Thursday, January 29, 2009

The 7 Most Sexist Disnney Characters

We've all seen and laughed over The 9 Most Racist Disney Characters. But stereotyping characters based on racial traits is not the only outdated idea to which Disney has contributed. Think about your favourite Disney films as a child. Those produced before about 1996 had a fairly basic model (stolen largely from European fairy tales): The pretty pretty princess, the evil stepmother or other ugly matron, and the prince. Occasionally there's a dad or some sort of talking animal companion, but this is more or less how the Disney movie runs, unless the plot is left mostly up to the men, thereby largely excluding female presence. (We could also do an article on homophobic characters, but Disney mostly stays away from this -- it would probably be movie characters in general).

Sure, Disney has smartened up lately. You've got Mulan, who joins the army to protect her father -- not her boyfriend -- and to prove that girls are good for more than marrying off. You've got Pocahontas, who is the voice of reason and understanding between warring races. You even have Hercules' Megara a supporting character with, oh my, depth! But for every Mulan, Pocahontas, Megara, and Belle (who at least teaches girls that it's totally cool to be smart and bookish, even if she is kind of helpless), there's a Maid Marian or a Cinderella who can't get a damned thing done for themselves, or a Madame Mim or an Yzma, who demonstrate that you can tell how good or evil a woman is by how pretty she is. Men, of course, are a different story:

If you make the same chart with female Disney characters, please, send it my way.


With this in mind, I give you The Seven Most Sexist Disney Characters.

#7. Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins
Release: 1964


How she destroys the self-esteem of little girls everywhere: "Surely, not Mrs. Banks!" you're thinking. "She was a suffragette. She belongs on the list of The 7 Least Sexist Disney Characters!" And you'd be right about the suffragette bit. In Britain, women with a hankering to vote went to lengths just short of terrorism for that right. Mrs. Banks come home filled with joy and excitement about women chaining themselves to the Prime Minister's carriage, and then leads the household staff in a chorus of Sister Suffragettes, including the unforgettable line, "Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're rather stupid."

Unfortunately, as soon as the song ends, her husband comes home, and all that "no longer meek and mild subservients" stuff goes right out the window. She shoves away all the sashes (because she knows "how the cause infuriates Mr. Banks") before the husband waltzes in the door, oblivious to everything except the way she looks.
MRS. BANKS: Dear, it's about the children -!
MR. BANKS: Yes, yes, yes. [Turns around and walks away]
...
MRS. BANKS: They're missing, George!
MR. BANKS: Splendid, splendid.
He goes on to sing that he treats his "subjects ... servants ... children, wife, with a firm but gentle hand. Noblesse oblige." Meanwhile, his wife looks like she is about to cry. Maybe Mrs. Banks isn't the sexist character here. Maybe it's Mr. Banks. At least she attempts to make him acknowledge the sentience of his children. But she's still way too complicit in this thing. Mr. Banks lays heaps of blame on her, and she accepts that everything is her fault and all but apologizes for being a terrible, incompetent person. If her husband straight-up slapped her, she'd probably thank him for teaching her a lesson.

Unfortunate moral: Everything that goes wrong in your marriage is the woman's fault.

What would have made it better: If Winifred Banks stopped being a simpering ninny and told her husband to suck her left one once in a while.
MRS. BANKS: It's about the children, George - !
MR. BANKS: Yes, yes, yes.
MRS. BANKS: DID YOU HEAR WHAT I JUST FUCKING SAID?

#6. Princess Aurora/Briar Rose, from Sleeping Beauty
Release: 1959


How she destroys the self-esteem of little girls everywhere: Princess Aurora, aka Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty, is loved by all. What did she do to deserve such affection? Not a damned thing. All she had to do was show up and look pretty. Okay, so her parents and her parents' friends love her, that's reasonable. Prince Phillip, however, just sees her and decides that politics be screwed, he's going to marry the hot peasant chick. I guess that what would have happened in the real world -- him either jumping out and raping her or just watching her from behind a tree while jerking off -- got vetoed by the Brothers Grimm as not moving the plot forward very well.

