Rest in Peace Cartoon Mothers
A mother is the source of life, she endures nine months of pregnancy, the excruciating pain of labor, and cares for her child till her last breath. Clearly, mothers are essential to a child’s life, but most children’s animated movies mysteriously kill the mother before the movie even starts or something deathly tragic happens to her within the first ten minutes of the movie. Are mothers as important as we believe, or can someone else do the job just as well, if not better? In the article “Why Are All the Cartoon Mothers Dead?” by Sarah Boxer she carefully analyzes older and current children’s animated movies but the most intriguing aspect she realizes is that the majority of them share is the complete lack of maternal figures. Instead, the playful, loving, and well-rounded father is set to take over all the parenting responsibilities, and he is great at it, portraying the need for a mother virtually useless. The three rhetorical characteristics Boxer employs to persuade, provoke, and encourage the reader to ponder is pathos, logos, and ethos. Pathos corresponds to the reader’s emotions, logos relates to logic “and how the reader perceives the text as intelligent and reasonable” (Garcia-Martinez), and lastly ethos refers to the credibility the reader associates with the author. The manner in which these rhetorical characteristics are utilized greatly affects how the reader will interpret the argument presented, and whether he/she can be provoked to consider different ideas. Boxer’s article is an exemplary work that demonstrates the effective presentation of these crucial characteristics of powerful rhetoric.
The most effective rhetoric is pathos because it relies on the reader’s emotions that emerge while reading the article. In other words, it is defined as, “an appeal to the sentiments of the reader or listener; it’s the fundamental emotive sense of a spoken and written argument” (Garcia-Martinez). Boxer uses thought-provoking language to cause the reader to wonder but she also represented her own emotions by being humorous, insightful, and light-heartedness which encouraged readers to tap into their own feelings when reading her article. For instance, Boxer applies pathos in her analyzation of the movie Mr. Peabody and Sherman that she notes is actually quite different from other animated movies in that it does not kill off the mother but rather it is a single male dog wanting to adopt a human boy. Nonetheless, it still disregards the importance of women, as exemplified by Boxer. The scene of the movie she is referring to is when George Washington appears and expresses the idea of changing the Declaration of Independence. She discloses, “I listened for the magic words, and this is what I heard: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men—and some dogs—are created equal.” What?!?! (Insert spit take.) Given the chance to rewrite history, the filmmakers give rights to some dogs? But not to the bitches (I mean to the women)? Sure, it’s funny. Funny like udders on male cows. Funny sad. Funny infuriating. Funny painful.” Boxer is clearly baffled by the choice made in this influential opportunity. She intrigues the reader’s emotions by using powerful language such as infuriating, painful, or even bitches. This language undoubted taps into a reader’s emotions and cause anger and frustration like that expressed by Boxer. Regardless, in serious situations she still keeps her lighthearted attitude by being humorous, demonstrated when she “inserts a spit take” or calls women bitches, which is another word for female dog. She reveals her emotions so that the reader knows that it is ok to feel many different ways about the situations and that disclosing how you feel is healthy. Boxer’s use of pathos is highly powerful in this article because she provokes her reader, not attempts to convince her reader that her argument is right. She is attempting to being awareness to a trend that has been very evident, and her purpose is not solely to win an argument but to push the reader out of their comfort zone and make them consider ideas other than their own.
