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62 Seiten, Note: 1,0
2. The Representation of Women
2.1 The Development of Feminism, Intersectionality and Gender
2.1.1 The Beginning of Feminist Thought
2.1.2 A New Wave of Feminism: About Intersecting Axes of Oppression
2.1.3 Feminism and Gender Equality: Where We Are (Headed)
2.2 About Angels and Housewives: Women in Family and Society
2.3 Gender (Roles) in Media and Film
3. On Cultures and Ethnicities in a Postcolonial Society
3.1 White Supremacy, Othering and Cultural Appropriation in Media
3.2 The Importance of Representation
4. Bearing Arms or Bearing Sons: Representations of Gender in Mulan and Moana
4.1 “A Girl Who Speaks Her Mind?” Disney's Princesses as Feminist Heroines
4.2 “Men Want Girls with Good Taste”: Disney's Family and Society
4.3 Strong Men Rescue Weak Princesses? Body Portrayals in Mulan and Moana...
5. Of Dragons and Voyagers: Representations of Culture in Mulan and Moana
7.1 Primary Sources
7.2 Secondary Sources
In his article “Animating Youth: The Disneyfication of Children's Culture” critical theorist Henry Giroux argues that “the relevance of such films [Disney films] exceeded the boundaries of entertainment. Needless to say, the significance of animated films operates on many registers, but one of the most persuasive is the role they play as the new ‘teaching machines'” (Giroux, 90). This statement underlines the importance of taking a closer look at how Disney present's certain groups.
In earlier Disney films of the princess series, such as Snow White, the female protagonist played a passive, subordinate role close to the ideal of the Angel in the house in the Victorian Era and the post-second world war Housewife ideal (cf. Rothschild 135). Since the 1990s however, the Disney Princesses are presented in increasingly active roles. In thinking about a princess with agency, one that comes to mind is Mulan. In the 1998 Disney film, the young Chinese woman Mulan secretly takes her father's place in the army to fight against the Huns and protect her physically stricken father and dresses as a man hoping to not be exposed as a woman. The latest female lead character of an animated Dis, Moana, is a young girl from the fictional Polynesian island of Motunui who is to step into her father's footprints as chief of Motunui and sails across the ocean alone and against her father's will in order to save the people of her island from a famine. Both are examples of how Disney films can help to shape perceptions of female roles away from earlier stereotypes. Nevertheless, Sarah Rothschild argues that Mulan belongs to a series of Disney films from the 1990s that have a “distinctly anti-feminist undercurrent” (Rothschild 2).
Disney, however, had not only been criticised for promoting stereotypical gender roles, but has had to face enormous criticism for its Caucasian-dominated films and cast and reinforcing stereotypical gender roles as well as depicting patriarchal structures. This criticism did not go unnoticed, and since the release of Aladdin, Disney's first film starring non-Caucasian protagonists, in 1992, the company has included more and more ethnicities and cultures into its films. Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan mention that “from 1994 to 1996 Disney produced three films which signalled that bad old Disney would be purged and a new agenda for approaching race and national identity might emerge” (Byrne & McQuillan 100 f.), a new agenda even called a Disney Renaissance (cf. Anjirbag 1). Mulan and Moana both constitute examples of Disney's attempt to create a more culturally diverse representation in their films. The timespan of almost two decades between the release of the two films makes them two interesting examples to analyse in terms of authenticity in Disney's portrayal of otherness and how telling stories of other ethnicities through the Disney lens has developed.
Disney is a multi-million dollar studio producing films specifically targeted at children, but at the same time finds an audience in almost all age groups, social classes and ethnic groups worldwide (cf. Wasko 194). The company, therefore, has the potential to shape the perception of gender roles, as well as the opinion on different ethnicities and cultures through representation in its films. With the young audience and extreme popularity, Disney is able to help making diversity of ethnicity and gender a natural feature of society, give insight to different cultures and encourage a broader understanding of as well as more respect for the represented cultures. Moreover, the films could contribute to increasing the notion of equality of women and men as well as a more authentic inclusion of different ethnicities in Western media. However, in the media and thus, in movies too, rather than providing realistic representations, men and women are “sharply differentiated [...], [and] their roles tend to be even more traditional than is actually the case” (Bussey and Bandura, 687). Furthermore, many representations of various ethnicities produced by Western media reinforce “the hegemonic culture within which Disney as a corporation is firmly positioned: American, Caucasian, cis-gendered, straight, Anglo, Christian [and] able-bodied [.]” (Anjirbag 1).