Well, you know the basic plot. Female Villain 1B shows up and curses the pretty pretty princess, the fairies whisk her away into the forest where she grows up singing to surprisingly docile forest creatures (if you ever wonder why princesses seem to attract forest creatures so much, the reasons are always either beauty or singing voice, or virginity if unicorns are involved). She meets the Prince, they decide to get hitched, but before they can, Briar Rose gets hauled back to her family's castle where she pricks her finger on the spindle which is supposed to make her die (of what? Blood loss? Gangrene? Did this happen a lot back then?) but thanks to Merryweather's blessing only puts her into a coma. Then she just lies around for a while, letting the prince do all the damned work until he shows up and wakes her up. Am I stretching it, this counter-feminism thing? Well, the Disney Sleeping Beauty story is still better than its precursor, which involves such delights as rape, cannibalism, and attempted murder. The prince gets away fine with the rape, it's his wife who is considered the evil one for trying to murder his mistress and children.

Unfortunate moral: The best way to get a man is to hang around and be as beautiful yet passive as possible. Nobody likes a woman who gets assertive when she's been offended.

What would have made it better: Briar Rose is taught kung fu while living in the forest with the fairies. When Maleficent tries to get her to prick her finger, she snaps out of it and kicks the wicked witch in the box, vanquishing her. When she turns around she sees prince Phillip watching, who says, "Shit! I liked you when you were just beautiful and useless, but now that I've seen what you can do, now I love you."


#5. Cruella DeVille et al. from 101 Dalmations
Release: 1961


How they destroy the self-esteem of little girls everywhere: Even if she had been named "Happy McFlowers", you'd know the lady on the right was the villain because she is an ugly woman. Compare with non-evil Anita:

"I'm too pretty to be cruel to animals!

Cruella Deville has to overcompensate for being so ugly by wearing too much lipstick, dying her hair weird colours, and making gigantic fur coats, sometimes out of the fur of stolen puppies. She first tries to peer-pressure Roger and Anita into selling their newborn puppies, and Roger is the one who has to tell her to suck it. So Cruella hires some guys to commit a B&E in order to get her hands on fifteen dalmation puppies. They quickly overpower the lovable old matron working for Roger and Anita and make off with the loot. Luckily, there are plenty of talking dogs and other animals (exclusively male) to help Pongo and Perdita get their puppies safely home.

The best moment in the film, however, occurs during the chase scene in which Cruella is so enraged about the setback in her fur coat plan that she goes on some kind of meth freak-out, chasing the van in which the dogs are hidden.



The driver of the van is nearly run of the road, plunging off the snowy bank into what in real life might well kill him, and what does he do? Mutters "Crazy woman driver!"

Unfortunate moral: Women are crazy when it comes to clothing. Also, they can't drive.

What would have made it better: When Horace and Jasper arrive to commit their B&E, Nanny pulls a revolver out of her garter, shoots them both, and then calmly calls 911 instead of hysterically running through the streets sobbing "Police! Police!"


#4. Snow White's Evil Stepmother, the Queen, from Snow White
Release: 1937


How she destroys the self-esteem of little girls everywhere: Okay, so this female villain is not exactly ugly, but seriously, if she's the fairest of them all, there's a big shortage of women 'round those parts. Or maybe the mirror is just into crazy-looking eyebrows. Who knows? But while Cruella up there was just into murdering puppies in the name of vanity, the Queen is taking it to a whole new level. Little girls everywhere, take note: if you are not the prettiest one in your class, the easiest solution is to kill everyone prettier than you. Other solutions include reordering your priorities, but that takes time and self-respect and does not result in marriage to a prince who looks like Ken.

Of course, we know that what the Queen is doing here is wrong. But why? Is it because it's not worth killing someone just to be at the top of the looks pyramid? Or because killing beautiful people is wrong? (Disney certainly doesn't seem to have qualms with killing ugly women.)

Snow White, luckily, survives thanks to her womanly instinct to clean whatever dirty house she happens upon, and the fact that she can cook (this is why the dwarfs allow her to stick around). And thanks to some necessary intervention from a prince. Apparently, in order to get married in fairytale land, princes need to find and save a woman in some sort of stepmother-induced distress, preferably one involving unconsciousness mistaken for death.

Unfortunate moral: Cooking, cleaning, being pretty, and singing well: everything a girl will ever need or the fairest woman is synonymous with the best.

