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Portrayals of Aging in Disney

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t vander ploeg

on 3 December 2014

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Transcript of Portrayals of Aging in Disney

Portrayals of Aging in Disney
Portrayals of Aging in Disney happens within every movie. These portrayals influence the viewers to see aging in a particular way as older and middle aged characters are a representation of positive and/or negative stereotypes associated with aging. Through our presentation we are going to examine how Disney portrays aging, specifically through the female beauty ideal. We will examine specific examples of Disney movies and answer the question "why does this matter?"
Disney owns a major television network, cable networks, a sports team, production houses and radio stations. They also develop children's books, cartoons, computer software and toys
"Only 39% of older characters found in Disney movies hold a major role" (The Portrayal of Older Characters in Disney Films, 2007)
"Nearly half of all older characters in 34 Disney animated movies are negative" (The Salt Lake City Tribune, 2007)
"27% of older adults in 34 Disney cartoons had bad or no teeth, crackling voices and hunched posture" (The Salt Lake City Tribune, 2007)
Older characters in Disney are predominately male, 23% of the older characters are female and 77% are male (The Portrayal of Older Characters in Disney Films, 2007)

Aging in Disney within Snow White
Woman is haunted by the horror of growing old
Older people are depicted as ugly, toothless, sexless, incontinent, senile, confused and helpless
"Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"
"Love, beauty and youth conquer all"
Aging in Disney through Cinderella
Framework for studying females in Children’s classics
Jacqueline Carter
Samantha Evans
Meghan Hennenbury
Melissa Innes
Terra Vander Ploeg

What is the Feminine Beauty Ideal?
"the socially constructed notion that physical attractiveness is one of women's most important assets, and something all women should strive to achieve and maintain"
According to society, the ideal female body is YOUNG and SLENDER. Furthermore other characteristics apply as well...
Women who do not match up to this norm, are often portrayed as being sad, evil or even just downright offensive
Tangled's Images of Aging
Why Does it Matter?
Because television shows and movies are limited to telling a story in a short amount of time, they often rely on stereotypes to portray characters that appeal to viewers' emotions (The Portrayal of Older Characters in Disney Films, 2007)
Understanding how Disney portrays aging, especially through the female beauty ideal is important because the number of older characters has grown since the 90's and so to has the number of positive characters (The Salt Lake City Tribune, 2007)
"Children dreaded the thought of growing old because older people were, in their minds, seen as uglier, dirtier, less helpful, and less healthy than younger people"
Did you know...
Class Activity
When the image comes up on the screen, yell out any characteristics to help identify the character on the screen. You may not include:
Specific Movie
Other Characters
Once the character on the screen is identified, a new one will appear.
There is evidence that the media do influence children's perceptions.
Images and depictions within the media can have a powerful impact on children's perceptions of older people and can influence the way in which they interact with older individuals
Favourite Disney films are passed down from parent to child as they are nostalgic. By doing so, this Introduces each generation to the same sets of values and beliefs Disney portrays. This will create a continuous cycle of stereotypes about older adults.
Disney is one of the major places Intervention can begin. For many, Disney was a part of your childhood and thus has a impact on a large portion of the population. By portraying the female beauty ideal in a different light (i.e. making older characters 'beautiful'), Disney can influence the way children view older characters.
Baker-Sperry, L., & Grauerholz, L. (2003). The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales. Gender & Society, 15(5), 711- 726.

Baker-Sperry, L. (2007). The Production of Meaning through Peer Interaction: Children and Walt Disney’s Cinderella. Sex Roles, 56(11/12), 717-727. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9236-y

Engeln-Maddox, R. (2006). Buying a beauty standard or dreaming of a new life? Expectations associated with medial ideals. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 258-266

Erin, (2011). Disney’s Tangled: Working Out Stereotypical Knots. Gagging on Sexism.

Hand, D. (Supervising Director). (1937). Snow White (Motion Picture). Walt Disney Productions: RKO Radio Pictures.

Hani, H. (2011) The Inclusion of Stereotypes in the Disney Movie Tangled. Hanil K’s Blog.