The intelligence that someone demonstrates, especially an author that presents their idea to a reader to cause persuasion, is highly important in the reader’s interpretation of the information provided. Logos correlates with the effectiveness of the information presented and if the author did their research so that they can efficiently prove their opinion. To clarify, logos “has to do with logic, and how the reader perceives the text as intelligent and reasonable” (Garcia-Martinez). In Boxer’s article logos is highly active, she has at least twenty examples of this rhetoric, from quotes made by a children psychologist to a female English professor and even a famous novelist and film director. To be exact Boxer includes this quote, “Carolyn Dever, a professor of English, noted that character development begins “in the space of the missing mother.” The unfolding of plot and personality, she suggests, depends on the dead mother.” As well as, “Bruno Bettelheim, the child psychologist, saw the dead mother as a psychological boon for kids: The typical fairy-tale splitting of the mother into a good (usually dead) mother and an evil stepmother…” Boxer utilizes many quotes from specific, relevant, and credible figures from all various aspects of her work to help the reader arrive at an ultimate conclusion or judgement. Also, this form of functional rhetoric separates her work from something based solely on emotional, like pathos, and represents her as an intelligent, analytical, and trustworthy writer how does her own homework and research, “logos involves the quality of analysis and reasoning operating in a text; whether it makes clear and compelling sense to the reader or not” (Garcia-Martinez). The quotes provided by professionals in different fields, all related to writing, children, and films, operate as proof for the reader that the thoughts and emotions Boxer possesses are in face, factual and can be proven and supported by several experts, thus, swaying the reader in her favor. All in all, the argument at hand is proven true but this evidence is effective if it is the reason a reader decides to ponder Boxer’s thoughts, because an argument is an interaction between people not a battle.
Pathos and logos are both very important when presenting a debate but if the writer or speaker has no credibility in the topic at hand, it is very likely that the reader or listener will not be willing to accept his/her ideas because they have no expertise. The last rhetorical characteristic of argumentation is ethos which, “involves how much a reader respects a writer’s thoughts and motives, and how much a reader recognizes a writer’s authority to comment on/argue about the topic” (Garcia-Martinez). Boxer possesses many characteristics that prove she is unquestionably credible about what she is arguing about. To begin, she is a mother, “I began to watch a lot of animated children’s movies, both new and old, with my son,” therefore, she first-handedly knows the importance of her role in her son’s life, and finds it demeaning and baffling that so many filmmakers have purposefully chosen to leave that aspects of a child’s life out of their story lines. Also, children highly enjoy the movies produced by animation studios such as Disney and Pixar, her having a son exposes her to an impressive range of those films from the classics to the new originals, so, she has probably seen each movie various times, essentially making her an expert in them. She is also a published author in the magazine The Atlantic, which according to mossmoments.com, was first published back in 1857. This magazine has had Barack Obama, The Beatles, and Nelson Mandala, just to name a few, on the front cover. Therefore, the fact that Boxer is published in such a long-running, successful, and insightful magazine means that she is highly intelligent, precise, and attentive with her work, not just anybody can be apart of something so monumental and influential. She also has very accomplished work outside of the articles in the magazine, such as her sequel titled Mother May I? which follows the first, In the Floyd Archives. Lastly, she is a graphic novelist, so she understands the importance of art and the writing that is used to interpret it. To conclude, Boxer has made her mark in many different career opportunities, and has carefully improved her crafts over the years, thus “we employ ethos to represent those characteristic qualities of a speaker or writer that contribute to the listener’s or reader’s eventual acceptance of the argument” (Garcia-Martinez).
An argument is not only a battle between two people to see who is right or who wins. An argument is an exchange of ideas, thoughts, and beliefs that “persuade the reader, mildly or strongly provoke the reader, and effectively get the reader to ponder” (Garcia-Martinez). This act of influencing the reader or listener is more affective if the three functional characteristics of pathos, logos, and ethos are present. In Sarah Boxer’s article “Why Are All the Cartoon Mothers Dead? she expresses her disbelief for the miniscule amount of time motherly figures get in a children’s animated movie, such as in Finding Nemo or Ice Age, and is replaced by a humorous, caring, and do-it-all kind of dad. She effectively displays her findings through the use of pathos, logos, and ethos. Pathos is “that element that attempts to (actively and passively) sway and engage a reader or listener on the basis of emotion!” (Garcia-Martinez), logos are, “that element which attempts to sway and engage a reader or listener on the basis of thought!” (Garcia-Martinez), and ethos is “that element involving senses of credibility and allure that helps one to persuade or provoke another!” (Garcia-Martinez). In short, when all three tactics are employed the writer or speaker can more efficiently interact their ideas with a reader or listener and thus, encouraging them to step outside their comfort zone and consider thoughts other than their own.