Disney Classics Embedded with Stereotypes

 

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.

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Disney Princesses

From outdated ideas about gender roles, to offensive representations of other cultures, let’s take a look at several to show examples.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:

  1. “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.
  2. “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.
  3. “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.

 

Television Aspiring Women: But is it Really?

Are females really breaking stereotypes?

Have times really changed since the birth television?

Well, in my previous blog post I gave some reasons to why there has been a  significant change in how women are portrayed in television today. Decades of female actresses have fought classic Hollywood stereotypes, proving there’s more to women then just their “long legs and point hair” (Marry Tyler Moore). However, even though we have arrived at the decade of fluid and experimental storytelling as well as character development, somehow the roles are still bounded by a clear divide in how women and men are portrayed on television. In an Indiwire online article named “Sorry, Ladies: Study on Women in Film and Television Confirms the Worst” the writer claims “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World.” Moreover, another article in the Huffington Post titled “Women In The Media: Female TV and Film Characters Still Sidelined And Sexualized, Study Finds,” disagrees with my previous post, indicating there is still a great deal of struggle and sexism within the industry, writing “for every Carrie Mathison the brilliant, complicated spy Claire Danes plays on “Homeland,” there are six “Real Housewives.”

Furthermore, the article is about the the study done by sociologist Stacy L. Smith analyzing 11,927 roles on prime-time television. She looked at female characters’ jobs, clothing, body shape(size) and how often they spoke, if not at all.Smith found that there needs to be more of “aspirational” female roles. Also her findings reported”female characters are sidelined, women are stereotyped and sexualized, a clear employment imbalance exists.” The female characters are portrayed as relatively thin, wearing clothing that highlights their most prominent physical features, and have a tendency of being submissive and weak when its matters of the heart. Research concluded by implying that show-runners and creators need to make more “substantive female characters in media channels popular with young people.”

Lets take a look at Scandal for example, as it both agrees and disagrees with Smiths findings. Scandal is a political thriller following a character named Olivia Pope(Kerry Washington), who has a well established “crisis management” firm in D.C. So in this case, the female lead has a strong and powerful character, however, she is in love with the President of U.S. and is having an on again/off again affair with him. The character seems to handle herself well in any situation, except when it comes to her emotions. This is typical stereotype in society of how women are “emotional” which is being portrayed on prime-time television. Also the actress chosen to play Olivia Pope is beautiful, skinny, always dressed professional but in a “sexy” way. This confirms Smiths findings about the women being sexualized on screen.

Kerry Washington(Olivia Pope) and Tony Goldwyn(President Fitzgerald) did a spread for Guide Magazine:

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“A National Affair” Olivia and Fitz, Guide Magazine

The heading writes ” Will the Scandalous love between passionate politicos Olivia and Fitz survive all the lies and betrayals?” Other media outlets follow television by promoting these behaviors that aren’t “aspirational” at all.

So to answer the question whether females are REALLY breaking stereotypes in television, the answer isn’t black and white, more of a grey. Even though the amount of female leads and stronger female roles have increased significantly since the birth of televised entertainment, there are still a quite few barriers and millstones women must cross to be truly equal in television.

Women Breaking Stereotypes with Modes of Persuasion

Just because the times have changed doesn’t mean television changed accordingly. It required people who dared to break the constraints of the studios and  networks that put them in place to begin with!

Mary Tyler Moore is an important role model as she faced these constraints “by facing life with humor.” Remembering Mary Tyler Moore: Breaking stereotypes while cracking smiles

Persuasion is achieved through credibility, emotions, and logic.With the recent passing of Mary Tyler Moore, I wanted to use this successful and groundbreaking female actress to commemorate her by using her as an example.

