Disney’s take on gender representation

Gender Representation in Disney Movies

Abstract :
In the Disney world, we can see that gender role-play a very prominent role. It is something people look forward to and observe while watching a movie and depicting certain characters in certain ways could change the way men and women are expected to be like and it sets a standard of how their role should look like. Very frequently, many female characters are portrayed as weak, and always in need of a man to save them. For instance, Cinderella, snow white, etc. There are only a handful number of movies where the female takes it upon herself to not give in to societal norms and standards.

The main focus of this article is to throw light on the representation of female characters in gynocentric Disney movies. Disney was originally founded on October 16, 1923. It was finally renamed The Walt Disney Company in 1986.
Disney has given a lot of people all over the world comfort through their unparallel storytelling, extraordinary productions, and unbeatable attention to detail. Even with all the amazing storylines, it’s mostly gynocentric and male-oriented. Their portrayal of women is very outdated and affects the perception of women in the real world. This research is important as it helps us realize why the way men and women are portrayed in a particular manner can be harmful and deceiving, as in the movies men are shown to be powerful, strong, level headed and manly while the female characters are shown to be weak, always in need of help, in need of a male character to help them be liberal and achieve happiness. This can send the wrong message to people who are trying to accept themselves as they are and not care about how others wish them to be. In modern times like this, media or visual entities hold a lot of power and therefore it is important for the messages to be conveyed in the right manner and make sure that it doesn’t change the progress of the real world. If men and women are given equally important roles and represented with equality, it would spread a positive message and the receiver would also have a positive outlook of the world.

Data Analysis, Result, and Discussion:
The first movie is Tarzan release in 2003 was an orphaned his parents were killed by the cheetahs when he was a baby. He was adopted by a gorilla and Kala and spent his early years trying to imitate them. The entire movie displayed him as a masculine, strong, fierce hunter, worrier, and independent. When the ape Kerchak attacks and tried to kill him, he wins the fight the takes Kerchak’s place as the king of the ape. On the other hand, Jane has been portrayed as weak, emotional, and fragile. Jane and her father research Gorilla, so she came to the jungle with Clayton to get more information about them. At first, Jane has shown bravery and courage trying to stop Clayton from killing the gorillas. Clayton was using the trip so that he can kill the gorillas and sell them. But once she meets Tarzan and falls in love with him, she completely relies on him and the others to save her from every difficult situation she faced. While the baboons chased her Tarzan save her. When the pirate guy tries to hit her again Tarzan saves her. When they are imprisoned on the boat instead of trying to find how to escape, she just stays there and waits for Tarzan. In the movie, Jane always follows Tarzan wherever he goes. The way how Jane was portrayed in the movie is common to many other female characters, it says something not about them as an individual but how the society view women and their place and expectations.

The second movie is Cinderella release in 2007 is a classic fairy story, a rags-to-riches tale about a kind-hearted girl who suffers various hardships only to marry the prince of the kingdom. In Cinderella, men are portrayed as the upper gender, because of the sociological position of women at that time when they were considered inferior and of an inferior class and wealth. Cinderella’s father played no important role in Cinderella’s life. Most of the time, she was controlled by her evil mother-in-law. Cinderella was seen as happy and she looks like she is enjoyed doing household chores she still dreams of her happiness ever after. Cinderella is a typical image of a distressed lady because the only one who can save her from her miserable life was the prince. Cinderella will be stuck in her miserable life forever if the prince won’t save her. This shows the status of women at the time who idealized marriage and the role of being at home to taking care of babies and care for the husband. In addition, by showing the differences the step-sisters had with Cinderella, children can think that step-sisters share a nasty relationship, which isn’t the case on many occasions. It is important to not label or relate certain achievements or actions to a person’s gender because that’s not always the case.

The third movie with a strong female character is Frozen which was released in 2013. This movie talks about women’s power and how there is strength in unity and beauty in accepting oneself as they are. The movie starts with two sisters, Elsa and Anna where Elsa was born with magical powers to create ice but she unintentionally hurts Anna and is no longer confident about her powers, and their parents decide that it’s best to hide her powers. Due to this, the two sisters grow apart and there’s a distance between them but one day during Elsa’s coronation, Anna meets Prince Hans of Isle. They fall in love but Elsa doesn’t approve of them and accidentally shows her powers to the world and that’s where Anna realizes how difficult it must’ve been for Elsa. Elsa escapes and Anna follows her where she meets Christoph, a very ordinary man who works in the business of collecting ice. They both leave to find Elsa and convince her to go back but to no avail. Elsa realizes that the mountains are where she belongs as she cannot hurt anyone and can freely do magic. Elsa strikes Anna’s heart which can only be healed by “an act of true love”, so she travels back to Arendelle to Hans but quickly realizes that it was all an act and he was only after her wealth. In the meantime, Hans captures Elsa to put an end to her but she successfully escapes. Hans finds her and is about to strike her when Anna throws herself to save her sister’s life and Elsa is in disbelief and starts weeping and that’s when Anna comes back to life as the “act of true love” mentioned above was sisterly love. This movie has a strong message that women need to stick together and how there is power in being one.

The fourth movie chosen is Moana released in 2016. This movie is about a girl who is supposed to be leading an island but shows very little interest in that particular topic but she finds water to be very fascinating and is drawn to it from the very beginning but isn’t allowed to be anywhere near water as it’s considered to be dangerous or unknown. Moana tries her best to make sure she fulfills her duty as someone who should lead but is unable to do so and therefore begins her journey with water. In the movie, we can see how her grandmother always encouraged Moana to find her true calling and follow her dreams and find happiness in whatever she does. The movie starts with her grandmother reading an ancient tale to the children of the island which nobody considers to be true but her grandmother is sure that it’s not all a lie. Maui is a demigod who runs away with the stone or nature’s heart which starts to corrupt the world and destroy it. Moana is the only one why can put things back to place as she is the chosen one and is supposed to deliver the stone with Maui beyond the reef. She goes on an adventure to save the world and finds Maui and even though she faces a lot of hardship in her path, she still makes sure to deliver the stone as the fate of her island and the world depended on her. During the journal, she realizes that her ancestors were voyagers and the island residents started voyaging again once the issue was solved as they deeply believed in Moana. This entire movie has proved that women need to take matters into their own hands and face obstacles head-on and have faith in themselves. They should be able to freely follow their gut feeling and be able to do whatever they want to without needing anyone’s permission or approval.

This article aimed to view the gender representation of female characters in gynocentric Disney movies. It analyzes four different Disney movies. Earlier the female characters are given a minor role and did not hold any importance in the movies. Even in this age and time, Disney shows how women need men to achieve happiness and freedom. Movies like Mulan and Moana need to be advocated more so women can find their happiness in their way and they don’t need a man to fulfill their interests. However, as gender roles have changed, the female characters in Disney animations have also changed with gaining more importance in their roles.

Categories: Entertainment