What would have made it better: Snow White intentionally disfigures herself to avert the Queen's wrath, and ends up marrying a prince anyway. Everyone finds out what a huge bitch the Queen is, and stops going to her parties, leaving her alive and alone to talk to the mirror, reflecting on how screwed up she is.


#3. Duchess from The Aristocats
Released: 1970


How she destroys the self-esteem of little girls everywhere: Disney, was there some sort of law or marketing research or something that mandated pretty females in unfortunate situations getting rescued by males? Duchess is an aristoc(r)at living in Paris in 1910, and she and her three kittens (father unknown) belong to a wealthy retired opera singer who, apparently, has "crazy cat lady" written all over her, as she decides to leave her vast fortune to her cats. Understandably irritated but not-to-bright butler Edgar decides to get rid of the cats so that he might inherit the fortune himself. His incredibly complex plan involves simply dumping them somewhere in the countryside, where there does not even appear to be anything that might fight or prey upon the cats, yet Duchess is at a complete loss as to what to do until a guy-cat with an impossibly long name shows up to help her out.

"Excuse me, sir, do you suppose you could help me out? I am too pretty to be outdoors."


Props, however, to her daughter Marie, for telling her brothers that "Ladies do not start fights, but they can finish them." Her children (specifically the boys) are the only ones who seem to have any interest in doing normal cat stuff or acquiring real-world skills, while Duchess is more concerned with looking and acting like old money.



Unfortunate moral: If you are in a compromising or dangerous situation, you cannot hope to get out of it yourself. The best thing to do is to flirt with the nearest man, who will take care of everything for you.

What would have made it better: Duchess tells the strange alley cat to stay the fuck away from her children, and keeps herself and her kittens alive by learning to hunt and forage, like cats are supposed to.


#2. Bo Peep from Toy Story
Released: 1995


How she destroyed the self-esteem of little girls everywhere: Okay, we get it; Andy is a boy and he has boy toys. But seriously? Not even a G. I. Jane? Not even a female Lego-person or a purple Hotwheels car? Not even some cheap-ass McDonald's toy? All we get here is Bo Peep, who, as far as the plot is concerned, amounts to little more than Woody's hoe. She's there to suggestively imply that she might "get someone else to watch the sheep tonight", but doesn't really participate in any of the action.

"This plot is no place for a woman!"

Clearly the script was written by men. Although we guessed that around the same time we found out that the main characters were named "Buzz" and "Woody". Sure, Toy Story 2 redeems itself with the addition of female characters Jesse and Mrs. Potato Head. Mrs. Potato Head who, by simple virtue of her name, is automatically married to Mr. Potato Head.

"I have a meaningful existence putting eyeballs in my husband's plastic butt."

Although I guess if you want to talk about two people who were made for each other . . .

Unfortunate moral: Your sole reason for existing is to please men.

What would have made it better: If Andy had gotten a G. I. Jane for his birthday. And then G. I. Jane had stolen Bo Peep away from Woody.



#1. Ariel from The Little Mermaid
Release: 1989


How she destroyed the self-esteem of little girls everywhere: Ariel falls madly in love with a man she's never talked to, and sells her soul to the devil and abandons her friends, family, and everything she's ever known on the off chance that he might fall in love with her in return. A role model for my future daughter? I'll say!

Okay, well, let's say that in her ruthless looting of sunken ships, she finds some sort of art depicting human sex. And even though all the mermen in this movie look like the homoerotic dreams of every Greek artist of the classical era, mer-sex sucks, and Ariel wants a vagina to go with her legs. She's still in love with Prince Eric, a guy she knows only by sight, which has to be the most conditional form of love ever.


"Oh, Eric, I'll love you 'til the day you're ugly!"


Ariel decides to go visit the sea witch in order to procure legs through unholy means. Ursula, said sea which, is apparently the only humanoid creature under the sea who is fat and not Caucasian. This is in no way related to her having pets instead of a boyfriend, I'm sure. Ursula has Ariel trade her most valuable asset, her beautiful singing voice (once again, necessary to be a half-decent pretty princess), feeling pretty sure that she can get Eric to kiss her within 72 hours. Since this is a Disney movie, she can at least be sure that he isn't gay.

At the end of the movie, things work out for Ariel and Eric, who are in Disney-love and haven't known each other long enough to know about each other's irritating habits, so Ariel gets what she wants: she abandons her friends, family, and home, all for some dude. It's not even like she can go home if he turns out to be abusive. At least not until SCUBA is invented.

