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Gender Roles in Disney

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Submitted By reianamaynard
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Gender Roles and Disney The Disney princess has become one of the most iconic symbols of Walt’s ever growing empire. The disney Princess’ franchise first began in 1937 with the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs making Snow White the first princess in the now infamous princess lineup. The franchise continues with the most recent disney princess movie Tangled ( Rapunzel) which came out in 2011. Disney and their filmmakers caused great controversy with their princess’ such as race. Disney broke their european tradition by adding their first African American Princess to the line up. Princess Tiana of The Princess and the Frog in 2009 which still caused controversy. Another one of Disney’s biggest controversial topics was gender roles and how women and men are portrayed in these disney films. Gender roles are separate patterns of personality traits, mannerisms, interests, attitudes, and behaviors that are regarded as either "male" or "female" by one's culture. They are what is considered the “ Norm” for the male and female sex. There are stereotypical behaviors normally associated with either gender such as Women are suppose to be more passive aggressive, overly emotional, and illogical, just to name a few characteristics. While men tend to be more tough or in control, leaders, Not crying or wimpy and a womanizer As suggested in Kimmel’s “ Bros before Hos”: The Guy Code in Language Awareness (469). These same messages are often presented to children through the media they observe, such as stories, cartoons or in this case Disney movies and they pay attention to them and form their worldviews using these different form of media. Throughout the years Disney has given society and young women the wrong impression of female gender roles portrayed in it’s movies. In our society today, There’s so much pressure to conform to society’s idea of normality or beauty. We are fully surrounded with pictures and media telling us women and men how we should look and act. It is so overwhelming to see all these things around that we feel like we have to go to drastic measures to fit into what is society’s idea of beautiful or normal. From an early age, media puts images into our heads that tells us what is appropriate for our gender. Young girls are overwhelmed with images of princesses, which portrays the key to happiness is being fashionable, beautiful, and finding a man to save you and to make you happy. While young men are taught that to be successful, you must be good looking and muscular. Young men are sometimes even taught that to be successful means to be manipulative or secretive to get what you want. kult2.jpg In an article “ What’s Wrong With Cinderella” by Peggy Orenstein, Orenstein who is a mother of a young daughter has a problem with the amount of princess imagery that is all around us. Orenstein writes how you can’t go anywhere today without having to see a type of princess image or a little girl with princess doll or a girl in a princess costume. She opens up the topic question of does every little girl have to be a princess? Does a girl have to wait for a prince to save them? Why can’t girls be truck drivers or roll around in dirt if they wanted to? Why must girls be proper and only act like a lady. I understand Orenstein's point about the negative influence that princesses have on young girls, but I feel like the more pressing issue is that recently children have been confined to these gender roles from an early age that by the time they grow up they desire to be perfect for a prince to save her. In most toy stores, there are split sections between toys for girls and toys for boys, and in her article Orenstein states that the difference between the toys in these sections is incredibly visible. zJ6nmsLfTYaviC8l6j5j_boygirltoysaisle.jpg I agree with Orenstein that this separation between the toys that boys play with and the toys girls play with could impact them, because it causes them to unconsciously generate stereotypes on the differences between males and females from an early age. By playing with Cars instead of princess dolls, boys are immediately introduced to a more masculine mindset. Although some people will argue that this separation occurs naturally and that boys will often gravitate to playing with cars or monsters while girls will be more interested in princesses, the Disney and the rest of the toy market are intensifying the differences. The Intensification of their differences at such an early age drastically sets apart the boys from the girls, and ensures that they are confined to a specific gender role. By separating the sections of "what a boy should play with" and "what a girl should play with," toy companies are influencing kids' views on gender from a young age, and impacting how they will act later on. Princesses are hands down one of the most popular brands that Disney has to offer. We know all their names, dresses, stories and relationships but we never look closer into the movies but when we do, we really see the attitudes and stereotypes of the princess. In the article by Towbin et al, “ "Images of Gender, Race, Age, and Sexual Orientation in Disney Feature-Length Animated Films”, The authors provides four common characteristics to female Disney characters. "(a) A woman's appearance is valued more than her intellect, (b) Women are helpless and in need of protection, (c) Women are domestic and are likely to marry, and (d) Overweight women are ugly, unpleasant, and unmarried (14)." One of the most common stereotypes were the princesses appearance. All the princesses appear to be absolutely beautiful. All the princesses have long legs and small waists. Their facial features are very feminine, They have long hair, flawless skin, and have nice clothes. The princesses are mostly good singers, wealthy, and many of them seem to thoroughly enjoy household chores, such as cleaning. They have seemingly perfect lives and their beauty only helps them advance in life.
While the evil characters in disney is portrayed in a whole different way. When we see evil characters in Disney movies, the females are usually unattractive. Many times, they are overweight, or have muscular, angular features. When we hear their voices, they are jarring or raspy. They never have any beautiful qualities, and we are immediately pitted against them because of how they look. cp_FWB_DisneyVillains_20120926.jpg disney-princess_228026_1.jpg

