Disney and Female Stereotypes research paper

The most frequently discussed subject in today's culture is gender. Certain traits, expectations, and roles related to the male or female form are represented and produced by sex. The media has played a significant influence in helping people recognize and better comprehend the many roles that gender plays in society. The manner that Disney portrays its female characters in its films has drawn criticism. They frequently paint female characters in a negative and stereotypical light, portraying them as "victims" of society. Disney movies, e.g., Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty have a common theme in which they show the female characters as “Disney Princess, ” but their traits are of submission and servitude. Though the female protagonist is beautiful, they are only able to suffer in silence, and this leads to them being awarded salvation from the handsome prince charming. Such negative portrayal of the female characters in the Disney movies is reinforced through the continuous reproduction of this trait in varying degrees of their many films produced. As Disney continues to reach their target audience, their message continues to be made, and this influences children especially young girls that they can’t be happy without the male character coming to their rescue.

Female Stereotypes in Disney

Since the start of times, Disney comics have had the representation of women always within the frames of gender bias. The roles that they play such as being the wife, secretary or mother are almost all copied in the comic books. Roles majorly depict how one is to act in the society or what one is expected to behave in any setting. The female characters in Disney are given very limited roles with subtle chances of upward mobility of the characters. In Walt Disney’s world, it is predominantly a male one which even leads to the exclusion of women in positions of great importance in the corporation. Disney admitted “Girls bored me. They still do (Mattelart A. D., n.d.).

The representation of women in most cultures aides the stereotype of them being simple-minded, emotional and domesticated people which are fueled by media through movies and cartoons. When women are featured in comics, they are shown as either vulnerable or subservient. Media’s female construction is almost everywhere thus the imploring portrayal of women characters in Disney’s comics that has been a subject of controversy with sociologists. Most of them have ruled that the roles of women in this cartoons have been of supporting characters and of potential leaders but haven’t had the opportunity to be seen or accepted as equals. As from the early days to mid-1900’s, Disney female characters were nothing but objects of affection. They were helpless in cases they needed to defend themselves, and at times they were just mere decorations. Most of the roles given to them are the stereotypical roles such as housemaids while others were the princesses who required salvation from the ‘wicked witch’ and eventually fall head over heels with their savior the prince charming.

Disney’s sexist portrayal of females is evident wholly in the cartoon film Snow White. Snow White is a beautiful innocent and a dutiful woman who is indeed ‘the fairest of them all,' initially referring to Snow White’s beauty while still showing her obedience as a submissive female. In her story, she sets off on a quest to secure her prince charming. Her roles are to cook, clean and be the mother of the seven dwarfs, which naturally places her as an excellent homemaker who is also happy. All this while as she plays her role, she eagerly waits for her prince charming to come and be her rescuer. The Queen role in this film takes on the regular woman part. She is portrayed as the jealous, mean, manipulative, cunning and self-centered female who disguises herself, so that kill Snow White. Moreover, Snow White gets into a coma that can only be undone by ‘love’s first kiss,' which explicitly shows that she needs a man’s help to give her life. This depicts that for a female, patience, obedience and being subordinate will earn her salvation from her lifestyle by the man she truly desires in her dreams. It concludes that no woman who is by themselves have the ability to support themselves.

Ariel, the female character in little mermaid, achieved her human form all by herself. She sacrificed her precious sweet voice so that she could get some legs, yet her real desire being human is not entirely satisfied if Eric does not help. Eric portrays the dominant male in the patriarchal society where Ariel has to rely on Eric’s kiss for her dreams to indeed come true. This shows that her sacrifice was a blatant sexism where she sacrifices her voice, means in which she can communicate and express herself and express her intellect. She gives up all this for the merely visible sex symbol of human legs so that she can be ‘the woman as man desires her to be.' The Sea-Witch questions Ariel’s lack of her sweet voice by saying, “You will have the looks, beautiful face but never underestimate how much body language is powerful” (Elizabeth Bell, 2014). The teaching passed on to girls; they should give up their voice or the power of communication so that they can get body perfection since it is the ultimate attribute for women. It depicts that the physique transformation is a perfect way to getting the best man who is perfect.

Similarly, in Cinderella, a film that shows a beautiful young girl, who is a servant and is kept away. She is in servitude to a mean stepmother and evil stepsisters who are openly envious of her beauty. She is similar to Snow White’s story where they spend time in servitude awaiting their prince charming to rescue them. This is similar in most of the female characters in Disney’s movies. Cinderella dreams of an amazing life with the prince charming of her dreams giving the notion of when you wish hard it will come to pass. This negatively reflects on women in that they are naïve and tend to have a day dreaming nature. It emphasizes on their weakness as women. Most girls develop a Cinderella complex where they get the desire to depend on others, most cases being men since she marries her prince charming.

In the case of Mulan, the character based on a Chinese myth of a lady who rescues China from the Huns. Even though she goes to war and cleans out an entire army with an avalanche and she becomes a great warrior in China, she still doesn’t get the happily ever after. Her true happiness is accorded to her when she is married to a very dominant male in the society. This way is when she receives her true honor and joy. It is quite clear that these Disney princesses are beautiful characters which help in building up stories. Appreciating the female beauty is widely viewed as being oppressive, a patriarchic practice which devalues, subordinates and objectifies women. Even this being the case, most women engage in ‘beautification rituals’ and view as beauty as being empowered as opposed to being oppressed. Unknown to them, they unwillingly gain norms and acquire behaviors which they reflect and force their weakness in a subtle manner. This is why women who gain power through their looks are often seen as they solely depend on men’s resources (Maity, 2014).


Disney’s princesses have a significant influence on young girls. Their toys which form part of their parcel usually tend to influence the identity of the young girls that purchase them. In doing so, they pose a very dangerous thing since the princesses in Disney world does not depict actual womanhood. This harms the perception of themselves and the manner in which they should present themselves in the society. Products that related with Disney Princesses encourages the young girls to achieve a look similar to that of princesses which are an impossible expectation. However, new Disney princesses have proved that it is possible to be happy and make her goals come to reality. As much as most people might think that Disney only depicts the roles which we want women to acquire, we should also consider the influences which these characters portray. These films are only shaping the opinions and views of the generation to take over.i.e. future generation. Eventually, it will lead to one hopeless downward spiral of the societies to come whose judgment will all be on gender instead of the unique individual intellects as well as abilities.


Elizabeth Bell, L. H. (2014). From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender and Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Maity, N. (2014). Damsels in Distress:A Textual Analysis of Gender roles in Disney Princess Films. Journal Of Humanities And Social Science, 19(10), 28-31.

Mattelart, A. D. (n.d.). How to Read Donald Duck. Chile: Ediciones Universitarias de Valparafso.

Mattelart, A. D. (n.d.). How To Read Donald Duck. New York, N.Y., USA: I.G. Editions, Inc.

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