Pixar vs Bro's
February 7, 2019 12:48 PM   Subscribe

A new short subject film about workplace issues, Fast Company reviews/discusses, and a behind the scenes. It's quite a yarn.
posted by sammyo (39 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This is beautifully animated. It's also tough to watch because the ending we see in this short doesn't happen too often in the real world. I'm too much of a pessimist to think otherwise, but one can hope.
posted by Fizz at 12:58 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]

Even as a yarnie, I'm kinda like "so....yarn are women but men are still human men?"
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:12 PM on February 7 [10 favorites]

And, as usual, it's up to the women to make the situation better.
posted by papercake at 1:14 PM on February 7 [14 favorites]

Maybe I'm expecting too much from a short animation, I didn't ask Bugs Bunny for social commentary, after all, but this did feel a bit thin, even overlooking the weird "women are balls of fluffy fabric" thing. I liked the characters, it was a nice, pretty story. But there was something kinda cheap about the fact that all the lifting is put on Purl, and that the difficulty of that decision, and its costs, are really undersold...it feels like it's saying that all that has to happen is for a member of a marginalised group to put on a suit and tell us to stop being bigots and everything will be ok. Because that approach has, historically, been pretty fucking brutal on those who have had the courage to take it.

Like I say, maybe I'm expecting too much. But fuck it, it's 2019.
posted by howfar at 1:18 PM on February 7 [18 favorites]

I found myself uncomfortable with the way women were literally dehumanized and portrayed as brightly coloured balls of yarn. Were they afraid the story would be too confrontational if they used actual women as characters?

Also, how did they get from Point (A) Purl having to contort herself into a caricature of her male co-workers to be accepted to Point (B) having what I assume we're meant to perceive as a less aggressive egalitarian workplace?

The roadmap they actually showed is
1) Women, act like the dudes so they will accept you.
2) Women, be nice to other women at the office rather than snubbing them.
4) Equality!

I feel like such a killjoy saying this, but it bothered me.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 1:20 PM on February 7 [25 favorites]

On preview, I see it's not just me then...
posted by Secret Sparrow at 1:21 PM on February 7

I'm glad the CEO of the company didn't wear hawaiian shirts and like to give long, awkward hugs.
posted by Catblack at 1:33 PM on February 7 [14 favorites]

Yeah... it's weird to me that (judging by the names) this was written and directed by women. The men are men and the women are objects? Seems like Zootopia levels of meaning well but breaking your metaphor.
posted by skullhead at 1:42 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]

I'm guessing there are few women at Pixar and even fewer with authority with how the women = yarn, men = humans thing.

Actually, that's sexist of me to assume the women at Pixar would all protest this bizarre creative decision.

Also, howfar, Bug Bunny and co. often were used for social or political commentary. That's how some Looney Toons started their careers.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:42 PM on February 7

Actually, that's sexist of me to assume the women at Pixar would all protest this bizarre creative decision.

Especially since the film was written and directed by a woman. So at least one Pixar woman is presumably OK with it.
posted by The Bellman at 1:57 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]

Also, howfar, Bug Bunny and co. often were used for social or political commentary. That's how some Looney Toons started their careers.

Yes, that's true. But I've never expected it. It feels to me like there's some sort of qualitative change in our expectations of thoughtfulness in a wide range of media, is what I probably mean.
posted by howfar at 1:58 PM on February 7

I've spent a little (far too much) time around bros in the workplace and maybe it's just my bro-aversion showing but I read this as less about dehumanized objects vs human men and more about not-quite-human yarn-shaped objects vs not-quite-human people-shaped objects.

