Disney and Gender

Hello all, we are back! Sorry about the delay.

Beauty and the Beast! A favourite childhood classic of mine. I thought I’d take some time to look at the way that this film depicts gender roles.

Personally, I always viewed the story as being quite progressive –Belle is not a helpless princess waiting for her prince – as seen in the video here, she clearly makes up her own mind about the partner she desires.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUmT-T6n4PA

However, Joanna pointed out to me that this film has some problems in regards to gender roles, namely the way in which Belle tolerates the verbal abuse from the Beast. This got me thinking about other gender depictions in the film, specifically in regards to the character Gaston. Gaston was a character whose arrogance and conceit are met with Belle’s refusal to marry him. Therefore, it appears that the message conveyed through the character is that conceit is not something that is rewarded. To quote the Bible “Pride goeth before a fall”.

However there are gendered ideas presented through the character of Gaston. He is the picture of traditional masculinity, and this is characterized by his muscular appearance, his love of hunting, and his popularity with women. This is, of course, neither good nor bad. It just is.

The problem with this character is his attitudes towards women, seen when he denigrates Belle’s love of reading as it may result in a woman “getting ideas . . . . and thinking”. Take note also of his assumptions of her “dreams”. These involve the ideal of “domestic bliss” –and the assumption that this is something universally desired.

However, as we see in the clip, Belle deals with Gaston’s arrogance by refusing to marry him.

In a way, it could be argued that this film satirizes gender roles by depicting an arrogant, sexist Gaston –who assumes that Belle would be honoured to marry him and blatantly voices a sexist opinion in regards to female literacy –by allowing him to be rejected. However, it may also be argued that this film supports rigid gender roles, by confining males into stereotypes. After all, not only is this a muscular, tall character who enjoys to hunt, but he is clearly a misogynist.

So what do you think? Does the film challenge gender roles? Does it reinforce masculine stereotypes? Worse yet, does it serve to imply that stereotypically masculine = sexist?

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2 Responses to “Disney and Gender”


  1. 1 Tobi-Dawne December 13, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Gaston is presented as ridiculous in his egotistical nature. So while he portrays a particular male stereotype, it is by no means painted in a positive light.

  2. 2 z.t.hudson@gmail.com January 31, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Gaston isn’t the only man in the movie; he’s the archetype of the macho jerk. Men in general shouldn’t object to him–he’s clearly the man who fails, in large part because he is sexist, violent and bigoted.

    An objection to the movie on the whole could still be that like many other Disney princess movies, Belle still finds ultimate fulfillment and purpose through marriage. She saves the Beast, but the Beast still is the one giving her wealth and status through marriage.


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