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Gender Relations Final Project - Disney Princess Movies

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Alexandra Beck

on 6 September 2012

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Transcript of Gender Relations Final Project - Disney Princess Movies

DISNEY Princess Movies Gender Relations Final Project by: Alexandra Beck Throughout this presentation it will become evident that gender role expectations are prominent in Disney princess films, and that although progress is being made, there is still influential content in present day Disney. Once upon a time... By making this statement, it is understood that being a man is equivalent to incredible strength, both physically and mentally. Even though it is not blatantly expressed, it is then subsequently understood that being a woman, as Mulan is, is not the equivalent to this strength and therefore must have some level of weakness. By these two expressions, gender role expectations are clearly laid out. To begin the discussion about gender roles portrayed in Disney princess films, the following film clip has been selected. This video is from Mulan (Bancroft & Cook, 1998) and captures the group of men who have been chosen for battle preparing for their fight. The song is titled “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You”, and gives an extremely clear message through both its lyrics and the video footage that plays along with it. The General of the Army is seen successfully accomplishing strength-testing tasks, while Mulan, the young girl pretending to be a boy in order to spare her father from war, is seen failing miserably. Although the other soldiers are struggling equally, it is the lyrics that clarify the message being conveyed. It is stated that the purpose of the exercises and training is to make the new recruits into men. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSS5dEeMX64 I'll Make A Man Out Of You GENDER ROLES This second video is another clip from Mulan (Bancroft & Cook, 1998), from the song “A Girl Worth Fighting For”. In the first few moments of the song, one of the characters openly articulates that girls need to be protected. This in itself is a defining statement to make about women, however, the song then goes on to have the soldiers describe the qualities they would like in a women. In doing so, none of the men list any qualities relating to intellectual ability or wit, instead listing characteristics such as pale skinned, a good cook, and willing to worship their husband. When Mulan suggests a woman with a brain who is able to speak up for herself, they shrug her off. This sends the message that what boys/men want is a pretty girl with nothing to say, someone who is not an equal. Just in case the message was not crystal clear, the men make snowwomen on their way up a mountain, and when the frame pans out you see that the snowwomen are posed seductively, turning women into sexual objects. A Girl Worth Fighting For In the Disney films, the representation of gender roles is unconcealed. The following pictures are from the films Cinderella (Geronimi, Jackson, & Luske, 1950), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Cottrell, Hand, Jackson, Morey, Pearce, & Sharpsteen, 1937), and Mulan (Bancroft & Cook, 1998). In these pictures the girls can be seen performing tasks such as cleaning, baking, or simply sitting in a “ladylike” manner. It is in these ways that the princesses are being portrayed. These are the activities that young girls watching the films are admiring. It is extremely common for little girls to wish to be a princess or to be like the images they see on screen, so when the princess whom they are following is displaying a stereotypical female role both in tasks and in demeanor, this may have a significant effect on the young viewer’s gender expectations (England, Descartes, & Collier-Meek, 2011). Representations Gender http://www.gaiaonline.com/arena/gaia/cosplay-avatar/vote/?entry_id=102218579#title http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-IH-6k9k_vmQ/TusVEJobCRI/AAAAAAAAAOA/eQsUiryBJVM/s1600/cinderella-scrubbing.png http://disney-clipart.com/snow-white/jpg/Snow-White-Pie-small.jpg The same suggestion can be made for the way that young viewers see young men, and the gender expectations that they develop. The pictures shown here are taken from the films Mulan (Bancroft & Cook, 1998), and Pocahontas (Gabriel & Goldberg, 1995). In both of these pictures the young men are presented as muscular, strong, and tough. These stereotypically male qualities are then seen by the young viewers and can alter their gender expectations (England et al., 2011). This can also lead to expectations or delusions about fairytale, or magical love, which will be discussed in detail later. GIRLS http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/public-smith-announcement-john-is-not-joseph/ http://www.cosplayisland.co.uk/costume/view/16597 GENDER REPRESENTATIONS BOYS In a study performed by