"A Whole New World": redefining gender in Disney films from the 20th to 21st century
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SubjectResearch Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS::Gender studies
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION::Aesthetic subjects::Literature
Gilbert and gubar
AbstractDisney Princess films in the 20th century, notably ones made in the Golden and Silver Age of the studio’s production, uphold the patriarchal gaze by portraying Disney princesses in the identity of the true woman, forcing them to participate in the domestic household and wait for their prince to initiate their agency and freedom. The Princesses inability to stray away from their portrayal as an item of consumption and sexual/social control and desire make them unable to claim a desire other than marriage to complete their process of Lacanian development. In comparison, the patriarchal gaze is manifested through these earlier Disney films by placing men as the strong, capable heroes who gain a romantic partner at the end of the film. The dichotomization of evil and good women in these 20th century Disney films only serve to emphasize the idea of the true woman. Women who are aware of their social place and attempt to manipulate or resist it are oftentimes villainized through their appearance (they are often old, fat or not traditionally “beautiful”) all weaknesses that are tied to their sexualized role in society. In this paper, I will examine the way that 21st Century Disney films in the Revival Era resist and participate in social structures relating to the male gaze, the myth of womanly masks and notions of true womanhood. I will examine Disney’s shift toward more progressive gender politics through three lenses: Lauren Mulvey’s analysis of the male gaze and Lacanian notions of the Other, and Gilbert and Gubar’s theorization of womanly masks and Barber Welter’s tenants of True Womanhood. I will also examine the ways that these advancements may be limited to a capitalistic, neo-liberal framework, considering that Disney’s changes are financially motivated.
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