Run Time: 108 minutes
Director: Christophe Lourdelet, Garth Jennings
This film addresses the importance of persistence despite setbacks and fears; however, the film does not appear to engage with identity in a meaningful way as it regularly uses stereotypes regarding identity topics, such as race/ethnicity, the disabled body, the fat body, and gender, for laughs and subplots.
Summary: A struggling theater owner, koala Buster Moon, begins a singing competition to help save his theater.
- Demeaning language- “you are useless,” “which one of you is the girl” (in reference to a gender nonconforming character), “she’s like 200 years old—what do you expect?; old fart” (in reference to an old character), “porky; it’s like watching Jell-O dancing around; jumbo” (in reference to the fat body), “sweetheart” (condescending), “jerk,” “suckers,” “fool,” and “bozo”
- Flood scene
- The bear characters attempt to eat Mike (the mouse character).
- Male gaze
Drugs and Alcohol:
- Wine glasses
- The animals are gendered but do not always appear to adhere to traditional gender roles regarding femininity and masculinity. For example, Rosita, who is a talented singer and the mother of many piglets, is not solely reduced to her identity as mother. The film does a good job of showing how Rosita, who works nonstop and is never given recognition for her housework by her family, can be both mother and singer. By the end of the film, her family realizes her importance and other facets to her personality in addition to her role as “mother.”
- When Ash is picked to be in the singing competition and her boyfriend, Lance, is not, Lance gets upset and becomes abusive towards Ash (for example, he regularly puts her down and at one point implies that she cannot write a good song by herself). Ash challenges traditional stereotypes regarding femininity and submissiveness by staying in the competition and breaking up with Lance.
Sexual Orientation: N/A
- Meena, an elephant whose shyness impacts her ability to showcase her talents, is shown dealing with her anxiety and self-esteem throughout the film. Meena’s fear is not depicted as something that she easily “overcomes” but rather as something that she deals with daily.
- A minor character is shown using an inhaler but is not depicted as “good” or “bad.”
- Bodies that are implied to be fat bodies, such as the bodies of the pigs, are shown as capable. For example, Gunter, a pig, is a skilled dancer who wears spandex outfits.
- The male gaze is present in the film when the camera pans over Mike’s love interest.
- See “Language”
- In the film, the animals are racialized and ethnicized. In many children’s films, dark colors are used to signify “bad” characters. The gorillas in the film are associated with a criminal lifestyle (the term “gang” is used), and they are shown committing crimes and in prison. The gorillas in the film are constructed as naturally deviant—it is “abnormal” that a young gorilla named Johnny does not want to participate in crime like the rest of the male gorillas in his family. While the film attempts to show how Johnny challenges the criminal lifestyle he is expected to participate in by excelling at singing, he is depicted as an exception (the one who “got out” of gang life because of his talents).
- A girl pop group of red pandas who speak Japanese (J-pop group) and who do not appear to understand English enter the singing competition. The members in the group are depicted as giggly and unaware in which the language barrier is used multiple times for laughs.
- Oftentimes in media, invisible and/or visible disabilities are used for comedic purposes. A running joke throughout the film is Miss Crawly’s age and disability. Miss Crawly, an old lizard who uses a prosthetic eye and who is depicted as incapable of simple tasks, is regularly used for laughs. Throughout the film, Miss Crawly’s prosthetic eye pops out, which always has unfortunate results (e.g. Miss Crawly accidentally prints flyers for the competition with the incorrect amount of prize money, substantially increasing the reward).
- Certain bodies are depicted as more desirable than others, especially bodies that are similar in form to ideal human bodies (e.g. a curvaceous female mouse). For example, pigs are called “porky” and their fat bodies are policed by Mike, a mouse.
Suggested talking points:
- There is a class awareness in the film in that Buster Moon does not have the funds to maintain the theater, and the audience sees him struggle with his lack of money. Also, Buster gets tossed out of an expensive restaurant because he cannot afford to eat there. However, by the end of the film, Buster’s friend’s rich grandmother agrees to financially back the theater. Buster is rewarded for his hard work and perseverance. The film reinforces the American Dream; if a person works hard, then they will get what they deserve. However, this isn’t always the case as systems of privilege and oppression do not allow for an equal opportunity for everyone to succeed. In other words, some people do not even know a rich person who can potentially help them in difficult financial situations.
- Mike, a mouse, regularly makes offensive comments throughout the entire film to most of the animals he encounters (e.g. repetitively making fun of the pigs for their bodies). Additionally, he is depicted as immoral as he lies and cheats to get what he wants (hides cards while gambling). Mike is depicted as a comedic character and talented singer, which sometimes overshadows his bullying. It is important to remember that jokes or comments that seem funny can actually be hurtful to others.
- An important message in the film is “be yourself.” Throughout the film, Ash, a rocker porcupine, is pressured to conform to traditional femininity (wear a sparkly pink dress and sing pop songs). By the end of the end of film, Ash rocks out in a leather jacket and sparkly pink dress and sings about getting over a breakup and feeling free. This can be interpreted as Ash being open to new forms of expression but it also can be understood as Ash conforming to some gender norms in order to be accepted.
- Loss is an overarching theme in the film. Throughout the film, Buster Moon deals with the loss of his father, who recently died. For Buster, the theater represents the memory of his father. Oftentimes, when loved ones die, we attach meaning to certain objects to remember them by.