For my last entry this semester, I have decided to refer back to a discussion we had several weeks ago that dealt with Disney characters, specifically the princesses, who needed to be "saved" in most of the movies. I began thinking about the class as a whole and all of the topics we have discussed. I asked myself, "How has all of this impacted me?", "What impact does all this have on society as a whole?" But it occurred to me that gender stereotypes weave themselves into pretty much everything in our culture. We don't just receive these messages when were adults, we get them from the second were born and are continually exposed to them throughout our lives. Disney movies are just one outlet where kids are exposed to such stereotypes. I remember our discussion of these ideas and how ethnic background contributes to such behaviors.
For example, Jasmine from Aladdin and Pocahontas were the first ethnic princesses that came onto the scene. In these films, as in most others, the princesses had to be saved from some horrible fate. It is not simply these ethnic characters, however, that deal with such dilemmas and require a man's "saving ability." Most Disney women find themselves in situations where a man needs to rescue them. Let's recap some of these ever so popular films:
My favorite of all time is Beauty & the Beast. We have Belle, taking care of her old father and finding herself at a scary castle with an evil beast. Toward the end of the movie, all of the townspeople, including the oh so sweet Gaston, have to come rescue her from the evil beast. Who, by the way, turns out to be a pretty sweet human disguised as an evil monster. In the end, Belle falls in love with the beast and everyone lives happily ever after. Aren't you surprised? Another personal favorite is Rapunzel, a fairly new movie, where she is stuck in the highest tower of the castle and the prince has to save her. The funny thing about this movie is that it seems, from the previews anyway, that the prince is portrayed as kind of an idiot. Several times, Rapunzel's hair hits him in the face or knocks him over. We laugh at things like that. In reality, though, she is ultimately saved by him and we give the power back to the man. The same scenario goes for Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. What amazes me about all of these movies is that the villain is typically a woman, an evil witch of sorts.
So, are men just awesome beings that serve to save us from our own evil? Well, of course they are!!! We, as women, could not survive without them. They rule the world, always have, and always will. How could we live without them? I mean...I'm 24 years old and there is no way I could have survived this long without the help of a man. ..... I hope you feel my sarcasm. I was actually raised by my mother for most of my life. She did an awesome job raising me and my sister. Men are crucial in shaping women's lives in one way or another. But, relying on them for everything is just not realistic. As a young girl, I dreamed of being with a prince of sorts. A prince that would save me from life's trials and tribulations. What a let down...where is my prince? Do I need to be lonely, afraid, and locked away in some scary castle somewhere for him to appear? I think that Disney filmmakers, as well as other movie-makers targeting a young audience, have attempted in that last several years to really include characters of other ethnicities and move toward more realistic situations. I am sure it is difficult, however, to break the mold that easily without backlash.
Inherently, we all live in the same cycle of gender stereotypes. We dress, behave, and speak based on what we are taught and what we observe. Until some sort of crazy revolution happens to change all of this patriarchal influence, we will continue to live in the cycle.
I will leave you with my favorite lines from B&B:
Gaston: This is the day your dreams come true. Belle: What do you know about my dreams, Gaston? Gaston: Plenty! Here, picture this: A rustic hunting lodge, my latest kill roasting on the fire, and my little wife massaging my feet, while the little ones play on the floor with the dogs. We'll have six or seven.
Doesn't that sound super?