Monday, August 9, 2010

Even supervillains have work-life balance problems

I just got back from seeing Despicable Me with my brother. Although this is not a Pixar movie, it follows Pixar's pattern by being about far, far more than the trailer lets on. (I remember being distinctly unimpressed by the WALL-E trailer, and then I cried my eyes out through the whole thing.) The plot is really fun, and the 3-D is unobtrusive enough to be mostly inconsequential.*

I thought it was pretty cool to see a supervillain (and an older, male supervillain at that) deal with the sort of struggles and discrimination normally associated with working mothers. I haven't experienced these struggles first-hand, of course, but a number of scenes reminded me very strongly of things I'd read -- especially Dr. Isis' blog posts and Allison Pearson's book I Don't Know How She Does It. Seeing parent-discrimination divorced from sexism was quite strange; but then again, I don't doubt that there are fathers in the world who have suffered career setbacks and discrimination because of family demands.

The end of the movie leaves open whether the main character continues the same level of career activity (in the same or a different field), or scales back in order to spend more time with the children. I would have liked to see something indicating that he achieved a productive balance; maybe a montage of newspaper headlines showing him up to something resembling his old tricks, perhaps with the children's collaboration.

Also, as a side note, whoever was writing Margo (the oldest girl) has done their homework on sibling-order effects on personality. I'm an oldest daughter, and though of course I'm not exactly like Margo I found myself identifying with her much more strongly than I was expecting to. (The girls in the movie are not biological siblings. Anyone know if sibling-order effects also happen in families brought together by adoption? It seems plausible -- these effects ought to be mediated in large part by environment... but I'm rambling now, because it's late.)

Go see Despicable Me if you're up for some funny, frivolous action, and so much cuteness that all your teeth will dissolve.

* I'm still cheesed at being made to pay an extra $4 for an effect that, IMO, adds very little to a movie animated in Pixar's style. But there's a cute bit in the credits where some minor characters play around with it, so stick around.

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