Disney’s Take on Masculinity

July 26, 2007 at 10:26 pm (injustice, movies/video/clips, racism, sexism, stupidity) (, , )

Via Women of Color Blog.

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12 Comments

  1. Gillie said,

    This is really interesting it reminds me of girls film school

  2. Isabel said,

    I’m sorry, because as much as I would love to see mainstream children’s media take on alternative/more realistic themes regarding love, sexuality and gender roles, I disagree with most of the points made in this film. The examples used were largely inaccurate, such as in Beauty and the Beast. Gaston is the BAD guy. He doesn’t get the girl, he dies in the end, and as a child watching that film I HATED him. His hubris is supposed to make him seem like an asshole. Much of that movie is about the hero learning to become soft hearted, control his rage, and get along socially with others. Also, Beauty and the Beast is a tale which is hundreds of years old, and definately not created by Disney. This is true for all of the “princess” movies, which probably play on body image and relationship themes the most out of the Disney films.
    Even Mulan is based on a true story. Greatly warped and re-packaged, but there really was a woman named Mulan who joined the army in order to be with her lover. And Mulan is about cross dressing! And about a woman who becomes a warrior to save her country. And the guys in Mulan learn how to trust her and follow her lead when she’s right. How is that not positive role-modeling?
    As for Hercules, who was used as an example of what a “man” should look like… we remember that the art in this tale is based off of traditional classical greek art, yes? As represented throughout the film in the form of pottery, statues, and the various artistic reproductions of the human form. Not too mention that Hercules is supposed to be half a God and the strongest man on earth… it’s probably more traumatic for kids to watch wrestling, where people actually do look like that. And again, Hercules is a story thousands of years old, concerning ancient Gods and their folly.
    I don’t think we can blame Disney for this one.

  3. Emily said,

    I don’t know, Isabel. I see your points. Watching it, I sort of felt like the creators were making lots of good points at all the worst times. I had a totally different reaction to the Gaston example, though. From that part, I got that no, the viewer is most certainly not supposed to like him or identify with him, but we ARE still supposed to see that he’s super “manly,” and that in itself provides plenty to think about. And by that I mean that while we’re obviously not supposed to ascribe Gaston’s jerky domineering and violent attitude to anything positive, we are still supposed to see his character as the epitome of masculinity (the hair on his chest thing?)- and that’s not good, because it sets up a false and harmful equation. This seems to move beyond the role of mean, evil villain and into a whole different realm of messed up gender messaging that’s just unnecessary.

    But, at least, there are usually multiple expressions of masculinity portrayed in many ways in each film, as is partly exemplified by the hero, who is almost always male and just as “masculine,” but somehow nicer- without being less violent or domineering, though. I’m not really sure if any of this is my permanent stance…just thinking aloud…

    But yeah, Mulan is definitely the most subversive of the disney movies I’ve seen (which says…something…)…and it’s not ALL disney’s fault.

  4. Emily said,

    Also…I thought that how they described the way that the men in these movies relate to the women was accurate; you know, as objects without proper meaning or validity unto themselves…even Mulan had a hard time acquiring any respect before proving that she could “act like a man.”

  5. Isabel said,

    I think that Mulan is a trciky example, just because they’re in the army? Which is a whole situation in and of itself. Yes, Mulan had to prove that she was strong, but they were in battle. You do need physical strength when you’re trying to ram someone through wih a sword.

    Yes, I agree that Gaston is exemplified as the epitome of masculinity, but aren’t they equating that to be negative? If Gaston’s character is sending any sort of unnecessary gender message, isn’t it that egotistic womanizers will start tripping on their own sense of power and fall off a roof?

    Gaston’s character is extremely overdone, what with the hair on his chest and his swooning posse of triplets. But aren’t they just making fun of stereotype? Each example of Gaston’s “masculinity” is so over-the-top and so numerous that I doubt they were ever meant to be taken seriously. Especially in light of how futile his escapades are repeatedly pointed out to be.

    I do have some problems with how women are viewed as desirable “objects” to be won. However, my points are 2:

    That there are a lot more characters in each of these films, women and men, who escape these gender roles and stereotypes entirely and are strong supporters of the plots.