This paper aims to point out how the authenticity of Disney's depiction of cultures differing from white American culture in Mulan and Moana can influence the perception of represented cultures by analysing raised criticism with respect to the postcolonial concepts of white supremacy, othering and cultural appropriation . At the same time it shall be shown if, by means of Mulan and Moana, Disney manages to promote gender equality with its representation of male and female roles in both films by examining it from a feminist perspective. In order to do so, this paper subdivides into four main parts. The following chapter will offer a brief introduction to feminist theory and gender roles by focusing on feminist theory and intersectionality, the role of women as members of society and family and the representation of women in media. The third chapter will concentrate on the representation of cultures and ethnicities in media and take a look at postcolonial concepts in order to critically analyse the authenticity of the representation of Chinese and Polynesian culture through an American film studio. Chapter four, the first part of the actual analysis, will be provided in three subchapters dealing with aspects of gendered representation. Thereafter, the fifth chapter will scrutinise the authenticity of cultural representations in the two films with the aim of pointing out what has improved and what aspects still require closer research by Disney. The final chapter will then synthesise the findings to draw a comparison of the two movies and find out how the representations of gender, culture and ethnicity in Disney movies have changed from 1998 to 2016. This shall offer a conclusion about the authenticity of the cultural representation and portrayal of gender roles for each movie.
As “women's politics have developed organically in settings so diverse that the plural feminisms [emphasis in the original] more accurately describes them” (Freedman 2) the following subchapter will shortly explain the emergence of the theory and its complexity in order to provide a basis for the later analysis of the two Disney films.
Feminism is a belief that women and men are inherently of equal worth. Because most societies privilege men as a group, societal movements are necessary to achieve equality between women and men, with the understanding that gender always intersects with other social hierarchies (ibid. 7).
According to this broad definition, the very basic concern of feminism is the equality of men and women. However, feminism has not always considered the intersection of several forms of suppression apart from patriarchy. It has undergone massive changes and created a new notion of equality including different axes of suppression such as ethnic background and class. Neither has feminism had a linear history but rather came in waves with high phases of triumph and downs of backlash. The very first demands for equality sparked up in the 1670s, when in Europe women asked for access to education with the argument of literacy as requirement in order to study the bible and “the religious principle of the equality of souls before God” (ibid. 49). Towards the Enlightenment, this demand for equality grew to a movement for women's rights of property and voting as well as economic independence of women with Mary Wollestonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women laying the cornerstone for this early feminist movement (cf. ibid. 51). With progressing education of women in the 19th century, women began questioning their status quo, arranged in groups claiming their rights more directly ( cf. ibid. 54). Since then, three major waves of feminist thought have influenced the feminist movement.
The first wave of feminism has been centrally concerned with the women's right of suffrage and the achievement of the legislation protecting married women's property “that gave the married woman considerable leverage to establish her own economic base and also improved her legal position in child custody cases” (Donovan 42). As women's suffrage was a global matter in feminist movement taking place at different times throughout the histories of several nations, the first wave cannot be assigned to a specific timespan. However, it can roughly be dated back to the 19th century (cf. ibid 47). In the beginning of this wave, feminism did not only concentrate on equal rights for women but “was interwoven with other reform movements, such as abolition and temperance, and initially closely involved women of the working classes” (Krol0kke & S0rensen 3). Furthermore, in the United States, black women engaged in female rights movements representing fighting not only for the rights for women but also for people of colour (cf. ibid 4). Nevertheless, “men of color, who were also at that time campaigning for enfranchisement” (ibid.) feared a repercussion in their fight for the right to vote and therefore fought separately from women of colour. As a consequence, though black women in the U.S. suffered two forms of suppression - racial and sexist suppression - they tried to call attention to the fact that “the linkage of sexism and racism functioned as the main means of White male dominance, [and that] the first wave of feminism consisted largely of White, middle-class, well-educated women” (ibid.). A main speaker of the first feminist movement was Alice Paul, leader of the National Woman's Party (cf. ibid. 3), who, after returning from the British militant suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, induced the first demonstrations for women's suffrage in front of the White House (cf. Zahniser and Fry 2). Paul claimed: “There will never be a new world order until women are part of it” (qtd. in “Alice Paul”). With the passing of the 19th Amendment on 4th June, 1919 “most feminists and historians have come to regard the 1920s as the end of ‘first-wave' feminism” (Donovan 74) due to the inclusion of the Suffrage Amendment into the American Constitution. Thereupon, until the beginning of the Second World War, many demands of the first wave were being put into practice, while new thoughts of equality of women and men became rare (cf. ibid).
