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Feminist Theory and Disney Movies

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megan litteral

on 24 February 2015

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Transcript of Feminist Theory and Disney Movies

Feminist Theory & Disney Princesses
Female Charcter Roles
In early Disney films the princess was portrayed as the damsel-in-distress:
Sleeping Beauty
Snow White

As feminism rose in America, the type of princess Disney portrayed shifted:
Merida (Brave)
Male Character Roles
In 15 movies, a woman's value was determined by her appearance rather than her abilities or intellect.
In only 2 movies was marriage not presented as the ultimate goal.
Almost none of the female characters have present and consistent mother figures.
For example, Snow White, who was young, pretty, sweet-natured and obedient. Domestic work did not faze her since she knew her prince would come to her rescue. The young women portrayed in a majority of Disney films are happy homemakers, and wait for a man to give them a reason worth living
The Passive Heroines
The earlier Disney princesses symbolize the female who is pure and good, yet frail and entirely dependent on men (Snow White in 1937, Cinderella in 1950, and Aurora in 1959):
They had nothing other than their looks and desperately needed to be saved

The Next Generation
The turning point from the classic, sexist, disney archetype came with Pocahontas in 1995, who became the first of the new "fierce" generation.
We now find more and more examples of strong women in the newer (post-1995) disney princess movies (i.e.: Mulan, Tiana, Merida etc.)
These new princesses are breaking the damsel-in-distress roles of disney and are fighting alongside men as well as creating their own destinies.
They are strong-willed, dedicated, and independent.
Depicted General Themes of Being a Woman
(Pre-Feminist Shift)
A woman's appearance was valued more than her intellect.
Women are helpless and in need of protection.
Women are domestic and likely to marry.
Overweight women were unpleasant, ugly, evil, and unmarried.
Depicted General Themes of Being a Man
(Pre-Feminist Shift)
Men primarily used physical means to show emotion.
Men were naturally strong and heroic.
Men had non-domestic jobs.
Overweight men had negative characteristics.
The Warriors
The next wave of princesses (Ariel in 1989, Belle in 1991, and Jasmine in 1992) were still, although an improvement over their predecessors, very dependent on their male counterparts.
They begin to take action and have souls and personalities behind their pretty faces.
Rebelliousness was found in all three of these films.
Incapable of helping themselves
Female Heroines
In early Disney films men were portrayed as the rescuers:
Prince Florian (Snow White)
Prince Charming (Cinderella)

As princess roles began to shift, so did men's:
Li Shang (Mulan)
The Beast
John Smith (Pocahontas)
Study Findings about
Female Themes
Women were portrayed in domestic roles.
The Evolution of The Disney Princess
They lacked strong will. In fact, the only rebellious or disobedient action in any of these movies was Cinderella sneaking off to the ball.
Feminist theory studies gender, patriarchy, and the oppression of women and men. The princesses we'll be talking about all follow a similar format, including a plot centered around finding romantic love, a princess in need of rescuing from some physical or emotional danger, and a brave handsome prince. As time goes on the plot changes slightly as the feminist movements itself grows in society.
Using a Feminist Lens
When reading a text you can use a feminist lens to give you another angle to write about. For the next examples analyze the stories and tell us
Questions for Analysis
Is the text narrated by a male or female?

What types of roles do women have in the text?

Do any stereotypical characterizations of women appear?

What are the attitudes toward women held by the male characters?

Is feminine imagery used? If so, what is the significance of such imagery?

Are the females the protagonist or secondary or minor characters?

Do the female characters speak or act differently than the male characters? If so, why do you think that?
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