Feminism, Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 09/1/2009

“Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films”


oh the memories...

oh the memories...

Here are a few videos I found about sexism and racism in Disney films. 


I do want to acknowledge that YESSSS a lot of these movies were made a “long time ago.” Y’know like a couple of decades. But it’s really depressing to me that I grew up with these movies. Kids are still growing up with these movies. 

Now looking back on them I have no idea how all this stuff got past me. I mean, sure, I was little, but it’s not exactly subtle. And okay, these movies are made for kids, and are therefore more “simplistic” than films made for an adult audience. But why does simplicity have to mean relying on stereotypes used by people who think simply? I think kids can handle equality in their movies. Or is it really corporate brainwashing? 

*Big sigh*

I think for the most part these clips speak for themselves.

“Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films”

“Racism in Disney”

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  • Hope Springs Internal @ at 1:18 pm, September 1st, 2009

    Great post! I wrote a 300 page thesis on this in graduate school when I studied gender. There is a LOT to be said about Disney films and the images they portray about race, gender, and sexuality.

  • BeckaW @ at 4:21 pm, September 1st, 2009

    If you’re interested in Disney and their impact on our culture and the way we view race, gender, and ethnicity you should check out the film “Mickey Mouse Monopoly” – it’s all about the profound effect Disney has. I watched it in my Anthropology class the other day and seriously enjoyed it (well, as much as you can enjoy a film criticizing your childhood favorites). :)

  • Lolita Hazed @ at 5:19 pm, September 1st, 2009


  • RebJ @ at 6:30 pm, September 1st, 2009

    But those examples they gave of stereotypical masculinity in Disney movies–Gaston, the soldiers in Mulan, and the Beast (before he became “good”)–were all satirized to some extent in the movies. Gaston is portrayed as a thick-headed idiot–not exactly the picture of masculine prowess, and he doesn’t “get” Belle in the end. The soldiers in Mulan sing a very sexist song, and when Mulan interrupts with “How about a girl who has a brain and always speaks her mind”, it is clear that they are being ridiculed in their naivety. And no one likes the Beast when he was all violent and domineering.

    Not saying that there isn’t a lot of sexism and gender stereotyping in Disney films, but I didn’t think that first clip on masculinity was particularly well presented.

  • rose @ at 8:11 pm, September 1st, 2009

    I agree with RebJ on all counts. Gaston is the villain. He’s not praised just for being strong, and it’s clear that the film makes fun of him for being insensitive and stupid. The Beast is actually shown to be quite vulnerable and compassionate in some scenes as well.

    Also, of COURSE the men in Mulan were encouraged to be in top physical condition…they were training for war.

    I’m thinking that the argument the video presented could have been done better.

  • Brooke @ at 11:03 pm, September 1st, 2009

    Thank goodness for Pixar. Colette in Ratatouille is EXACTLY like my friend Becca. So a positive female role model there.

  • Jess @ at 5:57 pm, September 2nd, 2009

    Everybody has some excellent and well thought out opinions on this matter; I recommend a few books on the matter: “From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics, of Film, Gender, and Culture”, “From Walt to Woodstock”,and “Where the Girls Are”. I’m optimistic about Disney of course, but lots can be done.

  • Emily @ at 8:38 pm, September 2nd, 2009

    anyone lse noticed the blatant racism in Lion king? the “good” charicters have pale fur and american accents, whilst scar, the “evil” character, has dark fur and an english accent…

  • Jess @ at 11:29 am, September 3rd, 2009

    Emily, that’s an excellent point!!!
    I’ve also noticed that the hyenas posess L.A. accents (hispanic and black). Good points, everybody!!!

  • Jennie @ at 1:07 pm, September 7th, 2009

    yes! ok so, i re-watched all the disney cartoon movies and found several things that put people/things down. But, the good thing is that is in the first video, the bad guy is the one making fun of women, not the good guy? you know what im trying to say?

  • ACW @ at 9:22 pm, September 11th, 2009

    Regardless of whether the sexist behavior is exhibited by a protagonist or villain, it’s still perpetuating the behavior.
    Actual scenario: I’m in junior high, and go to the movies with male friends A and G, to see Beauty & the Beast. In the first fifteen minutes, when Gaston is going through his machismo spiel, there are these blonde triplets fawning over him. A leans across me and says to G, “I’m saying, forget the brunette and go for the triplets, right? Ha ha ha.”
    As this is a civil forum, I won’t relate my response at the time!!… but that scene in the movie was intentionally created to illustrate that the dashing, brawny fellow could ‘have’ any woman he wanted… and my contemporaries didn’t miss the message.
    To get back to my point: Disney has created some strong female characters in recent years… but they’re made out to be some sort of anomaly! For every three cooing blonds, there’s the one level-headed brunette (and the topic of race and physical traits attached to personality is a whole ‘nother rant, btw).
    The Little Mermaid: Ariel has, what? – six older sisters? – and they’re all ‘perfectly obedient’… and why couldn’t Flounder have been an adventurous female fish? …because Disney thinks strong females are rare, and we perpetuate this belief when we subject our children to these movies.
    I have heard the argument before that Disney cannot be held accountable for the original legends and fairy tales upon which these movies are based… I’d be happy to see just half of children’s movies pass the Bechdel test or the Mo Movie Measure.

  • Toongrrl(formerly known as Jess) @ at 12:02 am, September 14th, 2009

    Has anybody seen “Chicken Little”? It turns out Chicken was intended to be a little girl chick (no pun intended). When the filmakers shown Michael Eisner the screen test, he said that it was harder for a boy to be miniscule. Does anybody see what’s wrong with this picture? It is hard for any girl to be of any shape, height, and size, as it is for a boy. Has Mike ever even seen “A Bugs Life” (Dot the little ant who wants to fly)? Honestly. Sincerly a 19 yr. old standing at 5’2″.

  • A Word About Disney Movies « Susana Mai @ at 9:30 am, September 18th, 2009

    […] they were good, overall they enforced good values. But, for your own viewing sake, here’s the article that got me thinking on the subject, and one of the videos from said article that led me to […]

  • The Disney Princesses and Sexism | Pop-Culture | fbomb @ at 11:51 am, October 28th, 2009

    […] found this picture on feministing yesterday. Considering the response to my last post about Disney, I thought you guys might find this pic […]

  • Rod Lockerz @ at 9:32 pm, March 16th, 2010

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  • Welcome to Monday ~ 18 July 2011 | @ at 9:33 am, July 19th, 2011

    […] “Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films” […]

  • elorah @ at 8:59 am, June 17th, 2012

    Uh, I can see the Gaston part but he IS the villain and I think his sexist aspects and how everyone liked him for it is part of the reason, the whole point of the movie is not to judge people by their looks after all. As for king Louis he was played by a white man named Louis who actually talked and sang like that.

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