Disney and Female Stereotypes

Modern societies around the world continue to debate the meanings of gender. Perhaps this is due to the diversification of gender roles and, unavoidably, prejudices that have emerged. The development and appearance of these understandings are thought to be significantly influenced by the media. The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, a book by Giroux and Pollock, explores the topic of media culture and its impact on people from various backgrounds. This includes the impact of media culture on popular culture, which includes ideas about identity like female, male, LGBT, and others. More so, media culture has increasingly become part of modern life and thus increased influence “in regulating the meanings, values, and tastes” regarding identity (Giroux and Pollock, 2010). The indication is that media culture such as the one propagated by Disney Corporation contributes to the development of the negative gender roles as well as stereotypes.
Focusing on Giroux and Pollock’s work, media culture reinforces the negative gender roles and stereotypes including female stereotypes.
Disney Corporation’s media culture typifies modern messages that are given to consumers. Media culture emerges as “teachings machines” because of its unrivalled influence on people and understandings they attach to different things (Giroux and Pollock, 2010, p. 65). More so, media culture often carries messages that are designed to manipulate consumers in one way or the other. This includes its capacity to reinforce the negative gender roles and stereotypes including female stereotypes. According to Maity (2014, p. 29), female stereotypes in terms of roles, looks and other dimensions have been reinforced by messages characterizing Disney films. As an example, Disney Princess stories are common and teach people not only the accepted appearance of a princess but also the role or place of women in society or life. Maity (2014, p. 29) argues that the Princess in Disney films represents women’s life in a nutshell in terms of how to gain happiness, find a soul mate, and live with a man. The indication is that Disney movies inform cultural understanding with respect to longstanding female stereotypes. The message is reinforced including the portrayal of women as responsible for finding a man to live with. In this case, the Princess portrayed in Disney movies finds true happiness in her prince (Matyas, 2010, p. 4). In essence, the message is put across to encourage the rather conventional viewpoint in which a woman is required to find a man to find happiness in life. It can be said that Disney movies reinforce the cultural stereotype in which women need men to sustain themselves. Accordingly, this is the ideal world perhaps in which women have to live in men’s shadow.
Matyas (2010, p. 4) reinforces the idea that the mass media is intended to manipulate consumers through fostering gender stereotypes by portraying the ideal. In Disney’s case, the heroines are increasingly stereotyped to represent what can be described as the ideal woman of the 21st century in terms of appearance. As an example, the Disney heroines continue to be created in a stereotypical way because of their pale as well as pathetic demeanor despite being given leading roles in the films (Matyas, 2010, p. 4). It can be said females in Disney movies are increasingly stereotypes to reinforce the notion that women are weak and perhaps undeserving of leading roles in films, and thus community. Giroux and Pollock (2010, p. 73) add that female characters in Disney films are subordinate to males and their sense of power is defined almost exclusively in terms of male narratives. These female characters, thus, derive their power from males perhaps because they are destined to do so. It can be understood to echo widespread stereotypes in which women are perceived to be inferior to men. In essence, female characters in Disney films fall victim to the largely patriarchal production staff in which they are depicted as helpless and in need of protection (Matyas, 2010, p. 4). It is unmistakable that the negative gender stereotypes reinforced by Disney are tied to larger narratives about freedom of women in what is portrayed to be patriarchal systems of the community. As such, it is for the woman to try to match and perhaps surpass the ideal image of a woman as portrayed in Disney films. The message is reinforced that a woman has to find her place in a rather man’s world.
As well, the negative gender roles and stereotypes pertaining to women are reinforced by Disney’s character portrayal. Giroux and Pollock (2010, p. 71) claims that in The Little Mermaid the heroine is portrayed a cross between a teenager and a fashion model. This can be construed to represent the stereotype in which young women’s body ought to look like that of fashion model. The message carried in Disney’s work is that an ideal female body needs to appear lean and curvy, which is rooted in common notions about desirability. Giroux and Pollock (2010, p. 71) further argues that older female characters in Disney movies are characteristically portrayed negatively whereas older men fill authority roles including rulers and clergymen. The indication is that younger women are stereotyped as desirable objects and older women are undesirable members of a society altogether. Readers of Giroux and Pollock book cannot help but imagine that women in Disney films are portrayed to be judged from a man’s viewpoint in terms of aesthetic values. More so, female characters in Disney movies are intended to be consumed from a man’s perspective and thus Disney seemingly works towards reinforcing the message that women must look young and desirable. Matyas (2010, p. 11) claims Disney reinforces the idea that femininity is an object in which women are to be desired as well as dependent on men. The indication is that women’s role in the community revolves around the need to please men, which eventually objectifies women.
Female characters in Disney films also reveal female stereotypes through beauty. Maity (2010, p. 30) claims Disney Princesses are used to represent feminine beauty ideal, which reinforces the notion that physical attractiveness is the ultimate asset for women. In essence, all women are encouraged to strive to achieve as well as maintain the beauty ideal imparted by Disney. Maity (2010, p. 30) further contends that it is well known that messages concerning female beauty are increasingly dominant compared to men. Giroux and Pollock (2010, p. 74) cites the case of Disney’s Pocahontas in which female bodies are distorted to look like contemporary, high-fashion model. The implication is that females are stereotyped and Disney films communicate a message reinforcing the need for women to display beauty. It can be said that Disney films serve to create a standard at which beauty is held in the society, and women must work towards achieving this standard. Again, the role of women is defined in Disney films to convey the message that women have a responsibility to appear appealing. More so, the kind of beauty communicated by Disney films devalues women in that they are to be desirable objects for men. Maity (2010, p. 31) claims that consumerism has made women engage in beauty ritual as well as perceive beauty is empowering rather than oppressive. It can be said that Disney’s reinforcement of the ideal image of women has had influence on their self-image. Seemingly, women have subscribed to the idea that beauty sells and perhaps this has contributed to Disney’s creation of stereotyped image of women.
It is evident that Disney films reinforce negative gender roles as well as stereotypes pertaining to women. Giroux and Pollock (2010) imply that female stereotyping characterizes Disney films through female characters as well as underlying themes or message. More so, Disney continues to generate images that reinforce stereotypical women in terms of beauty including roles, bodily attributes as well as clothing. Female stereotypes are communicated in a rather subtle manner, and consumers may naively fail to notice the messages being communicated. Perhaps, this is because the messages in Disney movies are reinforced to appear to be normal. The images of beautiful, fashion-model-like women in Disney film are seemingly normal, but the concealed message cannot be overlooked. This is because media culture often communicates ideal world thus shaping values and meanings attached to all social dimensions including beauty.

Giroux, H and Pollock, G. (2010). The mouse that roared: Disney and the end of innocence. 2nd ed. USA: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
Maity, N. (2014). Damsels in distress: a textual analysis of gender roles in Disney princess films. IOSR Journal of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS), Volume 19, Issue 10, Ver. III (Oct. 2014), p. 28-31.
Matyas, V. (2010). A Textual Analysis of Race and Gender in Disney Princess Films. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

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