Miyazaki’s films generally have the following elements: a very fully realised girl either prepubescent or just after, an even more fully realised world with a keen sense of the natural environment, various forms of flying, various types of monsters and no villains but definately antagonists.
The documentary I just saw had an interview with a japanese psychologist who has a keen interest in Miyazaki. He made a couple of comments about how he felt Miyazaki’s monsters are projected elements of himself, perhaps elements of himself that he is not comfortable with but which his protoganists, often those very young girls, have an instinctive trust for. He cites the scene in Totoro where Mei, a four year old, discovers a shed sized monster (ok, it resembles a large soft toy) in a tree and promptly leaps onto its tummy and falls asleep. The editor follows this interview with sketches of Chihiro in Spirited Away taking off her top.
Not if you know his work.
In his films, the girls are not objectified, as a viewer you inhabit the viewpoint, you know their feelings from the inside. His characterisations of the girls are complex and emotionally deep. My particular reading is that Miyazaki’s female protaganists are true extensions of his persona as opposed to those monsters which I believe tend to be his ideas, fears and wishes of external uncontrolable forces in the world that he wishes were benevelont. The reason why he chooses girls, I think, is for the simple reason that men in the Japanese culture have less freedom to demonstrate weakness and doubt, to express sadness and grief and hence are less flexible characters if one is interested, as Miyazaki is, in films about growth and struggle. It is no accident I think that most of his male characters tend to be variants of stoic fellas with a very limited emotional range and who, I find, tend to quite boring in comparison to his female characters.