Honoring the Heroine: Colette

I have to admit, I was struggling with myself for a long time if I should include Colette in the list or not. Pixar usually does a really good job with creating female characters, but they also tend to be secondary characters at the best. Colette’s role in Ratatouille is really minor to a degree, that it is nearly possible to remove her without changing the main story too much. She is more the result of the romantic subplot than the actual main story.

But this month I intend to talk about the portrayal of woman in male dominated fields, and Colette is the perfect example for this. Her character establishing moment consists of her grabbing Linguini, telling him to take a good look around the kitchen and then pointing out that she is the only woman present and has to be doubly as good as everyone else to earn the right.

That was always something which makes me wonder. Cooking has been traditionally considered to be a “womanly” task. And yet, when it comes to professional cooking, suddenly males turn up, make a big deal of what they do and create a profession in which females are struggling to get respect. And yes, I am well aware that there is a difference between having a restaurant and cooking for a family, but nevertheless, woman have lead castle kitchens and done professional cooking for centuries. If life were remotely fair, males should be the ones required to proof their abilities, to make up for all the jobs in which woman have to proof themselves on the grounds that they were (supposedly) always done by men. And if there were true equality, it wouldn’t matter if someone is male or female, as long as the abilities are there.

In a way, that is exactly the point of Ratatouille, showing the talent in the unlikeliest place by making a rat a cook. But it also shows Colette’s abilities when she is forced to teach Linguini. In fact the moment when she explains him how to recognize good bread, talking about the “symphony of crackle” is the moment I like her character the most. It is obvious that she truly loves what she does.


I also like that she doesn’t immediately follow Linguini’s lead but instead needs convincing.  I am not sure if her arc totally works. I suspect that the writers wanted to establish that she doesn’t take risks due to her difficult position as only woman in the kitchen, so that her final decision to forget caution and act in the name of the thing she loves the most of the world (which is not Linguini but cooking) feels more like a personal triumph for her. But you know what really would have been one? If they had shown her side by side with Remy, both creating their own receipt and communicating with each other about improvements.

Quote:  “So you see, we are artist, pirate. More than cooks are we.”

As a movie from Pixar’s golden era, this one is naturally a must-watch for every animation fan, even if the premise sounds as if the writers ate the wrong kind of mushroom when they penned it. For me it was for a long time a serious contender for the top spot on the list of the best Pixar movies. What made me reconsider though, is the fact that it is mostly the ending which makes this movie. Up to the last act, a lot of aspects of the story are a little bit contrived and slightly predictable. Nevertheless, a movie one shouldn’t miss out. If nothing else, it should make you really, really hungry.

5 thoughts on “Honoring the Heroine: Colette

  1. That’s a fun pick. It reminds me to get out this lovely film and watch it again. Been a while.

    She’s so focused they do get a lot of humor out of her scenes which I appreciate it and the liar reveal when she’s so disappointed in Linguini feels heartfelt.

    I love the message of the movie you spoke or and how criticism can be good and bad. It can make us better or it can spoil the imperfect.

  2. Nice pick! Interesting when you brought up how the role of cooking turned from women to men. That’s something I never even considered when watching the movie!

    • It’s something I always wondered about. I wish they had spend a little bit more time on Colette’s arc. I know that she isn’t the main concern, but I think she is very interesting.

  3. It has been a while since I have seen this film, but I did like her. She is not the most feminist character in the film, but she is a very strong woman. It is definitely clear that she is there for the romance only, since she is not the most important character.

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