Monday, February 7, 2011
Gender Stereotyping in Disney Films
If we look closely at Disney animated films like the Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast, we can definitely pick up on the gender stereotyping performed within the narrative. If we take a step back and scrutinize the general overview of Disney characters, we can see that they are characterized by narrowly defined gender roles. The male heroes or protagonists, for example, like Hercules, Aladdin or the Beast are always the ones to save the inferior damsel in distress. Even more blatant is the gender stereotyping of female roles. They are usually portrayed as subordinate, and if they do have power, they are usually evil characters (e.g. the evil Queen in Snow White and the evil octopus witch in the Little Mermaid). Often times, the female character is always the object or prize won by the male character. Jasmine is created under a dominant male narrative in the sense of being the object of Aladdin’s desire. Ariel constantly has to abide by the wishes of her father, and the only way she acquires autonomy is by sacrificing her most priceless gift: her voice. Only then does she receive the legs to free herself from the water world and walk on land to pursue her lover. Snow White, on the other hand, seems to be restricted to traditional roles like cleaning. Similarly, Belle, even after the Beast captures her father as his prisoner, is expected to perform her role and civilize the Beast with love.
What’s the big deal? What do you think this communicates to the children constantly watching these films over and over, and exposed to the same hegemonic gender stereotypes inherent to the depiction of these characters? Watching children’s media is an extremely influential way for children to make sense of their world, shape their self-perceived identities and how they fit in. Little girls are thus promoted to think that they are expected to have sexed up hourglass figures, long eyelashes and all the other female stereotypes that are created through the dominant male gaze.