The Role of Women in Disney Movies

Published: 2021-06-17 06:30:21
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Category: Movies, Discrimination

Type of paper: Essay

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It’s without a doubt that the numerous Disney movies we watched throughout our childhood have depicted female characters to be the delicate and graceful princesses that awaited on the rescue of a man. Mulan was one of the first Disney movies to steer away from this ideology and rather portrayed the female character to be strong and fearless. This movie provides women with a sense of empowerment that they can achieve incredible things if given the same opportunities that men are. When viewing this movie through a critical lens, it’s clear that the film reveals how one’s culture and class is an underlying issue to gender oppression. The scene featuring the song “I’ll Make a Man out of you” is a strong representation of the patriarchal and gender-stereotypical roles imposed by society. The captain says “did they send me daughters, when I asked for sons,” (Coats & Bancroft, 1998) referring to women a symbol of weakness. Another character sings “bring us honor through men bearing arms and girls bearing sons.” (Coats & Bancroft, 1998)
Throughout the movie, there are various scenes that emphasize that fact that a girl can only bring her family honor through marriage. If women do not conform to these standards, they will “forever dishonor the family and cause traditional values to disintegrate.” (Coats & Bancroft, 1998). Aside from being shamed and humiliated, they are brutally punished, as it is by law that if a woman is revealed to be fighting in battle, she will be executed. It’s crucial to notice how women are harshly punished with the death sentence rather than a lesser form of punishment such as incarceration; highlighting the little worth put on a woman’s life. This is an outstanding issue that many Indigenous women face in our society today, as they are in danger due to the lack of value put on their lives. For example, regarding the Tina Fontaine case, the officer who failed to keep her in safety was charged with stealing a pair of boots rather than being held accountable for a young girl’s life. (Palmater 2016, 262)In order to avoid execution, Mulan disguises herself as a male and becomes a warrior by defeminizing herself and losing her gender identity in the process. All these factors address the framework of intersectionality by emphasizing how the multiple systems of power and privilege intertwine, allowing Mulan to become marginalized in society. (mCline, 1970) Although this film is empowering to women, one may argue that the film still embodies some patriarchal views as Mulan is dependent on General Li Shang, the “alpha male” to teach her how to become a warrior. A major issue highlighted in this film and emphasized in lecture is individuals are denied opportunities and are subject to unfair punishment if their gender identity isn’t aligned with their biological sex. Although Mulan saved multiple lives and proved to be a successful warrior, her accomplishments were disregarded when her identity as a woman was revealed. Men are put on a pedestals for fighting to protect their family and country while woman are punished when fighting for the same purposes.
As we learned in class, this still is a problem today as women, especially of color and transgender women are vulnerable to harsher treatments due to the “sexist operations” of the justice system. By analyzing this film, we can conclude that similarly to how Mulan faced wrongful punishments for becoming a warrior, many inmates in today’s society are incarcerated for defending themselves against sexist or racist attacks and for being “political warriors who stood up for their freedom.” (McDonald, Smith & Stanley 2015, 4).

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