At the very least, we'll give her props for actually taking her fate into her own hands and doing something to achieve her goals, even if they are terrible ones.

Unfortunate moral: Your man is more important than your friends and family.

What would have made it better: Ariel finds out that Eric is actually a stuck-up jerk before he kisses her; she goes back into the ocean and becomes a sea-witch herself, except that she doesn't require people to give her their most valuable assets in exchange for help.

Honourable Mentions go to Cinderella, Tinkerbell, Wendy, and all those girls from the beginning of the article who misrepresent vaginas everywhere.

31 comments:

Brad said...

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Reb said...

I don't think they take stuff that was previously published online. First electronic publishing rights and exclusivity and all that.

Anonymous said...

The last one isn't really as bad as it's being made out to be. It's been tamed down a bit from the original story, where she commits suicide because she can't be with him (instead of getting the fuck over it). It was written in the 1800's, and that's how most women were viewed then. Atleast they gave her a happy ending.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that sexism is a huge problem with Disney, I think Mrs. Banks deserves a tad bit more credit. Her character isn't ideal, but I think that teaching kids about the Suffragist movement is worth her duplicity--if you think about it, she's choosing to use a man for his money and perform acts of radical feminism behind his back and without his "permission." Of the options a woman had at the time, that might not have been the worst.

As far as The Little Mermaid, I'm so glad you placed her as #1. . . the movie was made in the late 80's, so there's no "it was a different time!" excuse, and I'm amazed that more people don't notice the poor example her story provides to the kids who go nuts for the film. She's marrying someone with whom she has never had a full conversation, at SIXTEEN YEARS OLD!!

Anonymous said...

You're insane. You want to see REAL sexism? Look at the middle east! Look at Asia! Look at Europe!

Bitching about Disney movies just makes you sound foolish and clueless. I'm a woman and I find it embarrassing that people like you contaminate the meaning of "women's rights."

Step off your fucking soapbox and go make a difference if you care so much.

Reb said...

Woah, relax. It was meant to entertain, not to inflame.

Most of what's left of sexism (and I mean misandrony as much as misogyny) is not institutionalized, it is social. Media and communication is the best if not the only way to "make a difference".

Ikkin said...

Then [Aurora] just lies around for a while, letting the prince do all the damned work until he shows up and wakes her up.

You give the prince too much credit. The good fairies do everything difficult - namely, getting the prince to the castle in one piece in spite of the fact that his fighting style is based around swinging his sword wildly and hoping to hit something. ;)

I'd say that the real moral is, everyone will still think the guy with the sword is the hero, no matter how much help you give him or how much more screentime and personality you get.

Kitters said...

You do realize that three out of seven of these examples are Disney remaking fairy tales -- in many cases, changing the fairy tale around to make it less bloody and depressing and more palatable to children -- so it's really not a feminism fail on Disney's part, correct?

And ditto the Anonymous sticking up for Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins. The movie came out in 1964, which meant that the script was probably written even earlier, by at least a year or so. That's early as anything to be showing a character like that. I'd actually give Disney props, for both her and Mary Poppins herself. 101 Dalmations came out around that time, too, which makes the more stereotyped portrayals make a lot more sense.

Also, I don't know if we're just reading the movie differently or not, but I never even considered that Duchess acted the way she did because she was female -- just because she was a pampered housecat and had been her whole life. All three of her kittens, daughter included, were younger and therefore found it easier to adapt. It's kind of like Lady and the Tramp -- Lady sure as hell didn't have any street smarts, but it wasn't because she's was a girl, it was because she was a pampered lapdog.

I'm not getting the big deal on most of these. I understand the article's just for humor, but when I entirely disagree on the points made about all but one of the movies (Toy Story does, I think, have valid problems in it if only for the utter LACK of female characters in the first movie besides Bo Peep; she wouldn't have been bad at all if she'd had a balance, since being a highly sexualized woman who knows what she wants isn't INHERENTLY feminist, but certainly is a problem if she's the only gal in the flick), it takes a lot away from the funny.

SSC said...

"Unfortunate moral: Your man is more important than your friends and family."

And yet, even in this day and age, that moral is still accepted. Twilight, anyone?

