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Masculinity Portrayed by Disney
Transcript of Masculinity Portrayed by Disney
Presentation by Katie Litchfield
What it Means to be Masculine
Sensitivity in Male Disney Characters
Objectification of Women
Physical Strength and Appearance
Promotion of Violence
Conclusion and Citations
Definition of Masculine
Masculine (adj) — having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man
Society that decides what is appropriate or associated with manliness
To be masculine is to be strong, aggressive, handsome, and unemotional
These standards are continuously reinforced by Disney
“Research [has shown] that boys are required to adhere to standards of masculine behaviors more so than girls are required to perform feminine behavior”
-Britney Hibbeler, "Exploring Representations of Masculinity in Disney Animated Feature Films"
This means it is socially okay for a girl to assume masculine attributes, but it is less acceptable for a boy to adopt feminine traits
Gender studies are always very concerned with how societies views of women affect them, but we have yet to uncover how expectations for masculine attributes affect the lives of boys and men.
Disney princes' five most common traits were: “shows emotion, affectionate, physically strong, assertive and athletic” (England 560)
Feminine Traits in Disney Princes
The two most common characteristics of the princes were classified as feminine. This means that Disney does have some gender overlap.
However, the traits that male Disney characters were least likely to be seen doing were: “tending to physical appearance, being ashamed, and collapsing to cry.” (England 560) Although princes do have some feminine traits, traits that depict them as vulnerable are rare.
Disney/Pixar Male Protagonists
In the Disney/Pixar movies, gender stereotypes are debunked in favor of pro-feminist ideals
Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Cars all have male protagonists that embody masculine stereotypes at the beginning of the movie, “from emotional inaccessibility to keen competitiveness” (Gillam 2)
However, through the course of these movies, Disney and Pixar, “promotes a new model of masculinity. From the revelation of the alpha male’s flaws, including acute loneliness and vulnerability, to figurative emasculation through even the slightest disempowerment, each character travels through a significant homosocial relationship and ultimately matures into an acceptance of his more traditionally ‘feminine’ aspects” (Gillam 2)
An Overwhelming Pattern of Masculine Stereotypes
However, the depiction of men in Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Cars are not the rule, but the exception. Throughout its history, Disney has continually reaffirmed the traditional roles of masculinity thorough its male characters, which promote:
Objectification of Women
Physical Strength and Appearance
Use of Violence
“Feminists have studied what [Disney characters’ romances] tell girls about themselves. But it is just as important to think about what they tell boy about how real men interact with and think about women. Often the message to boys… is that men should view women as objects of pleasure or as servants to please them” (Newton)
How Should Boys View Girls?
“I want her paler than the moon with eyes that shine like stars. My girl will marvel at my strength, adore my battle scars. I couldn't care less what she'll wear or what she looks like. It all depends on what she cooks like.” (Newton)
This example describes the “perfect” woman: light skin, beautiful, admiring, and last but not least, a good cook. Nothing is mentioned about her personality or her sense of humor, all these characters care about is superficial traits, in turn objectifying women.
Princes associate their princesses with one characteristic, whether it’s beautiful singing voice or a pretty face. They know nothing of their personality, and only focus on their outward characteristics.
In the case of The Little Mermaid, Eric falls in love with Ariel's singing voice, so much so that he is almost tricked into marrying the wrong girl.
In the case of Cinderella, Prince Charming cannot even remember what she looks like so he has to find her doing a kingdom-wide search for a girl with the same shoe size.
Even though Hercules contains the strength the entire time, it is only after his physical and superficial transformation that he can become a hero.
In a study of 22 Disney movies, (most of which had male lead characters), 81.5% of good characters (hero and hero side-kick) and 68.2% of evil characters were depicted as fit, while 60% of neutral characters were overweight (Hibbeler 53)
The good guys are much more likely to be physically fit then evil or neutral characters. Boys who watch these films will inevitably associate physical fitness with the hero.
“Instead of masculinity being what it means to be a man, masculinity serves as a set of assumptions of what men are like; these assumptions are most often placed on... male bodies” (Hibbeler 21)
“BE A MAN
We must be swift as a coursing river
BE A MAN
With all the force of a great typhoon
BE A MAN
With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon”
Physical swiftness, force and strength, as well as not showing emotions, are key components of being a man, according to Mulan’s male characters.
“The climatic scene in most Disney films is a battle between two men… to win the love of a woman or maintain pride and status” (Newton)
The battle between Aladdin and Jafar
The battle between Simba and Scar
The battle between Gaston and the Beast
The battle between Clayton and Tarzan
The battle between
Bambi and another buck
In the movie, Beauty and the Beast, the promotion of violence is everywhere. Gaston is the prime example of masculinity. He has the huge muscles and the good looks, and his use of violence is obvious.
“No one fights like Gaston, Douses lights like Gaston, In a wrestling match nobody bites like Gaston!”
Susan Jeffords claims that, with the Beast, the masculine stereotypes have “somehow backfired and become their own evil curse” (171). However, the films relaxed view of abuse is clear that the Beast is not without power, and Disney is not without its masculine stereotypes.
“He screams at her. He imprisons her. He throws her father out the door and rips her family away from her. His behavior is, without question, frankly and horrifically abusive.”
–Dr. Carolyn Newberger, Psychology, Harvard Medical School
(Mickey Mouse Monopoly)
When examined through this perspective, Beauty and the Beast excuses the use of violence by men as merely a bad temper to be tamed by women.
Although Disney has attempted to reconcile itself for the years of stereotypes, they continue to profit from their many other movies, which encourage males to objectify women, promote the importance of good looks, and influence them to take a relaxed view of violence.
While we should continue to be aware of how women are portrayed in the media, we need to be equally familiar with how masculinity is being portrayed to boys.