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Author Comment
Black Sheep
Registered User
(2/1/05 1:01 pm)
Re: Maybe a non-issue?

Thank you Gigi. Now you've reminded me I vaguely remember seeing some dismal disney advertising material although thankfully my mind seems to be mostly disney-proof. Seashells would presumably be very impractical and chafing. The bikini sounds like something out of an old burlesque show.

Last time I passed through Copenhagen the "real" Little Mermaid looked like this:

hjem.get2net.dk/OSJ_INDEX...ermaid.htm

Veronica has already made the case for discussing sexism thoroughly, Afterthought, so I won't reiterate it.

You say, "...since women generally cloth themselves due to modesty and privacy, is it so strange that a mermaid society might do the same?"

People, of any sex, cover or don't cover their bodies for a variety of reasons. There is no general human cross-cultural rule about nudity being either sexual or shameful. You're projecting your cultural assumptions onto millions of people who don't share them. Why would mermaids subscribe to America's dominant set of cultural values except, as you point out, to pander to heterosexual adult males (who are a minority in any biologically successful human population but usually control the vast majority of available resources)?

Afterthought
Unregistered User
(2/3/05 1:41 am)
Baptism by fire
The other day I was thinking what a wonderful site this was: Intelligent discussions, published artists and illustrators taking time out of their busy schedules to leave comments, and a respectful treatment of the subject of fairytales. But to be flamed within a day of posting doesn't bode well for my experience here.

So first, I must confess. I am a man. But I hope you won't hold that against me. I like to believe I am an enlightened one. I have four daughters and a wonderful wife (who works fulltime while I take care of the kids). I have overcome my aversion to pink. And I worry about the sexist images society forces upon its women.

That being said, 1) being new here I am not familiar with Veronica's treatise on the subject that you refer to, and 2) I wonder if we're confusing the issue here.

Black Sheep, the statue of the Little Mermaid you referred to was made by Edvard Eriksen in 1913, commissioned by Carl Jacobsen, a brewer, who was inspired by The Little Mermaid ballet which was inspired by The Little Mermaid fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen. To claim the statue was the "real" little mermaid is a stretch, I'm afraid. It portrays the myth of a mermaid as a half naked woman with a fish tail, the common portrayal of mermaids for its day - a portrayal that was very popular with those lonely sailors I mentioned before. It should be noted, since we are discussing nudity, that it is commonly said that the dancer who modeled for the Eriksen, Ellen Price (the solo ballerina from the aforementioned play, btw), did not want to pose nude and so Eriksen used his wife as a model, instead. Of course, this is only hearsay, but then, so isn't the dress code of mermaids.

As for your other comments, that was an interesting interpretation of my use of "generally". It seems you are bringing a lot more issues to the table than just your opinion of Disney movies, which by your own admission isn't based on exposure to the actual movies.

I believe that an American company making money by making movies for Americans needs to be concerned with mainstream American morals. Alternate societal values has no bearing on products meant for the mass American market. Naked mermaids are simply not marketable to children here in the States. In this case, Disney appears to be damned if they do or damned if they don't. Expose the mermaids and experience the ire of a great part of the population. Cover the mermaids and experience the ire of the fairytale purists. It is not difficult to see which group Disney chooses to please.

Disney is an interesting company. A paper comparing their portrayal of women over the last century sounds like an excellent idea if done with balance. Many comments in this thread have shown how difficult it is to paint this issue in tones of black and white. There are so many variables to consider. Unfortunately, it seems the battle lines are drawn over whether one has fond memories of any Disney movies or not. Those of us who have found our imaginations stoked by Disney movies in our childhood may be a bit reluctant to throw stones (though Disney's direct-to-video sequel years has made that action a wee bit easier), unlike those who see Disney as an American corporate blight on the face of the earth. Still, I wish jadefoundnemo the best of luck in tackling this rich paper topic.

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(2/3/05 1:48 am)
Re: Baptism by fire
Black Sheep didn't flame you. He/she didn't attack you personally, or use insulting language, or any of that. He/she merely expressed disagreement with you.