Women are also always supposed to be “saved” by the prince in movies. We often see the princesses posing suggestively or "turning on the charm" to get what they want from men. According to Disney movies, Princesses are supposed to be inferior to the guy or princes in this case. They are just suppose to wait around and hope the prince is gonna come save them. For example Cinderella cleans her house until Prince Charming takes her away to live in his castle or Snow White cleaned up and cooked for 7 men until her prince came to save her and even Aurora slept and waited for a prince to kiss her awake. tumblr_lptvg59I1k1qete7s.jpgsleeping beauty - kiss.jpg
Brave was a turning point for disney/pixar movies. Brave is all about relationships and roles in a kingdom. Brave is about Merida, a Scottish princess who’s different from the regular princess because of her interests in archery and horse riding. And is even told by her mother that her interests are not what a princess should be doing. And that she must marry and things that normal princess’s “should” be doing But Merida chooses to defy her mother. And when she and her mother have an argument Merida rides off and meets a witch. She asks for a spell to change her mother. And the witch gives her a cake which she gives to her mother but the change is not what she was hoping for. So she tries to find a way to fix it. This is the first Disney/ Pixar movie to depict such tomboy Princess but they still stay with the typical gender roles in the movie. Merida’s mother tries to stereotype her into how a disney princess should behave and who to marry. According to Tannen, “ Mothers and daughters search for themselves in the other as if hunting for treasure, as if finding sameness affirms who they are (450)”. It seems like Merida’s mother was trying to make Merida a image of herself and that caused them to have differences. Although males doesn’t play big roles in Disney Films, They are still stereotyped in Disney movies. Men are supposed to be a tough, skilled, clever or even controlling. For example in Beauty and the Beast, There was a part in the movie when we see Beast verbally abusing princess Belle because he refuses to eat dinner with him. That portrayed men in a bad way because it showed little boys to get a girl to listen to you or respect you you have to yell at them and belittle them. No man should talk down on a woman or make her feel like less of a woman. The male stereotypes in the movie teaches boys that in order to be successful you have to Tall, Muscular and got the girl in the end. I feel like by showing young boys these stereotypes in the movies, you’re telling them that if you keep pursuing a girl eventually you’ll always get the girl even when she says no. According to Michael Kimmel’s article “ Bros Before Hos”: The Guy Code talks about everything a man should be because of how of social norms. These things are also portrayed in Disney Movies. Kimmel talks about things like “boys don’t cry”, “Take it like a man”, or “ Nice guys finish last”.maxresdefault.jpg

Looking at statistics of 10 Disney movies I learned that in a Disney movie, Princesses are spending more time cooking, dancing or playing with animals and less time being with friends, working or fighting on their own. That shows little girls that to be successful you just have to sit pretty alone and wait for a prince to come save you and not fight for what you believe in. ewert_clip_image002.png In my opinion Disney should make more alternative to Disney princess films such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Cars. Disney should produce more of the films that don't involve all of these social stereotypes. Alternative movies have done just as well at the box office as the princess movies and don't involve such serious stereotypes. I don’t think disney should stop making princess movies because although there is negative parts to the movies there is also good messages such as falling in love is great or loving nature is a beautiful thing. There has been a change in disney princess movies over the years such as Brave. Merida has proven that girls can be different from the typical social norm and that's ok. Girls need strong role models, and Disney princesses can be good role models in some sense but we don't want girls thinking this is all they can be.

Annotated Bibliography
“Brave”. Dir. Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews. Pixar, Walt Disney Pictures. 2012.
Brave is all about relationships and roles in a kingdom. Brave is about Merida, a Scottish princess who’s different from the regular princess because of her interests in archery and horse riding. And is even told by her mother that her interests are not what a princess should be doing. And that she must marry and things that normal princess’s “should” be doing But Merida chooses to defy her mother. And when she and her mother have an argument Merida rides off and meets a witch. She asks for a spell to change her mother. And the witch gives her a cake which she gives to her mother but the change is not what she was hoping for. So she tries to find a way to fix it. This is the first Disney/ PIxar movie to depict such tomboy Princess but they still stay with the typical gender roles in the movie.

England, Dawn Elizabeth, Lara Descartes, and Melissa A. Collier-Meek. “Gender Role
Portrayal and the Disney Princesses.” Sex Roles. 64.7 (2011): 555-567. Academic
Search Elite. Web. 25 October 2012.
The authors gives an inside at how Disney uses gender roles to depict the character of the prince and princess and examine how they are portrayed in the movies with a focus on their behavioral characteristics and final outcomes in the films. Results suggest that the prince and princess characters differ in their portrayal of traditionally masculine and feminine characteristics. The authors also want to show that although the male and female roles have changed over time in the Disney, the male characters still portrays more androgyny throughout and less change in their gender role portrayals.

Kimmel, Michael. “Bros Before Hos”: The Guy Code”. Language Awareness. Eschholz, Paul, Rosa, Alfred, Clark, Virginia. New York: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 2013. 469-475. Print.
Kimmel discusses what it means to be a man today. He discusses how a man should act and portray themselves and their masculinity.

Tannen, Deborah. “ You’re Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation”. Language Awareness. Eschholz, Paul, Rosa, Alfred, Clark, Virginia. New York: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 2013. 448-454. Print. Tannen talks about how Mothers and Daughters sometimes clash heads on how a daughter should act and who she should date and what she should wear. This ties back into the mother daughter roles in the movie Brave.

Ewert, Jolene. “A Tale as Old as Time - An analysis of negative stereotypes in Disney Princess Movies” Montana State University. 2015.
This author talks about the negative stereotypes portrayed in Disney movies. Through this very detailed analysis of disney princesses movies, this study examined the ways in which negative stereotypes are portrayed in Disney princess movies and the effects those stereotypes have on kids minds and how they feel like they should act.
Orenstein, Peggy. "What’s Wrong With Cinderella?" The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Dec. 2006. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.
Orenstein discusses how overwhelming the Disney Princess brand is and how it portrays how girls supposed to be. She also questions if girls are only supposed to be princesses can’t they be anything else?

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