I really liked Disney, and still do. Even if they're evil.

Cailin said...

I personally thought this list was both hilarious and insightful. I am often annoyed by people employing the "there are bigger offenses in the world" argument: why yes, there often are. And other people are probably writing about them right now. Why not take note of something less obvious that makes us all think a bit about the impact those "little" things we do and say and see really have?

I'd like to make an additional note: the true unfortunate moral that seems to appear in nearly every Disney film is, "If you are a female and mildly attractive/skinny, you are a helpless nitwit whose only aspirations in life involve acquiring a husband." Examples: the Fairy Godmother is a competent, chubby female next to the useless slender Cinderella; the Faeries in Sleeping Beauty; the villainesses in The Little Mermaid, Snow White, 101 Dalmatians who are all allowed some semblance of intelligence; etc. Thoughts?

ilovemysandybaby said...

I never even considered Duchess being sexist, either. I think that doing such is reading way too much into her character. Duchess was a housecat. A full grown housecat. Despite whether she were male or female, having been raised spoiled and pampered, it's only natural she behave a bit spoiled and pampered in the wild. I have two house cats. They're males. They're spoiled and pampered. They're "real cats", last I checked. I mean... they meow and purr. Yet, I'm sure that if they were lost in the wild (country side or not) they wouldn't know what to do. Instinct, believe it or not, doesn't always kick in. I learnt that when we had a mouse in our house and my cats didn't know what to do with it. I have a chihuahua that's spoiled and pampered like Duchess. I'm sure if they made a movie about her, she'd need someone to help her through the wild should she escape and I bet people would say it sexist. Oh, wait, there's already a movie like that. Beverly Hills Chihuahua. (wonder if people are already calling that one sexist?)

Ladyhihi said...

I don't think they take stuff that was previously published online. First electronic publishing rights and exclusivity and all that.


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Response to the disney man chart: http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb388/shannon8558/disneychart.jpg?t=1303315468

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kat said...

La Soubrette seems to think that giving a female character negative traits constitutes sexism.
I've got to say I'm at a loss to see where you're drawing most of these "unfortunate morals" from.

101 Dalmations does *not* give the message that women are crazy over clothes and bad drivers - Cruella may go crazy over a coat but never in the film is she held up as an example of *all women*. Had she been the only example of a female in the film, that argument might have had more clout, but she's not. As for the bad driving accusation - that's the opinion of one guy, it's never made out in the film to be a universal fact.

If all females were presented this way, it would be bad, but there are shallow, crazy, ugly, evil women in real life! And saying you can't represent these traits in fiction because it's sexist is a straw-feminists argument. If there were no alternative depictions of fictional women and Cruella was the only option, I'd be concerned but she's not. While I agree that film in particular and the wider Disney Canon does need more positive female characters, saying that one female villain gives the message that all women are villains makes no sense.

And you don't have to shoe-horn females into everything, especially when it would be incongrous to the plot to do so. I agree, Toy Story was perhaps giving females a raw deal with Bo Peep being the lone girl but to add more positive female characters just for the sake of doing so? I'm not happy with that idea, either. Positive discrimination doesn't do feminism any favours.
Also, It's been a long time since I saw the film but I don't see her as a 'ho'. If you're inferring that her being forward about her attraction to Woody makes her a ho, well...that's quite unfortunate.

And yes, I understand this article is meant to be humorous (and that's cool) but the lack of a balanced reprentation of females in Disney and wider media is a genuine problem and feminism needs to be able to fall back on well-reasoned arguments if it's going to be taken seriously and make the many changes in our society and culture which still need to be made.

Oh, and well said, Kitters.

@Cailin - I think it's a shame how often the 'beauty = good' and 'good is dumb' tropes show up unchallenged. It's certainly very unfortunate that the vast majority of thinking fictional women are villains. Not only are good women pretty, passive and dumb, thinking will probably turn you evil! It's weird how the Disney Princess are so beloved of little girls when most of them are such flat, undeveloped characters.

Julianna Mahoney said...

Here's a chart I made after reading your article. I found it rather interesting, but I never saw Bo Peep as Woody's "ho." I always just saw her as confident and unashamed of her affection for him, which is not only brave, but I find admirable.

http://forthelionhearted.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/disney-girls.jpg

Pete M. Slablam said...

