Originally, I was to watch That 70’s Show or Family Guy in order to expose the plots and characters through a viewpoint focused on gender roles.  I had already watched a few episodes of That 70’s Show, but last night I discovered an entirely different subject in which to study.  One of my very good friends posted a status on Facebook that read “It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she gets ideas… and thinking…” I was immediately offended and typed the sentence into Google to find out if it was a quote from something.  Surely enough, the quote was from the well-renowned Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. I began thinking about other Disney movies, and decided to embark on a study of gender roles based around Disney classics.

 

 

This movie is packed full of stereotypes and gender role issues. While beginning the movie, I had presuppositions that it would generally be sexist towards females.  However, I quickly realized that the movie had quite equal sexism for both males and females.  The first example illustrated in the movie is in the very first scene.  Belle, a beautiful young woman, is being sung about by the entire town, who comment on her strangeness.  What makes her so different?  She is intelligent, an avid reader, and does not have an overwhelming longing to be partnered with anyone. She is much more conservative than other women, like the three blonde girls who are in love with Gaston; they bear much cleavage, talk and sing in high-pitched voices, sigh dreamily, and make a scene around Gaston. They refer to an empowered woman such as Belle as “peculiar” and “odd.”   As far as the townspeople see, Belle has her gender confused with her sex, because a woman would not dare to be intelligent like that of a man.

A very contrastive character is then introduced: Gaston.  He wishes to wed Belle, and belittles her by saying she is “lucky” to be marrying him, that she will soon be his “little wife,” and will someday “massage [his] feet.”  Looking at this from an opposite viewpoint, Gaston’s character encourages boys to become strapping, handsome, arrogant hunters. I found that there were many parallels in the movie to the “average guy” in Michael Kimmel‘s book, Guyland.  In the book and in the movie, the ideal young man that society produces is generally masculine in every way, which includes everything from being tall, hairy, muscular, arrogant, straightforward, and conceited, to engaging in activities such as drinking alcohol and hunting.  According to Gender Stereotypes in Beauty and the Beast, “this supports the notion that men are supposed to be aggressive and dominant.” It also generates the idea that Gaston is the perfect man that every woman falls for, since the other girls in the town are literally falling all over him at every chance they receive.  Each trait that is assumed to construct the ultimate man in society is heavily outlined in the musical number, “Gaston’s Song.”  Here are the lyrics (make sure to scroll down, don’t click the ad at all) –> http://www.allmusicals.com/lyrics/disneysbeautyandthebeast/gaston.htm

Furthermore, there is the character of the Beast. It is not so much his character in this example as it is the situation.  According to What Every Man Should Know About Feminist Issues, there idea behind the Beast’s situation is this: a male is a beast until he can be tamed by a female or by their marriage, which then transforms him into a true man.  However, it also mentions that today’s society is turning this formula around, in which men are actually turned into beasts by culture.

Finally, there is the situation in which Belle disregards her dreams for love.  She once dreams of more than just being a “little wife,” and of more than the “provincial life” in which she has been forced into.  In the blog, Tale as Old as Time? A False Sense of Feminism in Beauty and the Beast, Belle is described as being a refreshingly independent woman, opposite of her other Disney princess counterparts.  However, as the story goes on, Belle becomes subject to the love of a beast. The blog refers to her as more of a way for the Beast to solve his problem than just a woman falling in love, thus evolving the story of Belle into a story of a man longing to attain something through the help of a woman.  The blog goes on to say that “at heart, most of the women in these Disney films identify with male authority instead of seeking their own empowerment. When it comes down to it, a good-looking boyfriend remains the truest measure of feminine happiness and success (Maio 22). Belle is no different.”

-written by Molly Farley

Sites Quoted (in chronological order):

1.http://mediascrapbook.blogspot.com/2007/11/gender-stereotypes-in-beauty-and-beast.html

2.http://www.backlash.com/book/beast.html

3. http://chelseamarie23.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/tale-as-old-as-time-a-false-sense-of-feminism-in-beauty-and-the-beast/

Book Mentioned:

Guyland by Michael Kimmel