COMM 440: Gender and Communication
Cydney Linch, Fall 2012
The Disney Princess
Gender seems to be a hot topic in our society; many people feel the pressure to conform to a specific gender stereotype without really being aware of what they are or their influences on our perception. So what is a gender role? A gender role is the overt expression of attitudes that indicate to others the degree of your maleness or femaleness. A common gender stereotype in our culture has been that a woman’s place is as a homemaker, and caregiver, while men are expected to provide for their families. In today’s world women have been able to shed some of the more traditional roles, however the “princess” ideal still abounds within the culture, through media and merchandise all aimed at little girls. Disney has had a major part in keeping the princess stereotype alive and well. Disney ventures include radio, television, film companies, and massive amounts of merchandising. The Disney Princess line was created in 2001 as a advertising and marketing campaign aimed directly at girls.The products that go along with the line also promote gendered roles by the messages they convey.
I am going to look at seven Disney princess films: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Mulan. In these films I will be looking for their social role, character attributes, themes, and the characters resolution by the end of the film. These categories were adapted from a study I read on gender and animated films, (Dundes 2001). Another aspect I want to consider is what each of the princesses look like, their body language, clothing, and figures. I know even before I re-watch these films that each princess is extremely thin, with tiny little waists, somewhat revealing clothing, beautiful faces, and seductive expressions. Considering these appearance factors I wonder how they affect young girls. The images reinforce the ideal that pretty girls need to be thin, and that physical appearance is highly important.
When looking at the clothing the princesses wear, it does seem inappropriate to some degree for teenage girls to be wearing, and the Disney princesses are quite young. The two that expose the most are Ariel who is wearing a seashell bra, and Jasmine who wears very revealing clothes that displays her stomach. All these princesses have unrealistic hair, it is always perfect, not one thing out of place. Another factor that they all have in common is a beautiful singing voice. The princesses are always walking around singing their happy hearts out. There seems to be some kind of special connection between princesses and animals. However they become the princesses friend in times of need, when the going gets tough, and oh yeah they have to be cute cuddly creatures or they are considered bad.
The so called villains in princess movies share a common trait, they are either old, fat, ugly, or a combination of all three. It is common in our culture to see an elderly woman and think she looks like a witch; I wonder where that idea came from? The princess is the focal point in the film, the “eye candy” so to say; everyone else is there to support her story. With exception of the prince, the supporting actors are no where near as “perfect” as the princess. The women that exhibit signs of strength and power, or any masculine traits, are the evil step-mothers, and sorcerers. The princesses have to be overly feminine, soft spoken, and in search of a man, a prince or father figure, in order to be considered nice and appropriate. The princess must defeat these evil women so that good will reign, and she can live happily ever after with her prince.
In the films Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Cinderella the step mothers are the essence of evil. Snow White’s stepmother is her only real obstacle, and she is extremely jealous of Snow’s rare beauty. You could say this movie has a theme of...