Thursday, April 07, 2005

What I Learned From Disney

Cartoons are inherently sexist. If I was a parent, I can tell you positively that most of the Disney collection would be outlawed from my home, and the hugely successful princess line would not be fit to line the cat litter box.

"Hello, my name is Belle. I am beautiful and smart, and yet I managed to fall in love with my abusive kidnapper."

"I'm Ariel, and I learned that in order to land a man, you have to transform yourself physically and never speak up again."

This is what the next generation of women will have grown up learning. Women should lie passively until their prince charming decides to come rescue them. Inspiring, isn't it? And yet, we're lucky to have even these role models, because other than the princesses, it's hard to find a female character. Male characters vastly outnumber the females, and I'm not just talking Disney, I mean every animated film house.

Main characters of the most popular animated films:

Toy Story: Woody, Andy, Buzz Lightyear 0/3
Lion King: Simba, Pumba, Timon, Scar, Mufasa: 0/5
Monsters, Inc: Mike, Sully, Boo, Randall: 1/4
Aladdin: Aladdin, Genie, Jasmine, Jafar, Sultan: 1/5
Shrek: Shrek, Donkey, Princess Fiona, Lord Farquaad:1/4
Ice Age: Manfred, Sid, Diego: 0/3
Winnie The Pooh: Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Christopher Robin, Tiger, Gopher, Owl, Kanga, Roo: 1/10
Finding Nemo: Nemo, Dorie, Marlin: 1/3

Grand total: 5 females out of 37 characters ...and I'm not even sure if we should count Fiona or Jasmine since they're princesses!

(Aside: Is anyone else concerned that Winnie the Pooh is basically all male, except for Roo's Mom? Is this the biggest gay orgy ever, cleverly disguised? I have nothing against gay orgies, but I do wonder how exactly this forrest continues to thrive with no females.)

There are a multitude of male characters that get into all kinds of scrapes and adventures: James and the Giant Peach, Hercules, Jimmy Neutron, The Fox and The Hound, The Emperor's New Groove, Tarzan, Robin Hood, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Peter Pan, Dumbo...But females rarely get the title position, and if they do, you bet they're princesses: The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella. I want a girl who scrapes her knees and gets her fingernails dirty,who goes on adventures and takes risks. I want to see a girl who reads books and is good at science, a girl who wears shorts and rubber boots instead of dresses and glass slippers. I want to see a girl catch frogs and save the day. But all I see are girls who lie in wait, blushing and tittering.

There are 2 exceptions to the rule, that I can see: Mulan, and Pocahontas, incidentally two movies that I own and cherish. Pocahontas is the disneyfied story of a girl who embraced all people and brought peace to her troubled village through love and acceptance. Mulan is the story of a girl who replaces her ailing father in a Chinese war and ends up being the hero(ine). Finally, movies I would not be ashamed or apprehensive to show my daughters. Even without blonde hair and blue eyes, you can find love and accomplish things. Even as a poor, undereducated woman, you can win the respect of your peers with hard work and perserverance. This sounds more like the kind of thing young girls should be exposed to, and yet these are rarities.

Mulan dressed for battle:

Smart, strong, brave. But make no mistake: Disney doesn't make role models, they make money. Therefore, I shouldn't be surprise when they pimp out Mulan to make her princess-friendly. Make no mistake, these movies are still far from perfect, but I would rather see a woman who 'can paint with all the colours of the wind' than a girl who hopes that 'some day my prince will come.' Sigh.

Girls will only fancy the doll if she's in a dress. Forget the spirit of Mulan, forget who she is and what she stands for, give her heels and blush and fashion accessories, dammit! Make her pink. Girls are all about the pink.

I hang my head in shame. Mulan, I think you had it right: when I grow up, I want to be a boy.

1 comment:

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