Location

Greenspun College of Urban Affairs

Description

This project addresses messages about gender expectations in Disney princess narratives. The two films included in my project are Tangled (2010) and Brave (2012), which feature the most recently inducted princesses to the marketed Disney Princess line (Rapunzel and Merida, respectively). Using genre as an organizing principle, I argue that Rapunzel and Merida are different from the past Disney princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, etc.) because their narratives reflect new ideas about gender expectations in modern society. The central tension appearing in both films is the opposition between the image of woman as traditional, domestic, and dependent and woman as progressive, motivated, and independent. The ways in which Rapunzel and Merida address this tension reflects changing roles of women in society more generally. In Tangled, Rapunzel experiences consciousness-raising in her quest for self-discovery, and the film's audience is also invited to experience consciousness-raising about gender expectations. In Brave, Merida's quest for control of her own destiny is in tension with the expectations of her mother, the queen. Merida’s experience is reflective of the unrealistic expectations of the can-do discourse in society, which influences young women to believe they can have a rewarding life as a home maker and achieve a fulfilling professional career, if only they are willing to work hard enough. I find these messages appear most explicitly in the princess narratives and song lyrics in each film. These messages are considered moral messages because they suggest ways about how the world ought to be, and therefore may resonate with young children who view Rapunzel and Merida as role models. My thesis is a valuable addition to current communication studies literature because while princesses have been analyzed rhetorically in the past, a scholarly investigation of Disney’s newest princesses has yet to be published. Disney’s prominence in American culture suggests that this research can appeal to a large readership beyond the walls of academia.

Keywords

Animated films; Autonomy; Children's films; Disney characters; Disney princess; Disney princesses; Feature films; Feminism; Feminism and motion pictures; Motion pictures; Role expectation; Sex role; Tangled (Motion picture); Walt Disney Productions; Women

Disciplines

American Film Studies | Film and Media Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social Influence and Political Communication | Women's Studies

Language

English

 
Apr 21st, 1:00 AM Apr 21st, 2:30 AM

Long May She Reign: A Rhetorical Analysis of Gender Expectations in Disney’s Tangled and Disney/Pixar’s Brave

Greenspun College of Urban Affairs

This project addresses messages about gender expectations in Disney princess narratives. The two films included in my project are Tangled (2010) and Brave (2012), which feature the most recently inducted princesses to the marketed Disney Princess line (Rapunzel and Merida, respectively). Using genre as an organizing principle, I argue that Rapunzel and Merida are different from the past Disney princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, etc.) because their narratives reflect new ideas about gender expectations in modern society. The central tension appearing in both films is the opposition between the image of woman as traditional, domestic, and dependent and woman as progressive, motivated, and independent. The ways in which Rapunzel and Merida address this tension reflects changing roles of women in society more generally. In Tangled, Rapunzel experiences consciousness-raising in her quest for self-discovery, and the film's audience is also invited to experience consciousness-raising about gender expectations. In Brave, Merida's quest for control of her own destiny is in tension with the expectations of her mother, the queen. Merida’s experience is reflective of the unrealistic expectations of the can-do discourse in society, which influences young women to believe they can have a rewarding life as a home maker and achieve a fulfilling professional career, if only they are willing to work hard enough. I find these messages appear most explicitly in the princess narratives and song lyrics in each film. These messages are considered moral messages because they suggest ways about how the world ought to be, and therefore may resonate with young children who view Rapunzel and Merida as role models. My thesis is a valuable addition to current communication studies literature because while princesses have been analyzed rhetorically in the past, a scholarly investigation of Disney’s newest princesses has yet to be published. Disney’s prominence in American culture suggests that this research can appeal to a large readership beyond the walls of academia.