Cars 3 – The Unexpected Feminist Film

This weekend I took Bear on his first ever Cinema trip to see Cars 3. It was such an exciting moment for me because it meant that I could finally share one of my passions with him… cinema. We bought our popcorn at the counter and made our way to our seats. I knew Bear would absolutely love the film because he is completely obsessed with the Cars brand and is a huge fan of Lightening McQueen. I was all set up and ready to watch an hour and 50 minutes of animated racing, but what I wasn’t expecting was an hour and 50 minutes of animated racing, with strong narratives of feminism woven in. That’s right, Cars 3 is the unexpected feminist film!

Lightening McQueen - Cars 3 - The Unexpected Feminist Film
Image courtesy of Dreamstime/ Steve Lagreca


The plot

Lightening McQueen is enjoying being at the height of his career, he is winning races, has a great relationship with the other racers and is enjoying doing what he loves… racing! However his world starts to crumble as he suddenly discovers a new breed of racing cars are filtering onto the track and he begins to realise that his career may be on its final lap. In a bid to push through and stay at the top of his game, he begins training at a top end training centre where he meets trainer Cruz. Together they attempt to work together to get McQueen back on top form, but this new style of training just isn’t working and McQueen grows increasingly frustrated. Cruz and McQueen then try more traditional training methods, by practising on the beach, but by this point he has lost his spark and needs to do some soul searching.


This leads McQueen and Cruz to the quiet, rustic town where McQueen’s friend and crew chief, Doc Hudson once trained. As a viewer this was quite emotional, because by this point it is evident that Doc has since passed. As McQueen and Cruz begin to meet Doc’s old racing friends and explore Doc’s life, McQueen begins to realise that perhaps it is time for a new chapter in his. This shift in perspective helps McQueen see that Cruz has a lot of racing potential and just needs to be given the opportunity to show it.


The Feminism Narrative:

At the start we see a lot of Cruz being thought of as a female supporting men in achieving their dreams and ambitions. She is often undervalued, underappreciated and she makes an interesting speech about being told ‘not to dream too big’. She explains that she missed her one shot at the racing world because, ‘all the other racers were bigger than her and it made her feel like it was a world in which she didn’t belong’. McQueen replies to this by saying he never felt like that because when it came to racing, ‘he never though he couldn’t do it’. This part of the film strongly highlights the differences in the way boys and girls are made to feel about their potential. Girls and women being lead to believe that they do not have a place within certain fields and industries is an undeniably stark reality for women in 2017.


There is an interesting scene where McQueen and Cruz talk with Doc’s old racing companions, where the one older female racer explains in her day they wouldn’t let her have a number. She goes on to say that she wasn’t haven’t any of that, so made herself one and took to the track anyway. She is a pioneer of gender equality in this setting.


As the film develops, McQueen begins to see that it is time to pass the torch as he can’t compete with the new generation of racers. This is where Cruz is called in to take his place in the race. As the race picks up speed, Cruz works her way up to the leaders. The leading racer Storm Jackson begins to see Cruz as competition and tries to convince her she is not worthy of her place. As Cruz’s confidence ebbs away and falls back in the race, McQueen explains to her that Storm is scared of her potential and makes her aware that she does deserve her place within racing because she has got what it takes.



As a mum to two boys, I feel that teaching them about feminism and gender equality is vitally important. I want them to be feminists and to fight for what is right. My hope is that they grow up in a time where girls and women no longer have to fight to be heard, respected and treated fairly. My hope is that they grow up in a time where both men and women have equal opportunities. My hope is that they grow up in a time where people, regardless of gender are seen as equals. Cars 3 pushes for that feminist agenda and wonderfully translates the struggles and challenges that women face in 2017. I just hope that the children watching it are listening. They are the future and I really hope that they build that future into one where gender inequality has no place.


Have you been to see Cars 3 yet? What are your thoughts on Cars 3? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also follow me on Pinterest.

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29 thoughts on “Cars 3 – The Unexpected Feminist Film

  1. We havent yet seen it but went to see something else the other day. My kids saw the trailer whilst there and are desperate to go see it! It sounds so good we will try to get at some point in the holidays.

  2. We haven’t seen it yet but I really want to bring my son. Our only problem is all children’s films are dubbed in Portuguese. I’m hoping it’ll still be in the cinema next week when we visit London enroute to America!

  3. Wow! I had no idea it was so out there like that. I knew Disney was finally coming around to showing more women in control of their own lives. They’ve been improving it little by little since the 90’s but now is a really great time to start showing it and getting bigger, especially now. I have high hopes for our children’s generation, I really do. We keep teaching them about equality and showing them more compassion and understanding rather than hatred and bigotry and we will have what I hope will be the generation that truly changes the world:)

  4. I LOVE CARS!!! The first came out when I was a teenager. I love that I can now introduce it to my daughter. I love the themes in all of them and love even more that this one touches on feminism. I’ve not read the plot of this one until this post and you’ve made me really want to go and see it straight away. I’m so glad a film for kids is touching on such an important issue! xx

  5. It was such an unexpected moment, You are always lead to believe that any female role in films, more so Disney couldn’t be anything but a love interest.. and Cruz wasn’t, I took both my son and daughter to see this film and at first my daughter was bored, but at the end, she came out of the cinema with a huge smile on her face because Cruz meant a lot to her, my son also saw girls in a completely different light, I have told them both time and time again that it doesn’t matter what you are, as long as you are good at something then your gender doesn’t matter… and Cruz proved that to him.

    I can hear them now playing in their bedroom, and not only is Lightning there, but so is Cruz.. beating him at the finishing line.

    this is an awesome post!!

  6. Ah we haven’t seen cars 3 yet, my children love the other two films. I will try and fit it in next week. Makes me a little anxious taking my 3 year old to the cinema but sometimes you just have to go for it! X

  7. I think Disney definitely covered the gender inequality quite well for the kids and adults to understand I love cars 3 and my nephew is a huge fan of the series too

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