Wow, I never realised how much sexism lied in most of the Disney films. Then again, being a guy, I guess I'll never quite fully understand sexism, will I?

By the way, 911 isn't used in the UK; their emergency number is 999.

Just An Average Girl said...

Dear me, I understand that sexism is a huge issue in the world today but most of these movies are quite old except for a few. I understand that this is no excuse but what happened to just enjoying the movies? Disney movies mainly entertain the idea of true love.

I understand that the Duchess acts helpless before Thomas O'Malley gets there, but have you ever considered how difficult it would be to drag so many kittens along with you in reality? The mother has no idea where she is, she's been a house cat all her life, and she has her kids to think about as well. I think I'd feel pretty hopeless too if I were her.

You're right, Disney movies to kind of revolve around damsels in distress, but most women are like that deep down. Just because you're a strong independent woman, doesn't mean you can't secretly dream of a man sweeping you off your feet.

As for the evil woman in disney being ugly, let's face it, it doesn't matter how pretty or how handsome you think someone is. If they're cruel or unkind, you see them as ugly nonetheless.

Disney isn't perfect, but then again, neither is life.

Anonymous said...

People like you are the reason the world is so fucked up. You have the time to watch every Disney Movie and be a little over dramatic bitch and find every example of sexism. Take a fucking hike.

Anonymous said...

After all that, I am surprised to see that your last comment refers to women as "vaginas"... kind of counter-productive.

Anonymous said...

The most sexist disney character is that girl who's telling what other girls should be. I forgot her name though. Her ideas were that girls shouldn't cook, clean or be obsessed with men. All women should be independent woman. I think she's just an insecure bitch who doesn't know her place in society and just go back to the kitchen where she belongs.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog. Indeed,most of the sexism in the world these days is social, not institutionalised. This is the same in the west and elsewhere. So even though, for instance, Cruella and Duchess are not claiming to be portraits of every woman, they are unimaginable as male characters. In rewriting the gruesome european fairy tales, Disney often lost the blood and gore while remaining oblivious tot the dangers of its own time: racism and sexism. Its good for men and women to be aware of such processes, especially in fiction for children.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I'm proud of Disney for finally making female characters that don't solely depend on the male hero to do everything for them. For instance, Mulan is one of my favorites. Also there's Merida from Brave. She is my newest favorite feminist character. She blatantly says she doesn't like all the frilly dresses and prefers shooting arrows and swinging a sword to hosting tea parties. And she's pretty darn good at her marksman- and swordsmanship. Props to Merida!

DENIZ said...

LOVED this post. It was brilliantly written and it said everything that I wanted to about the female characters in Disney films! I also feel strongly about the ways they're are represented in action movies, adverts and most TV shows. SO ANNNOYING! And even though some say that real sexism is in Asian countries, I agree, it's terrible, and we've come a long way. YAY!! But that doesn't mean we don't still need to grow more in our limited view on what a women is capable of, and our constant misleading representations are still effecting us in our culture. If you would like, check out my blogs as I sometimes write posts on my views on sexism etc! :--)

HazelRoe said...

The thing about the big problem with sexism within Disney is that they are designed for KIDS. Kids are highly susceptible to things that they see in the world around them - a common one being the media. If Disney waves these sexist opinions in their face for long enough, they're going to believe that that's how the world works, ensuring another generation of sexist adults.

Regan said...

Though I do generally agree with the fact that disney often perpetuates some rather sexist ideas. I do not agree with what is said here about Mary Poppins. Both Mr. and Mrs. Banks are presented as extremely flawed individuals. It is the strong independent female Mary Poppins who comes in and fixes the whole mess. So, in short the real moral of that story is that it is not a good thing to be a cold, distant authoritarian father, nor is it good to be a spineless woman who does not assert her self worth.

Minkette said...

There are plenty of real-life Cruellas in the world--shallow, appearance-obsessed, materialistic women who lack empathy and feel entitled to getting what they want at the expense of others. There are plenty of men who behave this way also.