Quote:
those of us who have found our imaginations stoked by Disney movies in our childhood may be a bit reluctant to throw stones..., unlike those who see Disney as an American corporate blight on the face of the earth.


I'm not sure why you assume such a clear divide. I wouldn't say that my imagination was "stoked" by Disney--there are a lot of movies, books, and other influences that I cared about--but my mother took me to see the movies when I was a kid and I liked them very much. And I also think they're a "blight."

Afterthought
Unregistered User
(2/3/05 3:16 am)
Re: Baptism by Fire
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>Black Sheep didn't flame you. He/she didn't attack you personally, or use insulting language, or any of that. He/she merely expressed disagreement with you.
<hr></blockquote>

I respectfully disagree with you about that. I interpretted his/her tone to be hostile. He/she also put words in my mouth, so I didn't take too kindly to that either. But I was careful not to type anything I would regret, and if I am mistaken I will apologize.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>I'm not sure why you assume such a clear divide. I wouldn't say that my imagination was "stoked" by Disney--there are a lot of movies, books, and other influences that I cared about--but my mother took me to see the movies when I was a kid and I liked them very much. And I also think they're a "blight.<hr></blockquote>

I assumed a clear divide because of the context of the thread starter and the responses that followed. There seemed to be those who had fond memories of Disney movies and didn't buy into the "Disney is evil" mindset and thus offered contrasting points, and those who <em>did</em> believe Disney was evil who did not have fond memories of Disney movies. You saw Disney movies as a child, and liked them as a child, but now think of Disney as a "blight". I don't think it would be a stretch to guess that your memories of Disney aren't fond - or at least not fond enough to offset your current belief. Of course, I don't know you and have only your text to work with, but that is the impression I am getting.

However, I did overgeneralize for the sake of brevity. I like and dislike Disney depending on the era. I imagine others have mixed feelings as well based on their own criteria. It still remains, though, that not all people, including women, feel that Disney's movies are sexist. Some girls like romantic fantasy, especially Disney romantic fantasy. They know there's no Prince Charming, but they like to imagine there might be. Black Sheep may feel that Disney movies "pander to heterosexual adult males", but as a father of girls I beg to differ. The Disney marketing machine has pegged what little girls want and I have the hardest time dissuading my daughters from begging for princess plates, cups, shoes, doodads, posters, furniture, etc in all their pink glory. Flip through a Disney catalog and you will see significantly more merchandise geared for little girls than for boys. There are also entire Disney clothing lines produced for grown women. In addition, with all the Disney movies I have seen I recall far more women (i.e. mothers and daughters) being in those theatres than men and their boys. Broadly speaking, little boys can't be pandered to sexually and teenage boys don't go to see Disney movies.

This issue isn't cut and dry. Sexist issues need to be considered on a movie by movie basis, as the original poster suggested, but they also need to be considered in context with other media of their respective times. And then one needs to factor in whether the movies were successful or not. If these movies were so sexist, why would all those mothers sit through them over and over again? In addition, I am with an earlier poster who pointed out that the Disney men aren't very developed as characters. What a bunch of passive puppets. As a man, I find that more offensive. LOL >:

Stimulating discussion. Thanks for your comments.

Black Sheep
Registered User
(2/4/05 11:07 am)
Re: Baptism by Fire
I don't know why you think you've been flamed Afterthought except that you say:
"I interpretted his/her tone to be hostile."
Needless to say I'm not responsible for the voices in other people's heads or the tone in which anyone chooses to read what I've written. You also claim that I put words into your mouth which I certainly did when I put your precise words into quotation marks and attributed them correctly to you. You use quotations in your posts too.
I don't usually use extensive quotation as I think it appears argumentative but I'll assiduously quote your exact words in this reply so no one could reasonably believe that I've put words into your mouth.

You say: "being new here I am not familiar with Veronica's treatise on the subject that you refer to"
I was referring to her earlier 1/21/05 1:58 pm post on this thread. Although other people made similar comments.

