The mirror plays an important role in Disney films. It informs its heroines, heroes and villains whether or not they are fitting into Society’s Dominant Culture. These Disney Characters look into the mirror for guidance, the mirror in return informs them of the cultural norms.
In Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the Evil Queen asks the question “Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all”. As she asks this question, the Evil Queen is ensuring that she is still part of Dominant Culture. The mirror is representing a “patriarchal voice of judgment that rules [her] self evaluation” (Barzilai, 521). Unfortunately, the mirror informs her that she is no longer deemed fairest of them all and as a result is no longer part of this society as she now has “brown spots on her hand /and four whiskers over her lip” (Sexton, 40 -41).
The Evil Queen looses her Dominant status because she is no longer seen as an object of desire. Men, especially the prince no longer value her beauty. Instead, they’ve moved on to ogle Snow White’s “lips red as rose, hair black as ebony and skin white as snow”, making her the ideal woman in dominant culture. This ideal in not only states by the magic mirror. The wishing well also affirms Snow White’s beauty. Singing at the wishing well, Snow White is wishing “for the one I love, to find me, today”. Once Prince Charming finds her, they both stand at the wishing well and see their reflection in the water. This reflection establishes their statuses in Dominant Culture, as they both embody what society deems valuable. Prince Charming is White, strong and rich, while Snow White is young, beautiful and innocent.
Women aren’t the only figures facing this judgment. Male characters in Disney also face the same discrimination at the hands of mirrors. In Beauty and the Beast, both Gaston and the Beast are connected to mirrors and to their physical traits (Erb, 63). Once Belle walks along the halls of the West Wing, she and the viewers see that the Beast has destroyed all mirrors and pictures of himself (you tube clip up to 2 minutes). The Beast is not able to see his reflection or look at paintings of his human self, as it reminds him of what he once was. Moreover, the mirrors force him to see that he is no longer human; therefore, further separating him from the Dominant Culture. Comparatively, Gaston loves admiring his beauty in the mirror. Gaston known that physically, he fits into Dominant cultural – as all the town folk either wants to be like or with Gaston. As a result, the mirror reinforces Gaston’s assertion that he is the perfect specimen of a man.
Sexism is defined by the OED as “originally: the state or condition of belonging to the male or female sex; categorization or reference on the basis of sex (now rare); (in later use) prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex”. The highlighted words show that sexism is an act that can be done against both men and women. The media’s portrayal of different gender values creates sexism by shaping the gender roles our society values. The following clip shows how the media shapes gender roles by slowly affecting the way people view the world and acceptable behaviors. Films, like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves show both boys and girls how they should view each other. Masculine men should be valued for their strength and aggressive nature – while Femininity is viewed through domesticity and nurturing. Furthermore, they inform the public on how to treat these genders. If the valued sex fits into these molds they are part of the dominant culture. In those instances, men can view women as objects of pleasure, to be looked at and acquired, while women can look at men as protectors and saviors. They have the strength and power to take women out of their plight and make brides out of them.
Both Beauty and the Beast and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves promote gender ideals through the act of marriage. In both these films, marriage is the central plot (Lieberman, 386), as Snow White is always wishing for her Price Charming to find her, Belle is reading romances about marriage and Princes. And the Beast needs to find love in order to free himself from his curse.
Therefore, through marriage women gain a handsome Prince, a man that can financially support them and take them out of their plight. In exchange, men receive their object of desire: a young, beautiful virgin to take care of their castle and produce healthy offspring with.
What does it mean to be a woman and what does it mean to be a man? Who chooses what characteristics are valued in these gender categories? The answer to that question is…. WE DO!
At a young age, society informs children what is socially valued and admired. Television, books, films, music and social influences police the ways in which children, and adults should behave. As a result, society has decided what we should want from men and woman, and what we should do to get such a man/woman.
This You Tube clip emphasizes the gender roles and ideals Disney films promote. Women are made to look and act one way while men another.
My blog will show the stereotypes society deems important and how these stereotypes create different gender identities and reinforce phallocentric ideals. Using Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Beauty and the Beast I will explore how Disney uses these tales to provide “its young viewers with an educational tool to learn societal sex roles and acceptable behaviors. [..] Learn[ing] behavioral and associational patterns and value systems” (Lieberman, 384). Looking at the female gaze, I will discuss how Belle and Snow White play an important role in dictating to society the characteristics of THE desirable man. Also, I will look at the differences in the feminine heroines of these two films. Thus, showing the shifting values of society.