November 22, 2011
This new Pixar film? All I see is a Jane and the Dragon rip-off.

At first I thought it was Jane, and Pixar had bought the rights to make a film out of it. I’m kind of offended because it seems like they’ve picked up that character and given this new one the exact same qualities, like the flaming red hair, but with a different name and a Scottish accent. But clearly standards haven’t changed too much because this female lead is still a Princess, because clearly each and every girl from the beginning of time has wanted to be a Princess… except for me. And Jane, too - she was a commoner who wanted to be a motherfucking Knight.

I’m sure this film is great, but the Jane series (which I’m pretty sure was Canadian) was legendary, clever and almost devoid of cliches (except for the Dragon-in-crime part). And then it just dropped off the planet, most likely because there was no more money in it. It’d be brilliant for children (all children, not just girls) if we built on things like that, rather than rely solely on Disney and Pixar.

And, if they make one film with a female lead, what are the chances they’re going to repeat themselves? It’s easy enough to think of a story where the lead character is an ordinary normal boy until something uncharacteristically brilliant happens (ahem), and then that boy ceases to be ordinary. I have trouble remembering many children’s stories involving an ordinary girl, who, through a series of uncontrollable events, manages to develop into a successful human being without the aid of a man. The most obvious one is ‘Matilda’, but Dahl was both socially-progressive and a genius. I never read the Tamara series. ‘Little Women’, and ‘The Secret Garden’ also had those plotlines, both of which must have been read by kids at some point. I’m looking at my bookshelves right now, and even though I’m into Children’s Lit, female narrative children’s lit. is really quite small.

(Of course, I didn’t forget Alice, but if she’s remembered for anything at all, it’s for managing to stay alive after that massive dose of shrooms she took).

I think the version of Jane in my youth may have been Madeline. But that’s the only version of that character I had (as far as I recall). I’m 24 now, and after all this time I’m still finding it difficult to find female characters that I can point to, and say with absolute certainly that they are just like me. Why is that?

EDIT: Added to the list - Eliza Thornberry!

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