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  1. #1

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    Gender Roles in Films

    I'm doing a paper on Gender Roles in disney films and what they were influenced by (of sorts). I'm looking for some input and your opinions about some of the characters in the following movies:

    Beauty and the Beast
    Mary Poppins
    Mulan
    Pocahontas
    (and maybe) Little Mermaid.

  2. #2

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    If I am correct, Marry Poppins takes place during the Womans Sufferage movements.

    However Mary Poppins takes the stereotypical role of a female nanny who takes care of the children and cleans the house.

    Mr. Banks in Marry Poppins is a white rich man who has no time for his children and puts business first.

    Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast is the typical fun loving man who chases the ladies.

    Mrs. Potts is the motherly figure.

    Gaston is a muscular man obsessed with looks.

    Also in most Disney films, the females must be saved by their princes as if the males are more brave, stronger, feared, and powerful than the females.

    In Aladdin, Jafar takes on the sexually harssing pervert trying to get the much younger princess.

    As of late, most of Disneys lead characters seem to have been male.

    I may be wrong on this, but if I am correct me. But these are the Disney films that have more male lead characters:

    101 Dalmations (Pongo)
    Hunchback of Notre Dame (Quazimodo)
    Hercules (Hercules)
    A Bugs Life (Flik)
    Toy Story (Buzz/Woody)
    Monsters Inc (Sulley/Mike)
    Finding Nemo (Nemo)
    Aladdin (Aladdin)
    Lion King (Simba)
    Pinocchio (Pinocchio/Giminie)
    Emperors New Groove (Kuzko)
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Roger Rabbit)
    Chicken Little (Chicken Little)
    Song of the South (Uncle Remus/Brer Rabbit)
    Dumbo (Dumbo)
    Robin Hood (Robin Hood)
    The Wind in the Willows (Mr. Toad)
    Peter Pan (Peter)
    Jungle Book (Mowgli/Baloo)
    Nightmare Before Christmas (Jack Skellington)
    James & the Giant Peach (James)


    --Most of Disneys Iconic characters such as Mickey Donald Goofy & Pluto are all males (Minnie is the only female).

    The films with Female lead characters:

    Lilo & Stitch (Lilo)
    Mary Poppins (Mary)
    Beauty & the Beast (Belle)
    Pocohontas (Pocohontas)
    Snow White (Snow White)
    Sleeping Beauty (Beauty)
    Cinderella (Cinderella)
    The Rescuers (Bianca)
    Alice in Wonderland (Alice)
    Mulan (Mulan)

    But in the films where males have the lead role, they are the ones who are trying to save their loves and have to defeat evil. But in many Disney films where the females are the lead role, their princes usually need to come and save them.

    Mulan is a film that has reversed gender roles. Since men are viewed as warriors, it is interesting to see Mulan (a female) take on the roles of a man.

    So there seems to be more male gender roles than female gender roles in Disney films.

    Also to prove that the male gender role is higher than the female gender roles in Disney films, compare how many of the villains are female or male and compare how many of the other sidekick characters are male or female.

    Hope those help.
    Last edited by Disney Wrassler; 03-27-2006 at 04:21 PM.

  3. #3

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    Very true, but I was told to focus on a few particular movies, and I chose the ones with a known time period and setting that would interest me the most to write a 10 page paper on.

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    Well like I said in my last post, the Mulan film reverses gender roles by viewing the lead female as a male warrior.

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    I'm curious what made you choose these films over any other Disney films?


    Here are a few things I think of when I think of gender roles and these films:
    Beauty and the Beast: Lots to work with. From Gaston's arrogance when asking Belle to marry him to the 3 triplets who fawn over Gaston at all times. Belle being a bookworm and odd for not fitting into the typical female role, and the men who drink beer at the bar all night... Gaston is an amazing source for gender roles. The beast is as well but for opposite reasons as Gaston, how similar is the Beast at the beginning of the film to Gaston, how does he change over the course of the film? And of course, Lumiere, Mrs. Pots, etc., it isn't an accident that the female characters are changed into domestic pieces, a tea kettle, a feather duster and a large amoir... while then men are candlesticks, clocks, a stove.

    Mary Poppins- The era of woman's suffrage in England, obviously a key point. Mr and Mrs Banks can provide a great deal of information, but so can Mary and Bert. What does it mean that the old begger lady on the steps of St. Paul is a woman?

