Last month my fiance, Alejandro, and I sat down to watch The Mitchells vs. the Machines, a Netflix animated film from the creators of the Lego and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse films that made critics pale in the face. On paper, this movie was a winner for me: dizzying, fearless, and emotionally intelligent, with the added bonus of SNL pals Fred Armisen and Beck Bennett playing hapless robots. But as Ale and I watched, I felt something stab at me several times, like a sharp stone in my shoe. And after the credits roll, I was struck: I wish there were more kids cartoons about couples without kids.
Basically, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is about ambivalence, about the difficult relationships we all negotiate with family members and about technology. As a childless couple at 40 (our birthdays are three days apart), Alejandro and I face our own ambivalence: whether or not to try to get pregnant, this late in the game. Watching a vibrant family make their way to global salvation, Hollywood once again reminded me that I must view the loving nuclear family as my only salvation. And while I loved the film’s tender exploration of father-daughter tensions, I was struck by how everything I watched as a kid – Home Alone, Calvin and Hobbes, even Alvin and the Chipmunks – not only strengthened the family unit, but also having a family in the first place. (Except for Garfield, who mostly liked laziness and lasagna.)
Press play to listen to a narrated version of this story, brought to you by AudioHopper.
You can cite a lot of smart adult shows, especially for female audiences, with couples and characters without children, from Sex and the City to Insecure to Call My Agent, but I think it’s crucial that little girls also see childlessness as an optimistic possibility. . Instead, they’re getting franchises like The Incredibles, whose PG rating should mean pretty generic, when it comes to suburban family dynamics * yawn *: let’s see, a chin slit for a dad; a mum whose shocking ferocity when her children are threatened is hardly shocking, given that the “mama bear” trope is tired, including in the movie Mitchells.
How about a childless woman who is fierce to begin with? You could name Toy Story 4’s Bo, a self-proclaimed lost toy, who decided not to ‘belong’ to another kid, but his literal porcelain skin, corseted waist, and forgiveness for Woody could use an update. .
Unpaired, childless characters, on the other hand, tend to be somehow crazy (Mary Poppins and Willy Wonka), depressive (Joe in Pixar’s Soul), or downright evil (Voldemort).
Look, I get it: removing children from children’s films seems counterintuitive and unsaleable. Would the nine year old self want to watch a 40 year old self movie? But then again, why did I love Garfield so much? He did what he wanted, fuck what Jon Arbuckle thought was appropriate feline behavior. He kicked Odie off the tables, sent Nermal to Abu Dhabi, and took a nap.
Kids love orphan stuff. Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, Oliver, Lemony Snicket’s Baudelaire Orphans. It’s delicious to imagine that there are no parents there to order you. Likewise, the animated tales that describe the freedom of a couple without children could be a huge, untapped, G-rated genre. I’m happy to take it further if someone from Disney + wants to pay me millions.
“It doesn’t matter what we decide for the kids, or what happens once we decide, we’re still going to be a family, ”Alejandro said last night, holding me in bed, alongside Penny, our basset hound mix, and Logan, our marmalade striped cat, who is even bigger than Garfield.
A few hours later, at 2 a.m., Penny started barking like crazy. I went downstairs to let her out, only to get into a puddle of Logan’s vomit. This morning, Ale and I got into a fight over who should go with Penny, and in the middle of our argument, Logan ran in with a baby bird in his mouth. Ale rushed to save the bird, as I dragged Penny and Logan.
“The bird is still alive,” Ale called from the bathroom. “I’ll try to take her to a wildlife rescue center.” He drove an hour north to the only place open on Sunday, and the keeper said he thought the bird (it turned out to be a baby turtledove) would get there, as the wounds weren’t sure. its wings.
Love! Terror! Voltage! Fury! A helpless creature torn from the jaws of death! Looks like a good children’s movie. (Seriously, Disney + DM me.)
Meanwhile, I’m trying to imagine my own happy ending with no child, married to a man who rescues baby birds and brings home breakfast tacos, even though that kind of satisfaction hasn’t arrived yet. at Hollywood. We might see it in The Mitchells vs. the Machines II, set in 2040, in which Katie and Jade are a filmmaker couple grappling with new robots, and the only reproduction they are concerned about is copyright infringement.