Why is there such a dearth of female friendships in Disney movies?

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Jul 9, 2018, 7:46 PM EDT (Updated)

With the announcement that Incredibles 2 was going to take place in the same timeframe as The Incredibles, fans like myself were excited to know that we wouldn't miss any significant time with the Parr family. I was happy that we would get to see baby Jack-Jack, Violet coming into her own as an adolescent and hopefully, the chance to learn more about Honey Best, the wife of superhero Frozone, voiced to perfection by Kimberly Adair Clark.

With just a few lines of dialogue, Honey became a fan favorite, and for 14 years I waited to finally see her. But, alas, when the news broke that Honey wouldn't have any screen time in the film, my excitement dimmed just a little. While director Brad Bird confirmed that they had, in fact, created an animated version of Honey, but determined she would once again only appear as a voice in Incredibles 2, this was disappointing for two reasons:

1. It would have been great to finally have another visible woman of color in the world of The Incredibles, as the only one at the moment is Mirage (voiced by the late Elizabeth Peña), assistant to criminal mastermind Syndrome. There are no Black female characters in any Pixar film and it's 2018, but that's another discussion for another day. *extreme Edna Mode voice* Soon, dahlings. Very, very soon.

2. The loss of Honey as a major on-screen character is a missed opportunity to explore female friendships — not only in Incredibles 2, but animated films in general.

One aspect of Pixar films that has always been done well is the personal relationships between characters, and The Incredibles was no different. Fans fell in love with the friendship between Bob and Lucius aka Frozone, and Bob's marriage to Helen. But with Honey once again being heard but not seen, audiences won't get to see her interact with Lucius, or witness a friendship develop between her and Helen. 

Incredibles 2 Bob and Helen

There has always been a significant lack of close positive female relationships — familial or otherwise — in animated films. From as far back as Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Cinderella (1950), to The Little Mermaid (1989) and even more recently with The Incredibles, female lead characters have no close female friends of their own. Instead of sisters or BFFs with whom they can discuss their struggles or even experience adventures, they've had sidekicks who weren't just male, but not even human at times.

Yes, there are exceptions, but very weak ones when you examine them closely. Pocahontas had Nakoma, but she spent more time with Flit and Meeko, a hummingbird and raccoon respectively, who were of no help when Pocahontas needed it. The only people who offered sage advice were her father Pohawtan and Grandmother Willow.

Ariel had many sisters, but she didn't have a good relationship with any of them. Instead, her sidekicks consisted of an insecure Flounder and a sarcastic crab who encouraged her to kiss a man she barely knew.

Elsa and Anna spent more time apart in Frozen than together, and most of their story was spent interacting with men, a reindeer, trolls, and a talking snowman.

The best familial female relationships were in Lilo & Stitch and Moana, but just like in Frozen, Lilo spent more time with Stitch than her own sister, and Moana had a few brief scenes with her grandmother Tala before she sadly passed away. After that, it was adventure time with Hei-Hei and Maui... two male characters. See what I mean?

Wouldn't it have been great if Snow White had a girlfriend she could talk with instead of seven moody men? I'm sure a female dragon would've given Mulan better advice about men than Mushu. Don't get me wrong, I love that snarky dragon but you know I'm right.

In the 71 years since feature-length animations were first released to audiences, we've never had one that showed us what healthy female relationships really look like. If there was one, it usually involved a mother and daughter — and the mother either dies at beginning of the story or has a negative, even toxic relationship with her daughter (see: Brave and Tangled).

With Incredibles 2, Pixar had a chance to do something that has never been done before in animation: portray two women as best friends instead of enemies. It would have been great to see Helen and Honey having conversations about what it's like to be female superheroes in a society where supers are outlawed. Pixar is known for not shying away from social and political commentary, so not using Incredibles 2 as a vehicle to discuss feminism seems a bit shy.

Honey deserves to be more than just a voice coming from behind the door. She deserves to have a story and her own friendships. Kids of all genders need to see that women and young girls can and do have true friendships with each other; they're not always looking to stab each other in the back over some cute boy.

While Pixar has done an amazing job creating characters and stories that people from all over the world have fallen in love with, it can't be overstated how important it would have been to see Honey in Incredibles 2. With each new film, Pixar (and other studios) continue to push the boundaries of what's possible in animations with new and innovative technology, but it's high time they paid attention to something as old as time: female friendships.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.

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