That said, I totally hear where folks are coming from on this, it's not a great look. Maybe they could have done better to make the bros more specifically not-human (like maybe a more dickish verson of Mike Wazowski). But on the other hand when you're trying to make a particular point about bros in the workplace, I guess it's hard to do without very clearly identifiable bros in the workplace.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 1:59 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]

In fact, judging from the "behind the scenes" video, the entire Pixar creative team appears to be made up of women. Not that that makes the choice any less problematic, but it could be something to consider.
posted by The Bellman at 1:59 PM on February 7

you know she's still earning less than the bros

i want to see the version of this where the boss gets fired because she had such a shitty first day
posted by yaymukund at 2:10 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]

the boss gets fired because she had such a shitty first day

One of the things I found interesting about this is, obviously the bros had no say in this hire (or else they would have chosen a better 'culture fit', as bros do). Somewhere there's a boss who chose to hire Purl, and then Lacey, and then a whole bunch of other balls of yarn. So while management definitely dropped the ball (so to speak) on integrating their new hires into the team, and they apparently skipped even the barest nod to inclusivity and diversity training, at least they're trying to hire better? Presumably?
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 2:24 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]

I mean, I guess on one hand, the women-as-yarn serves to show just how out of place women may look in male-dominated places. And maybe their depiction as yarn and not people is supposed to reflect how the bros see them?

I really, really wanted to like this, particularly because I've been dealing with a lot of gendered BS at work, including from male colleagues I expected more from, but I think it needed a little more work to take it to the next level. (And I'm a knitter, so I was really ready to love this. Also: crochet does not use needles. It seemed weird for that joke to be wrong since yarncraft was such a central metaphor.)

That said, I'm glad Pixar is making space for its employees, particularly ones who belong to under-represented groups, to try things. Who knows how many stories the writer here has had a chance to develop from scratch? This is a really nice opportunity for her and her team to have worked on their skills and get some public feedback.
posted by smirkette at 2:36 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]

there was something kinda cheap about the fact that all the lifting is put on Purl

The point I thought the director was making with all the stylistic and thematic choices on display in this piece is that this is how it still is: all the lifting is put on Purl, and women are believed to be fundamentally different from human beings by far too many bros. Even in 2019.

The utopia depicted at the end, where nobody seems to need to do that kind of lifting at all any more, serves to illustrate how much better things could be without that onerous requirement and that the easiest way to get rid of it is to let it happen naturally as a consequence of creating a genuinely diverse and egalitarian workforce.

That diversity in and of itself is a merit from the corporate point of view seems to have been understood by the hidden figure in upper management or HR who had apparently decided to start moving B.R.O. in that direction in the first place, to the initial astonishment of Purl and all her new co-bros, none of whom are depicted as responsible for hiring decisions.

As a white man in my fifties, it seems to me that beating us about the beanie with this point in a form with enough Pixar cute to fly in under the radar will probably do more good than harm.
posted by flabdablet at 2:52 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]

The behinds the scene video makes it clear that this is autobiographical, for what that's worth.
posted by macrael at 3:06 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]

Somewhere in step three, the CEO is let go for too much handling of yarn, and BRO gets slapped with a lawsuit for suppressing wages in cahoots with other companies.

I thought it was cute but there's no effort required of the cookie-cutter dudebros and that is just sad. (Though maybe it's the only way the team could get this film made under current working conditions.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:26 PM on February 7

there's no effort required of the cookie-cutter dudebros

There don't seem to be more employees overall at the end than at the start, which means that about half the cookie-cutter dudebros don't work there any more.

In the upcoming movie length version of this piece they'll be hanging out with each other on 4chan, blaming all their self-created problems on the fucking yarn balls and conspiring to unravel as many of them as they can.
posted by flabdablet at 3:31 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]

“[Purl is] based on my experience being in animation,” said writer and director Kristen Lester in a behind-the-scenes clip. “My first job, I was, like, the only woman in the room. And so in order to do the thing that I loved, I sort of became one of the guys. And then I came to Pixar and I started to work on teams with women for the first time. And that actually made me realize how much of the female aspect of myself I had sort of buried and left behind.”
See, now, that's a version I'd rather have seen. Purl leaves B.R.O. Capital and starts a new job at a new company where she isn't the only ball of yarn on staff and she can go back to being herself. The new company is more successful because of its healthier work culture and diversity of perspectives and B.R.O. Capital goes out of business (I can dream).
posted by Secret Sparrow at 3:37 PM on February 7 [9 favorites]

