Whether you are a Disney fan or not, most of you will agree with me, especially women, about the gender-divided world it really is. Many love Disney simply due to the nostalgia of their childhood years, but don’t be blinded! Beneath the beautiful imagery, singing creatures, and smiles of Disney classical characters lies a bed of stereotypes that have contributed to shaping our generation.
From outdated ideas about gender roles, to offensive representations of other cultures, let’s take a look at several to show examples.
If you are a kid who was born in the years before and during 1990’s then you have probably seen the same Disney classics as I did. Cartoons such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 100 Dalmatians, Beauty and the Beast, The Aristocrats, Cinderella, Aladdin, Tarzan” and many more. Female roles in Disney cartoons typically were women that were beautiful, smart, usually of high status(Princess), but always seem to be playing the role of “damsel in distress.” The role of the male always involves him saving the day and rescuing “women that are incapable of saving themselves”. Paradoxically, often men are portrayed as not being able to take care of themselves, needing women to do what they cannot (Snow White taking care of the 7 dwarfs.)
Sure, the new generation of kids are seeing films such as “Frozen”, which is said to be progressive. But the mould created by society and specifically Disney and its’ influence in terms of binary roles assigned to each gender. I’ve come up with several situational stereotypes found in Disney films:
- “Ultimate beauty is WHAT makes you special”- Cinderella is a great example. The prince meets her one night at the ball and is immediately dazzled by her beauty. He then goes on to search for her throughout the town, convinced he has fallen in love with someone he just met. “Sleeping Beauty” is another great example. Prince Phillip instantly falls for Aurora upon meeting one another. They spend no real time together, living happily ever after. This sends a message to us early on in our development that in terms of love and affection, it is what’s on the outside that really counts.
- “You must change yourself in order to be with the one you love”- In the classic cartoon animated film “Little Mermaid”, the sea princess goes to extreme lengths to be with her prince. Ariel makes a deal with a witch to give her feet in exchange for her voice. This Disney film inscribes the notion in young females to be a certain way and to endure certain changes to your image in order to get your man. The interesting factor about this film is that it begins by portraying Ariel as a brave girl that travels and explores the world of the sea with her friends, only later to end with a completely distorted message to young minds.
- “Men are our Saviours”- In almost every Disney flick, men are the ones to save women. “Frozen” does break these stereotypes, but the amount of films that present old classic stereotypes of gender relations are still too great of a number to compare. Aurora is saved by Prince Phillip in “Sleeping Beauty,” in “Tangled” Rapunzel is obviously saved by her charming saviour by allowing him to climb up the tower by using her long hair. The list goes on. Women are constantly are written in stories as the ones who need saving, whether from a dragon or an evil witch and so on. The lesson here is women can’t take care of themselves and need a man to protect them from the dangers of the world. There is a clip I found on Youtube titled “Frozen – A Musical feat. Disney Princesses” that gives a funny parody about the issue of gender in Disney films.