Friday, April 25, 2008

Helveston: Media Analysis

Happily Ever After: The Ending that is Damaging for Young Girls

Disney Movies, in particular animated movies, portray woman in very specific roles. All the leading females are beautiful and of royalty. Disney creates a little girls fantasy on the big screen, princesses living their lives and falling for prince charming. Even in college, girls like to watch these movies and dream of prince charming, white horses, and beautiful castles. For most part, these movies are merely entertainment that allows for an escape from reality and the possibility of a perfect fantasy. Most Disney movies with a leading female character have the same plot: girl meets boy, girls falls for boy, and they live happily ever after. Some movies with happily ever after endings include: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, and Mulan. However, many feminists argue that Disney movies are anti–feminist and teach young girls to forfeit their values and assets for romance. The Little Mermaid and Mulan are two such movies where the girls compromise their characters and values for love; however, this is against feminist ideas, suggesting that women give up their true characters for men and a harsh society.
The Little Mermaid is a movie where the lead character Ariel gives up her life in order to love Prince Eric. Feminist Kathy Maio says, “Ariel will do anything to make the prince fall in love with her.” She gives up her voice to become a human, venture onto dry land, and find Eric. However, in the process of giving up her voice she is compromising her character all in the name of love. All that remains is the outer shell of beauty. A woman in this world should be appreciated for more than beauty. Frederica Mathewes –Green says, “the Disney women, ageless, still meet covertly in a private club overlooking the Pacific. The waves crash on the rocks below and they lift toasts in their little three-fingered hands. To us. We taught a million little girls what womanhood is like. Too bad none of them could make it. Then they snicker.” Ariel teaches little girls that beauty and sacrifice are all that are needed for women to have a successful life, win the men of their dreams. This concept outrages feminists because the girls leave the movie thinking that if they are beautiful and able to change their character enough, then finding and keeping their prince charming should not be difficult. In reality, this concept makes no sense: not every woman can seduce a man by looks alone. Most of the time, personality plays a large role in relationships and The Little Mermaid, along with other Disney movies, tells girls that their personality does not matter, and only the beauty on the outside is sufficient.
Females in Disney movies are always changing to live by society’s dictates. In Mulan, she cuts her beautiful hair and try’s to become a man. Society in ancient China did not allow for women to participate in wars. Eventually, even after changing her appearance, her true identity is revealed and Mulan’s life is left to the whim of a man. According to Kathy Maio, “Men still have power over them (Shang quite literally decides whether Mulan will live or die); and the best thing that can happen to them is to marry the hero and live "happily ever after."” Feminists disagree with this idea about living happily ever after because it gives girls a false hope that there is such thing as a prince charming. Girls are often drawn into the fantasy that accompanies these movies. In regards to Mulan, even after lying to her family, the imperial army, and her country, she is not killed and still retains her honor in the end. In Disney movies, “sexism has been a consistent phenomenon” (Bengtsson). Women are able to get away with lying or being weak, and in the end are fine, while the men are strong, rescue the women, and have a personality to be admired. Young girls learn that they can have a weak character and many flaws and still come out on top. Mulan is masquerading as someone else to fight for the honor of her family and this kind of deception is not an acceptable value young girl’s should learn from Disney movies. Yet, her lies lead to a happy life and her winning the heart of the man she loves. In the real world, this “happily ever after” does not occur so often. Girls need Disney female characters on the silver screen to be strong role models that teach positive character and a strong sense of self. In many cases these strong willed individuals in the films are the men, giving little girls no true animated role model. After watching a movie a young girl should want to be all that she can be, instead of wanting to be a “damsel in distress,” with her only hope of a fulfilling life being the love of a man.
Disney is an avid supporter of the weakness of females in society. In the Article Too Few Animated Women Break the Mold, Susan Riley says that Disney movies continue to exhibit insulting stereotypes that are essentially limiting. In The Little Mermaid and Mulan, the Disney writers exploited the female characters Mulan and Ariel, showing them to be weak and emotional; making decisions with their hearts not their heads. Feminists are believers of women thinking for themselves and living independent lives. Disney movies crush this feminist ideal and encourage girls to live in perfect fantasy worlds. How are young girls going to grow up to be strong willed individual when there favorite Disney characters are weak and emotional? Disney movies need to empower female characters, giving the little girl audience a stronger feeling of independence and self worth when leaving the theater. The Little Mermaid and Mulan are two such movies in which a woman gives up her true character for love. This is against feminist beliefs; no girl or woman should have to hide her true character for a man or society.

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