    And that many folks seem to view the origins of media and the ideas they perpetuate as seperate from the people. The media is like politicians, in that they are both voting with their constituents. We can blame them all we want for the dirty bussiness in the government and the filth on our TV screens, but the thing is, they’re only putting out the ideas that they think will sell, will be popular, that we, as the public, will enjoy and support them on. Where does the cycle stop or begin, that they control us or we control them? Our society is obsessed with certain kinds of physical beauty, and so the media portrays that type of beauty repeatedly. They portray it and tell us that it’s desirable. But if we really didn’t want it, would we believe them? Would it sell?

    And if the girls weren’t getting what they wanted out of it, would they still be avid connoisseurs of these films?

    Just a few questions that this raised for me…

  6. Emily said,

    Yes, Mulan is a little more complicated than the others.

    And with Gaston- yes, he was over-stereotyped on purpose, and served to show that such characters and characteristics are bad. Earlier, I meant to say that I’m not sure his role, whether it be of idiot asshole villain, or hero, or what have you (and no doubt he is the former) is actually that relevant. The message is that, yes; he’s terrible, and so are those that act like him. The problem that I see is that there doesn’t seem to be any real masculine alternative. Though the male heroes in these movies are definitely preferable, they’re still always the ones in control, making all the decisions, etc. Like the beast- in the end, he comes to his senses and lets Belle out of her cell and whatnot, but he has to struggle to see the truth that keeping her locked up was wrong in the first place?

    Maybe this is still the wrong example for this point…but I think that serves the gist well enough.

    I’m not sure I agree that there are a lot of characters, men and women, that escape these rigid roles and are still supporters of the plot. At least, I can’t think of many. If any. Maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve watched any disney movies.

    And yeah, I totally know what you mean with the origins of media and the people that perpetuate them thing. It is an ongoing cycle, with no clear beginning or end, and I don’t really know how to confront that, either individually or collectively. But these things are certainly conditioning…so the kinds of physical attributes we find beautiful, for example, are learned, and have changed over time. And just because we think we agree with them, or genuinely agree with them, or don’t at all…doesn’t make them any more or less harmful. And at this point, it doesn’t make sense to me to argue that the “disney princess phenomena” or whatever you’d like to call it hasn’t done some very real, very serious harm.

    And yes, I do believe that people, on a regular basis, advocate for things that aren’t good for them, because desirability isn’t always equatable with positive influence. I do think that many girls really love movies that tell them that they should be different than they are. I don’t think these girls are stupid for liking these movies; there are multitudes or reasons that they would (like, they’re taught ….conditioning…). Hell, I don’t think that any of my favorite movies are especially radical, or new, or positive, or anything. So, many kids may be getting what they want from these movies, but not what (I would say) they need to develop healthy ideas about gender identity.

    And maybe that’s okay sometimes. To the extent that it’s reached, I think, it’s not. I think we can (or should be able to) portray some significant cultural stories/themes in ways that aren’t so limiting, and learn to appreciate them just as much.

    I hope that some of that made sense…

  7. Isabel said,

    Hi Emily, I’m sorry I haven’t had time to keep discoursing on this, but I agree with a lot of your points, and I disgaree with others. Perhaps someday we’ll meet in the real world and can continue this discussion. Until then!

  8. Emily said,

    That’s okay, same here. Until then!

  9. wallly said,

    wtf. this is so not true. i am manly dont say im not. hehehehehehhehe. lets go see the giant pansys.lets go meet the pansys.bahahahahhaha. y waste time on computer commenting stupid pointless videos. get a life

  10. ricki said,

    Both of you raise immaculate points to the point where I’m not sure where I stand anymore. Your conversing really helped me :)

    Thanks girls.

  11. Rebecca said,

    ‘Wallly’, By name and Nature,
    Why don’t you spend your time improving your spelling and grammar instead of leaving unhelpful and unwanted comments.
    I think Isabel and Emily raise some really interesting points, and have really helped me with my assignment.

  12. m said,

    You have to remember that these movies were made in the previous century and male dominance was bigger than it is now.

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