In the 1960s a new wave of feminism began to arise. Second-wave feminists have, however, not agreed on the change that should be accomplished, as it has been the case in the first wave. In fact, a liberal branch aiming for equal pay and the end of sex discrimination in work places through integration of women into male dominated power structures (cf. Freedman 85, 87) has stood in contrast to radical feminists claiming “that patriarchy [...] is at the root of women's oppression [...] [and] women's mode must be at the basis of any future society” (Donovan 156). According to Krol0kke and S0rensen liberal feminists tried to gain influence in the institutions of society while “radical feminists were critical of these institutions and sceptical of, if not outright opposed to, the inclusion of more women in what they considered profit-driven, patriarchal institutions” (Krol0kke & S0rensen 11).
Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique published in 1963 is often regarded as the starting point for the liberal second feminist wave (cf. Thompson 338). In the text, Friedan argues that the “mystique of feminine fulfilment” promoted by American culture in that time was “to be perfect wives and mothers; [.] [women's] highest ambition to have five children and a beautiful house, their only fight to get and keep their husbands” (Friedan 18). This led to the “problem that has no name”-a dissatisfaction with the fulfilment of their expected feminine role (cf. ibid 32) and the fact that a deviation from this notion of femininity was simply “dismissed by telling the housewife she doesn't realize how lucky she is—her own boss, no time clock, no junior executive gunning for her job” (ibid 24) which trapped women in the “feminine mystique”. Therefore, Friedan demanded: “[d]rastic steps must now be taken to re-educate the women who were deluded or cheated by the feminine mystique” (ibid. 369) as women who have the possibility “to make a new life plan of their own, [.] can fulfil a commitment to profession and politics, and to marriage and motherhood with equal seriousness” (ibid. 375). However, as social activist and feminist author bell hooks1 rightfully mentions in her publication Feminist Theory: from margin to center :
[s]pecific problems and dilemmas of leisure-class white housewives were real concerns that merited consideration and change, but they were not the pressing political concerns of masses of women. Masses of women were concerned about economic survival, ethnic and racial discrimination” (hooks, 2).
Hence, the implication “that factors like class, race religion, sexual preference, etc. do not create a diversity of experience that determines the extent to which sexism will be an oppressive force in the lives of individual women” (ibid. 5) has caused the emergence of a black feminist thought calling for a united fight of black men and women against racism and sexism in order to end oppression (cf. Freedman 90f.). Out of this thought the idea of intersectionality, first conceptualised by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 (cf. Lutz 2), has arisen. Crenshaw argues that the concept specifically addresses the manner in which racism, patriarchy, class oppression and other discriminatory systems create background inequalities that structure the relative positions of women, races, ethnicities, classes, and the like. Moreover, it addresses the way that specific acts and policies create burdens that flow along these axes constituting the dynamic or active aspects of disempowerment (Crenshaw 177).
In Western society, hence, all women of colour experience intersectionality as it “is a conceptualization of the problem that seeks to capture the structural dynamic consequences of the interaction between two or more axes of subordination” (ibid.) in this case being female and non-white. Nevertheless, as professor of Women's and Gender Studies in Sociology Helma Lutz argues, the concept can only be understood when “the interaction of the macro level (inequality structures functioning as social positioning) with the micro level (subjective experiences of discrimination and identity formation as an excluded group)” (Lutz 4) is considered while applying it. Hence, self-definition is crucial for the empowerment of non-white women as “[o]ppressed people resist by identifying themselves as subjects, by defining their reality, shaping their new identity, naming their history, telling their story” (hooks, “Talking Back” 43). In fact, in the 1970s, not only black feminists groups, but also movements such as Asian American Women United, Women of All Red Nations, Chicana Feminism formed due to frustration “by racial exclusion in the women's movement” (Freedman 91). The idea of intersectionality resumed in the following wave where it has been advanced into the thought that gender is not the only point that should be addressed by feminism (cf. Baumgardner 249).
