Masculinity and Disney’s Gender Problem

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17 Responses

  1. cllewellyn says:

    The new movie, Brave, might be the exception (or a sign of progress— I type hesitantly)? Female heroin, sidekick, and villain….

    • Michael T says:

      I thought of the movie Brave while I was writing my comment, a mini-essay on the way Frozen used female empowerment to capture the female audience’s interest. I recall that the protagonist in Brave was not portrayed with as many masculine features as their counterparts in Frozen. In addition to that, she was situated in a sea of overbearing men who obviously had great authority over her, not to mention greater physical strength, stifling what otherwise could be perceived as powerful. So Brave does make the progress in gender parity as you suggested but Frozen does it to a much more palpable and significant extent.

  2. AGardner says:

    I love that Brave depicted a strong and heroic woman (women really, since the mother was also quite a strong woman), but I have to say as I look back on Disney movies I realize that there is no true partnership. The men in Brave are goofy at best, incompetent at worst. Even the father, who is seen as a “good man,” needs the mother to keep him in line, to show him how to be an effective leader, to keep him as more than a drunk buffoon. Simply another stereotype of marriage. When will we have a meaningful and egalitarian relationship for our young boys and girls to look at?? We need to show them what it means to be a team- not rescuing, overshadowing, or keeping in line. Thanks for opening up this discourse beyond simply the great Princess debate!

  3. Megan Horning says:

    Hey Cliff,
    Nice article. I currently teach in a middle school and have noticed how boys repeatedly overpower the voice of girls despite my efforts to be fair. They do it so naturally- not that it is natural- they enter my classes already able how to control the conversation and atmosphere. These behaviors range from consistently raising hands to answer correctly to inappropriate misbehaviors, yet they all make the male voice more heard. The girls, in turn, become more reserved. Maybe you have some thoughts about how to have a conversation with these boys about their behavior? Or tips for teachers to use in classroom interaction that allow the female voice to be heard?
    WU 2011

  4. Hello Cliff,

    My name is Londyn Clawson I’m a producer from BYU Radio, which is a satellite radio station (Sirius XM 143), and is also available to stream online at This article seems like a really interesting topic, and our on-air host especially wanted a chance to talk about it. If you would be open to it, we’d love to schedule a time for a radio interview on our Morning Show. The interview would be about 30 minutes long, and we have some flexibility with the scheduling.

    Please let me know what kind of availability you would have for something like this, and I can get the time and date details hammered out.

  5. Michael T says:

    I actually think Frozen does a fair bit of gender bending, a contrast to Disney’s past portrayal of female protagonists in their normal gender roles. This ultimately leads to the feeling of empowerment in the female audience as they are lead away from the normal gender traits. This is the reason why I believe it has become so popular with female audiences; it gives them a sense of empowerment.

    The first decision of the producers that stood out was the lack of “feminine” colors worn by the female protagonists, Anna and Elsa. Instead they are associated with “masculine” colours such as blue and green. This is also reflected in the setting imagery of the movie, the snow-covered mountains for example.

    The portrayal of women as being able to endure harsh climate and men as unable also contributes to this female empowerment. Elsa and Anna are able to venture out into the cold mountains in skin-tight attire while men with more clothing, such as the Duke of Weselton, is shown shivering or Kristoff who, in contrast to Anna, is in thicker, furred clothing.

    Also important is the power of Elsa’s voice, given by Idina Menzel. It is powerful, moreso than the male actors in the movie. Another image of a powerful woman.

    This is just an attempt to answer the question as to why females like this movie so much. It is more obvious to see the allure for males to this movie, which I believe is the sex appeal of the protagonists. All of that aside, this movie does have a great soundtrack and amazing picture so all of my points above may be just superfluous and meaningless.

  6. Celeste says:

    If I may, I would like to say this article starts by outlining male characters and their diversity. Cliff even suggests that male representation is a problem and receives little attention. He then goes into how it’s a problem for girls. Why is no one giving attention to the problems it presents for young boys? Yes, Brave gives a good example of a powerful female character yet she is seen as masculine and the male characters her age are seen as weak, unattractive, and/or incompetent. I find it difficult to find articles that go into the effects of the lack of good male figures. At most, male characters are handsome first class citizens with perfect (and unattainable) teeth, hair, and bodies. Little boys are forced to personify the perfect rescuer or the clown. If we are to make Disney movies more gender aware, we cannot disregard the importance of representation of masculine characters.

  7. Cassie Livingston says:

    You realize that the traditional Disney princess movies are based off of very old and far worst stories. From far earlier centuries the gender roles where far more harsh and divided. The female role was far more helpless, specially those of higher society woman. Reflecting the ideas of the time period as they have been written and told though out. Yes we are entering a period of new possibilities where gender bias does not have to apply because of current thoughts and ideas. The possibilities for the amount of originality is endless and can reflect the thoughts and feelings of today not yesterday. Not the past where such views where shared by both men and woman of the time, when the stories were first created. Instead of being angry about the past try thinking about how you want that future.

  8. Cassie Livingston says:

    Yes we do have problems with male and female character portrayal. Woman as weak and incapable, wait those woman were actually strong in the face of adversity. Cinderella endured a lifetime of abuse, Snow White continue to be a nice caring person regardless of adversity. Belle was caring and kind but also sturn and strong willed and brave. She helped a man see that kindness was far better than intimidation. Jasmine showed that personality was a far better trait than money or good looks. Though the role or main female characters are often cookie cutter, princess, problems, saved at the end with help from male. However the men all show the exact same personal traits; rich, good looking, brave; or poor, orphaned, selfish turned selfless; or stupid, ugly, and silly. With no other character traits, and excluding personality. Often male leads are overlooked, or turned non human and not often princes. Instead what would happen if we were to put male leads in the place of the princess leads.

  1. 3rd December 2013

    […] Originally published at The Sociology Lens […]

  2. 10th March 2014
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  4. 18th February 2015

    […] Masculinity and Disney’s Gender Problem » Sociology Lens. (n.d.). Retrieved from […]

  5. 4th March 2016

    […] Boys are trained to believe that the hero is someone who’s powerful, physically dominating, and infallible. You can’t be introverted. You can’t be horrible at sports. You can’t be a weirdo. Heroes don’t fall outside of the stereotypical version of masculinity, and because those tend to be unattainable standards, it’s no wonder there’s a disconnect between the movies and the male audience. They’re one-note characters with predictable arcs. How lame is that? […]

  6. 15th June 2016

    […] Leek, C. (13 October 2013). Masculinity and disney gender problem. Retrieved from […]

  7. 26th July 2016

    […] C. (2013) Masculinity and Disney’s Gender Problem. The Society Pages [Online] [Accessed: […]

  8. 12th December 2016

    […] Leek, C. (2016). Masculinity and Disney’s Gender Problem – Sociology Lens. Retrieved 12 December 2016, from […]

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