Disney: Subverting Feminism since 1923

Since Lauren did a beautiful little piece on Twilight yesterday, I thought I’d continue on the theme of anti-feminism with a closer look at the world’s prime manufacturer of princess movies: the infamous Walt Disney Company.  Putting aside its shifty past ties to anti-Semitic groups, I’m not a Disney hater by any means; I can still enjoy the animations for their music and cuteness, and I’m extremely happy about the way the company has treated its homosexual employees with respect to partnership benefits.  However, there is one thing that Disney has absolutely NOT perfected in the 88 years that they’ve been in business: creating positive female role models for young girls. Never mind the fact that every Disney princess looks like an anorexic, over-sexualized Barbie doll; the worst crime of Disney’s princess franchise is its absolute refusal to develop strong female characters that don’t need men to take care of their every problem.

Let’s examine the newest Disney movie Twisted for instance.  The company proclaimed this to be a brand-new type of Disney movie, brimming with creativity and excitement.  On the one hand, Disney didn’t lie; for once the male lead Eugene is not just an empty shell designed to fill the “love interest” function but a complex character that develops into a more trusting, honest individual as the film progresses.  But what about Rapunzel?  Does she really change, does she ultimately metamorphose into an independent woman who young girls can look up to and respect?  Hardly.  In the end she merely switches from one caretaker to another; having now been saved by her prince (God forbid that Disney female characters actually save themselves in a movie; no, Disney definitely needs to stick with the Twilight model of women being self-sacrificing weaklings), she falls under his trusting protection and quickly get the marriage proposal that every princess awaits.  If this kind of plot line was infrequent, I might not complain too much, but the company does this with almost every film it has ever made.  Aladdin:  a naive princess protected and saved by a clever street urchin.  Enchanted: a weak, clueless princess saved by a knowledgeable modern man (and Disney sends a great message when it has said clueless princess replace the only strong female character in the movie, Nancy, as the new love interest).  If Disney’s main role is to modernize the supposedly outdated and overly violent fairy-tales of history, then why can’t it “feminize” them as well?  After all, independence is an important, distinguishing value of American culture, and it’s just plan unfair that Disney does not think it worthwhile to teach our young girls that independence can be as wonderful as True Love™.  Well, here’s hoping the company soon takes a few lessons from Pixar, DreamWorks, and the whole slew of other animation studios out there that don’t resort to cliche gender stereotypes to make their films sell.

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One thought on “Disney: Subverting Feminism since 1923

  1. It is incredibly disappointing that these classic movies are what we kids grew up on! And I will always love them, but I don’t want my future children to grow up with the thought that all they need are classic gender roles and true (codependent) love.

    And I thought it was definitely a step in the right direction when they finally had an African-American princess…but they turned her into a frog for nearly the entire movie…. ugh

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