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After graduating from film school, entering into the world of entertainment was a challenge.  I’d receive encouragement and praise from my peers, but there would always be an invisible shadow looming in the distance, the one that wasn’t exactly cool about me being a woman in a community and workforce dominated by the opposite gender. Sure, I finally found my place, but it is (and always will be) a bit more of a struggle – which is something I can connect with when it comes to the character of Cruz Ramirez in Cars 3.

In the film, Cruz is labeled as the energetic, spunky new trainer to the down-on-his-luck Lightning McQueen. Decorated in a colorful yellow coat and full of spirit, she’s trying her best to make her client the best he can be…while also secretly dreaming of becoming a racer herself one day. But she was constantly told in her past that she’ll never make it and those notions knock her self-esteem down to the lowest of lows.

Yet, as Cars 3 goes along, Cruz eventually finds her way down the road of life that she has always wanted, but the way she gets to those goals makes me a bit uncomfortable – both in how her dreams are achieved on the screen and in how a majority of the industry seems to be patting their back on how great Cruz’s role in this franchise is.

Let me say this before any pitchforks are thrown into the air: this article is not here to slap Pixar on the wrist. They’re a company that has had countless hits that span a range much more diverse (in terms of awesome female characters) when comparing to a majority of their competitors. From Jessie and Merida to Edna and Sadness, there’s quite the track record here. So in the larger scheme of things, Pixar isn’t exactly someone to point the finger of shame towards, and neither is it really any one specific individual. But in a post-Wonder Woman world, I can’t help but see the cracks (even more than I did before) in the film industry when it comes to their lack of a true female voice. And if you look both at Cars 3′s writing credits and the many reviews for the movie, that worry is quite justified.

Luckily, I’m not the only one that seems to notice this. Mashable’s Josh Dickey wrote about a similar point, noting that when it comes to women’s voices in the film criticism world, not too many were heard speaking about Pixar’s latest on the popular site, Rotten Tomatoes:

“But your sample size of women reviewers is too small!” you might protest, “how can you know that illustrates how women will see it?” And that’s just the problem here, friends: On the first day that Cars 3 reviews came out, only three women had weighed in….  it just proves that a representative sample of voices is absolutely essential in cultural criticism, especially in a time when aggregated sentiment steers so much business.”

And as someone that has kept her eye on Rotten Tomatoes since Mashable’s article, just to see if the number of female written reviews for Cars 3 has grown, the ratio is still not that great. As of the time I’m writing this piece (nearing the end of the weekend) out of 113 reviews, only 10 of them were written by women. Some of their write-ups were fresh, while others were mixed, but with 103 other male voices being heard, the balance of thoughts on the movie (and most Hollywood blockbuster fare) could be much better.

When you look outside of the Rotten Tomatoes bubble (much like Dickey speaks of), you tend to notice there a few more diverse and interesting views. This is especially the case for the film critics that take up the wide range of video platforms like YouTube, including such channels as Beyond The Trailer and What The Flick?! – both of whom were not as much fans of the film and were disappointed in it for many different reasons. In her two review videos, Grace Randolph (who heads BTT) discusses that she feels Pixar has been currently focusing more on the agenda angle of their projects rather than creating a good story, particularly when it comes to Cruz’s involvement within the plot.

As for What The Flick!?critics Christie Lemire, Alonso Duralde and Tim Grierson discuss that their annoyance with the faux-feminism aspects to the film’s conclusion, and that Cars 3 might be getting too much of a pass for not being as risky as the very disliked Cars 2. 

Looking further out into YouTube, you can also find some voices have more of a positive angle on the movie, including solo reviewers like Perri Nemiroff and Chris Stuckmann. Both agree that Cars 3 has some flaws, but ultimately decide that it is an improvement over the second installment in the franchise. But the place where the two reviews are quite the opposite is on their views towards Cruz as a new addition to the Cars world – Perri finds her not too “funny or charming” while Chris considers her “a really good new character” who is probably his “favorite character” in the whole movie. Clearly, these differences in opinion is an insight that is important to the film world as a whole, especially when it comes to the overall score a film receives.

But what about the other jobs that make up Hollywood? Luckily, Wonder Woman has proven that when the right talent is chosen to balance the project, movie magic can happen – which is definitely the case with Allan Heinberg, Geoff Johns and Patty Jenkins working together to make Diana Prince’s silver screen solo movie the hit that is. Sure, to some it might not be a perfect movie (what really is these days?), but it is definitely a step in the right direction of properly portraying male and female characters with the same amount of strength and charisma. And with Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel (which features both a male and female director, and a two female and two male screenwriters) and the writing involvement of Rashida Jones on Pixar’s fourth Toy Story film, that progression can keep chugging along further down the right track.

The balance that is slowly starting to take shape is what needs to continue and branch out into further parts of the industry. Women need their voices heard just as their male counterparts in all fields, and not just the most obvious. The Kathleen Kennedy’s, Ava DuVarney’s, and Margaret Sixel’s of this world need to continue to grow within Hollywood and shape the future of films to come, while also giving just as much growth to those who watch and critique their work.

And if the character of Cruz is teaching us anything, it’s that though it is great for little girls to see a female car take on the big boys, it would be even better for it to feel more organic and natural than just a checkmark on a list for box office and merchandise success. Years later, when a little girl looks down the credits and sees that a woman was somehow involved in her favorite film character’s creation, she can be inspired herself to be a part of the film industry and not feel scared to voice her feelings.

So let’s keep working towards that goal, Hollywood! And then maybe we won’t keep seeing blockbuster films (and reviews of those films) that sound like “A Sketch for the Women” from SNL. I, and many future little girls who are just waiting to be turned into movie fans, would really like that.

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