Disney and Femininity

April 2, 2010 at 4:31 pm (Female Identity)

In his remake of classic fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney set out to educate young society on how different genders should behave.  Disney films reward their characters when they act the way Dominant Culture deems acceptable.  Disney’s Young heroines are rewarded for their purity and beauty, while men are rewarded for their social status and masculinity.  Furthermore, Disney contrasts characters to distinguish what is acceptable and what is not.

Snow White and the Evil Queen are depicted as oppositional forces.  Snow White’s beauty is “idealized [at the] height of puberty” (Bell, 108).  Once the young maiden hits puberty, she challenges the Queens status in Dominant Culture.  Snow White has more to offer on the Cultural Market place, she is young, passive, beautiful and the epitome of domesticity.  Comparatively,  the Queen is old, assertive and in control.  Disney contrasts these two characters to show what traits will be beneficial to women.  Youth, passivity and domesticity allow Snow White to live in Dominant Culture, while age, jealousy and power takes a woman out of society.

Disney films have also shifted the social values it idealizes.  Disney screenplay for Beauty and the Beast was written by Linda Woolverton, the first woman to write a screenplay for Disney (Bell, 114).  Through her telling of this tale, she re-shapes the view of the ideal woman.  Instead of being a passive woman stuck in a domestic role, Belle is a young girl who relishes reading books.  While Belle is depicted as young, pure and still fantasizes and enjoys reading romances about Price Charming, she takes a more active role in her life.  Belle not only chooses her husband, she shapes him into her version of the ideal man.  Furthermore, she does not succumb to her societies ideal man. She goes in pursuit of her dreams and protects the ones she loves.

Therefore, Disney films use the value systems society has put in place.  It informs younger generations of the gender stereotypes that should be practiced in society by insinuating if one follows the set rules, they will be rewarded by being part of Dominant society, marrying Prince Charmin or a young virginal beauty.


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