Friday, November 19, 2010

Disney's Gender Representation

Take, gender representation for example. It has hardly changed at all over the past sixty to seventy years for Disney. The typical Disney Princess or damsel in distress has a tiny waist with big hips, along with a big bust, tiny wrists and long eyelashes. As for her behaviors they are seen as sexual, with coy expressions and using body language to be seductive. Not only are these representations in human characters but can often be found in animal or inanimate characters as well. One example is Babette, the feather duster, in Beauty and the Beast (1991). Lumiere is trying to kiss her and she is saying no but clearly really meaning yes -leading him to eventually get what he wants. Another is, Tinker Bell in Peter Pan (1953) when she looks in the mirror at herself and sizes up her hips. Jasmine had to seduce Jafar in order to distract him to allow the Genie to escape. And in Little Mermaid (1989) the suggestion that body language will get you what or who you want.
Note that these impressions are not formed instantly, but over time. So creating characters with this same body frame eventually leads little girls to believe that this is how society expects women to look like. And in order to be a Princess and find a Prince you need to look and act as they do. This leads right into the female characters’ often weak role.

Most of the Disney Collection storyline’s portrays the princess as helpless and relying on the dominate male to save her. They never allow her to be smart or strong enough to save herself. Although Jane in Tarzan plays a strong woman she needs to be saved by Tarzan. Also Ariel in the Little Mermaid needs to be saved by her Eric and her father. Snow White needs to be woken by a kiss from the Prince. The list is never ending. So, combine all these ideologies and what is a young impressionable innocent girl to think?
The next gender representation that Disney lays out for us is the idea of the housewife. Snow white cleans up the seven dwarfs’ house so they will allow her to stay. Disney portrays her as a young female completely isolated from people at home. She enjoys cooking and cleaning. Her only friends are animals in the forest. In 1950, “Cinderella is forced to work as a maid in her own home by her step-mother and seems to accept this role with a surprising amount of equanimity” (Good Girls & Wicked Witches).

Disney is not only being scrutinized for their feminine gender representation but the male gender as well. Note the “prince” and or hero is always handsome, strong and smart always getting the girl in the end. For example take Beauty in the Beast that has been seriously criticized by many child psychologists. The Beast represents an abusive partner. He yells and screams at Belle, he has a horrible temper, he throws Belle’s father out of the castle and rips her family apart. Yet somehow Disney has the audience rooting for them. Belle should just overlook all of her abuse and look for the good inside. This sends a bad message to little girls about abusive relationships.

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