I think Toy Story 4 is one of the most romantic movies I have ever seen. Yes, I know you think I’m crazy. And you’d be right: TS4 isn’t particularly romantic in any traditional sense of the word. But it is romantic in a very particular way that – as far as I know – appeals only to me.
If you’ve watched Toy Story 4, you will know that there is a little bit of a romantic plot line thrown in between Woody and Bo Peep. It’s not very pronounced and they kept it low-key for the most part. If you haven’t watched Toy Story 4, I haven’t spoiled anything yet (this could all have been surmised from the trailers) but in the rest of this piece I am going to, i.e. here is your Spoiler Warning.
Before, I go into Woody and Bo Peep’s romance, let me address (1) the title of this piece and (2) what about their romance appeals to me. So, first off, I identify as asexual. If you don’t know what that is, I would really encourage you to visit the AVEN website and read up on what it is. But basically asexuals (or aces) aren’t interested in sex or motivated by sex. Or as my cousin puts it, “You mean you never get horny? Nice!”
Probably because of my asexuality, I’ve been drawn to the pairings that are high in the love, but low in the sexual tension. And that’s why I think Toy Story 4 is romantic.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the toys are asexual. Too much of a stretch? They’re probably interested in sex? They’re probably boning each other off-screen? They have the bits? No? Okay cool, the toys are aces. Moving on, finally, to Woody and Bo Peep.
Bo Peep wasn’t much of an important character in the first two movies. She was a little bit like Woody’s girlfriend, but I feel like their relationship was more just a flirtatious one rather than one of partnership. She would sometimes hook him in her staff and pull him over for a makeout session and that seemed to be the extent of their relationship. It’s not until the flashback at the beginning of TS4 that we see that there may have been something deeper between the two. They did have something of an effective partnership as we saw on display during the rescue operation. And while Bo has been the active participant in the flirtatious relationship thus far, here we finally see how Woody feels. We saw how he wouldn’t accept the fact that Bo was being given away. He tries to get her back from the box, but she gently explains that if they find her in the house again, they will just take her away again. And then the fact that Woody actually considers – even for a split second – to go with Bo, shows how important she is to him. Because Woody would never leave Andy. Woody is loyal to his kid to a fault. Although, to a toy, that doesn’t seem like a fault – that seems like the best quality you can possibly have. And Bo understands that. It’s what she likes about him. And it’s not as if she expected to stay with Molly her whole life. So it’s not as if she would get to be with Woody her whole life. She’s just grateful for the time they had together and wishes Woody the best with Andy.
It’s at least 9 years between that flashback scene and the main events of TS4. But it remains clear that Woody hasn’t forgotten Bo. The only mention of her in TS3 (which took place in this interim) was a throw-away line about having lost friends along the way, but the sadness Woody feels was made pronounced. And in TS4, while Woody is still being is loyal-to-a-fault self, this time for Bonnie, and trying to get Forky back, the fact that he is distracted from his mission when he sees Bo’s lamp, again tells us that he hasn’t let go. When we finally meet Bo, we realize she hasn’t forgotten either. She introduces him to her friend Giggle McDimples, and it seems like Woody has come up before during their girl talk. Bo is excited at first at the prospect of Woody being a “lost toy”, but then she realizes that he’s only on a rescue mission. This chance meeting is only temporary. And he needs her help getting Forky back from the antique store. Although she would rather not go back there, she cares about Woody enough that he helps him out anyway. But Woody messes things up for her. She loses her sheep. She gets upset with him. And when he wouldn’t give up after their failed attempt, she is understandably frustrated and leaves. But they are toys. Being stubbornly loyal to your kid is a virtue. She admires this quality in him and ultimately comes back to help.
And now we get to the part where I am reading into it from my own perspective. The ending. Bo knows Woody has to go back to his kid. However sad this might make her, she knows he takes his purpose as a toy seriously and she admires this. So, as in the flashback, she bids him goodbye and sends him on his way. But this time, Woody comes back. The scene that gets me straight in the heart is when they run to each other and spin around in embrace. The part that gets me in the heart is after the embrace when Bo looks at him with disbelieving joy. Because she can’t believe Fate has brought Woody back to her.
I emphasize Fate because it’s not as if Woody sacrificed his life’s purpose to be with her. Throughout the whole movie we’ve seen that Bonnie has outgrown Woody and lost interest in him. If Woody disappeared, Bonnie probably wouldn’t even notice. And Woody has been struggling with this the whole movie. Having had been Andy’s favorite, it is hard for him to be the neglected toy. And ultimately he realizes that he has had a fulfilling life as a toy during his time with Andy. He doesn’t need another one with Bonnie. And more importantly, Bonnie doesn’t need him. So, for once, he could listen to his inner voice and choose something else. Had this chance meeting with Bo occurred during a time when Bonnie needed him, he would have chosen to go back. Because it would have been his calling, as a toy.
I was surprised to find out that the filmmakers considered an alternate ending during which Bo Peep runs into a little girl who wants her. And her time with Woody reinvigorates in her the need to be there for a child. So she heeds her calling and she and Woody go their separate ways. I would’ve found that ending heartbreaking because I really did want Woody and Bo to stay together. But I mention this to illustrate that it wouldn’t have made sense for them to stay together if either or both of them had a calling to go to a kid. It only works when Fate has put them in a situation in which they can be.
And that’s what I find so great about this movie. A traditional romance movie might have one person make a grand gesture of sacrifice to be with the other, because movies teach us that nothing is more important in life than finding love. But many of us would agree that it is not, and sometimes, even if you’ve met the right person, the circumstances aren’t right for you to be together. But in Toy Story 4, Woody and Bo have cared for each other for a long time, but the circumstances were finally right for them, and I find that just so darn romantic.