I'm aware of the origins of the Little Mermaid statue on the Copenhagen waterfront. The statue's origin stories (plural and conflicting with each other in some details) are given on the website I posted.
You say: "It portrays the myth of a mermaid as a half naked woman with a fish tail, the common portrayal of mermaids for its day"
Actually it portrays a 100 per cent naked woman with fins on her lower legs and feet. This unusual portrayal symbolises her various personal transformations.
You also said: "To claim the statue was the "real" little mermaid is a stretch, I'm afraid."
This is a slight misunderstanding between us. In my English English dialect the use of quotation marks around the word "real" indicates that I'm using the word ironically. It was ironic because there is, of course, no real Little Mermaid. She's a fictional character.

You say: "As for your other comments, that was an interesting interpretation of my use of "generally". It seems you are bringing a lot more issues to the table than just your opinion of Disney movies, which by your own admission isn't based on exposure to the actual movies.
I'm glad you were interested in my interpretation of generally to mean (Oxford English Dictionary: ) for the most part. I have no idea what the rest of the above means as I haven't expressed an opinion about disney films. As I said before I've only ever seen "The Jungle Book" although (ironic humour: ) that did expose me to quite a lot of Mowgli as, like all wolves, he was wearing a loin cloth.

I don't see any reason Afterthought why my views of disney's commercial practices aren't compatible with yours. Until recently disney aimed it's products at the American market (now also Japan and China). In America the consumers who have the most resources are adult males. Who pays for most disney products when the little girls want them? The men with the money (or the people who the men appoint to exchange their resources/go shopping). The adult males wouldn't buy the little girls disney consumer items if they found the products unacceptable. Heterosexual adult males created American culture. Heterosexual adult males disproportionately benefit from American culture. Like all generalisations this is only generally applicable and does not indicate the wide variety of alternatives within a minority subset of the set which I've called heterosexual adult males. It also doesn't preclude the fact that most heterosexual adult males choose to share their disproportionate resources with other people who are not part of the same set. Nor does it imply anything sinister or conspiratorial about heterosexual adult males. It is merely a neutral economic fact not a positive or negative value judgement. But it is a provable fact. It doesn't decrease the validity of many of your points.

(Gilbert and Sullivan humour: ) If I became Mikado and decided to dictate the censorship of children's cultures then I wouldn't prioritise disney... they'd have to wait until after I'd dealt with Enid Blyton ("I've got her on my list...")
:)

Edited to replace bizarre accidental smilies with punctuation.

Edited by: Black Sheep at: 2/4/05 3:54 pm
Crceres
Registered User
(2/4/05 3:25 pm)
Smoldering
I think the guilty phrase Afterthought took as flaming was "You're projecting your cultural assumptions onto millions of people who don't share them." It does sound a tad accusatory. And it seems offense has been taken by both quarters, and I'm probably at risk of being broiled myself now.

Anyway, on Disney exploiting cultural assumptions toward females: Is the issue that all the heroines are pretty, in a cartoon way? Or that they wear skirts (or shells) and have royal, bland love interests?

Doesn't Disney have a feminist slant? After all, interesting heroines outnumber the heros, and they generally (oh look, that word again) have to overcome cultural barriers to get a say in their lives.

Erica Carlson
Registered User
(2/4/05 3:49 pm)
Re: I'll stick my nose in, too
Afterthought, you might also be interested in following the links that AliceCEB provided in the second post on this string. Disney is a subject that comes up around here a lot, especially in terms of feminism, it seems, and the lines really are drawn for a lot of us, but perhaps not because of the reasons you suggested.

One of my own personal objections to Disney, especially the more recent films, is that they appear to have a feminist slant, yet many of the so-called heroines end up standing by helplessly at the end of the tale, getting rescued or saved or what have you (Mulan might be a bit of an exception). This may just be a symptom of our time--the precise meaning of feminism shifts depending on who uses it, and certainly many feminists want to be gutsy and independent AND have romance in their lives. These desires shouldn't conflict, but it seems like women are constantly being told, insidiously and indirectly, that they do. It's confusing as hell, for men and women alike, and I tend to think that movies starting out with a determined, strong-minded young women who becomes passive and compliant--in order to marry the guy?--at the end just adds to the confusion.