The fact is, in real life the fur industry does indeed thrive on people like this, and fur-wearers are predominantly female. To me, Cruella De Ville is more of a commentary on our inhumanity to animals than on the supposed inferiority of women. I don't think there are too many children out there who see themselves in Cruella and think of her as a role model. She is the female equivalent of the male hunter in "Bambi," who is in turn a character made even more nefarious than Cruella due to the "Jaws effect"--he has very little screen time, but his presence and the terror it evokes are keenly felt. These characters are two sides of the same coin. It's just that in the United States, recreational hunting is a traditionally male behavior and wearing fur is a traditionally female behavior

The Cruella archetype is not unique to "101 Dalmatians", and persists in adult-targeted media as well. Haven't you ever seen an episode of "Absolutely Fabulous"?

Anonymous said...

You could easily make the case that Snow White's restrained by the discriminatory norms of "that time." Realistically, she uses those norms to her advantage.
At the beginning of the story, Snow White is essentially a slave, despite being a princess. People criticize her for scrubbing the steps and waiting for the heroic prince. What is she supposed to do? Oppose a woman who apparently makes jewelry boxes to hold the organs of people she kills in the woods? The only way this works out for Snow is if she finds somebody with an army. Who better than the prince? Maybe it's a bit of a leap, but it's definitely practical.
The huntsman takes her out into the woods, and lets her go. I doubt he would have let her go as easily if Snow White didn't have an appearance of helplessness or innocence. If Snow White had told him to go **** off, it would have turned out a bit different. Snow White uses the societal view of what women ought to be to save herself. It's sly, and it's pretty kick-ass.
After a small breakdown in the forest(not because she's a fragile woman, but because she's a scared fourteen year old) she stops weeping and she makes some damn friends. Because, contrary to feminist belief, having support doesn't make you weak, it makes you resourceful. She doesn't have a chance in hell of winning against a queen with an omnipotent mirror without a little help.
Instead of wandering the forest, she gets her new animal friends to take her to shelter. One big complaint is that she just swoops in and starts cleaning like a woman's "supposed to do." I didn't see much cleaning on her part, did you? She gets the animals to do the bulk of the work. There was some broom-twirling, and a little bit of cooking, but not much.
And then she promptly takes credit for said work, causing the dwarves to adore her. Yes, she waits on them, but with expectation that they will serve her someday. And they do. With the help of the various forest animals, they sort of drive the queen off the cliff. They didn't actually kill her, but hey, close enough. Not only that, her beauty is the one measure that keeps the dwarves from burying her alive. And then they keep some kind of eternal coffin vigil. I'm not quite sure what that entails, but I'm guessing it's somewhere along the lines of daily weeping and constant flower-bringing. Forever. Not a bad way to ensure safety while in a coma.
And because of her friends, the prince comes and saves her, making Snow the only character in that particular story who gets a happy ending. Her friends, meanwhile, return to their obscure existence in their forest and rundown unclean cottage, simply content to have met the princess.
Though Snow White appears to be the quintessential damsel in distress, she's arguably the mastermind behind the whole thing. She doesn't stomp her feet to empower herself. Instead she works in her means to come out on top, and she does it without pissing anyone off. Less visionary in the forging of women's rights, but damn if it isn't impressive in the laying of its foundations.
And to address the author's other point: Yes, I suppose young girls could infer that beauty is most important. However, I think they're more likely to remember that those who pursue it will likely be electrocuted, pushed off cliffs, crushed by rocks, and finished off by buzzards. What do you think Disney's trying to get across there? And yes, it's wrong to try to kill people, beautiful or not. People, who kill people always die in Disney movies because that's what should happen. They're trying to instill basic values at a young age. Just because you're inferring sexism doesn't mean young girls are. They're accepting oversimplified themes like "killing people is a bad idea." No young girls have desires to kill for beauty so I'd personally like everyone to stop wringing their hands.

Human Being said...

Bravo. The fairies did do all the work in fixing the situation. Yet the manly sword gets the recognition, neglecting the brains in the situation, which is the females.

Anonymous said...

I guess the author missed a great part of the Little Mermaid, specifcally the parts where Ariel was singing about wanting to go on land before she even SAW Eric and the part where her father destroyed her stuff without a second thought. Or how the villain convinces her at the end. Or how she gave up the thing that actually Eric loved about her.

Also, #5 is a terrible anti-climax, G. I. Jane would be the exact same thing as Bo except with another female stereotype.

attmay said...

Mrs. Banks should be #1 on that list.