Since the 1990s a third wave of feminism which utilises new technologies as platforms emerged (cf. Krol0kke & S0rensen 16). During this third wave, feminism has become incredibly diverse and complex and expands the question not of whether one is a feminist but what kind of feminist one is (ibid. 15), alluding to the manifold movements that now exist. As third wave feminist Jennifer Baumgardner explains, this wave grew out of the achievements of second wave feminists as well as the backlash against it (cf. Baumgardner 247) and has been driven “by the need to develop a feminist theory and politics that honor contradictory experiences and deconstruct categorical thinking” (Krol0kke & S0rensen 16). The third wave movement has included the fight against issues such sexual harassment and gender politics drawing on Judith Butler's early contribution to queer theory. In her work Gender Trouble Butler suggests a performativity of gender and states:
That gender reality is created through sustained social performances means that the very notions of an essential sex and a true or abiding masculinity or femininity are also constituted as part of the strategy that conceals gender's performative character and the performative possibilities for proliferating gender configurations outside the restricting frames of masculinist domination and compulsory heterosexuality (Butler “Performative Acts” 528).
According to Butler, this “moves the conception of gender off the ground of a substantial model of identity to one that requires a conception of gender as a constituted social temporality” (ibid ). She criticises that “there is the political problem that feminism encounters in the assumption that the term women denotes a common identity” (ibid. 6) which ties in with hooks critique of Friedan's Feminine Mystique that all women experience the same oppression, disclaiming the intersections of oppression regarding for instance class and race. Crucial for the feminist idea “is that the approach further destabilizes the distinction between the social and the material, discourse and body, and, not least, sex and gender” (Krol0kke & S0rensen 18). Similarly to Butler, in her famous essay A Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway suggests “breakdown of clean distinctions between organism and machine and similar distinctions structuring the Western self. It is the simultaneity of breakdowns that cracks the matrices of domination and opens geometric possibilities” (Haraway 53). She concludes that “Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves” (ibid. 67). The Cyborg, for Haraway, is a model to criticise identity politics that traditional second wave feminists have applied, as in the Cyborg, the borders between human and animal as well as human and machine blur.
Today, it is discussed whether feminism is heading into a fourth wave: Martha Rampton, director of the Center for Gender Equity at the Pacific University, states that “feminism is now moving from the academy and back into the realm of public discourse” (Rampton) especially due to the emergence of internet debates and groups on social media (cf. Munro). While some activists argue that simply turning to the internet as a medium of expression of feminist demands and thoughts cannot herald a new wave of feminism(cf. ibid), the central issue of the current feminist debate, however, remains intersectionality as the “political potential of the fourth wave centres around giving voice to those women still marginalised by the mainstream” (ibid.). Whether or not the current feminist activism will develop into a full fourth wave remains to be seen but as Krol0kke and S0rensen claim “we [feminists] as differently situated women, can simultaneously acknowledge our diverse positions and work across national, ethnic, racial, and gender lines” (Krol0kke & S0rensen 23).
The long history of the feminist movement, which has elevated women into new roles, has reached a point in the present which many see as a climax. Nevertheless, while women have never been as free in their actions as they are today, there remain many points criticised by women's rights activists such as the unequal pay of women and men in equal positions or the higher number of men in leading positions. At the same time, male voices are louder than ever, judging emancipation to be overshot, stating that the fear of putting a woman in a situation that somehow subordinates her to a man often turns into the opposite, namely female preference. These issues, the new distribution of roles in the family, and some other social challenges regarding gender roles, are among the present struggles of the feminist movement (cf. hooks “Feminism is for everybody” vii). Nevertheless, today, women reap the benefits of the fight of the previous feminist waves and have acquired the possibilities of legal equality with men. In the following chapter, it will be shown how the status of women in society has developed and how their role as family members has changed.
Family hierarchies and roles are highly dependent on the culture in which the family is embedded. However, as Disney films are produced in America, the focus will be on Western family hierarchies and roles, as for the analysis a Western feminist standard will be applied in order to examine the representation of women in the films. Only by establishing a “feminist standard” it can be evaluated in how far the two Disney films promote gender equality. Furthermore, this chapter will not come to terms with the different fates of women in the twentieth century, but rather present the destiny of the average woman in the Western world in order to point out the difference between the status of women in the early twentieth century and women's status today. It is thus important to denote that throughout the twentieth century, there has never been a time when all women were part of the picture this chapter will draw. Instead, as the previous chapter has shown, there were oftentimes feminists and women who tried to free themselves from the constraints of their time and dragged others with them. At the same time, there were women who not only lacked the possibility to rebel but were less privileged than the average woman of their time and had to face even more obstacles (cf. hooks “From Margin to Center” 2).
