Guid Essay

Guid Essay

Disney Princesses as a Subject of the Male Gaze – Free Essay Example

If you were to ask a little girl what she wants to be when she grows up, she is likely to say one of her dreams is to be a princess. Now this is not the princess you see in the Royal family; it is a Disney princess. A Disney princess is a slim physique, beautiful figure. From a young age I watched most Disney films, my favorite being Disney princess movies. Growing up I had no concerns about the movies as they all seemed to be normal however, now watching them back this has allowed me to realize many things are unrealistic and quite damaging with them and for such young girls watching them this creates a variety of expectations they believe they need to have. Many of the princesses are a subject to the male gaze. Theorist, Lauren Mulvey’s theory in her article ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ is that the male gaze is a view in movies and tv adverts where males are the target audience and woman are objectified and just there to look at to pleasure the males. She argues male centered desires are usually the premises of a film. This occurs in many of the Disney princess films.

In many Disney princess movies, we watch a princess or ordinary girl find her true love, her Prince Charming, even though this is challenged up to a point in ‘Moana’ and ‘Frozen’, it is still an apparent theme in most of the movies. The representation of Disney princesses has remained constant throughout the decades, there has been minor changes, but in recent years, a bigger change in the way princesses are represented. Disney usually portrays the girl as a damsel in distress being reliant on a prince to come rescue and save her from her misery. By this being a common theme in many of the movies. It creates an idea of male dominance, and the movies show the extent girls would go to get male validation and find their ‘Prince Charming’.

In the movie ‘The Little Mermaid’ this theme is shown the most. In the film, Ariel is a 16-year-old mermaid who has fallen in love with a prince, Eric, a human. Ariel is a subject to the male gaze; Ariel is only 16 but has the curvy body of a grown woman with only tiny shells covering her chest. Due to Ariel being a mermaid it means there is no way she can be with Eric as they have completely different lives. However, Ariel comes across the evil sea witch Ursula, who offers her human legs in exchange for her voice and gives her 3 days to win over the prince or spend an eternity under Ursula’s control. By Ariel giving up her voice it means the only thing she has for him to fall in love with is her body and looks, this automatically gives young girls the idea that it is okay for men to do this, bearing in mind she is only 16. Young boys also watching get the impression it is okay to just like someone for their looks. Ursula tells Ariel not to underestimate the power of her ‘body language’, as well as telling her the only way to get what she wants is to become a human which is completely changing who she is. The movie emphasizes that the only way for you to get what you want is by changing yourself, which should not be what little girls think life is about, therefore leaves them thinking they should always change for others from an early age, which is wrong.

In ‘Snow White’ the male gaze is fulfilled through the depiction of housewife, caretaker and domestic princess Snow White and the heroic prince. Snow white is seen doing domestic work around the house, nurturing to the dwarfs and animals, she is naive enough to eat a poisonous apple. The prince has little speaking lines, but this does not matter as she falls in love with him at first glance. Snow white is kissed unconscious by her Prince Charming, this represents male dominance and lack of consent. He claims her with this kiss and is seen as a hero. Many may find this harmless or a heroic attempt to save the princess from their deaths, this shows blatant no consent due to snow white’s inability to speak or disagree in any way. This can show younger viewers that consent is not needed, that they can do whatever they want to someone when they are asleep or unconscious and that young girls should just be okay with that and not make it an issue.

In ‘Frozen’, a more recent Disney princess film, the two main characters Elsa and Anna are both females that have their own will power. Elsa is independent and does not rely on a man throughout the whole film, and when Anna falls head over heels for Hans at first sight like the traditional princess, Elsa comments how ridiculous it is. Anna is further almost punished for this as when she trusts Hans, he leaves her for death and takes over the kingdom. Anna then sets off to find her sister with them then saving the kingdom. This film shows a clear progressive effort from Disney to change. However, ‘Frozen’ head of animation, Lino DiSalvo, undercuts this as quoted in an interview “female characters are really difficult cause they have to go through these range of emotions, you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive”. Why can’t it be both? Why does a princess need to be pretty? This leads back to the male gaze theory as the value of the princesses is on their appearance not the fact they are not relying on a male or that they have strong personalities. It all comes back to the way that they need to look.

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It could be argued that a male director/animator makes a female character seem weak and in need of a male and uses their body to their advantage fulfilling the male gaze. Disney’s ‘nine old men’ were the core animators who then turned into directors. Films animated by these men include ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Films such as ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Rapunzel’ also animated and directed by males. However, ‘Moana’, a more recent film. has her as a strong female character who is going to be chief of her village and no one questions this but perhaps society on her island is beyond where we are? She relies on no men and she doesn’t dress to fulfil the male gaze. She is a smart and strong, and does stuff to save and protect others and focuses on leading the village and making her family proud not to win the attention of a male.

Now while rewatching these films you may notice how the male gaze argument is relevant and still dominates our society and way things are made. Although Mulvey’s argument is 40 years old it is not outdated and very much still relevant and normalized in today’s society. It just may make you rethink how a princess should be and look, as in reality not every woman/girl has a petite body with eyes bigger than their waist and a flawless face. The Disney princesses that children and coming generations look up to are all a subject to the male gaze, that is just a harsh reality but is slowly changing for the best and there is hope for change in the way the world views girls and woman not only in movies, but in everyday life.

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