Female gender stereotypes reinforced in three Disney animated films

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  • Created on: 11-03-16 17:02
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The Walt Disney Corporation is one of the largest mass media companies in the world
owning TV and radio networks, Internet sites, theatres, theme parks, music studios, magazines
etc. They publish children's books, produce cartoons, computer software, and toys among
many other things. For more than 70 years Disney animated films have been a popular form of
children's entertainment and part of many children's lives worldwide. It is not an exaggeration
to say that these films have also contributed to and influenced the shaping of children's values,
beliefs and imagination. Therefore, being one of the most dominant storytellers and having such
a huge influence on children's culture in general, the Disney Company and the array of images
and stereotypes they offer to the public should be approached critically and analysed.
In this essay I will be focusing on the female gender stereotypes reinforced in three
Disney animated films - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Little Mermaid and Beauty
and the Beast - and on the notions of femininity that these films portray. Furthermore, I will
be analyzing what kind of effects these particular stereotypes and representations of femininity
may produce on girls and young women. Most predominant female gender stereotypes that these
films reinforce are the following:
a woman's appearance is valued more than her intellect;
a woman's role in society is to be a housewife;
a woman should get married to find true happiness, and
a woman's life is shaped by male influences.
The female characters depicted in these three Disney animated films are very narrowly
stereotyped and throughout the entire films constantly hyper sexualized. It can not be said
that basically they differ from each other in trying to initiate or actively participate in shaping
their destinies, but are merely bystanders, watching as their future unfolds. My stand on this
stereotype is that new generations are constantly taught to see women as not trying to present
themselves as intellectual individuals but simply as pretty faces trying to accomplish their goals
in life by using their beauty as their only tool for success.
The stereotypical portrayal of young women and the Disney Company's ideology of
physical beauty demonstrated in their animated films have not changed since the release of their
first animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937. Snow White was the first Disney
Princess to be portrayed in a way that would become characteristic of all Disney Princesses: she

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Naturally, she
was gifted with a very soft voice enchanting all around her when she sang, whether she was sad
or happy. Snow White was so beautiful that her beauty brought her an enemy embodied in her
stepmother, who, in disguise, fed her with a poisoned apple which put her into a deep slumber.
The fairest one of all had her life spared by the hunter simply because she was too beautiful to be
killed (Wachutka, 2007).…read more

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I'm ready to know what the people know, ask them my questions and
get some answers... What is a fire and why does it burn?" (Clements & Musker, 1989).
In Beauty and the Beast (1991) it is Belle's beauty and loveliness that tame the Beast's
savagery. The confirmation for this statement is the fact that the kindness and understanding
of his household staff were not enough to stop his terrorizing and violent behaviour. The only
person who could put things right was Belle.…read more

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Disney Company to decide upon `the career' of a housewife for their `Princesses' to follow.
Here, it is quite evident that the only reason for this decision was the promotion of a stereotype
that a woman's natural abilities are those of a `house servant' and nothing else.
The film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) clearly promotes the stereotype that
women are "natural-born happy homemakers who live in a state of suspended liveliness until
a man gives them a life" (Maio, 1998).…read more

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Belle: "What do you know about my dreams, Gaston?"
Gaston: "Plenty! Picture this ­ a rustic hunting lodge, my latest kill roasting on the fire and my little wife
massaging my feet, while the little ones play on the floor with the dogs. We'll have six or seven strapping
boys like me." (Trousdale & Wise, 1991)
A woman is therefore portrayed as a housewife with her sole occupation being working
in the house and taking care of her husband and their children.…read more

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Not having been kissed by Eric before sunset on the third day (after she had gotten
her human legs), as was specified in her deal with Ursula, Ariel, for the time being, did not
accomplish her dream of staying human and being with Eric. However, at the end of the film,
with the help of her father, King Triton, Ariel does achieve her dream. It is only with her
father's approval and his magic powers that she obtains human legs again and marries Prince
Eric.…read more

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The stereotypical messages which these films promote about women being incapable
of living without having a man in their lives could have a negative influence on young girls
denoting that women are weak and that they can only live a satisfactory life with a man by their
side.…read more

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Clements, R. & Musker, J. (Directors). (1989). The Little Mermaid [Motion Picture]. Los
Angeles: Walt Disney Pictures.
Hand, D., Cottrell, W., Jackson, W., Morey, L., Pearce, P. & Sharpsteen, B. (Directors). (1937).
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [Motion Picture]. Los Angeles: Walt Disney
Maio, K. (1998). Disney's dolls. New Internationalist (308). Retrieved from
Trousdale, G. & Wise, K. (Directors). (1991). Beauty and the Beast [Motion Picture]. Los
Angeles: Walt Disney Pictures.
Wachutka, A. (2007).…read more


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