I'd really love to see a movie ending with, "Well, I'd like to marry you, but only if you promise to be supportive of my goal to become the world's greatest deep sea fisher-woman," or something similar.

And, for that matter, why do the Disney men always have to be these muscle-bound, take-control types? What sort of message are we sending to the men? Why no sensitive, supportive baker or tailor types, or storytellers, for that matter?

Best,
Erica

Jess
Unregistered User
(2/4/05 4:26 pm)
But it is okay too
Sometimes women want it to be okay to marry not a man that wants to support a goal of being a deep sea fisher, but the goal to be a woman period - whatever that means, even if it is a wife and mother only and not a deep sea fisherwoman. I think that Mulan leaves that question open for example. We don't know whether she will go back to be counsel or whether she will be a "traditional" woman having proven she can succeed in another role (been there, done that).

Erica Carlson
Registered User
(2/4/05 4:53 pm)
Re: But it is okay too
Good point. And being a wife and mother is noble work. But it should be one choice among many open to women (even women in stories and films). I certainly don't want to say that marriage shouldn't be a happy ending, but it bothers me that it seems to be THE happy ending. There are especially few popularized representations of the deep sea fisher-woman kind. (I'd be very happy to be wrong about this, though!)
Erica

Edited by: Erica Carlson at: 2/4/05 5:48 pm
Helen J Pilinovsky
Registered User
(2/4/05 6:48 pm)
Re: But it is okay too
Well, on the topic of Mulan: recently I've been seeing commercials for a straight-to-video sequel. I don't know if it's out yet, but so far, the commercials that I've seen can be roughly summed up as "Sure, she saved China, but now she has to do something REALLY important - get married!" I'm hoping that it's a case of poor advertising, but if it's an accurate representation? Hm.

redtriskell
Registered User
(2/5/05 1:07 am)
my two cents
Wow. I think it's interesting to note how polarized the Disney/feminism debate is. Clearly the Disney corporation stomps a nerve with its seemingly innocuous depictions of altered tales. I consider myself a feminist. What this means to me is that I get to choose...well, whatever. It doesn't really matter what the choice is about; it matters that I get one. So, I still like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty films. Just because they mangle stories and portray people (of both genders) one-dimensionally doesn't have to preclude my enjoyment of the movie for what it is. Let's face it, nobody takes their kids to Disney flicks to impart values about gender roles in our society- they take them to be entertained. Before anyone starts groaning, I am not saying that media doesn't have influence- of course it does. But I think the lion's share of influence comes from home. If the only image of femininity presented to a young girl is that of docile, pink, passive, and vapid; then that little girl will grow up to think that a woman should be those things. If, however, pink fluffy heroines are balanced by tough, smart, plain, and spunky girls, the end result is much more likely to be a woman. You know, a regular woman who wants to be taken seriously, regardless of her looks; who occasionally wants somebody to sweep her off her feet; who juggles the often conflicting notions of what a "real" woman is. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm a "real" woman. I don't have kids by choice. I'm not married by choice. I also sometimes wish somebody else would just tell me what to do because that would be easier. I think the subtle but fierce conflict between the sexes gets lost sometimes when we debate the characterization of cartoon girls in children's cinema. Not that such debate should be ignored, but what does it actually accomplish? Don't get me wrong, I love talking about this stuff, but I also recognize that writing papers and chatting on the board isn't exactly changing the world. I like to believe that everybody who's this interested does something about how they feel. Like vote or volunteer or offer a different perspective of girls and women... hell, I don't know what I'm trying to say. I think Afterthought is his own best arguement that gender roles are still being overhauled in our country- he stays home with the kids while his wife works. How wonderful for his daughters to see that Mom can earn the money and that Dad is the caregiver. That arrangement beats the poo out of any Disney film ever made; no matter what they see in movies, they will grow up knowing that princes are nice to have, but they don't NEED one. And isn't that really the point?

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(2/7/05 6:48 am)
Re: my two cents
Been away. Now am back.

