'The Secret Life of Pets 2' Film Review: Cartoon Offers Outdated Messages About Marriage, Manliness"
Because a cartoon about cute puppies for children is an appropriate vehicle for messaging about marriage and manhood.
Come for the adorable puppies, stay for the toxic masculinity and antediluvian notions regarding love and family.
Milking human's collective affection for our furry and feathered pals, the original "The Secret Life of Pets" imposed the "Toy Story" formula on animals living in New York City in order to show us what they do when we are not looking.
"The Secret Life of Pets 2," on the other hand, for which both Renaud and Lynch reprise their roles, effectively acts as an animated ode to heteronormativity, toxic masculinity and patriarchal worldviews, passed off as harmless plot points to entertain young audiences.
"Pets 2's" descent into the bowels of what reads as conservative messaging begins as Katie (voiced by Ellie Kemper), Max's owner, randomly meets a young man, quickly marries and has a child.
In this fictional universe, that's clearly the only natural progression of events in a woman's life. That trope is later reinforced through the pet characters.
To achieve this, she partners with dismissive cat Chloe (Lake Bell), but in no way can "Pets 2" possibly pass the Bechdel test.
In case it wasn't obvious, "Pets 2" makes no attempt at diversifying the notion of what a family is today. No same-sex couples are in sight as pet owners, much less as parents. Nothing that deviates from the default straight married couple is even hinted at.
But now we get to what really got under Carlos Aguilar's saddle, the toxic masculinity part! (I know you were waiting for this ~:)
Making matters worse, Harrison Ford is cast as Rooster, a hyper-masculine shepherd dog brazenly teaching Max how to toughen up.
Rooster is the embodiment of phrases like "Men don't cry," and " Rub some dirt on it." This alpha dog rejects vulnerability by preaching about how sissified city dogs are. The character is disturbing in his unapologetic validation of behavior society as a whole is trying to eradicate. He equates courage with arrogance and other outdated perceptions of manliness.
Defenders may argue it's absurd to attribute such weight to an animated feature, but on the contrary, this is the content to which we should be paying the most attention. Family-friendly releases have the power to communicate nuggets of knowledge to young viewers, and when the information transmitted is this regressive, it's worth raising the alarm.
Update: Secret Life of Pets 2 beats XMen Dark Phoenix at the box office. So everybody agrees that little Carlos is a dumbass.