England et al. (2011), gender role portrayals in the Disney princess films were looked at over time. They did so by grouping nine princess films into three categories – early, middle, and most current. They then coded stereotypically masculine and stereotypically feminine characteristics within each film. By coding the behaviour, they were able to conclude that over time the male characters were steadier and more androgynous than the females. It was suggested that the female characters displayed a greater change over time in their behaviour, and that they became increasingly more androgynous in their actions. Although progress seems evident in the female characters, and non-stereotypical gender qualities are certainly present in a selection of the films, it remains that all of the films did display gender qualities that were stereotypical (England et al., 2011). The next few pictures are full body shots of three of the princesses. These are being shown to shed some light on the skewed body proportions that are being presented to young girls. The microscopic waist, medium to large chests, wildly long legs, wide hips, and tiny feet are utterly unnatural, particularly in combination. In fact, the proportions exhibited are not dissimilar to those of Barbie. BODY PROPORTIONS http://allcartoonpictures.com/free-image-Jasmine.php http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/sleeping-beauty?before=1340957461 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_(The_Little_Mermaid) In a 2009 news article by BBC News Magazine, this next photo was manipulated to give an idea of what a real human model, Libby, would look like if she had Barbie’s dimensions. The result is comical at best, but when researchers at a hospital in Finland shared some insight it became apparent that although it would be extremely unlikely for any woman to actually have these proportions naturally, if she were to have this build it would be horribly unhealthy (Winterman, 2009). If a woman looked like Barbie, or a Disney princess, she would have less than 17% body fat, which is necessary for a woman to menstruate (Winterman, 2009). So, the image that is being given to young girls to idolize is actually that of a woman so unhealthy that her body would not be able to have a natural menstrual cycle. REAL LIFE BARBIE http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7920962.stm The gender role representation continues in the form of over-sexualization. In addition to atypical body proportions, Disney felt the need to highlight those tiny waist and large chests with the princesses clothing. When looking back at the images of Jasmine from Aladdin (Clements & Musker, 1992) and Ariel from The Little Mermaid (Clements & Musker, 1989), in both cases their midriffs are bare and they are either wearing a tight, tiny top, or in Ariel’s case seashells. Beyond their physical appearances, the princesses show maturity in their movements as well. The swinging of hips and tossing of their hair is abundant. OVER SEXUALIZATION It can only be imagined what young girls are taking from these films, but one mom, Peggy Ornstein, a journalist documented her young daughter Daisy’s experience with Disney princesses. She discusses her three-year-old’s rapid switch from Thomas the Tank Engine overalls and toy trains, to Disney princess gowns and lunchboxes once she was integrated with other children at preschool. Truly devastated, as she had been so proud that her daughter had been defying gender boundaries, Ornstein did some research on the long-term effects of these films and influences. She found out that when young children are taking in new information they are strengthening neural circuits, but doing so while expending others (Eliot, 2010). This effect was found to be stronger the younger the child. While children might be the most stuck in their ways as preschoolers, while the princess stage is in effect, this also coincides with the time that their brains are the most impressionable (Eliot, 2010). That being said, it is clear that the effects of these gender role representations at such a young age can be enduring. A study by Harper and Tiggermann (2007) showed that women who had been exposed to media portraying the thin-ideal woman exhibited more weight-related anxiety, low mood, self-objectification, and overall body dissatisfaction. So if this occurred with fully matured, grown women, what sort of effect are these sorts of images having on young impressionable minds? Are these really the earliest images to which children should be exposed? Another means of conveying gender role expectations in the Disney princess films is in the evident displays of patriarchy. Patriarchy is “a system of society of government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family”, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (2000). Essentially, a male dominated existence. This is ever so apparent in each of the princess films. These next two video clips are examples of male dominance in the form of song. PATRIARCHY The first song selection is
