Award Date

5-1-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies

Department

Communication

First Committee Member

Sara VanderHaagen

Second Committee Member

Thomas Burkholder

Third Committee Member

Erika Engstrom

Fourth Committee Member

David Dickens

Number of Pages

170

Abstract

This project addresses messages about gender expectations in Disney princess narratives. The two films included 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, industrious, 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 self-efficacy (control of her own destiny) displays new ideas about gender expectations as well. In society there is an unrealistic expectation 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. In other words, society is in control of the destiny of women based on expectations. Merida suggests an alternative narrative to the expectations of her society by fighting for self-efficacy. Through Merida's narrative, Brave expresses new ideas about social expectations of women in reality. The messages about gender appear most explicitly in the princess's words and the song lyrics. 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. This 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 reveals new insight about the princess genre as a whole.

Keywords

Disney princess; Rhetoric--Social aspects; Sex role in motion pictures; Sex role--Social aspects; Walt Disney Productions

Disciplines

Communication | Film and Media Studies | Rhetoric

Language

English


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