I thought the whole thing was kind of clumsy, like a high-level student film. The messaging was awkward, in ways that other people here have already pointed out. I think we were missing the most important part of the story, where Purl stops pretending to be an asshole like the guys, they accept that she has plenty to offer when she's herself, and then changes get made. We cut straight from act II to the epilogue!

It's REALLY weird for Pixar to be putting this out right now, while the John Lasseter fiasco is still so fresh in everybody's minds. Maybe they hoped it would send a message that things are different at Pixar now and women have more of a voice, but mostly it reminds everybody that Pixar's beloved founder turned out to be a handsy weirdo.

I was surprised by the references to "pricks" and asses. I'm no prude, but even mild profanity like that was pretty shocking for a Pixar joint. I thought it was setting up a thing about workplace harassment via crude humor, but then there's never a point where anybody says it's wrong to tell prick jokes at the water cooler. Pixar is usually very family friendly, that's their whole deal, but I think a lot of parents might have a problem showing their kids a movie where characters tell sexist jokes at the office and not only does it never get challenged but it actually helps the lead character blend in!

Pixar tends to either be really good or mediocre in kind of a baffling way, like Cars, where you can't even enjoy the damn story because you're too busy trying to figure out how the stupid car society ever came to be and if the cars have regular car interiors or brains and guts. This one was definitely a mediocre baffler. It seems like this is a world where all the women are yarn, and all the men in the firm seem like caricatures of Mad Men-era dudes right down to the haircuts, except they've all got smartphones. FFS, why weren't the guys needles? It would have streamlined the whole metaphor and it wouldn't leave you wondering if there are actual women in this world or why all the guys seem to be stuck in 1966 when they have iPhones.

I also thought the designs were kind of chintzy for Pixar. Purl looked like a mascot from a Michael's commercial or something, and the guys were all so bland. I know they were meant to be boring bros, but contrast them with, for example, the little boss man from The Incredibles. He's a mean, boring businessman, but he's so fun to look at!

In conclusion, Lava this ain't.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:22 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]

I'm glad that Disney/Pixar took a stand against token insensitive dude bros / investment bankers / suits who see women as cute balls of yarn.

I guess I feel like I am being pandered to, and did not really enjoy it. I think it was courageous to make the setting a literal office, but in the end it does not fly for me because it does not feel sincere.
posted by haemanu at 5:18 PM on February 7

It seems like they made a self-conscious choice to give all the guys the same generic cute face and the women the wacky face/body shapes with character.
posted by little onion at 5:49 PM on February 7

and women are believed to be fundamentally different from human beings by far too many bros. Even in 2019.

Good point. Women are NOT PEOPLE to these men.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:34 PM on February 7

I'm a man who spent far too many years of his life being a ball of yarn trying to find a place in BRO Capital. Mostly I failed, because even when I was able to knit myself a pretty good bro suit and pass (a privilege not available to lots of others, women especially but not exclusively), I was never able to get myself to genuinely join in the jokes and the high-fives. And if you're not playing the bro game, you're not really a person even if you're AMAB.

I pretty much agree with everyone here that the setup was right but the ending ruined it all by being too simplistic. But I would like to make a plea to give a small moment's thought to how many of those bros in suits around you are actually balls of yarn, too, and how you can make common cause with them. That's the ending I was wishing for: that the majority of the bros would turn out to be faking it just as much as Purl, even if she was the only one with the courage to admit it.
posted by fuzz at 8:01 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]

Well put, fuzz. (I'm giving you a virtual hug before somebody swoops in with the OH YES, PITY THE POOR MENS!!!) If some of the guys, or even one of them, had come out to express support for Purl, it would have made this a lot better. For real progress to happen, some men have to get on board too. That apparently happens in this film's world but it's all offscreen and we're given no real reason why it would happen. Why do those asshole dudebros listen to Purl when she takes off her dudebro suit and stops acting like them?

