“You can't SEO the human soul.” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Thoughts
February 6, 2009

What Is Bolt Saying To Young Girls?

The animated feature film, Bolt, is the latest (non-Pixar) release from Disney. It pairs animator Byron Howard and screenwriter Chris Williams together as shared first-time directors. The cast includes John Travolta, Malcolm McDowell and Miley Cyrus. John Powell provides the score. The film is not all bad. There’s a solid premise, a good narrative arc, […]

The animated feature film, Bolt, is the latest (non-Pixar) release from Disney. It pairs animator Byron Howard and screenwriter Chris Williams together as shared first-time directors. The cast includes John Travolta, Malcolm McDowell and Miley Cyrus. John Powell provides the score.

The film is not all bad. There’s a solid premise, a good narrative arc, a decent moral sensibility (mostly) and enough humour to keep things moving. Sure, it’s The Truman Show for kids, but in a lot of ways it is a better, more engaging and less pretentious film than it’s intellectual forebear.

In fact, were it not for the final few minutes, I would heartily recommend it.

SPOILER ALERT, beyond this point we discuss the final scenes and if you haven’t seen the film yet and don’t want to know how it ends, stop reading now.

The problems start right when Penny and Bolt are reunited. Penny re-affirms her wish to bring Bolt home and in powerfully symbolic moment kicks out her agent (entertainingly voiced by Greg Germann). This should have been the start of a great ending, instead it betrays young girls everywhere by selling them short, encouraging them to abandon any place of power and influence in society.

Right at the point when Penny is at her most powerful – reunited with Bolt (who now understands his place in the real world) and potentially with the studio at her feet since she was abandoned on the burning set – what does she do? Do she re-negotiate her terms (perhaps with more creative and financial control)? Does she use the situation as a platform to speak out about the place of kids and animals, in the entertainment industry or the subject matter of these programmes that are supposedly aimed at kids ? Does she take that standing in society and new found realisation of her industry’s woes and change the world?

No, she retreats. She gives up and goes home.

In a classically suburban denouement she finds her haven on a quarter acre block, blissfully disengaged from society. Meanwhile, the TV show she abandoned is exploiting another kid-actor in an ever descending spiral of violent plots.

Bolt began with one character free to life their life and another held in ignorant bondage. Part way through we had the tantalising promise that both characters would be free, but, in the end, we faced the same situation of one free character and one slave. Only the roles had been reversed.

“The idea that men are entitled to be ideal workers in the market economy and that women are responsible for housekeeping and child rearing survived forty years of feminism without a scratch. The chains just transmuted from golden links into the bonds of the invisible fence, like the one people use to confine dogs to the yard.”

from Get To Work by Linda R. Hirshman

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