Background of the Study
In 1937, Walt Disney created the very first feature-length animated film from USA, a Disney princess film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, wherein a beautiful girl lived in the house of seven dwarves to hide from her stepmother, the evil Queen. This movie was their debut of emphasizing their movies on princesses.
The first three Disney Princess films have emerged in the film industry and have become successful. These films were made from 1930s to 1950s. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) contained a story wherein a wicked stepmom, the Queen, who is jealous because she wanted to be “the fairest in the land” but instead her Magic Mirror shows Snow White’s face. The story contained the seven dwarves, who had comedic characteristics, a handsome prince who saved the day and an innocent princess, who was considered the fairest in the land. The storyline ends with the princess being saved by a man. After this film, it took years for Disney to create another princess movie in 1950 with Cinderella, wherein the main character, Cinderella, is being oppressed by her antagonists and is saved by the prince in the end. In 1959, Disney released another film, The Sleeping Beauty wherein the main character, Princess Aurora, was cursed by an evil fairy on her sixteenth birthday. The story follows the same pattern where the protagonist is kind yet helpless and, in the end, is saved by the prince with true love’s kiss. These movies have personified a traditional female stereotype during this period.
As the time passed, the storyline of Disney Princess films evolved, from the personality of the main characters to its plots and content. In 1989, The Little Mermaid was released. This focused on Ariel, a mermaid and the princess of the sea, who wanted to be human for a prince. She went out of her way and broke the rules of her father and of the kingdom, to be with the one she loves. After this, Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991 and Aladdin in 1992. The Disney animated films in this era had a different portrayal of women. The films portrayed women that were out of the norms of the society, yet in the end, they were still dependent on a man because the princesses were saved by a man or a prince. Disney changed the pattern when they made the princesses question the social norms and when they became more adventurous than the first three princesses.
A new transition occurred when the princesses became warriors in their own stories. Warrior princesses are those that unleashed their independence instead of relying on a man to save them. In 1995, Pocahontas was released, a story of a princess of her own tribe who chose to save her people, and not depending on a guy. John Smith was her counterpart and wanted something different from what Pocahontas’ people are saying. This was followed by another animated Disney princess movie in 1998, Mulan. Mulan disguised herself as a man to become a soldier of their country to be able to save her sick father. She managed to be as tough and as independent as a man that she had to sacrifice her feminine personalities. At the end of the story, she was the one who was able to save her country. In this era, the princesses chose to be who they are and had to fight for what they stand for, which made them even stronger than the previous princesses.
Tiana was one the ground-breaking characters in Disney history for she was the first African-American princess in Disney history. She also wasn’t looking for a relationship. Her character’s ambition is to have her own restaurant. She portrayed a woman who works hard for her future and dreams but instead becomes a frog in the story. This movie, The Princess and the Frog, was released in 2009. As the progress in portraying different women in different eras continued, the women portrayed changed into princesses that are more ambitious. Tangled then followed in 2010, wherein Rapunzel, the lost princess of their kingdom, was ambitious and wanted to see the outside world. In 2012, Merida from Brave emerged in the film industry and had a different storyline. She was a princess who didn’t want to be a princess and instead, wanted to be an archer. She was also the first non-Disney character to be called a Disney princess as Brave was a Pixar movie. Frozen was released in 2014. The film was a successful global hit. Disney made a difference in this movie since the protagonist, Anna, saved her sister, Elsa. It can be noted that this is a distinction compared to other Disney Princess films. It is clear that the princesses or the main characters have shown independence, a heart of a warrior, display different cultures, and go out of society’s norms.
One most recent animated Disney film, Moana, was created and released in 2016 and spoke the story of a young navigator who is destined to be the future female chief of their Polynesian tribe. However, Moana sailed out to prove herself as a master way finder to fulfill the unfinished quest of her ancestors together with Maui, a demigod who stole the heart of Te Fiti which caused the plague in the Pacific Islands. The two teamed up in an adventure to save their people and the islands. The story concluded with Moana as the heroine of her own story.
The Disney animated films were released in different years and portrayed varied characteristics of women. In this study, the researchers would determine the difference in the gender roles portrayed by the leading characters of the Disney Princess films. Since these movies have female characters as their main protagonists, it is given that they would portray the gender roles of women in different ways whether stereotypically or androgynously. As a matter of fact, there are studies that depict the stereotypes that portray women in different perspectives and these studies are what the researchers found in order to support this paper.
Statement of the Problem
This study intended to determine the depiction and development of the gender roles of Disney Princess of selected Disney animated films. The following are supporting problems that would assist the researchers in making a more profound study on the said topic.
?How do the animated Disney Princess films contribute to the development of female characters of Disney princesses?
?What are the feminine characteristics displayed by the Disney princesses?
?What are the masculine characteristics displayed by the Disney princesses?
?What are the development of the gender role portrayals of the Disney princesses in the animated Disney princess films? Do the Disney Princesses display gender roles stereotypically or androgynously?