Though families and their inner structures have existed much longer, a good point to start with is the Victorian image of the “Angel in the House”, which has been created in Coventry Patmore's epic of the same title, as it can be found in many early Disney movies and one can thus see how the representation of female character's has changed. A quote from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, one of the most popular cookery books ever published, accurately describes how womanhood was defined in the Victorian era:
Of all those acquirements, which more particularly belong to the feminine character there are none which take a higher rank in our estimation, than such as enter into a knowledge of household duties; for on these are perpetually dependent the happiness, comfort and well-being of a family (qtd. in Freedman 128).
Talia Schaffer summarises the traits of the Angel in the House as “a deft ‘woman's touch' in the home, a calm unruffled demeanor, personal beauty, and physical fragility, a modest shrinking from public view, and a mute martyrdom, constant self-sacrifice to the greater good of the family” (Schaffer 163). Though the ideal female traits have constantly been redefined since then, some of these have come up again in the history of the woman's status in society and family. In the early twentieth century up to the time the first Disney princess Snow White was created the image of the ideal women had been characterised by passivity. In the first half of the twentieth century distinction had to be made between the different roles of the family members according to a family hierarchy:
The traditional family system is based on family members playing traditional roles, where the responsibilities involved are limited to only in rising up the family, such as husband and father as the breadwinner, wife and mother as the housewife who is feeding, taking care of children, running the household, etc. (Fatimah et al. 356).
Lucy Hawke argues that “[t]he excessive restrictions of gender roles were defined by the economic and political society of the day. Early changes in the American economy strengthened the traditional gender roles in marriage” (Hawke, 71). Furthermore, “the government attempted, oftentimes successfully, to place women in a distinct role within the family structure; to stay home to keep house and nurture the children” (Smith, “Four Eras of the Twentieth Century Family” 6). This is precisely the female role that was at the centre of Betty Friedan's critique, when she wrote about the source of the problem with no name: “It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century” (Friedan, 15) which was caused by the circumstance that ”[t]hey learned that truly feminine women do not want careers, higher education, political rights” (ibid. 16). Additionally, in marriage, men had the exclusive power of decision - from the material decisions due to the money earned by him, up to the control and power over the woman's sexuality in the bedroom, the men were in charge. Not even the law of the state interfered in the affairs of marriage. Thus, for example, rape in marriage was not illegal at that time—the woman became the property of the husband through marriage (cf. Coontz 13). Moreover, in the first half of the twentieth century, married women “not only kept house to the highest of standards, but also did so while simultaneously making sure to always please their husbands” (Smith “Four Eras”, 22). Stephanie Coontz, a scholar of history and family studies, states that
[m]any states still had ‘head and master' laws affirming that the wife was subject to her husband. And the expectation that husbands had the right to control what their wives did or even read was widespread. Many husbands forbade their wives to return to school or to get a job (Coontz 5).
This active exclusion of women from higher educational institutions produced not only obedience but also naivety which arose not only from a lack of education, but also from the denied possibility of gaining one's own experiences that went beyond domestic life (cf. ibid.). Powerless against their fate and the power of the man, most women bowed to social expectations and tried to adapt to the circumstances and the role imposed on them.
The feminist movement, outlined in the previous chapter, has led to significant changes in the status of women in society and the role of women in family. Today, though it is only one model of a broad variety of family models, many families in advanced countries practice a family system based on companionship (cf. Fatimah 356). In this family system, “[a] husband's role within a marriage has expanded making it possible for a man to care for his children while they are young.[.] Likewise, it is now acceptable for the wife of the family to work outside the home in a career” (Hawke, 73). Hence, “men and women's roles have become less strictly defined, and many families have made the male and female roles more egalitarian when it comes to jobs, housework and childcare” (Edmonds). The ideal role of women in family is nowadays thus an equal role of women and men. Both parents should have the same possibilities to care for children as well as work and decisions about finances and household fall to both parents regardless of their gender (cf. Fatimah 365). The feminist struggle for equality of women and men has thus helped redefine the ideal of roles that society perceives as acceptable for men and women. As the way gender roles are perceived by society is heavily dependent on how media shapes these roles, the following chapter will outline the impact of medial representation on gender roles.