    Mulan- "I'll make a man out of you" is a song title from the film... and what does that mean? What does it mean to be a "man" in the film, aside from the physical appearance of shorter hair and standing with a slouch? Also the beginning with the eligible women of the village all talking to the marriage lady (yeah, i forget her name or title), arranged marriages and what it means to be the proper bride is an important part of the role of women during this time, as well as during Mulan's discovery, why is she not killed the way the law says she should be? Is it because of love, because she is a woman...?

    Pocahontas- Seeing as Pocahontas is one of really only 3 women in the film it might be easier to focus on the side characters, Grandmother Willow represents a stereotype of wise elderly grandmothers, but would it have worked if it was grandfather willow? Would it work if Pocahontas was a man? Sorry I don't have more for this one, but I'm not a big fan of the film.

    (and maybe) Little Mermaid- Ursela is a sea witch, an outcast in the undersea world, what type of female is she representing in comparison to the other women such as Ariel and her sisters? What about when Ursela becomes human, what are her physical features that make her less attractive than Ariel. Is Prince Eric your typical mindless prince just showing up when necessary to help advance the plot or is he a real person with flaws and emotions? Also, King Triton as the stern father figure is good to touch on... and if you want, Sebastian and Flounder are both male, so why does Ariel have two dudes as her best friends?

    I guess I gave you more questions than anything, but they are good places to start. I really don't know much about the original versions of these stories, but as far as finding what influenced them I would look to the time period the movie was made as well as the original stories.

  6. #6

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    I always found the character of Mary Poppins a little annoying. I hate the part, where she announces that she is pratically perfect in every way.

    Of course, Mary Poppins job in that movie, is to get the parents to spend more times with their children.

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    Good Post Disney Wrassler

    But, when you think about it, even though alot of the movies are male starring roles, in alot of the movies the men wouldn't have gotten far without the "ladies" in their lives.

    101 Dalmations (Perdita)
    Hunchback of Notre Dame (Esmeralda)
    Hercules (Meg)
    A Bugs Life (Atta or even Dot)
    Finding Nemo (Dory)
    Aladdin (Jasmine)
    Lion King (Simba wouldn't have done squat without Nala)
    Chicken Little (Ugly Duckling)
    Robin Hood (Maid Marian)
    Peter Pan (Wendy and Tink)
    Nightmare Before Christmas (Jack Skellington again would have been dead had it not been for Sally)


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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    Of course there's always the feminazi (not to be confused with feminist in any way shape or form) argument that "Yes, Belle was nice and brainy, but in the end she still wanted a man."

    There's a book that I found a while back when I did my report on Disney's early roles that dealt with this. I don't have the exact citation since I didn't use it for my paper (it was on the Depression and really focused on merchandise and shorts since there were only four depression era movies) You actually picked a fantastic topic becuase there is a lot of literature. This book though was really really thin so an easy quick read...darn, I'll look through my school library and try to find it again.

    Are you dead set on animated films? Because it might also be interesting to explore the gender roles in a movie like Pretty Woman (Touchstone). But I don't want to give you more work.

    A recommendation: Don't get sucked into The Mouse That Roared. While the author makes some very interesting points, he is obviously just looking to hack away at a big company and maybe make a name for himself by doing it. When he starts going after Forrest Gump (not even a Disney movie, he ties it in tenuously by linking it to Good Morning Vietnam) I was done.
    The King is back and he's ready to kick some tail. Do not mess with a mouse in black.

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    To me, these movies that you named always had strong independent females whose set goal wasn't to seek out a husband in order to complete their lives though they tend to end up having one in the end and this shouldn't be expect...you don't always end up with prince charming.


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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    I picked these movies because they were the only ones to come up in my mind as having a specific setting and i could pin-point around what time period they were set in.

    I never thought of the enchanted objects being what they were. Thanks for that.

    Since it does have to be 10 pages, i do plan on focusing on alot of the characters, not just the main one or two (but going more in-dept about these), as well as using songs and quotes from the movies to back up my explainations.

    If you can reccomend any good books/websites about this topic please let me know. I recently ordered From Mouse To Mermaid cause I was told that that book will help.
    The only reason I am using The Mouse That Roared is because it has section on my topic.