This short went from point A to B to Z, leaving out all the hard work and the really interesting stuff. I honestly can't imagine who will be totally happy with it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:29 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]

I honestly can't imagine who will be totally happy with it.

Somewhat ironically, that makes it an even stronger metaphor.
posted by flabdablet at 10:19 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]

I couldn’t even finish watching the first scene because the body language and behavior of the people-shaped things around the person shaped like a yarn ball was just too familiar.

The sullen, slightly bewildered, and affronted stares at the person? The too loud braying laughter? The cringing away as if being a person shaped like a ball of yarn might be contagious? Yeah that came directly from observation of real things shaped like people around women.
posted by winna at 4:36 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]

I don't get the spider joke? Or is that the joke, that it doesn't make sense, and Purl doesn't fit in? Or is the joke that it would be absurd for a spider to weave and not crochet? I don't get it.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 6:00 AM on February 8

I actually loved it. In the 80s I was the only woman in an all male science department. Purl making herself into a replica in order to be accepted got me at a gut level. And I have seen all to often when the first women through, who got macho to manage, have trouble when the next generation of women arrive.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 6:01 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

I really hated this.
All the humans look like random extras from Incredibles 2.
The 'theme' seemed muddled, at best. Secret Sparrow nailed it.

I think I'm just overly "done" with Pixar. Ed Catmull's wage fixing schemes and John Lassiter's hands have just made me wary of giving them *any* leeway, or looking for any deeper meaning.

Convince me I'm wrong Pete Docter! I want to believe again.
posted by DigDoug at 6:32 AM on February 8

Woman makes animated short reflecting her experience in animation as a woman, showcasing the talents of her and many other women at one of the biggest animation studios in the world.

Almost everyone: she did it wrong.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:21 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]

grumpybear69 FTW.

I had a few problems with this, many of which people called out above, but in the end it's the experience from someone else's point of view and I have to respect that. It was hard to watch on so many levels, but it's a view I don't get otherwise, and I'm glad she made it and they released it.
posted by ChrisR at 7:27 AM on February 8

And if you're not playing the bro game, you're not really a person even if you're AMAB

Please don't use "AMAB" when you really just mean "men."
posted by yaymukund at 7:56 AM on February 8

I apologize. I originally wanted to just say "man", but it sounded wrong because bros don't consider men like me to be men. I should have researched more before adopting a term without fully understanding its meaning.
posted by fuzz at 8:03 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]

For those who are criticizing this as somehow below Pixar's usual standards, it's worth noting that this is part of Pixar's SparkShorts -- specifically, the side projects of specific Pixar artists done on a smaller scale (and cost, presumably). They're not meant to be the same thing as the shorts Pixar releases in theaters along with its features, but rather opportunities for artists to experiment with new ways of telling stories or even just to explore their own ideas.

I thought this one was great. While I acknowledge the criticism that the men were men and the women were yarn, I thought it was great that the men were all essentially carbon copies of one another, distinguishable only by hair color or other features. I took that as meaning that corporate bro culture reduces you to being a single kind of person, and you must conform or fail.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:52 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Almost everyone: she did it wrong.

Experiencing something doesn't mean a person can automatically make great art about it, and critiquing that art isn't the same as invalidating their experience.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:30 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]

> I don't get the spider joke?

I think it's just one of those ones where the question sounds like it's a genuine scientific query, "why do spiders weave webs", and the answer is technically true but also silly. Like, when birds migrate, do you know why one side of the V is longer? It's because it's got more birds in it.
posted by lucidium at 6:14 AM on February 14

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