from The Little Mermaid
(Clements & Musker, 1989),
and shows all of Ariel’s sisters singing a song honouring their father, King Triton. The song is called “Daughters of Triton”, and as can be seen in the video, the king gets very angry when he realizes that one of his daughters is not there honouring him. This particular song simply shows the relationship between the king and his daughters – they worship him. Daughters of
Triton There is a section of the lyrics which discuss what her future husband will be looking to find in a wife, and the characteristics listed include calmness, obedience, and a tiny waist. Lastly, it is explicitly stated that it is a man’s duty to bear arms, and a woman’s duty to bear sons. It cannot be suggested that that does not give gender role expectations to a young child watching these films! This selection overall leaves the viewer with the idea that men are for strength, battle, and are to be honoured, and that women are for bearing sons, looking pretty, and honouring their fathers and husbands. The second song is called “Honour to Us All” from Mulan (Bancroft & Cook, 1998), and it goes beyond the relationship between father and daughter. In the lyrics, a future husband, the next man to be honoured, is mentioned. The premise of the song is that Mulan is being sent to be dolled up in order to find a husband and consequently bring honour to her father and her family. The lyrics even say flat out that the ONLY way a girl can bring honour to her family is by finding a husband. Honour To Us All Further into the same film, there was another demonstration of male dominance in the form of the prince’s ball. The prince held a ball so that all the eligible young women would dress up in gorgeous gowns and come dance with him in attempts to win his affection. However, in the end it would be he who selected a wife – his choice. It is difficult not to notice the humorous parallels to a popular reality show that currently airs – The Bachelor. Although progress has been made (if it can be called that), and there is also a female version of the television show called The Bachelorette, the original program was dozens of women trying to win the affection of one man who got to make all the decisions. In one of the earliest films, Cinderella (Geronimi, Jackson, & Luske, 1950), the young princess’ father dies in the beginning of the film. When this occurs the once upper-class young girl lost her standing in society. As she was not yet married and she no longer had a husband, she was without a man, and therefore did not belong to anyone. With that she became the housekeeper of the mansion that was once hers. The Bachelor Beyond the honouring of the fathers and husbands, Disney took patriarchy a step further by simply eliminating the mothers. Of the nine films that England et al. (2011) studied, only three of them included mothers. Two of the three had extremely passive and submissive mothers who did make any sort of great influence on the princesses. In some of the other films there were ‘evil stepmothers’. So instead of simply absent mothers, they are presented as evil, and untrustworthy, all the while honouring the strong father figures. It seems as though patriarchy in these films could only strengthened the gender role expectations. EVIL STEPMOTHERS, IF ANY MOTHERS The following images are from a selection of the princess films, and all of them capture moments in the films that would either be considered the ‘romantic’ moment, or the ‘happily-ever-after’ moment. An interesting detail to note is the way the cartoon artists drew the scenes. Commonly, each of the images seemed to have either fireworks, sparkles, or other means of making the characters in the center appear enveloped by the moment. This seems to be an artistic way of triggering emotions and making the scene appear magical and fairytale worthy. This is done by connecting parts of nature to the naturalness of romantic love, but hetero-romantic love specifically (Martin & Kazyak, 2009). FAIRYTALE / MAGICAL LOVE http://ciknakz.blogspot.ca/2011/01/perfect-two.html http://romanticideasinlife.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/romantic-boat-ride/ariel_eric_boat_l/ http://www.fanpop.com/spots/leading-men-of-disney/images/1117510/title/aladdin-jasmine-photo http://debohouston.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/bachelorette2.jpg http://blogs.marinij.com/katwilder/2009/04/a_nice_stepmom_might_be_worse.html http://beinglumina.blogspot.ca/2011/01/evil-stepmother-strikes-again.html As Martin and Kazyak (2009) pointed out, the naturalness of romantic love that is drawn upon in the Disney princess films is directed into heterosexual relationships. The concept that romantic love stems from a natural spark and is overpowering then helps to link heterosexuality and love (Johnson, 2005). Given this link, heterosexuality becomes solely represented. In the Disney princess movies there is a lack of representation of anything other than heterosexuality.
