Disney Princesses Movies Analysis Essay Example

In this essay, we will look at Disney’s notorious princess films and their narrative structures. We will investigate the roles of the characters in their movie and their impact on the direction of the story. Over a period of 83 years, perspectives and views have changed since the first Disney princess film was released in 1938 (Snow White and the seven dwarfs). From the perspective of role changes throughout time and narrative we will also observe the films as a whole, and the impact they have on audiences in the present, compared to the past. 

The most common narrative that is echoed throughout the storylines of the Disney princess films is a closed narrative. Narrative structure frame the story, generally they consist of a beginning, middle, and end. Otherwise known as the plot segmentation, where the story is broken down into parts for a better understanding (O’Shaughnessy (2016). A closed narrative observes the progression and development through the storyline. This could often refer to the development of the main character, the situation or both. The film often opens with a stable situation that then transitions into a disruption that the main character must overcome to get to the second and final stable situation (O'Shaughnessy (2016). Commonly, at the end, a solution, resolution, or overall message about the problem is presented (O’Shaughnessy (2016). In films, the major character is seen to have some sort of flaw that needs to be overcome (O’Shaughnessy (2016). Although the film's storyline provides the characters with a situation that tasks them to get over said flaws to reach their happy ending. It is very uncommon to see an open or unresolved ending in the Disney princess universe, because there is the stereotypical ‘happy ending’ to finalise the story. Even if there was a sequel made, each story has a ‘happy ending’. None of the main characters are left flawed or unhappy. 

Disney movies remain a massive, influential source of gender imaging for children and newer generations, given their popularity. (Gill, I. (2016). Shown in the Disney princess universe, the character's role determines the focus of the narrative. There is a view of the hero’s journey portrayed in many, if not all, of the Disney princess films. It mainly concentrated on the male roles in classic films such as Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Aladdin. The women in the film were mostly seen for their sexual appeal, fashion, beauty, and family traits (Gill, I. (2016). Many have criticised that there is a recurrent pattern of structural roles given to men and women. This refers to the male hero being portrayed as a strong, investigator, worker, active, and well-known character (O'Shaughnessy, 2016). Whereas the female hero is portrayed as an objectified, emotional, weak, passive, and unknown character (O'Shaughnessy, 2016). Although newer movies in the past few years have shown that women have taken over the role of hero and even saved the male characters or not need one at all. Good examples of these include Frozen, the princess and the frog, Brave, Moana and, most recently, Rya and the last dragon. From a masculinity and femininity point of view the percentage of the traits in Snow white are 8.67% masculinity and 91.3% femininity (1983), compared to Merida from Brave with 54.5 masculinity and 45.4 % femininity (2012). Through the years the roles in the movies have shifted and empowered the role of women moving the direction of power and diminishing stereotypes. Although the finalised destination in the movies has always stuck to Disney’s philosophy of a happy ending.

Although with these new movies bringing about a change to the position and role of women and men. There is still the impact the classic movies had on previous audiences and will still have on newer generations. Media misinterpretations of women in the classic movies can lead to significant social consequences such as reinforcing anti quarter gender roles that still exist and diminish women’s impact on social roles today (Gill, I. (2016). Although all different viewers have different personal meanings attached to the films and different opinions set. Media shows us what the world is like; they make sense of the world for us. As sort of a representation or aspects of our world (O’Shaughnessy (2016). Different people who watch the same film could have completely different interpretations of some of the views presented (O’Shaughnessy (2016). Although it is the majority view that is looked upon the most. There is a point where viewers get to which is called desensitisation, this is when there has been long – term exposure to certain types of media imaging that can build up a tolerance to things that we would either find questionable or troubling (O’Shaughnessy (2016). It could be that there is desensitisation of role separation because it’s such a widespread representation in many films for many years. There has only been a movement of change in recent years of role changes.

According to Stuart Hall (1980) and David Morley (1992) there are three types of readers when it comes to audiences. Preferred readers accept what is being presented to them without questions asked. Whereas negotiated readers take it further and negotiate with the texts intended meaning with one of their own. They do not fully accept what is presented to them fully. Finally, there are alternative/oppositional readers, these readers completely go against the films intention and interoperate it differently. (O’Shaughnessy (2016).

In conclusion, a closed narrative is the most common narrative used across the Disney princess universe. Looking at character development while also moving the story along to the promised happy ending. There was also the repetition of a hero’s journey thought all the Disney princess movies even if the character was either male or female. We looked at the roles in the older classic Disney princess films compared to the newer films in the present and how they affected the different types of readers in the audience. Either if they were preferred, negotiate or oppositional readers. We Compared the first Disney princess movie from 1983-2020 and looked at the levels of masculinity and femininity in the films. We also looked at how there has been a change in the representation of men and women’s roles in the newer movies. Although there are still the classics that refuel the idea of split roles of men and women.


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