Henneberg, S. (2010). Moms do badly, but grandmas do worse: The nexus of sexism and ageism in children’s classics. Journal of Aging Studies, 24(2), 125-134.

Jacobs, M. (2013, October 3). Actresses Who Should Play Cruella De Vil in Disney's New Movie. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Lemish, D., & Muhlbauer, V. (2012). "Can't Have It All": Representations of Older Women in Popular Culture. Women & Therapy, 35, 3-4, 165-180.

Magid, J. (2007, June 14). Senior Citizens aren’t bad - they’re just drawn that way. The Salt Lake Tribune.

Martin, T. (1996). Sartre, Sadism and Female Beauty Ideals. Australian Feminist Studies, 11(24), 243-252.

Mitchell, V., & Bruns, C. M. (2010). Writing One's Own Story: Women, Aging and the Social Narrative. Women & Therapy, 34, 1-2, 114-128.

Nelson, T. D. (Ed.). (2004). Ageism: Stereotyping and prejudice against older persons. MIT press.

Perry, M. (1999). Animated Gerontophobia: Ageism, Sexism and the Disney Villainess. Aging and Identity: A Human's Perspective, 201-212.

Robinson, T., Callister, M., Magoffin, D., & Moore, J. (2007). The portrayal of older characters in Disney animated films. Journal of Aging Studies 21, 203-213.

Towbin, M. A., Haddock, S. A., Zimmerman, T. S., Lund, L. K., & Tanner, L. R. (2003). Images of Gender, Race, Age, and Sexual Orientation in Disney Feature-Length Animated Films. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 15(4), 19-44.

Viegas, J. (2007). Study: Disney Films and TV Darken Elderly. Global Action on Aging.

Greno, N., Howard, B. (Directors). (2010). Tangled (Motion Picture). Walt Disney Productions.
Negative Images: Mother Gothel
Henneberg (2010)
3 Roles:
-The wicked old witch
-The selfless godmother
-The demented hag
Signs Of Aging:
Lady Tremaine – ‘the wicked stepmother’
- "Cold, cruel, and bitterly jealous of Cinderella’s charm and beauty"
Fairy Godmother
Problems related with aging:
1. "these stories eliminate women's old age by having heroines die in their prime"
2. "they resurrect female elders in terms with which no real woman could identify"
"Within these primary roles, results show that the older male characters portrayed all of the roles of authority (e.g., clergy, ruler, and mentor), while the only role dominated by older females (66.7%) was the role of villain"
T. Robinson et al. (2007)
Cruella DeVil and the 101 Dalmations
1996, 101 Dalmatians Non-Animated Film
Deemed to be an influential socializing force through which people learn to define themselves and others
Films from 1990 reveal cultural anxiety and phobia about aging and beauty
Mitchel and Bruns, Writing One’s Own Story: Women Aging and the Social Narrative, Cruella is seen as the “Bitch-Witch”
"Linda: Her hair is gray.
Carol: She is old.
LBS: Right, she is older.
Ben: She is 100 years old. Those are her grandchildren.
LBS: She is 100 years old? But those are her daughters.
[Laughter and exclamations of “No!” from the students.]"
"elders give
advice from an aloof position"
Positive Images: The Queen
Negative Images Throughout Tangled
Positive Images Throughout Tangled
Idea of never growing or looking "old" and therefore doing anything to remain "young"
"Mother knows best"
Darker skin, black curly hair
She does not posses the typical features associated with beauty
Rather possesses witch like features: warts, long white hair, a hunchback, wrinkles
Grandmotherly in the end
Cares for nothing but her daughter's safety and happiness
Did not take the flower for her own sake, rather the health of
her daughter
Loving and kind
Positives of Cruella DeVil:
She does not look as old as she is perceived to be
She fits into the “beauty ideal” with her skinny waist, flawless face and fashion
Negatives of Cruella DeVil:
- Personality makes her seem older
- Her attitude reflects the “bitch-witch”
- Children can use this representation of aging as a negative towards all adults
New Non-Animated Film
Naomi Watts
Milla Jovovich
Olivia Wilde
Glen Close
T. Robinson et al. (2007)
Baker-Sperry (2007)
Full transcript