    Thanks to all for the help and insights. I appriciate it very much

  11. #11

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    I guess I noticed a difference at the beginning of the Disney decade. I mean, previously, Disney had strong women of sorts, but they were the exception to the rule, at least for me. Disney was still Old School and wasn't going to change. Even Peter Pan, traditionally played by a female onstage, became a boy in the movie by Disney.

    Then the Little Mermaid happened. A female lead that was the crux of the picture. Sure, she was still trying to find a boyfriend, even one with legs, but she was the protagonist and her words and deeds carried the film to it's conclusion. She had the conflict to resolve.

    And when it was a hit, well, then Disney went into production with female leads. Mulan and Beauty and Beast have this as evidence. It got to the point where the stereotypical male in his role even became the villain, like in Beauty and Beast's Gaston.

    So Disney learned that the earnest gender roles of historical tales could be rewritten. Compare these leading ladies to the Snow White's and Cinderella's of old. Those two women were just as strong on the inside. They held to their dreams and hopes just as steadfastly as the other characters. But their actions were passive. Snow White sings, "some day my prince will come." Cinderella weeps alone in her room instead of packing her bags and leaving. Both are more passive by comparison.

    There's a saying in entertainment that art reflects life/life reflects art. Going with the first half of the statement, perhaps the time period to which these screenplays were written had a profound impact on their protrayal of their female characters. And, as time went on, the role of the woman in the tale moved to the forefront. You not only see it in Disney, but you can see it in movies like Aliens and Terminator 2 which came out around the same time.

    Now Hollywood is a strange monster. There was a time, during Hollywood's golden age, that male and female performers were actually paid the same amount for leads in films. And yes, for every gross generalization I've made here, you'll find examples that are the exception. There was a time when Bette Davis and Tyrone Power and Katherine Hepburn all demanded and recieved the same contracted cash amounts for being leads. That doesn't mean they were the protagonists. Somewhere along the lines, that stopped and women are still leads, but not getting paid the same. But this is

    Now we have a female President on television with "Commander in Chief."

    I hope this helps. I'm just waking up but those are some ideas to play with, I'm sure. I need more coffee for a more deep analysis. I'll post more when time allows.

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  12. #12

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    Quote Originally Posted by sir clinksalot
    Good Post Disney Wrassler

    But, when you think about it, even though alot of the movies are male starring roles, in alot of the movies the men wouldn't have gotten far without the "ladies" in their lives.

    101 Dalmations (Perdita)
    Hunchback of Notre Dame (Esmeralda)
    Hercules (Meg)
    A Bugs Life (Atta or even Dot)
    Finding Nemo (Dory)
    Aladdin (Jasmine)
    Lion King (Simba wouldn't have done squat without Nala)
    Chicken Little (Ugly Duckling)
    Robin Hood (Maid Marian)
    Peter Pan (Wendy and Tink)
    Nightmare Before Christmas (Jack Skellington again would have been dead had it not been for Sally)
    I agree. Thanks for the comment too . I think that those also add to the gender roles. As you said, the males wouldn't be able to go far without the support of females.

    I also just remembered that in Peter Pan, Wendy is really mature and plays a young "Motherly Figure" to the boys, who are rambunctious, and Nana, the female dog also takes on the role of a caretaker.

    Peter takes the role of a "care-free teenager", George takes the role of an "un-patient & hard to please father", & Mrs. Darling plays the role of the "woman who keeps the family together" no matter if it is calming George down or talking with her children.

    Tink plays the "Jealous woman" who feels like Wendy is taking Peter away from her (two girls fighting over one guy).
    Last edited by Disney Wrassler; 03-28-2006 at 10:47 AM.

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    Oh in Mermaid, Ariel plays the woman who is considered ugly to the public and wants to be beautiful. That right there sends messages to people, especially women, that in order to be accepted as part of our world, they must be beautiful.

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    That was the book! From Mouse to Mermaid! Yay! Okay I'm glad you figured it out.
    The King is back and he's ready to kick some tail. Do not mess with a mouse in black.

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    Re: Gender Roles in Films

    Yeah, I also second how amazing "From Mouse to Mermaid" will be for you... of course it will only talk about the films up to like 1990 or so, but from that source you might even find so much material on another film that you might switch. I used that book, and when I get home I'll have to check on the other ones I used for my thesis. It was on women in Hollywood... and I chose Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora.... and that paper went way beyond 10 pages.

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