"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Masculinity in Cartoons

On Women of Color Blog this morning, brownfemipower has a video up, created by Sanjay Newton and posted up on racewire, about the way masculinity is portrayed in Disney films. Like brownfemipower, I have a couple of misgivings of some of the analysis--I think, for instance, that Gaston from Beauty and the Beast is mocking some aspects of traditional masculinity, rather than representing the men we ought to become--but there are some very good points there as well, and the general theme is interesting. My favorite part is from Mulan (which I've not seen), wherin the song seems to be "Be a Man," which involves physical strength and hunting ability, pretty much.

I hope brownfemipower doesn't mind my swiping this video for others here to see:


Anonymous said...

Yes, Gaston is strong, respected, and traditionally masculine, but as you pointed out, he's also the villain! He just doesn't understand Belle (who just happens to be every nerd's dream), so when he tries to marry her, he ends up humiliated.

The Beast and Gaston were
intended to be opposites, and their differences can be interpreted as providing different models of masculinity. The Beast is incredibly insecure, at least at first, while Gaston is arrogant. The Beast works to improve himself; Gaston believes strongly in his own perfection and refuses to learn from his mistakes. The Beast tries to understand Belle instead of taking her for granted. For example, Gaston rejects Belle's fondness for books in a blatant display of sexism, while the Beast gives Belle his grand castle library.

Oddly enough, Beauty and the Beast is rare among Disney animated films in that the romance between the male and female lead takes a long time to develop. There's no instant love at first sight here, unlike in Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, or other such films.

There are probably more things I could mention - just try looking for a traditionally masculine hero in "The Sword in the Stone"! - but it's getting late and I don't know where I'm going with this anyway, so I'll just post it now.

Anonymous said...

The examples in this clip are taken completely out of context.

Beauty and the Beast

As has already been pointed out Gaston is the villain. In the film he is very obviously portrayed as an arrogant bully! The audience is not supposed to like him or accept his values - the opposite in fact. Belle is consistantly repulsed by Gaston throughout the film "He's handsome all right, and rude and conceited and...Oh Papa, he's not for me!".


This whole film is about a woman illegaly in the army of ancient China. I'd be much more bothered if Disney glossed over sexism and machoism in this movie!

The image in the clip of Mulan climbing the pole was not because of her strength but clearly because of her perseverance, determination and inteligence!

Hercules - Hercules doesn't fit in in his home town. In his journey to becoming a 'True Hero' he doesn't really lose these insecurities. He is constantly looking for acceptance this is his downfall. And I know it's stretching it a bit but the moral of this one was - Zeus: "For a true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart"

Most Disney movies are taken from fairytales or legends anyway!

Disney could do better to combat stereotypes - but I'm sure that's something that's being thought about now. It's a pity it wasn't before - but the films are a product of their time.

And sorry for being so long and badly written - I could have said a lot more...

snobographer said...

Latecomer here. The Beast is a big, strappin' dude too, so he fits the physical stereotype for a dominant male that's described in this video. And if memory serves, he does pitch some major rages early on and keeps Belle locked up in a tower. He listens to her and is interested in her interests, as long as they're interests he shares, but he also treats Belle like a possession.