Statement of Objectives
This research aimed to identify how Disney princess films portray the gender roles of Disney princess in their respective films. The researchers would study how these films contributed to the development of female characters of Disney princesses. They would analyze the evolution of the Disney princesses and observe the changes of the gender role portrayal over the years. This will also emphasize the evolution seen in the characteristics and personalities of the Disney Princesses. Moreover, the study intended to clarify the stereotypes in portraying the gender roles of the princesses or the protagonists in the movies of Disney. They would evaluate whether the Disney princesses display gender roles stereotypically or androgynously. Furthermore, the researchers would note the formulaic or feminine descriptions and masculine characteristics of the Disney princesses to understand how Disney depicts the gender roles of women. They aimed to find the formula on how the Disney princesses are becoming androgynous. The researchers would distinguish the development of the depiction of the gender roles of the Disney princesses in their respective movies. Through this study, the pair would contribute insights to help Disney filmmakers, writers, and their firm in improving their method and style in portraying Disney princesses. Additionally, this study would allow the audiences to be aware of the possible effects of watching Disney films as many of them are heavy viewers and are unaware of their potential consequences.
Significance of the Study
Majority of the audiences may not realize how things are affecting the way they live especially with heavy viewers who just receive what they are given. With this, the researchers believed that this study is important to help the readers and viewers increase their awareness on how Disney portrays the gender roles of their princesses. This is also significant to help the readers in understanding the role of Disney princesses in our daily lives, not only limiting it to the depiction of gender roles.
This study would create significant contributions to the following:
(1) Current and future students of the University of Santo Tomas. This research aimed to benefit the students primarily because this study on the field of films, especially on the topic of production, can educate the students who are interested in pursuing this field of work. The results of the study would also give the students a better understanding of how films and one’s view of gender roles could be interrelated.
(2) Current and future filmmakers. The findings of the study would contribute to their current knowledge and would give them an idea in terms of creating a character in their future films which can make a better impact to its viewers, especially where their audience could either be heavy or light viewers.
(3) Feminist study. Since feminism is the advocacy on women’s rights on the basis of equality of sexes, this study would aid in informing feminist about the way Disney depicts the gender roles of their characters. The information would help their studies since they would understand the possible consequences brought by these films as they are normally seen by young viewers.
(4) Current and Future Creative Writers. The study would not only assist in improving the princess formula but also help in crafting better and unpredictable plot for future stories.
(5) Ordinary reader. With this research, even ordinary people would have an idea of the development of the Disney princesses and how it might affect their life as Disney plays a part in a child’s upbringing.
In line with this study, the researchers would also benefit since they were given the opportunity to explore and conduct a study on a topic that is popular but is not usually studied. Moreover, this is a good chance to apply the lessons they have learned from their Communication theories subject.
Scope and Limitations
Given that there were several researches about the portrayals of the gender roles of Disney princess in Disney films, the researchers chose to do the same, however, with the addition of the newest Disney princess, Moana.
With the wide range of choices of Disney princess movies such as some live-action films such as The Princess Diaries (2001) and Enchanted (2007), the pair chose to limit the study to purely animated Disney princess movies due to the fact that they wanted to have a more focused research. Even though the live action films The Princess Diaries (2001) and Enchanted (2007) have princesses such as Princess Mia and Princess Giselle respectively, they are, however, not included in the princess franchise of Disney. Therefore, the live-action films such as these are not included in the study. The term Disney princess is not defined as the daughter of a monarch or wife of a prince but rather is defined as being part of the princess franchise of Disney. In terms of deciding which animated Disney princess movies to include, the pair decided to choose the original Disney princess films. Therefore, sequels and series after the original films would not be included in the study. Thus, a Disney series revolving around princesses such as Sofia the First and Elena of Avalor are also not included. The researchers chose to narrow down the topic to these animated Disney princess films in order to concentrate and to conduct a more focused analysis on the gender role portrayals of the Disney princesses of the chosen movies.
The researchers were also aware of the different variety forms of the Disney princesses’ brand, which are merchandises, costumes, songs, and others. In order to come up with a feasible research study, the pair decided to focus only on films given that this is what most people are familiar with and what is in line with the researchers’ course. In addition, the pair was also aware of the different representations of the characters in Disney films such as race, older men and women, and others. For that reason, the researchers decided to narrow down the study to gender role portrayals of women specifically the female protagonist of the animated Disney princess films. Furthermore, this study would not cover the effects of the gender role portrayals of Disney princess films. Although the researchers are aware of the possible effects of watching Disney movies, they chose not to include this in their study as it is difficult to define effects. It could be in terms of psychology, behavior, and others. This study is strictly an observation of the gender role portrayal of the Disney princesses. Therefore, exploring the factors that are affecting the creation and development of the Disney princesses is not included.
This study would include the different articles and studies conducted by other researchers about the gender role portrayal of Disney princess films. The pair believed that by discussing these, it would give the readers better understanding of the depiction of the Disney princesses. In fact, these pieces of information will eventually enhance the basic knowledge needed in order to understand fully the research being studied as other Disney princess films were not covered in the study. The researchers would only utilize Eagly’ Social Role theory, Cultivation theory, Social Constructionism theory, and the Gender Schema theory. Although the pair acknowledged that there are other several communication theories, they decided to use these approaches because these theories are connected to the study.