Who here HASN’T seen a Disney movie? Let me guess.. not many. And if you do happen to be the one person in the back, hiding in the shadows, hesitantly raising your hand, then I’m sure you’ve at least heard the stories.
I think most of us can agree that Disney movies are a childhood staple, a right of passage in growing up and moral development. But despite our once utopian perspectives on the story-lines, Disney movies have become an interesting subject when evaluating gender roles and stereotypes within it’s primary characters. Pop culture writer, Leah Pickett, comments on the stereotypical gender roles of females with reference to: ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in her article ‘How growing up Disney shapes gender roles’.
The content of the article comments on the poor examples these movies demonstrate in regards to creating suitable role models for young, impressionable minds. In hindsight, the women in these movies are strong, beautiful, intelligent, independent protagonists, however their integrity is questioned as soon as a potential male lover enters their lives. Suddenly, these women become subject to stereotypical, submissive roles when involved in a relationship (Pickett 2013).
For example, the mermaid Ariel is willing to change or eradicate important features of herself, including her voice, her tail and her family, in order to be with Eric, a human man who she had never talked to and saw for approximately 5 minutes. This suggests that she has to change for him in order for the relationship to be sustained as he is the dominant figure of the relationship. Take notice that as the story evolves, It isn’t even considered that he could become a mermaid in order to be with her. (Pickett 2013).
Furthermore, the female protagonist of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Belle, follows a similar destiny as pre-male, she was an independent, book-loving, wanderlust woman however, post-male, she submits herself to the beast, enduring his aggressive outbursts and severe oppression, suggesting that ‘a woman is obligated to stay loyal to the abusive male in her life…[and try to] fix him to become sweet again: a dangerous error that many women make when struggling to leave a home of domestic violence. ‘ (Pickett, 2013)
I believe that any former or current Disney appreciator would find this article particularly interesting as i have found that it is not until you are older that you can reconstruct these story-lines into a new perspective which would be one of Pickett’s main intentions. Her feelings and opinions are written clearly and coherently, although she does not incorporate any other official viewpoints in order to provide further evaluation or critique for the reader however any member of the public has the option to comment on the piece to either support the view or oppose the view.
In regards to research, i noticed the article is rather subjective with very limited resources. What this shows however, is that majority of the content may highlight Pickett’s own personal opinion, which naturally isn’t ‘sourced’ from someone else. On the other hand, just because the sources aren’t listed, doesn’t mean that she hasn’t used information from somewhere else. Perhaps Pickett has simply just not stated her sources which, in turn, would suggest that this article is not and academic one.
While Pickett’s article demonstrates great examples of genders roles within women in Disney movies, i believe that the issue should not be restricted with only women. Male characters can also be stereotyped which can result in unrealistic perception of reality. Desirable males must always be big, strong and muscular. Any other male that does not share such characteristics are usually dubbed as weak outcasts. Men are also expected to become ‘knights in shining armor’, brave in the face of any danger and always know what to do in any circumstance in order to get the girl.
So not only can DIsney movies send the wrong message to young girls, but young boys can also be negatively impacted due to the unrealistic views of the ‘ideal man’. Pickett’s argument could have been further improved if both perspectives were analysed and considered, however her message still comes across in the article.
Pickett, L 2013, ‘How growing up Disney shapes gender roles’, WBEZ91.5, wbez.org, viewed 16 April 2015, <http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-06/how-growing-disney-shapes-gender-roles-107575>
GIFS: 2015, ‘What Do Disney Movies Teach Us About Gender Roles’, MTV news, mtv.com, Viewed 17 April 2015, < http://www.mtv.com/news/2098135/disney-gender-roles-laci-green-braless/>