In terms of ethos, Mary Tyler Moore is 7-time Emmy-winning idol of early television and big screens, which gives her a an enormous amount of credibility.  At the beginning of Moore’s career she was a  dancer, and her first job was as “Happy Hotpoint”, a small elf dancing on a television commercial during 1950s. It took a while for her career to pick up, as she had to fit in with stereotypical roles assigned to her gender. Moore even lost a job due to her early pregnancy. Her looks is what got her through the door of Hollywood, but its not what made her what she is today. Carl Reiner, who was the producer and actor, was recently quoted saying, he gave her the job on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” after interviewing 23 other females, as he “immediately noticed her long legs and perfectly point hair,” however, it was the way she spoke that “sealed the deal.”

 

The way content was produced in 1960s was a  very homogenized and standardized product. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room for creative and new ideas to be viewed on screens. The production process is very important when discussing the stereotypes in television. Television was considered a non-artistic medium, which was why studios and networks didn’t take risks. Moreover, the way content was produced was through “deficit spending,” which was a way for both the studios and networks to invest in potential hit series without losing a lot of money on the production costs. The studios would get ownership and future income through distribution windows, and networks would get syndication rights for a limited time only. That didn’t last long, as this system excluded Independent studios from ever producing content that would be viewed on television and networks knew they were in a position of asserting control capable of “bullying” the studios. Basically it was like an “exclusive membership” club only. With government intervention came the Fin-Sin rules which limited networks and prohibited them in holding a “stake” in ownership of content. Starting in 1971, was “The Golden Era of Independent Production.”

In 1969 Mary Tyler Moore and her husband created an Independent production company called “MTM Enterprises.” The “Mary Tyler Moore Show” was one of the great outcomes of this.  Created by James L. Brook and directed by Peter Baldwin, the show was about a single young girl who moved to the big city in search of her own success. Her job isn’t of a “secretary” a.k.a stereotypical job for a single female, but of a high position in the Television industry, where Mary’s boss greatly trusts and relies on her. On big time networks the characters for female and male leads were still very standard. Females typically housewives and mothers, and men as the “bread-winners” and dominant as always in terms of family matters. The difference in Independent studio content was that they were trying to get noticed, so the content produced was daring and creative as they were trying to make it “big.” With all this freedom came the first changes to how women were portrayed in television. Just in the first episode of “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” you could already pick up the differences in the script. Each episode tackles a subject surrounding women and how they fit into this ever-changing society. Second episode, her roommate is “frustrated” with her single status and and so her and Mary invite dates to their apartment. The men turn out to be completely terrible, and the lesson of that episode is that a woman “needs no man” to be satisfied and that the “right” one will come at due time. Now, surely now in television this kind of realization happens all the time, however, in 1960s and 1970s that wasn’t the case, especially the sitcoms that aired on prime-time Network television. Mary dared to break and succeeded in doing so, the stereotypes that were prominent in her time. She created her own show, just as Lucial Ball and other powerful famous figures to go against the standardized and homogeneous ways of big networks and studios.

“It was a whole different era then because we hadn’t had women in that kind of a role. Certainly not on TV.”-

“There was just something about her (Mary) that just made people feel like women could do anything and everything, and she did it with such grace.”  –

Lotz, Amanda D. The Television Will Be Revolutionized, 2nd Edition. NYU Press, 2014, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfwq5.

Netflix and its’ Leading Ladies

Are you bored of prime-time television and repeated storytelling of regular TV?

Turn to Netflix, as it is steadily rising in popularity and creating loyal viewers!

Big Networks like ABC, CBS, CW and NBC no longer decide the kinds of series I chose to spend my time on. Often my favorite shows like Life Unexpected get cancelled too soon, and I’m left contemplating why I bothered wasting my time watching in the first place. Netflix not only revived and bought the rights to several television series that were previously cancelled, they gave several directors and screenwriters the economic means and freedom to create new uncensored content that brought in many of the viewers that were tired of played out sitcoms produced by the big TV networks. Moreover, television shows that are aired in different countries can be watched instantly and in full by the powers of Netflix.  Television shows such as The Killing, The Fall, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Sense8, Orange is the New Black, The OA, The Crown, Gilmore Girls: A Year in a Life, and many others are examples of Netflix’s’ support for women by exhibiting such diversity and originality in roles portrayed by females.

