Sexism Within Disney Films

The more liberal critiques often ignore entirely the racist, sexist, and antidemocratic ethos that permeates Disney films. (p85 mouse roar) Once can't help wondering what is wholesome about Disney's overt

racism towards Arabs displayed in Aladdin. (p86 mouse roar)

Disney is more than a corporate giant; it is a lost a cultural institution that fiercely protects its legendary status as purveyor of innocence and moral virtue. (p86 mouse roar)

But Disney does more than provide prototypes for upscale communities; it also makes a claim on the future through its nostalgic view of the past. (p88 mouse roar)

The animated object and animals in these films are of the highest artistic standards, but they do not exist in an ideology-free zone, they are tied to larger narratives about freedom, rites of passage, intolerance, choice, greed, and the brutalities of male chauvinism.

Disney's animated films generate and affirm particular pleasures, desires, and subject positions that define for children specific notions of agency and its possibilities in society.

All the female characters in these films are ultimately subordinate to males and define their power and desire almost exclusively in terms of dominant male narratives. p 99 mouse roar

Pocahontas is made over historically to resemble a shapely, contemporary, high-fashion supermodel. p 101 mouse roar

Pocahontas's character, like that of many of Disney's female protagonists, is drawn primarily in relation to the men who surround her.

In the Disney version of history, colonialism never happened, and he meeting between the old and new worlds is simply doffer for another "love conquers all" narrative. One wonders how this film would have been viewed by the public of it had been about a Jewish woman who falls in love with a blond Aryan Nazi while ignoring any references to the Holocaust.

when the heroin's grandmother first sees the young man as he enters Mulan's house, she affirms what she (the audience?) sees as Mulan's real victory, which is catching a man, and yells out: "Sign me up for the next war!"

By embracing a masculine view of war, Mulan cancels out any rupturing of traditional gender roles.Disney reminds us at the conclusion of t he film that Mulan is still just a girl in search of a man p 103 mouse roar

As in so many other Disney animated films, Mulan becomes an eroticized version of the All-American girl who manages to catch the most handsome boy on the block. Even in a film such as Pocahontas, in which cultural differences are portrayed more positively, there is a suggestion in the end that racial identities must remain separate. p 106 mouse roar

The seeming benign presentation of celluloid dramas, in which men rule, strict discipline is imposed through social hierarchies, and leadership is a function of one’s social status, suggests a yearning for a return to am ore rigidly stratified society, one modeled after the British monarchy of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

"harmony is brought at the price of domination...No power or authority is implied except for the natural ordering mechanisms" Susan Willis, "Fantasia: Walt Disney's Los Angeles Suite," Diacritics 17 (Summer 1987), pp. 83-96

In fact, Disney's films appear to assign, quite unapologetically, rigid roles to women and people of color. Similarly, such films generally produce a narrow view of family values coupled with a nostalgic and conservative view of history that should be challenged and transformed.

Disney's writing of public memory also aggressively constructs monolithic notion of national identity that treats subordinate groups as either exotic or irrelevant to American history, simultaneously marketing cultural difference.

the Disney Company has become synonymous with a notion of innocence that aggressively rewrites the historical and collective identity of the American past. The strategies of escapism, historical forgetting, and repressive pedagogy in Disney's books, records, theme parks, movies, and TV programs produce identifications that define the United States as white, suburban, middle class, and heterosexual. p 127 mouse roar

Disney characterizations remain one-dimensional "stereotypes arranged according to a credo of domestication of the imagination" Bell, E., Haas, L., & Sells, L. (Eds.). (1995). From mouse to mermaid: The politics of film, gender, and culture. Bloomignton and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press

Finally, although Pocahontas provides a sign of hope for a broader construction of female roles, she does not supersede the previous heroines. P334 Mediated Woman

Pocahontas begins a journey in search of an interpretation of her dreams, whereas the earlier heroines saw their dreams fulfilled by a man. p330 Mediated Woman

You think I'm an ignorant savage, and you've been so many places, I guess it must be so. But still I cannot see, if the savage is me, how can there be so much that you don't know?... I know every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name. You think the only people who are people are the people who look and think like you, but if you walk the footsteps of a stranger you'll learn things you never knew, you never knew. Menken & Schwartz, 1995, pp. 43-45

Until Pocahontas, Disney females who showed spirit, intellectual curiosity, or disregard for authority always suffered and inevitably accepted male control, as did both Ariel and Belle by the end of their films. p333 Mediated Woman

Pocahontas does break the conventional norms for a Disney heroine by providing a model of self- actualization. p334 Mediated Woman

the film itself denies the facts of her experience as a person of historical record. p334 Mediated Woman

mass images of American Indians are created by white culture, for white culture p 92 Mediated Woman

persons of the peaceful, mystical, spiritual guardian of the land who is in vogue in the 1990's p92 Mediated Woman

However they are pictured, Indians are the quintessential “other”, whose role in mass culture is to be the object of the white, colonialist gaze. p92 Mediated Woman

The Indian Princess became an important, non-threatening symbol of white Americans' right to be here because she was always willing to sacrifice her happiness, cultural identity, and even her life for the good of the new nation, p 93 Mediated Woman

the Princess Pocahontas story enabled the white United States, but especially the South, to justify its dominance, providing a kind of origin myth that explained how and why the Indians had welcomed the destiny brought to them by whites. p 94 Mediated Woman

The inescapable fact about this dual imagery of Indian woman is that the imagery is entirely defined by whites. From early contact, white observers brought their own categories and preconceptions to indigenous American cultures, and "authoritative" sources defined the role of the Indian woman in ways that bore little relationship to reality. p 94 Mediated Woman

As Green (1988a) points out, "the society permitted portrayals to include sexual references (bare and prominent bosoms) for females even when tribal dress and ethnography denied the reality of the reference" p 593 (p102 Mediated Woman)

"Our dreams," of course, refers to white dreams, for Pocahontas is still a white fantasy, Indeed, as Tilton (1994) writes, "We might argue that if one were to formulate a narrative from an Indian perspective, Pocahontas would have to be presented as an extremely problematic character" p90 (p 102 Mediated Woman)

Sleeping Beauty (AT 410) and Snow White (AT 709) are so passive that they have to be reawakened to life by a man; and the innocent heroines of "The little Goose Girl" (AT 533) and "The Six Swans" (AT 451) are the victims of scheming and ambitious women. p 43

Things Walt Disney never told us shows how in early Disney movies the image of the ambitious woman was negative. How Disney preferred to follow what everyone wanted to see which was a woman who remain at home and was passive like Sleeping Beauty who only ran away because of her evil ambitious and scheming aunt the witch

A politics of identity and place associated with Arab culture magnified popular stereotypes already primed by the media through its portrayal of the Gulf War. Such a racist representation is furthered by a host of grotesque, violent, and cruel supporting characters. p104 mouse roar

Yousef Salem, a former spokesperson for the South Bay Islamic Association, characterized the film in the following way: "All of the bad guys have beards and large, bulbous noses, sinister eyes and heavy accents, and they’re wielding swords constantly. Aladdin doesn't have a big nose; he has a small nose. He doesn't have a beard or a turban. He doesn't have an accent. What makes him nice is they've given him this American character... I have a daughter who says she's ashamed to call herself an Arab, and its because of things like this." Richard Scheinin, "Angry over Aladdin."

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