Social Sciences

Start Free Trial

What are the main stereotypes found in Disney's animated movies, and how does the neoliberal system benefit from these stereotypes and reproduce patriarchy?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to a study done by North Carolina State University linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer, in animated films since 1989's The Little Mermaid, female characters often have less dialogue than males. In The Little Mermaid, females have thirty-two percent of the speech, only a third of the dialogue; but in Pocahantas, female characters speak only twenty-four percent of time. In Mulan, the percentage is twenty-three percent. In Aladdin, only ten percent of the lines go to females. In addition, male characters are far more likely in these movies to give orders, and when female characters do give orders, they speak more politely than the males. Worse, in The Little Mermaid, the mermaid gives up her voice to be with the man she is in love with.

All of this supports patriarchy by suggesting to young children that it is normal and appropriate for males to have much more say in what happens that females. Most open to critique has been the little mermaid's sacrifice of her voice to be with a man; this implies that it is reasonable for a woman to give up her opinions, beliefs, and selfhood in return for love.

In Aladdin, Arabs are portrayed as violent, while in The Lion King, the evil hyenas speak in black dialect. Further, psychologists at the University of Calgary found that eighty-five percent of a group of thirty-four Disney animated films had negative references to mentally ill characters and noted that characters that deviate from normative behavior are often demonized as evil.

This serves a white, European, male hierarchy that tends to run society by denigrating women and non-whites, reinforcing a neoliberal social order in which white males are the main winners. Demonizing those who speak out or might be mentally ill or different also reinforces the idea that nonconformity or holding unorthodox beliefs is tied to moral evil. In a world dominated by neoliberal thinking, this would help support the hegemony (control) of this ideology by indoctrinating young children not to challenge the system.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team