Thanks to SheHeroes, I came across this important article today. Brenda Chapman began as the director of the movie Brave, making her Pixar’s first female director of a feature length film. In addition, Brave featured the studio’s first female protagonist- the spunky, smart, Scottish archer girl. Though we weren’t given much detail about how it happened, in the beginning of 2011 Pixar handed all directing responsibilities to Mark Andrews (who contributed to The Incredibles and Ratatouille). Chapman wrote that it was “devastating” to be taken off of the Brave project, especially since the story had come “from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother.” She also noted that “Sometimes women express an idea and are shot down, only to have a man express essentially the same idea and have it broadly embraced. Until there is a sufficient number of women executives in high places, this will continue to happen.”
This issue is important to GRRRL because of how hugely media contributes to the way young girls see themselves, which is why media literacy is an important topic for our camp workshops. We know that negative media images and messages lead girls to have lower self-esteem and greater rates of eating disorders and depression. These issues affect how successful, creative, and driven we are able to be when it comes to careers, family, hobbies, you name it. When girls and women are not among the most powerful media creators, we are more likely to be fed images that don’t support our interests, experiences, and overall well-being. We need more strong female leads like Brave's Merida as role models, and more female writers and directors can make that a reality.
How can we facilitate the rise of more women into positions of media-creating power? Chapman offers up some ideas, the first of which is to “make our own chairs” instead of waiting for members of the “Hollywood Boy’s Club to give up some of their seats for the ladies.” She suggests that mentoring is a great place to start, as well as sharing the difficulties women in positions of power have faced along the way, in order to help young women learn from their mistakes and avoid reinventing the wheel when it comes to breaking through the glass ceiling. We at GRRRL Camp greatly appreciate Chapman for the vision she showed us through Brave, and for the reminder of our need for progress she so courageously shared in speaking out about Pixar. Let’s make her proud.