You don’t want to mess with the women in these TV shows!

Whether the female role is of a crime detective, a super hero, or the women in a women’s prison, they all break free of old stereotypes  female’s usually get in the entertainment industry. In fact, Netflix released their Emmy’s video titled “She Rules” which highlights nominated Netflix original television series with females as the leading ladies of the shows. They even created a hashtag #SheRules to celebrate women. At 00:53 the ad states “Here’s to the women who rule our screens” which further proves how far women have come in television.

In the CNN Entertainment article “Netflix ad steals the show at Emmys,” Joshua Berlinger writes that even though Netflix didn’t win big during the Emmys, it sure made headlines on Twitter. He further states, “The ad comes as the issue of diversity in Hollywood has come to the forefront in recent years, and was very well received on social media.” Furthermore, in the article on Huffington Post titled “The Epic Netflix Ad Celebrates the Power of Women on TV,” claims the ad to be “brilliant.” In order to understand these developments in television for women, one must watch some of these great shows to see for themselves. As a fanatic of television series, I’ve gotten bored of overplayed plots and foreseen endings. What Netflix brings is originality, and if you are also bored and looking for something new and refreshing to fill your time with, I strongly suggest you have a night of “Netflix&chill.” I promise you wont regret it!

Sex and the City vs. Girls: Its no longer about “Happily Ever After”

The world is changing. Before men and women played very generic roles in television and that cannot be said today in modern entertainment. You could say the days of I love Lucy are long gone. Not only are women’s roles flip-flopping with males, they are expanding in complexity and realistically. Although on the exterior, the two shows are generally very similar, a group of women in New York, their problems with men and everyday life. Both have a writer protagonist whose behaviors are often thought of as egocentric and childish. The shows however, embody different values as well as differ in the overall message of the show. Given that the shows aired a decade apart, Sex and the City’s message is more fictional, something like “we control our lives and any problems we face, we get through with the help from our friends.” The message in Girls is more relatable to the real world, “we’re lost in the world in every possible way and things might never get better.” Moreover, the difference is that Carrie manages to be admired by fans and is something of a role model, while Hannah is more often criticized than admired. Why is it so? The viewers are mostly women, yet so many of us favor the unrealistic example of a woman even to this day. Maybe because for so long we have been conditioned by television that that is what we should aspire to be rather than to be ourselves, whatever that might be for each of us?

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“I’m an individual and I feel how I feel when I feel it.” – Hannah

29 Incredibly Relatable Quotes from Girls

The character Hannah in ‘Girls’ is chubby, mostly make-up free, and has a unique style, that consist of many outfits that look as if they’d been taken from her grandmothers closet. She is often naked, baring it all to give the show a more realistic feel. Carrie on the other hand has always been “style crazed” wearing expensive designer shoes and coats. Even with her make-up off she looks good and never has a problem with her weight. The matter of age is something of a factor, as ‘Girls’ are about women in their twenties, whilst ‘Sex and the City’ female cast is of women in their thirties, which places them in very different points in their lives. The relationship between the two groups also can be said to be very different from each other. The newer show about women is trying very hard to show a very realistic, even pessimistic portrayal of life, as well as  friendship. The Girls are often seen getting into fights that last beyond a full episode, and often go on many episodes there after. It brings a realistic concept that even friendship isn’t always the “most precious” thing in the world, one day you love your friends, the next you want to run away and get some better ones. Contrary to ‘Sex in the City’ where Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda’s fights never expand beyond the 22 minutes of each episode.

The times are changing and so is our television. We no longer see the same roles nor do we see women as the only ones being objectiFIED, rather them being the “objectiFIERS”.  The more realistic the female character is the more society will change with it. Television altered our world many decades ago, and although this technology is accidental, the uses of it are symptomatic due to the core nature of human beings. We have grown accustomed to grouping and separating each other, especially between reality and fiction. Putting reality back into television could be a way to bring reality back to the people.

 

MrJRL. “Community Post: The 10 Main Differences Between “Girls” And “Sex And The City”.” BuzzFeed Community. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.