As Benshoff and Griffin state, “[i]mages of people on film actively contribute to the ways in which people are understood and experienced in the ‘real world'” (Benshoff & Griffin 3). Furthermore, according to McGhee and Frueh , Zuckerman as well as Beuf, surveys about children watching television prove that films are “positively associated with elementary school aged children's stereotyping of personality traits domestic-related activities and occupations along gender lines” (qtd. in Smith et al. 775). Though women make up about 51% of the American Population, their representation in films is substantially lower (cf. Benshoff & Griffin 204). In fact, a study by the Geena Davis
Institute on Gender in Media has found out that in 101 of the top-grossing G-rated2 films, over two thirds of the speaking characters and 83% of the narrators were male (cf. Smith & Cook 12). Although the feminist movement has accomplished significant changes for women's rights that have been embedded in society, in popular films females oftentimes continue to be represented in a sexualised or objectifying manner (cf. Benshoff & Griffin 271). According to the American Psychological Association, a person is sexualised when one of the following four conditions takes place:
 a person's value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
 a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
 a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others' sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
 sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. (Zurbriggen et al. 1).
In G-rated films, as the study on “Hypersexuality of Males and Females in Popular Films” revealed, women were more likely than males to be represented in a sexualised way:
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Figure 1: Hypersexuality of Males and Females in Popular Films measured by Sexually Revealing Clothing (SRC), Small Waist, Thinness and Unrealistic Body (Smith & Cook 14).
While a quarter of female characters was portrayed with “particularly small waists, leaving little room for a womb or any other internal organs” (Smith & Cook 14) male characters were almost four times less likely to show this type of body dysmorphia. Furthermore, of the 15,000 examined characters “females were nearly three times as likely as males (10.6% vs. 3.4%) to be shown with a thin (and in the case of females, an hourglass-shaped) figure” and over five times as often depicted in sexually revealing clothing, which “enhances, exaggerates, or calls attention to any part of the body from neck to knees” (ibid.). Interestingly, in animated films, the amount of hypersexualised female characters was drastically increased in comparison to live action characters: almost every second of the animated female characters had a thin waist, 27% were shown with large chest, 39% had a thin body, and over 23% were dressed in sexually revealing clothing and a quarter of all animated female characters portrayed unrealistic body ideals. In contrast, female live action characters were portrayed only half as often with a particularly thin waist and six percent portrayed an unrealistic body ideal (cf. ibid. 15). While this may be due to the fact, that one cannot shape live actors as one can shape an animated character, it underlines that animated characters are even stronger removed from a realistic body type and convey unhealthy ideals a fortiori. This is particularly dangerous considering children are the main target group of most animated movies. As the majority of children tend to watch at least one film in the course of an average day and most films are watched several times, and due to the fact that fewer females are portrayed than men (and if they are portrayed, then more frequently than men in a sexualised manner), these representations of women gain a stronger influence on children's idea of women, than the representation of male characters (cf. ibid). Despite the tendency of an increased percentage of female representation in comparison to earlier family films, women still hold a smaller share of overall screen-time than men (cf. “The See Jane 100” 1). Hence, the film industry, “by drawing on certain representational patterns and formulas left over from the previous decades, continues to marginalize women [...] while both subtly and forthrightly privileging men and masculinity” (Benshoff & Griffin 289).
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Figure 2: Hypersexuality Indicators by Style of Presentation for G-Rated Film Females (Smith & Cook 15).
Research shows that this causes a disproportionate evaluation of women in film which is mainly based on their identification as mother, woman or lover: Females are either presented as hypertraditional i.e. in a committed relationship or a parental role, or as hypersexualised as discussed earlier in this chapter. Regarding traditionality, female characters are displayed as a parent or in a committed relationship more often than male characters (cf. Smith & Cook 14). Hence, most movies reinforce two stereotypes — the demure housewife and the object of sexual desire. This stylisation of women in film as an object of sexual desire serves the so called male gaze, a concept first named by Laura Mulvey 1975 in her essay Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema, where she states: “In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/ female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female figure which is styled accordingly” (Mulvey, 62). In short, the concept argues that all looks in videos or films “are either male or assumed to be. As such, women can only be ‘looked at’ and objectified by the male gaze” (Benshoff and Griffin 231).
1 The author's true name is Gloria Jean Watkins, and writes her pen name bell hooks in lowercase letters to distinguish herself from her grandmother who had the same name.
2 G-rated movies are approved for general audiences, meaning suitable for all ages according to the rating system by the Motion Picture Association of America