Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hot Pixels

Coming out of Tangled recently with two friends, we were happily discussing the merits of the film. But the one thing it took us a few drinks to work up the courage to mention was that, actually, is it just me or is Flynn Ryder the hottest Disney hero since Aladdin? Answer - well, yes, actually, he is. Look at him.

But the thing that got me thinking was that we were ashamed to admit that a cartoon character could be oddly fanciable. Which is weird, because for years men have quite happily discussed the merits of various animated hotties. I once walked in on a group of my male friends having a heated discussion about who is fitter: Belle or Jasmin (it was Jasmin, by the way). Ever since Jessica Rabbit was just drawn that way, hell, even before that, with comic book and manga heroines, men have been openly lusting after 2D babes.

But women can't quite get away with it. I once admitted to having a crush on Gambit in the 90s X-Men cartoon series as a kid and just got blank looks from my female friends. Is it because women are expected to look beyond appearences when they develop a crush, whereas men are happy with a decent pair of animated breasts? Or is it because most animators are men and they don't see why they would need to draw sexy males? It's a chicken and egg situation: do artists not sexualise male characters as much as female characters because women aren't attracted to cartoons, or are women not attracted to cartoon men because the artisits don't bother making them sexy?

Maybe Disney isn't the best example - it's Disney, it's not meant to be sexy. But it's a long-standing thing in comics that women can fight crime in a thong and contort themselves into bizarre positions where both boobs and bum are pointing at the reader, but the men are covered up like monks. Yes, every so often Bruce Wayne gets out his hairy chest, and yes, all the men are drawn as a physical ideal in the same way the women are, but the women are drawn sexy, and the men are drawn heroic. I have no problem with sexy heroines - if I looked like Starfire, I'd wear a crazy purple cut-away swimsuit all the time too. But I wish the artists would bring just a little more sex appeal to the male characters.

Now, Nicola Scott, she knows what she's doing.

If more heroes were drawn like this, more women would admit to fancying cartoons. That's all I'm saying.


  1. Good blog - did you happen to see my twitter-chat with @girlsreadcomics and @ComicBooksGirl last week? We brushed on this, specifically about superhero calendars. I worry this problem might not go away while the male gaze remains so prominent in visual and literary art (males are aspirational figures and females objects of desire), but its heartening to see that female artists like the example above are blazing at least a bit of a trail. Nightwing seems to be a favourite by the way - must be that well-defined posterior!

    Funny that you mention the character from Tangled; I've found that the femmes portrayed in 3D digital animations are far, far less physically appealing than their 2D counterparts, but then maybe I'm just biased on an aesthetic level. There again, I've always thought Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the sexiest animated female characters.

    And I was at school with a lad whose first crush was Red from the Fraggles, so it clearly takes all sorts…

  2. I missed that Twitter conversation, otherwise I'd have been getting stuck in with my two-pence! I agree that traditionally animated characters tend to be more aesthetically pleasing than CG ones - I think CG backgrounds and environments can be stunning, but 'hand-drawn' characters always seem to have more charm. Tangled was some of the best CG human characters I've seen (ones that aren't trying to look photo-real, anyway).

    Nightwing's backside is the stuff of legends. I have heard it referred to in reverent tones as the Cheeks of Justice.

  3. That really is hilarious! And to think he used to be able to squeeze them into Robin's scaly pants.

    I totally agree about CG backgrounds and 2D characters; after Beauty and the Beast broke new ground with a combination of the two, it's a great shame more mainstream films didn't follow-suit.

    I suppose Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have used a combined approach to great effect.