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Gender Role Portrayal And The Disney Princesses

1862 words - 7 pages

Children were running around inspecting the entire store while their parents watched over them in hopes they wouldn't break anything too expensive. In all this confusion, I had lost sight of my younger sister who was now busy looking at the collection of princess dolls, with a few other girls. As I made my way towards my sister, I couldn't help but notice that many of the dolls had been glamorized and put into extravagant dresses, emphasizing their princess status. Mulan no longer had short hair or armor but long flowing hair, dressed in a traditional Geisha dress completely dismantling her warrior status, emphasizing her feminine qualities instead.
As children, many of us grew up watching Disney's films idolizing many of the characters as it was the biggest not to mention still is the most popular form of family entertainment. But by taking a closer look into these films we begin to realize that the Disney princess line, through their story lines and characters are setting up gender roles for children, essentially educating them on what society deems appropriate for their gender. Many of their movies often portray some stereotypical representation of gender, consistently depicting the heroine as the victim who needs help saving, playing the typical damsel in distress. For many years, the Disney Corporation has created a gold-mined with their princesses franchise by relying on gender stereotypes for many of their female heroines. When looking at the history of Disney animated films there seems to be a common trend that is prevalent in most of their films and the roles that their female characters play. In the first three movies produced by Disney in the 1930's and 50's (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty) the female characters are depicted in more traditional gender roles compared to the five films produced after the 1980's (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas and Mulan)(England, Descartes). Even though the female characters in these later movies show more independence, each of these Disney princesses are all romantically linked with a prince, eventually assuming their "appropriate" gender roles towards the end of the movie. The early films followed the traditional standards of the early twentieth-century, where the female heroine needed rescuing by her true love (Yerby, Baron, Lee). Snow White being the first animated film produced by Disney helped create the template that would be used for later movies but more importantly the role that the females would play. Snow White as described by Maio is "young, virginal, and pretty, sweet natured and obedient" qualities that all Disney princess seem to posses, but are more evident among the early princesses. Domestic work is also one of the many virtues exhibited by the early heroines, in the first three movies. All three princesses are often shown cleaning in various scenes with a smile on their faces, often sing...

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