Today’s NY Times article on how animated animal blockbusters distort/fabricate animal gender roles is fascinating, especially when it starts imagining what a realistic Bee Movie would include:
Should a queen fly by, she may be mobbed by a dozen or more males, each seeking the chance to love her to death: bee flinging, like bee stinging, is a lethal affair. After a male deposits sperm in the queen, his little “endophallus” snaps off, and he falls to the ground. In her single nuptial flight, the queen will collect and store in her body the sperm offerings of some 20 doomed males, more than enough to fertilize a long life’s worth of eggs.
Now it’s true that I would be more likely to go see a movie where Jerry Seinfeld falls to his doom (about time!), but I think most parents would pass. The point of these movies isn’t to explore what it would be like to be a person living in a society organized like Bees or Ants, as that is a pretty horrifying premise. Behavior that’s interesting to learn about in biology class (strict hierarchy and biological class divisions) is distasteful when applied to humans. The way many animals mate would have to be considered rape if emulated by humans.
I’m all for fictional depictions of dystopias, but that hardly seems a sounds basis for the feel-good children’s morality tale genre. It’s unsurprising that instead, screenwriters choose to reimagine animal society as more like that of people. What makes this sinister is the heteronormativity.
These movies are allegories, and among the things they teach children is gender relations. It’s irritating, not to mention harmful to the subset of said children who will not go in for the Man-Woman-Monogamy institution, that all fictional characters must have “normal” romantic interests. Worse, the requirement remains even when the depicted animal’s real social organization is dramatically nontraditional; handed a golden opportunity to show a different kind of world, these movies take a pass and opt to be the same old propaganda.