainly not the first person to point out that what we have in the first movie is a battle for mastery of the bedroom between a floppy, flaccid, cloth Woody and a flashy, plastic, battery-operated Buzz am I? Flaccid Woody gets ignored because plastic Buzz is newer, more energetic and more exciting. And in the end, Woody learns to live with and even be friends with Buzz, because they can both be part of a thriving bedroom partnership.”
“Of course,” he continues, “in the sequel, we learn that Woody does need a bit of an ego boost every now and then. But when he sees how deeply Buzz has internalized his message — that the whole point of Woody is to be, um, played with — Woody decides it’s too early to retire just to be admired, and he’d rather be loved and cared for and presumably caressed and massaged by his master, a kid named Andy, which is from the Greek word Andros, which means man.
“And in the third movie, we see Andy passing on his Woody to a little girl, which probably says something that I don’t even want to think about. But I guess girls need a Woody now and then, so it’s all good.”
A Bug’s Life: “An ant named Flick (which rhymes with a certain euphemism for ‘penis’) can only become a man and get the princess when he hires a bunch of circus performers to pretend to be warriors. Of course, since it’s a lie, he still doesn’t become a man. He’s riddled with self-doubt until he’s able to stand up to a grasshopper. Also, he kills the grasshopper with a bird, which is probably also a euphemism for something. You ever hear the phrase ‘hairy bird’ before?”
Monsters, Inc.: “Big, manly Sulley, the jock, hangs out with beta male sidekick Mike, who is basically a walking testicle. Where the inadequacy comes in is that he’s beaten down by the establishment — even though they’ve turned him into a hero —into being scared of children. It’s only when he cares for a little girl and rescues her from both the chameleon/penis-like Randall and his boss, who is like a crawling Freudian symbol for vagina fear come to life, that he becomes a true success.”
You don’t think you’re stretching it a bit here?
“Trust me, it’s all there. Also, how about those door portals with children inside? I mean, Sulley can master the womb, but he’s afraid of what’s inside of it.”
I stand corrected.
Finding Nemo: “Oh, this is all about the fear of inadequacy, dude. You have a beta male fish who fears everything, and he has to conquer his fears. He’s afraid of the dark, he’s afraid of trusting anyone and he’s afraid of getting hurt. It’s like he’s been too feminine for too long, or something. I mean, he saved one egg out of his wife’s cave/womb — which was stabbed to death by a barracuda/penis — and he lives inside a giant vagina. Then he’s got to go off into the unknown where, among other things, he’s nearly killed by sharks (penises), a giant field of jellyfish (testicles) and a lantern fish (another vagina). What teaches him to be manly? Letting go and having faith when he’s trapped inside a giant penis substitute, the humpback whale.”
The Incredibles: “This one’s a gold mine. In fact, it’s so obviously about inadequacy, I’m not sure I even need to go into it too deeply here. Mr. Incredible is full of vim and vigor, a real hero, but when he’s forced to stop using his powers, he becomes impotent, old, tired and fat. He’s got little to no interest in his family or in his job. He’s essentially become neutered. But then he gets the opportunity — in secret, like an exciting affair — to be Mr. Incredible again, and he slims down, becomes a great lover, an attentive father, an energetic man who’s strong and doesn’t have back problems anymore. He buys a sports car, damn it! This whole movie could double as an Enzyte commercial!”
Cars: “Well, this is about a young car — a car, dude — bursting with so much energy that he can’t slow down. He crashes into everything, because he’s trying to fuck everything. He goes so fast that they have to imprison him and chain him to a machine that paves roads, and even then he’s going too fast. The thing’s bubbling and spilling over in an orgy of symbolism. The car’s name is even ‘Lightning.’ He’s got a real problem with premature ejaculation. So he has to be schooled in racing by Doc Hudson — a doctor — and he learns that if he goes too fast, he burns himself out and hurts himself.
“See, lots of people don’t like Cars, but it’s actually kind of brilliant because it overturns everything Pixar has done up until this point. Instead of a guy learning to master his impotence, or fear of impotence and become virile again, in this movie, the young virile guy needs to be taught to slow down in order to become a competent lover. He even learns that it’s not about finishing making 500 left turns before anyone else, but that it’s all about what you do while you’re making the circle.
“Oh, yeah … enjoy that ride, little man.”
(I wanted to break for a shower, but instead I press onward and ask about Ratatouille.)
“Everything you need to know about Ratatouille is that the chef who can’t cook is guided by a rat that he calls ‘Little Chef.’ And that the chef’s name is ‘Linguini.’ So, the rat pulls on his Linguini and creates magic with it, and the chef trusts in his Little Chef to make things work out for him. And they’re nearly thwarted by an angry short man, a universal symbol for inadequacy. Yeah, what’s this all about?
“Also, did you notice that the magic created by the two of them makes an old, cynical man virile and full of life again? It’s all there.”
WALL-E: “See, you think I’m going to sell you on the idea that the little robot is some kind of penis symbol, but you’re wrong. The sexual inadequacy here is all in the ship captain, who relies on an automated pilot to do his job for him. He’s not a man at all until he’s given a seedling — birth symbolism — and he’s put into a position of caring for everyone else. The whole Adam and Eve story with the robots is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but they’re just the device that opens up the true story of mastery over impotence. The captain conquers his automated replacement and plants his people into the ground. That’s the real point. Claim your masculinity.”
Up: “Apart from the title, you mean? Okay, we all know the house symbolizes love and all that. But what’s the catalyst in Carl’s journey from impotence to virility? Becoming a surrogate father figure to Russell. Not only that, but we see the outcome of a sort of false virility — Charles Muntz and his obsession with finding a rare bird (and there’s the bird symbolism again) has made him old and dusty. Both men are living in houses full of broken dreams that only see love as accomplishment-oriented: Carl wants to accomplish Ellie’s dream because he thinks without doing that their love was imperfect and Charles wants to vindicate his reputation and win back the love of his fans and the science community. But Carl realizes that love isn’t accomplishment and that he can honor Ellie by being a loving, caring man. And when he does, he takes over Charles’ big flying penis symbol.
Wow … so, what do you think the Pixar shorts symbolize?
“Dude, you don’t have to analyze everything.”
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.