Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films

As I promised yesterday, I'm posting about this YouTube video. Loathe as I am to give it views, go watch it first, before reading this.


Ok, good. The video starts with a scene from The Incredibles, an interaction between Syndrome (nee Buddy) and Mr. Incredible. Syndrome draws an erroneous conclusion from the interaction, and it fits, because that's exactly what the author of the video is going to do. Let's continue.

The author does note that many children have watched Disney movies as children, and that the songs and dialogue are part and parcel of ones cultural baggage. Fine.

Our first real example of poor masculine behavior goes to Kuzco, who is in process of walking down a line of young women, with deragatory comments to all. Unfortunately, this is early in the film, before Kuzco undergoes his transformation (pun intended). He starts out as an unlikeable jerk, and his comments toward the various young women is designed to make you dislike him, if not outright hate him.

The author goes on to claim that Disney movies feature heterosexual relationship. This is true enough, but one could argue that the movies are pale imitations of older legends or plays, so let's give Disney a pass for now - I might revist that in a latter post, but I may not. But the only evidence offered for the claim that men in Disney movies view women as objects of pleasure or service is the lagoon scene ("Kiss the Girl") from Little Mermaid, and "A Girl Worth Fighting For" in Mulan. More on Mulan later.

We then move on Gaston, being portrayed as a model of manhood. Now, Gaston is (let's say it slowly) a VILLAIN. A bad guy. You are not supposed to like him. In fact, I doubt many children (boys) want to be Gaston. As the movie goes on, Gaston goes from being an obnoxious jerk to a borderline sociopath; hardly a likely model for behavior.

Next, we hear the unlikely claim that "Disney movies glorify one body type above all others - chiselled abs, a barrel chest, and massive arms". Okay, I'' grant Heracles/Hercules, but then again, he is the God of Strength, after all, so maybe there is a reason. The author continues, with the allegation that men with other physiques are outcasts or subservient - again, uses Gaston (a baddie, remember) and Lefou as an example here. (Random trivia note - Lefou is phonetically identical to the French for "the fool," "the idiot" or "the insane".) . But, I must admit the author has a point that Disney heroes tend to be rather buff. Look at the barrel chest on Mowgli, and check out the guns on Woody the Cowboy. Other Disney heroes who fit the supposed ideal would be Alladin (athletic, but not the ideals above), the Seven Dwarfs, Quasimodo, Wart (from The Sword in the Stone), Milo, and Jim Hawkins. After all, check out the towering physique of Milo, right?

* I purposely ignored all the animal heroes, like Tramp, Bambi, Dumbo, Timothy Mouse, Mickey, Goofy, Bernard (from the Rescuers), and countlesss others. I could add the villains, but then we have Jafar (no gym rat he), Ursula (whoops, female), Cruella de Ville (oops, female again), and so forth. The exceptions more than outnumber the rule above.

The author also failed to note that "Be a Man" and "A Girl Worth Fighting For" are ironic, in that Mulan is best warrior in her group of the army, saves China. The whole army training arc, in fact, underscores the notion that traditional masculine prowress is not the only way, nor is it always the best way.

Finally, we hear that violence is a key theme, and that the failure to fight to prove dominance is seen as pitiful. Once again, our first example is Gaston versus the Beast - Beast does not want to fight, and forced to do so. While Gaston mocks the Beast, Gaston is clearly evil at this point; shown as a violent near-sociopath, intent on destruction. The Beast does not want to fight because he sees no reason to do so; he wishes to die, and is offering no resistance. I don't think I've ever heard the Beast called pitiful or weak for not fighting initially, and I just don't see it.

The last point is that a final battle almost required to win (the love of a) woman or maintain dominance, and a crucial key to determining which is better man. No. Flat out, no. We (the audience) know by this point in the movie that, for example, Alladin, for all his faults, is still a much better human being than Jafar will ever be, or that Simba is a much better choice than Scar. It should be noted, in fact, that while both those examples are used, the villains are the ones who instigate the conflicts - Simba tells Scarto leave, never to return; Scar choses to fight instead Jafar is attempting to sieze control of the kingdom (and he presumably has intentions beyond); Alladin is attempting to put right what once went wrong.

The author might have had a good point to make, but clearly started with a predetermined conclusion in mind, and then searched for video which would support that conclusion, even if it had to be cherry-picked and stripped of all context.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home