Quote:
You saw Disney movies as a child, and liked them as a child, but now think of Disney as a "blight". I don't think it would be a stretch to guess that your memories of Disney aren't fond - or at least not fond enough to offset your current belief. Of course, I don't know you and have only your text to work with, but that is the impression I am getting.


Well then, you are the one putting words in other people's mouths, by making assumptions here about my memories of Disney that I explicitly refuted earlier. I've written that I dislike them now and that I enjoyed watching them as a kid. I still enjoy watching parts of them sometimes. I wouldn't go out of my way to do so--they're no Wizard of Oz--but I wouldn't storm out of the room if Cinderella was on (unless it was the sequence with those annoying singing vermin.) This idea you are expressing that one cannot analyze and criticize something while still having fond memories of it is strange.

And of course Disney appeals to little girls! That's the whole point, isn't it? I wouldn't care about the sexism in the movies if they were unpopular and girls didn't care about them. I care about the sexism precisely because it's dressed up in a very appealing fashion, and so has influence.

Edited by: Veronica Schanoes at: 2/7/05 7:02 am
Jess
Unregistered User
(2/7/05 12:40 pm)
Disappointed
Hmm, I hadn't heard that about Mulan. Very disappointing. I think these straight to video sequels are often a disaster.

Sexism is an interesting subject though. I think there is a certain sexism in denying that women and men want to enjoy each other's company as women and men. At the same token, it is equally annoying to think that men or women must fit into a sterotype any sort - women only wanting marriage or careers, men only wanting women that are pretty (I would love the ugly stepsister to win for a change) and to go away to fight dragons or run the kingdom.

I always felt Disney did a real disservice to women, the power of children, native americans, and history in its portrayal of Pocahontas. She is perhaps the most disturbing of all the Disney women to me. If the story had followed history a little better, what a tremendous lesson children could have learned of their own power. History does not look kindly on John Smith (he was basically a good for nothing in many ways). To romanticize that character, and then to make Pocahontas act in love, rather than with understanding ruins the whole story. She was in fact a tremendously brave child who appears to have sneared at British snobbery and expectations, even after being kidnapped and enslaved, but also understood the importance of working both with panache and within in the system. Such a strong story weakened by silly sterotypes of Europeans, Native Americans, women's motivations, and 20th century values.

Off my rant.

Jess

AthenaTroy
Unregistered User
(2/8/05 1:56 am)
Disney Demographic
Let me start by saying this, because when I finish you might not believe me: I am female raised believing in equality for the sexes, and I love Disney movies.


Disney didnít invent most of their heroines. Most of these characters were taken out of stories centuries old, that were passed down by word of mouth from mother to child for decades before a men chose to write them down and call them their own. The stories were more brutal, and disgusting than anything people today would let their five year olds watch. How many of you can say that you knew Snow White was raped in the original written version before you were 10 years old? How many would disillusion your five year old by telling her?

These women are portrayed acting in a way that would have been outrageously out of their allowed gender roles for the talesí time period. In Bellís time peasant women didnít read. Most men didnít read. In the time setting for The Little Mermaid daughters didnít defy their fatherís wishes and get away with it. Rebelling against a parent like that wasnít at all acceptable until the sixties, and has only now become commonplace. Rebelling against your father today can still get you killed in some countries.

Disney is doing a decent job of injecting the feminist movement into ancient stories created when they believed that women were only good for cooking, cleaning, and raising babies.

It is true that Disneyís stories are watered down. Personally, I was infuriated at what they did to the tale of Hercules; Hades doesnít even belong in that story. But Disney canít really target kids and produce a film about an unfaithful husband and the homicidal Goddess wife that wants her husbandís bastard child dead, now can they? Disney is a company, that has to be taken into account, and they are targeting a demographic that canít be shown certain things. Their choice in stories to tell those kids may be off kilter, but it does manage to turn some of us to our libraries, wanting to know more about mythology, fairy tales and even history. Nothing bad can come of that.

sendithair
Unregistered User
(2/8/05 4:25 am)
DisneyChannel & Males as "Dufuses"
This thread is certainly interesting.

I often feel that Disney Channel often treats males as "dufuses."

