Since its premier at the 53rd annual British Film Festival in London, Fantastic Mr Fox is quickly becoming a hit with parents and children alike and it’s easy to see why. The film’s use of quirky stop motion and music gives it a flare of originality. However, I couldn’t escape the feeling of disappointment (cue familiar eyeroll) at the film’s portrayal of the all too familiar gender roles. Perhaps it was due to the casting of Meryl Streep in the lead female role that caused me to subconsciously prepare for what I thought would be a more modern take on a classic tale. I left feeling disheartened. The only female character with any substantial screen time was Mrs Fox (voiced by Meryl Streep). Furthermore her character operated predominately within the domestic sphere that traditionally has stifled many great female roles. The primary function of Mrs Fox was to act as the ‘voice of reason’ that prohibits Mr Fox (George Clooney) from living his charismatic life of enjoyment and danger.
The climax of the film takes the form of a battle between the displaced animals (led by Mr Fox) and the three farmers Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness) and Bean (Michael Gambon). One of the most memorable scenes in Fantastic Mr Fox is the one in which Mr Fox is shown rounding up and assessing his allies’ strengths. The dominance of masculinity is most striking in this scene and those that follow. The physical battle is shown to be a male arena, with Mrs Fox and the other female characters not permitted to leave the domestic setting. In addition, they are given only fleeting appearances in the narrative, with the possible excepting of the young fox which becomes the source of tension between Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson). The character is never fully explored and left merely as an object of desire for the young males.
Although adults will undoubtedly flock to see Fantastic Mr Fox, the film’s primary audience will be children. As such, it is important that there be a female character for young female, and male, audience members to relate to. This is absent in the film.
Fantastic Mr Fox looks set for cult status, it’s just a cursing shame that Wes Anderson failed to bring Roald Dahl’s classic tale into a modern society.