Despicable Me

despicable me

Despicable Me
Rating: PG
Run Time: 95 Minutes
Released: 2010
Director: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
 

Cultural Rating: paw

Although Despicable Me depicts a non-traditional family unit, the film does very little to engage with race, disability, sexual orientation, or gender.

Summary:

A criminal mastermind learns how to love and changes for the better when he adopts three foster children to use in his evil scheme.


Ratings

Language: poo

  • Demeaning language- “lame,” “monkey,” “suckers,” “idiot,” “ugly,” “garbage,” “stupid,” “loser”
  • Threatening language- “kick your butt,” “curse you”

Violence:poopoo

  • Slapstick humor
  • Visible weapons- spiked club, axe, spikes, missiles, sword, ice gun, machine gun, iron maiden
  • Gru threatens to kill neighbor’s dog
  • Hattie is an abusive caretaker and sends foster children to “box of shame” for minor behavioral infractions

Sex:poo

  • Brief naked baby buttocks
  • Minion buttocks
  • Naked man but no genitals are visible
  • Sexual innuendo

Drugs and Alcohol:poo

  • Beer, martini glass are visible

Cultural Analysis

 Pros:

Gender:

Race:

  • There are a few minor characters of color.
  • Satire regarding nationality (see comment below).

 Sexual Orientation: N/A

Disability: N/A

Body:

  • Gru is grotesque (bald, dark and sunken eyes, pointy nose) but is considered a good character. This is significant because grotesqueness is often used as a signifier of immoral character in the media. Further, Gru’s large body is depicted as active, skillful, and athletic when he saves the girls at the end of the film.
  • Marlena, who is an old-bodied, is depicted as being a skilled fighter. This is important because old bodies are regularly depicted as passive in the media.
  • Various body types are shown in the film.

Cons:

Gender:

  • At one point in the film, Gru’s mother is showing the children childhood pictures of Gru. One photo shows a young Gru “he looks like a girl” to which Marlena replies, “Yes he does. An ugly girl.” While this is intended to be comedic because Gru did appear hegemonically masculine at a young age, it is important to note that there is not one correct way to perform masculinity and femininity and that they can take myriad forms.

Race:

  • The majority of the characters appear to be white.
  • Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, has an unidentifiable (presumably Eastern European) accent. This reinforces the notion of the non-white or non-Western evil “Other.” However, by the end of the film, Gru is depicted as a good character.
  • Satire regarding nationality (see comment below).

Sexual Orientation:

Disability:

  • Nefario appears to be hearing impaired (constantly mishears Gru’s instructions) and his disability is used for comedic purposes. For example, when Gru instructs Dr. Nefario to make a “dart gun,” Dr. Nefario mishears and instead creates a “fart gun.”
  • The majority of the characters appear to be able-bodied.

Body:

  • In the film, Miss Hattie is fat-bodied and is depicted as evil and abusive. This is problematic because fat bodies are often an indicator of immoral behavior in the media.
  • Nefario, who is old-bodied, is depicted as unaware and incapable of performing basic tasks for Gru. Dr. Nefario’s old body is regularly used as comedic relief throughout the film. At one point in the film, Gru is frustrated with Dr. Nefario and says “Why are you so old?”
  • Vector, a young man who aspires to be a great villain, fails at performing traditional masculinity (weak, wears glasses) and is depicted as evil.

Suggested talking points

  • The film depicts a family unit not generally seen in children’s films: a single adoptive father with three children. It is important to recognize family units that do not conform to the traditional family
  • The film briefly plays with cultural stereotypes in the beginning of the movie. While the use of satire can be a very effective means for subverting stereotypes (and thus can be considered a “pro”), satire can also reinforce stereotypes for audience members (and thus can be considered a “con”). For example, the film depicts Americans as loving beer and guns.

Image: Hamiltontheater.net

Keywords: animated, family, body, 1 paw, satire, one paw, movie review

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