In any case, the majority of Disney Channel's main characters and "heros" are female --- Raven, Kim Possible, Ren (on Even Stevens), Lizzy McGuire, Tia and Tamara.

Of course, I wouldn't be surprised to see women only worry about themselves being victimized.

Oh and in terms of society showing off women with bodies that are "unattainable," do keep in mind that commercials often enough have men with "spectacular bodies."

;)

sendithair
Unregistered User
(2/8/05 4:58 am)
DisneyChannel & Males as "Dufuses" (Con't)
As an afterthought, the following might help to depict what I mean when I say Disney treats males as "dufuses."

Raven - This show is sort of the exception. Eddie and Corey are ok.

Kim Possible - "Ron Stoppable" is bumbling and inept.

Even Stevens - "Lewis" is a silly, dorky (but likeable) dufus. "Donny" is simply a nice jock --- not too much else going for him.

Lizzie McGuire - "Gordo" is brainy and nice. But, he has this "pathetic" crush on Lizzie who will NEVER see him as more than a friend. He has a poor self-image when it comes to trying to form a healthy, balanced relationship with a girl.

Lizzie McGuire - Lizzie's Dad is the biggest dork on tv. Robert Carradine, who plays the dad, continues his nerd imagine from "Revenge of the Nerds."

Lizzy McGuire - "Matt," Lizzie's brother, is smart and nice. But, he'll never be the heart-throb that Lizzy is destined to be. He's smart. But, a dufus.

Lizzy McGuire - "Ethan" is the totally good-looking, nice guy that Lizzy has a big crush on. But, he's an airhead (i.e. dufus). Lizzy knows he's an airhead and often enough shows that Ethan's "lack of brains" just isn't important. Afterall, he's good looking.

Sister Sister - Tia and Tamara are bright girls who will end up at the University of Michigan. Their neighbor, "Roger" (?), is a total dufus who has hopelessly infatuated with both girls. He seems far from bright enough to get into college. He might be lucky to finish high school.

gigi
Unregistered User
(2/9/05 3:07 pm)
dufus
How do you define Dufus?

What exactly do you mean?

It seems to me that you are trying to say that you think all the men are terribly stupid and one dimensional.

gigi
;)

sendithair
Unregistered User
(2/12/05 3:01 pm)
Dufus?
I'm simply saying that Disney Channel seems to often portray guys as "dufus".

Definition of dufus - an incompetent and stupid, though well-meaning, person; also called doofus

Dave the Barbarian certainly fits that definition along with the males I cited earlier.

So, while readers are focusing on Disney "victimizing" women via the Princess tales, please consider whether Disney Channel "victimizes" males by treating them as "dufuses."

Black Sheep
Registered User
(2/13/05 10:30 am)
Re: DisneyChannel & Males as "Dufuses"

Sendithair said "Of course, I wouldn't be surprised to see women only worry about themselves being victimized" and "So, while readers are focusing on Disney "victimizing" women via the Princess tales, please consider whether Disney Channel "victimizes" males by treating them as "dufuses."

The views expressed in the posts in this thread break down roughly as follows:

Disney is sexist against females 8
Disney is not sexist against females 10
Disney is sexist against males 6
Disney is not sexist against males 0
No opinion expressed either way 15

That's an interesting spread of opinions and, even if we disregarded the thread's title, doesn't represent any ignoring of the the characterisation of male characters in Disney films or a focusing on the females (on the internet one can't know a poster's sex but most of the posters present as female).

Your analysis of the Disney Channel is interesting Sendithair as, if accurate, it indicates that Disney are changing their marketing strategies now that women have an increasing, although still disproportionately small, slice of the economic pie.

Jess
Unregistered User
(2/13/05 10:44 am)
Agree about males too
I think we all have a fundemental problem with men and women being portrayed in a sterotypical and underintelligent manner by Disney writers. I am not sure where they learned that cardboard sells to children and their parents. Complex characters are not allowed, and the motivation for everything done by the protagnist is romantic love. Of course this is a generalization, but I think we all are saying that people are more complicated than that.

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