This is an interesting fact given the gay community’s relationship with Disney as a whole. Behind the scenes, on the production side of Disney, it is claimed that the company was extremely gay-friendly. A composer and orchestrater for multiple Disney films was quoted saying that the music department was so gay-friendly that they were nearly sued for discriminating against heterosexuals when a straight artist was fired (Griffin, 2000). There was also an estimate made by Michael Eisner, the chief executive officer of Disney, that 40% of the employees of Disney studios were gay or lesbian (Griffin, 2000). Likely due to this, in 1995, Disney decided to extend their employee benefits to domestic-partners as well as spouses, and took some heat from over a dozen Florida lawmakers (Griffin, 2000). It is unfortunate that given the percentage of gay and lesbian employees, many of whom work tirelessly on the films in a variety of capacities, that they remain unrepresented on screen. HETERONORMATIVITY Disney and the gay community The exclusion of representation of anything other than heterosexuality is not limited to Disney’s films. The following video is a commercial for the Disney theme parks, and it is crawling with heteronormativity, along with an abundance of stereotypical gender roles and expectations. To begin, a little girl in a princess dress is seen running down Main Street U.S.A, which pans out to show you her whole family. No surprise, it consists of a mom, a dad, and two brothers. The next frame shows one of those brothers pulling the sword from the stone and displaying his manly strength. Next up is a heterosexual couple riding a rollercoaster together. Shortly thereafter the prince from Cinderella (Geronimi, Jackson, & Luske, 1950) is seen kissing the hand of a young woman as the narrator of the commercial states that it is only a matter of time before she ‘finds her prince charming’. This is making the assumption that the girl, and every girl watching, is straight – extremely heteronormative. It then proceeds to show yet another family with a mother, father, and two kids, smiling and waving. This family is Asian, whereas the first family was Caucasian, and therefore it is probable that the creators of this commercial were trying to be race conscious and inclusive. Well, that inclusion started and ended with middle to upper class heterosexuals. HETERONORMATIVITY Disney Theme Parks The most recent Disney film is The Princess and the Frog (Clements & Musker, 2009), and thus it is the film to look to for signs of progress. It is evident that there has been progress made in some regards, but in what areas? PROGRESS http://www.fact.co.uk/media/1167429/the_princess_and_the_frog_3.jpg Race:
Princess Tiana is the first African American princess. Even though there have been princesses of other races before, such as Pocahontas, Mulan, Jasmine, they were all for a reason, based on where the film was set. Tiana was simply African American. Female business owner:
Tiana’s main goal in the film is to make enough money to open her own restaurant. Disney finally gave a girl a goal other than simply ‘get the guy’. Attitude:
The writers made her a little bit sassy instead of prim and proper like the early princesses (think Cinderella). Mother:
She has a mother who is alive! Although apparently that was a trade off for her father. YES Progress Heteronormativity:
This is probably the most comical lack of progress on Disney’s part. Not only has there been no representation beyond heterosexuality, but apparently it is deemed more socially acceptable to pair Princess Tiana with a frog than another girl. This is not progress. Prince Naveen:
Getting the prince in the end is still one of her goals even though she equally is striving for her restaurant. Body proportions:
Princess Tiana’s proportions are still very Barbie-esque. Very unrealistic and unhealthy. A terrible model for young girls to admire. NO Progress It is certainly easy to see that expectations of gender roles are transparently present throughout the Disney princess films. Considering that some progress has been made when comparing the early films to the most recent, hopefully with time Disney films can continue to progress in their elimination of excessive gender role representations. ... and they all lived happily
ever after! http://www.fact.co.uk/media/1167447/the_princess_and_the_frog_6.jpg
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