Hold on to your hats, junkies, because I am about to sound off! Sanjay Newton decided to investigate Disney’s portrayal of men and how this may impact young boys’ ideas about masculinity with his “Inequality Project: Images of Masculinity in Disney Films” (video below). Sounds interesting, right? I was interested at first, too, because there are some obvious items to pick on. That said, Mr. Newton’s argument unravels faster than it unfolds (for starters, he only calls on 9 of Disney’s 50 animated feature films to support his thesis).
Newton covers four major topics and they are all full of crap:
“Men and their Women: Perpetuation of Objectification”
He says Disney tells little boys they should objectify women by showing us a many clips of Gaston from Beauty & the Beast being a douche, the early (and bad) side of Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove, Prince Eric leaning in to kiss Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and the boys from Mulan singing about their ideal woman. Disney is exceptionally good at telling us who is bad and who is good. So what idiot little boy thinks they should hold the vile villain, Gaston, in high esteem? All these examples suck. They’re either villains or they change as a result of learning.
“Chiseled Bodies and Physical Prowess: Turning Boys Into Men”
This is where Newton gets riDONKulous. Disney wants boys to know they should have a six pack and biceps that block out the sun. First of all, boo-hoo, because guess what they tell little girls about their bodies? It gets better, though. His supporting evidence of choice: Hercules. Good god, man (pun intended)! You choose a freaking demigod?! :: knock knock :: They are supposed to be perfect! My favorite part was when he said the Mulan learned right away that the only way she could pass for a man was by displaying her physical prowess by showing her climb the impossibly high tree trunk. Um, did he even see that movie? She only gets to the top (and gets respect) by using her BRAIN!
“Violence and Dominance: Maintaining Inequality at Any Cost”
This could be the best, though. Newton’s argument in this section is that not fighting means you are weak (showing Gaston and Beast) and Disney movies generally end with a battle between two men for a woman or status (showing Aladdin and Jafar). First, that’s not true. Here, the bulk of his argument is supported with a lengthy clip of Simba and Scar fighting in Lion King. You choose two dominant beasts, that in the animal kingdom only use violence to assert dominance?! Really? (Oh, and just so you know, Sanjay, almost every movie with a princess in it has her saving him at the end.)
Where is Newton’s consideration for historical and cultural context? He gets that Mulan is approximately set in 15th century China, right? Despite Newton’s argument, there are lots of different body types for men (Aladdin, Kuzco, Quasimodo, Arthur, Mowgli, and Milo James Thatch from Atlantis). Also, why was Simba the only animal character presented? What about Chicken Little, Dumbo, Robin Hood, the Tramp, Bambi, or Bernard from The Rescuers? Another downfall: he only uses one clip from a Pixar film, and it features a crazed villain (again), Buddy from The Incredibles. Someone concerned about “where we go from here” should probably talk about where Disney IS GOING!
Check it out below, if you dare:
What do you think? Do you see what I mean about his artful ways of using clips and stills out of context? WTF? Note the closing sequence when he shows us Hercules (again) as the ideal man, Wendy on her knees in Peter Pan, and Beast defensively standing over Belle. Hello, Sanjay, Hercules is a demigod (as near to perfection as we can percieve), in Edwardian London Wendy would’ve been the only person in the room that would’ve known how to stitch Peter’s shadow back on (which is hopefully what you were trying to say with that still), and Beast was saving Belle from wild and ravenous wolves.
Welcome to the club, boys!
Both boys and girls might get jobbed by Disney, but can we all agree that girls get it way (way) worse and that this guy clearly didn’t do his homework? For fun’s sake, here is a look at what I found Pixar says to little girls: https://littlejunkies.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/pixar/