So this weekend, I finally got the chance to go and see Big Hero 6. (I know, I know. Bad writer! What can I say, I've been busy!)
Overall, I loved it. It was everything that I expected from Disney - funny, sweet, with a simple but engaging story and absolutely incredible artwork. I had heard such wonderful things about this, and I really, truly wanted this to become a favorite of mine. Sadly, that's just not going to happen.
When I say it was everything I expected, I have to include the bad parts as well. Months ago, I wrote this article on some of the first character art, and why exactly I was unimpressed with the Disney take on Honey Lemon. Bear in mind, this wasn't just a comic fan whining about a movie not being exactly like it is in the books (although that is obviously frustrating), but about not understanding why Disney felt the need to make such a stereotypical girly-girl part of the team. It bothered me, but I hoped that it wouldn't impact the film too much.
I went in with my fingers crossed that the only thing that would be ridiculously "girly" about Honey Lemon would be her outfit - after all, there's nothing wrong with pink dresses and long blonde hair. I recognized that this was not really a movie adapted from the Marvel team, but inspired by them. Loosely. And I'm happy with that. Many times I actually prefer a wildly different take on the source material (such as Gotham, or Once Upon a Time). It can be fun and definitely a little more fresh and inspired. Should Honey Lemon appear as a sweet girl who was smart and cool and just happened to be the most feminine team member, then you would hear no complaints.
Instead I was presented with "Science Barbie"!
It felt almost as though the writers had been sitting around all week working on the characters, the visuals and the color palette, and got to Honey Lemon at 3pm on a Friday. Rather than giving her the same care and attention as the others (who, admittedly, are all pretty cliche as well), they just looked at their watches, dashed out a stereotype and went for a drink.
Lets start with how she is introduced, compared to the rest of the gang. Everyone follows a pretty standard formula; meet them, reveal a gadget or project that reveals something about their personality, move on. GoGo is a racer, so we meet her and her amazing bike. Wasabi is an engineer with a touch of OCD, so we see his laser grid and meticulous work space. Tadashi (gets more of an intro, being big bro, but still) is caring and incredibly smart with his medical robot, and Fred is a bit of a doofus who just really loves dragons and cool stuff. So far, so normal. Then, there is Honey Lemon.
Not only does she rush in screeching like a SanFranSokyo valley girl, but her big talent-reveal-moment is essentially....that she turned something pink. Oh, right, then it is revealed that it's molecular destabilization, and chemistry and stuff, but even she puts the ta-da emphasis on the moment it changes color, rather that the part that is actually cool. If she has to be so bubbly and over the top, why does her accomplishment have to start with turning something pink? Why not just showing her ability to destroy something on the molecular level?
It's obvious that "pink" is pretty much the Honey Lemon theme, which is incredibly frustrating when everything she does is as cutesy and bubbly as can be. Her background colors in the credits and the promo are pink. Her costume colors are pink, purply-pink and orange-pink. Her glasses are pink. Her lipstick is pink (very important for the moments where she widens her eyes and bites her lip. She is the only character to pull the lip-bite, and her eyes are about 30% bigger than everyone else's. Just saying.). When she is "upgraded" and given her power purse, half of those chemical pokemon-balls are pink when deployed. Even when she uses one as a giant shield, it's a giant PINK shield. That came out of her handbag, that has a heart on it. (At least they did away with that god-awful teddy bear.) And lets not forget the pink, kitty cat phone case.
It's not just that it's such a painfully obvious (and outdated) stereotype that bugs me, it's also that it just doesn't make sense. Why on earth would a weaponized handbag have a heart-shaped panel on it? It's either a keypad, or a variant on the periodic table (as she is a chemist, and presumably combining elements to fill the little throwing-ball-things), and either way, a heart shape just isn't efficient for the heat of battle. She's a genius. She would not risk her life for the sake of a prettier accessory. Nor would she wear heels while fighting. I'm happy to see a "nerdy" character in a skirt and heels on a day-to-day basis (the one element of her character that actually did challenge preconceptions in some way), but to run into battle, she should be wearing flats.
I wish that the creators of [Big Hero 6](movie:425271) had been willing to push the envelope, just a tiny bit. Just an inch. Rather than having the lovable and uber-caring girl in pink with hearts and flowers, why not just have her be smart and compassionate and in literally any other color? Why perpetuate the myth that the most caring people are also the giggly ones in pink?!
Personally, I would have loved to see a color swap between Honey Lemon and GoGo Tomago. Have the tough racer in a pop-punk-inspired black and pink and purple outfit (it would match her bubblegum!), and keep the wide-eyed empath in the same yellow and white that she wears when not in her super-suit? When it comes to throwing chemical concoctions in battle, maybe give them more appropriate hues - like her blue/grey smog. If she is throwing up a shield, make it silver. Not. Pink.
I don't think that I am asking too much - I don't need absolutely revolutionary mold-breaking stuff. After all, the big guy, sufer/stoner type and tomboy are hardly mind-blowing! I was so happy to see a team that has more than a single token female, and where every member was smart - showing young viewers that you can be smart and something else - brains do not define a personality. I just wish that they had worked just a little bit harder on the "caring friend" colors, even peeked outside of the box.
Instead, this is a stereotype so old that it needs a zimmer frame and a blue rinse, and it ruined what was otherwise a wonderful addition to the Disney collection.