Critical Approaches

English-Fall 2008

Blog #4 – Gender Stereotypes in Disney Films November 18, 2008


Uh Oh… I totally forgot about my blog last week, sorry guys! For some reason i had thought I had already done it. So anyway, here it is….

Soooo……I am at kind of a disadvantage here because I hardly ever watch movies. What I have decided to do then is write about movies that I watched a long time ago and thats is; Disney Films!

Ever since I have been in the higher education system Disney films have been somewhat ruined for me. My eyes have been opened to the true stereotypes that exist within them and the gender roles that they are engraining in children’s minds at such a young age. 


For example, if you look at Beauty and the Beast, Belle does not have a voice within the film; she is a passive, innocent, young woman who is controlled by a man (the Beast). The Beast consistently yells at her, denies her food and locks her in a room; in the real world this is abuse. However, Belle feels the need to ‘nurture’ the Beast, and even though he has treated her like this she still continues to care for him and eventually ‘falls in love’ with him. Because as Disney movies suggest; women are the nurturers; the wives, the mothers, the housekeepers and their only purpose is to serve men. 

From every Disney movie, it is easy to pull out gender stereotypes and the subordination of women to the male characters in the film. In most Disney films, their is the ‘heroic’ male that saves the female and wins over her love; this is sending young girls the message that they need a man in their life, and no matter how he treats her (even abusively as in the case of the Beast) then the woman should still continue to love and care for him. Women are portrayed as being sexual objects for the pleasure of the male characters and also as servants. The female characters rarely possess any positions of power, they have little say in their future which usually lies within the hands of the male characters. In the case where a woman attempts to gain a position of power, say in the film “Mulan” for example, she was forced to disguise herself as a man in order to enter the army. 

All of these messages can have negative effects on children and the development of the  stereotypes associated with both men and women. I could go on and on, but I won’t cause this isn’t a soc. class….haha but hope you all enjoyed the blog and could get an idea of a feminist perspective on Disney Films. 

The question I have is what to do?! When i have children do I show them these films, or am I contributing to the construction of negative stereotypes and gender roles?

Are any films appropriate or does it seem that every film gives into traditional gender roles?


5 Responses to “Blog #4 – Gender Stereotypes in Disney Films”

  1. cosmoqueen24 Says:

    Meghan, How ironic that we spoke of this film today. If you want academia to totally ruin your enjoyment of entertainment than I suggest women in pop culture taught by marianne vardalos. its a spring course…she does a whole critique on disney movies…i sold a majority of mine in a garage sale…and i was saving them for kids i might have some day. 😦

    In class I heard you say that how movie watching has been ruined for you…I felt the same to. I found myself spending the time trying to analysis the movie or what critique i shall use..and if i can’t figure it out i get frustrated….instead of just sitting back and enjoying the movie
    I couldn’t even watch Happy Feet without writing a critique on it!

    good luck next semester


  2. jessf67 Says:

    Hey Megs! This is a very good blog! haha I feel so cheesey writing like this to you for some reason! But anyways, Disney movies are ultimately the classic example of how movies demoralize females! The Little Mermaid is the one that seems to be targeted the most from my perspective. Even the castle on the front of the original movie case has been accused of being extremely patriarchal, in a very odd way I might add! One female character that I particularly like is Anastasia from the movie Anastasia! She seems to have a little more freedom and rebellion in her than some of the other disney females! Anyways – very informative blog as usual!

  3. heatherjervis Says:

    Well, thanks alot because after watching your youtube clip, now I feel conflicted over Disney movies too!
    Ok, it’s not all your fault, but isn’t it amazing that the movies you loved growing up, and I am embarassed to admit, I can probably even sing along to most of the songs, not seem so perverse when you look at them through a feministic point of view?
    As I’ve mentioned, I have three boys, and I don’t let them watch a whole lot of tv, but I have always struggled with the Disney movies becuase almost all of them have killed off parents – Bambi, Lion King, Nemo, ect, and there is the whole slew of EVIL stepmothers. BUt now that the boys are getting older they have become obsessed with superheroes. Most of the information they get is from kids at school who have seen all the movies and tv shows that my guys aren’t allowed to watch. But even without seeing them – it sinks in.
    Apparently, it is not enough to edit what our own children watch. We need to set out to change the world! (Just a little challenge for you; good luck!)
    Great blogs, Thanks a lot,

  4. katiedesro Says:

    Excellent blog! You’ve touched on some really interesting points.

    I too used to watch Disney movies all the time as a kid (I’ve seen nearly all the movies that were shown in that youtube clip) and I’ve got to say this is probably the first time I actually sat down a thought about the messages they were sending. When I was little, I simply watched them for pure entertainment. But now…YIKES! I can’t believe I never clued into the portrayal of women in these films as submissive to the male characters. Even, as you mentioned, in the case of Mulan, the main character had to become a “man” in order to gain power.

    The only real deviation from this image that I can think of, as Jess mentioned above, is Anastasia. However, this is only one example out of the many animated movies I saw as a child (plus Anastasia isn’t technically a Disney movie, I think Warner Bros. made it).

    This gender stereotyping sends a negative message to young girls with these films stating that women must nurture their men, even if they’re abusive (Beauty and the Beast being a prime example). Even in young boys, the stereotype that they have to be strong and heroic in order to be “men” sends a negative message that may promote violence among young boys.

    As for your question of whether we should show these films to our kids…it’s a tough call. It’s evident that the movies DO send negative messages to kids, but at the same time, kids really do enjoy these movies. I guess it’s up to the individual parent or guardian to make that decision.

    Any way excellent blog! It really got me thinking about all these old films I used to watch 🙂

    -Katie Desroches

  5. Meaghan Says:

    Great point Heather about Disney films always killing off parents…it is unbelievable to me how many Disney films involve a parent being killed. Why is it that they feel the need to introduce children to such a terrible possibility?! I remember crying so much in Disney films as a young girl. I have always been an empathetic person, so when I would see this all I would think about is losing a parent.
    Damn Disney films….so fun to sing along to, but WTH?!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s