Professor Esha DeDecember 1, 2015 In the words of gender sociologist Aaron Devor, patriarchal gender schema are used to support the mode of breadwinner husband and housewife states that “the social position of females is biologically mandated to be intertwined with…a ‘natural’ dependency on men for the maintenance of mother-child unit” (Devor, 532). This displays a gender structure in which males are put hand-in-hand with strength, fame, and riches, while females, who don’t have any of these qualities, convey themselves by displaying their lack of strength and independence and thus are fated to be mothers and wives under a man’s protection. However, it is only gender inequality that one sees in society. In my view gender encumbers other inequalities such as class, physical ability and rectitude. Gender structure of inequalities are reflected and recreated in famous cinema such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Mulan, and Maleficent.
Class, Physical ability and Morality in Snow WhiteDisney’s film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs uses the traditional definitions of class, physical ability and morals, which are “tall, handsome” man is class, physically able people without disabilities are physical ability, and aggressive man is the good man with moral rectitude. This can be seen displayed all throughout the film in cases such as the “fearless, brave man” Prince Charming is the hero of the film and consequently “gets the girl”, while the people with mixed gender characteristics are side characters, such as the Dwarves, and thus do not “get the girl.” Just as there are depictions of masculinity defining, who become the heroes and who are merely extras, femininity plays an impactful role as well. Possibly to create an explicit deviation between good and evil, Disney’s film creates a contrast between the two female characters. Snow White represents good femininity: kindness, submissive, aesthetic appeal, chastity, and a direct connection with living which makes her the heroine. Contrastly, the Queen/Witch represents evil femininity, completely depicted when she becomes an old witch: unpleasant, authority, envy, intent to kill and a direct relationship with death which makes her the villain.
This contrast is problematic in that it gives off the idea that if you are feminine, you will be the one everyone loves and if you act masculine in any way you’ll be considered the enemy. Any young girl who watches Snow White will think that to go further in the world they need to become tender and submissive, as in films like Snow White, these qualities help the heroines to solve their plight and get a prince. In the article “Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Message of Gender”, Aaron Devor states that “female and male behaviors are the result of socially directed hormonal instructions”, and Snow White is one of the “socially directed hormonal instructions” which direct people toward specific gender roles defined by society. In 1940s Disney animated films such as Snow White, which convey women’s place in society based on a man-centralized hierarchy, encourage woman to act frail and guileless. Although, as females became more capable and changed their “true” places in their homes and society in general, animated tales that rebuild the concept of womanliness and recognized freethinking women, such as Mulan, surfaced as well.
Therefore, Disney has played a vital part in creating various ideas of femininity throughout all different times. It has been evolving through the prize process, and as society’s view of women’s roles diverge from the norm, what they are given prizes for also changes. The problem the Evil Queen struggles with is beauty, the need for it and the repercussions of this need and shows how her thirst for this beauty is the true judge of her rectitude. The Evil Queen trying to take this beauty from Snow White shows her true jealousy, anger, and envy. The Queen has a sort of “unnatural” beauty while Snow White has a “natural” beauty.
This beauty engulfs her, contrary to what is common in most females. Women are always to appear absolutely flawless and lady-like at every moment throughout the day; however, if women are fixated on it, women are viewed upon as deranged and even hideous. The Queen is wicked because the queen attempts to murder Snow White due to her enviousness. There’s no arguing that this is a wicked action, but the blame can actually be shifted to society as a whole which has encouraged woman to be beautiful and to be a cut above the rest. The concept of being the most beautiful is essential to the fairy tale since the most beautiful is who will ultimately triumph, and the wicked witch, who isn’t seen as a beauty will never triumph. A customary and cliche belief of a female is the “honey I’m home” woman who remains in the kitchen doing household choirs while wearing a perfectly clean apron and dress. Although this specific concept is more centered on the 1950’s, the basic idea of the woman’s role, which has remained constant for many years. Snow White is portrayed all throughout the film as nothing more than a defenseless child, who has been told that if she wants all her problems to be solved she has to do what others ask of her without thinking twice.
This is seen when the dwarfs tell her to cook and clean to earn her keep. Another aspect of becoming the perfect and ideal woman is essentially to look better than all the rest. Right here is where the Queen plays a part in the story. Her fixation with the picture in the mirror and being the “fairest of them all” is the reason that she grew to be evil.
The fairy tale delivers to women two different messages, to not become engulfed in the idea of beauty yet to just be beautiful, and making a woman the heroine, yet continuing to imply that a woman’s failure to obey rules will result in chastisement. The animals of the woods coming to the aid of the innocent Snow White is but another sign of long-established gender roles. Although the woodland creatures have been a reoccurring motif throughout the story, we can’t repudiate Snow White is inherently apt to take part in household chores.
Her “natural” tendency and morality fabricate a meaning of womanliness that abide by the long-established gender roles and cliches of ladies as cheerful, uncomplaining housewives. As quintessential femininity is shown in Snow White, quintessential masculinity is displayed by the Prince, who is a prince and thus of the highest class, and the “perfect” relationship is portrayed by Snow White and The Prince riding off into their happily ever after. The seven dwarfs, who almost equivalent to peasants, hold no danger to Snow White’s chastity due to the fact that the seven dwarfs aren’t necessarily categorized under the “muscular and good-looking” interpretation of masculinity. Because of their cartoony, comical, low-social-class portrayal, the seven dwarfs “are positioned as the opposite of the masculine Prince”, thus “are not complete men, they are unable to save Snow White” (Disney). The debilitated dwarfs do not challenge the Prince’s role in any way. The dwarfs live beyond the bounds of the definition of masculinity.
because they are infantilized. When Snow White first comes upon their cottage, she remarks that “it’s adorable. Just like a doll’s house” and that “small children” must live there (Disney). In Disney’s film, Snow White is not frightened by the dwarfs. Instead, she “automatically assumes the role of homemaker and caretaker” and treats them like children, telling them to wash their hands and go to bed, and she makes the conditions that she will cook and clean if they let her stay.
Slapstick comedy and memorable songs like “Heigh Ho” make the dwarfs endearing. Their silly names (Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Bashful, Dopey) are also tied in with physical ailments (hay fever, narcolepsy, muteness) and personality flaws (superiority complex, pessimism, timidity). All these things “lessen the masculinity of the Dwarfs and place Snow White as the sole authority figure within the cottage” in a maternal role. As infantilized, the dwarfs are prescribed innocent, childlike behavior and therefore are not truly masculine or in charge. However as time has passed this view of masculinity defining gender roles has changed profusely. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which gained fame through the 1940’s, is playing to a society that has very traditional values and views for women’s and men’s specific gender roles and do not stray from them. Men are always to be strong, handsome, and capable while women have to be weak, beautiful, and be dependent on the hero to show up and save her in her time of danger.
In Snow White Prince Charming was shown as being strong, aggressive, handsome, and as having the physical ability to protect Snow White from harm; therefore, he was seen as being able to successfully fulfill his gender roles. Physical Ability in Mulan