The Hidden Gender Stereotypes in the Animations the Little Mermaid and Tangled
After the success of the feminist movement in the early 1960s, gender stereotypes are considered as not a big issue anymore. Many people tried to break gender stereotypes especially in mass media. However, it is undeniable that gender stereotypes are still imprinted because people have been fed by gender stereotypes from the show that they watch since they are young. It is shown in two animation movies titled The Little Mermaid and Tangled.
This article examines various evidences of gender stereotypes that are hidden in both movies and how they are still seen although the creator has hidden them. There are two major points that will be examined in this paper. First, that the depiction of woman characters in both movies is symbolizing gender stereotypes. Second is the act, the song and the utensils that the characters use is symbolizing patriarchy system. This paper is concluded by a statement that both movies contain gender stereotypes although it has been hidden.
KEYWORDS: Gender stereotypes, grotesque, patriarchy, animation studies, women’s representation Introduction The main aim of this paper is to make original contribution in gender studies by analyzing hidden gender stereotypes in two animation movies, titled, The Little Mermaid and Tangled. After the success of the feminist waves throughout the world, the term emancipation has arisen and allowed women to have the same rights as men. Before that, women were considered as second-class citizens who were under men’s control.
Following that, there have been movements, slogans, and even works like movies, books, and videos that try to portray the freedom of women from men’s control and to show that women can stand by themselves. The question is, are they really free? Do they really have the same rights as men? As I intend to show in this article, even though women have been portrayed as free and equal as men, they are actually still stuck in the gender stereotypes even until nowadays as can be seen in the movie The Little Mermaid and Tangled.
These two movies will be examined by using feminist approach as the basis of the movies’ evaluation. Besides that, semiotic method will be used to discuss symbols that represent meaning in the movies. This will reveal the fundamental problems about gender stereotypes that people believe to have been destroyed by the various feminist waves. The Little Mermaid is an animation movie that was created in 1989 and produced by Walt Disney Studio. This movie presents a story of a girl named Ariel, a 16-year-old beautiful mermaid that is never allowed to go to the surface of the ocean by her father, the King of the Ocean.
Ariel always tries to escape and goes to the surface because she is fascinated with the human world. One day, she goes to the surface and helps Prince Eric as his ship sinks in the ocean. She falls in love with Prince Eric, but she cannot confess her feeling because she is not a human. Throughout the story, Ariel goes to a sea witch named Ursula to be human and Ursula gives Ariel a pair of legs. In return of the legs, Ariel gives her voice to Ursula. Tangled is a new animation movie of Walt Disney studio that talks about a smart yet naive girl that has very long “magical” hair.
Rapunzel spends her whole life in a tower with her stepmother. She never goes out to see the world until a man named Eugene comes and “saves” her. Mother Gothel, Rapunzel’s step mother, hides Rapunzel in a tower to stay young by always touching Rapunzel’s hair. After Rapunzel knows that she is not her mother’s biological child, she tries to escape from the tower and seeks the truth about herself. With the help from Eugene , Rapunzel runs off from the tower and has an adventurous journey around the kingdom.
At the end of the story, she finally finds the truth that she is the princess of the kingdom. This paper will be organized into two major parts as follow: The first is the depiction of the good woman and the bad woman in both animation movies and the second is the appearance of patriarchy in both movies. In the first part, I will discuss how the movies define and characterize the bad woman and the good woman by looking at and analyzing both the protagonist and antagonist characters. Then, in the second part, I will examine how the movies strengthen patriarchy from the feminist perspective.
These findings will support the current writing that is written by Kerry M Mallan about women’s grotesque images in “Witches,Bitches,and Femme Fatales:Viewing the female grotesque in children’s film” (Mallan,2000). Mallan’s paper will talk about the image of bad woman in some animation movies that I will explain further in the next section of this paper. Previous Research Much has been written on the works of women’s images and gender stereotypes in both real life and literary works, but most of them so far only focus on the images of women and the forms of oppression of women.
An important work on women’s stereotypes and oppression is a book by Colette Downing titled Cinderella Complex (1992) which presents an overview of a theory of Cinderella Complex that unconsciously affects most women in the world. According to Downing (1992,17) Cinderella complex is the act of fear, most of which is oppressed, that makes women cannot and do not dare to use all of their intelligence and creativity, and would rather wait for men as their saviors.
Although she gives explanations about Cinderella complex as one form of gender stereotypes, her work in general focuses on women’s behavior that is in line with the stereotypes based on their willingness. In her book, Downing stated that the discrimination of women in the workplace is caused by their reluctance to be a professional for a long time (20). They would rather wait for men to provide their needs. She does not specifically explain that sometimes some women try to break the stereotype but they cannot do that since society wants to prevent from doing so.
In other words, women have to strengthen the gender stereotype because of the situation. Another scholar that has a work about gender stereotypes in the movie especially children’s movies is Kerry M Mallan in her works titled “Witches,Bitches,and Femme Fatales:Viewing the female grotesque in children’s film” in the Journal Explorations into Children’s Literature (2000). In her paper, she focuses on the women’s grotesque images in the movie. In general she focuses and criticizes the images of women who have power like Ursula or Cruella. They are always depicted as mad and cruel.
Mallan stated that women who have masculine power will be seen as mad and deviant (2000,10). Even though she explains about women’s grotesque in children’s movies, she does not really explain about how the movies depict the image of good women. Like what Downing does in her book, Mallan also does not give explanations about the image of men in the stereotype gender. Both of them only focus on the women. On the other hand, I will examine the image of both women and men in the animations The Little Mermaid and Tangled : Rapunzel in order to reveal the gender stereotypes.
Most of critical works take women’s oppression as their focus, while studies of gender stereotypes of both sexes that happen unconsciously and are created by human is still a minority. By adopting those various critical lenses, this paper will focus on hidden gender stereotypes. The emphasis will be on how women and men are characterized and defined in the movies and the effort made by people to break the stereotypes. The aim is to show that gender stereotypes cannot be separated from our life as we are forced to see them in the animation movies since we are little.
Also, this paper aims to demonstrate that gender stereotypes studies need to be explored further and taken more seriously, because they can be hidden and absorbed not only by kids but also adults unconsciously. Thus, it will contribute to a better understanding of gender stereotypes both hidden and overt from feminist perspective. Gender stereotypes have been the focus of research by many scholars like Mallan and Downing. Downing’s research and theory about Cinderella Complex will be used to support my arguments in this paper.
Also, her explanations will be taken as the basis of my paper since it talks about the basic meaning of gender stereotypes in reality (not in a movie). By looking at her explanations, I will be able to determine gender stereotypes although they are hidden. On the other hand, I will use Mallan’s paper to be critically examined and the result will be explained in this paper. Mallan’s paper about female grotesque in animations will be my basis to criticize the movies. Also, rather than take her paper without any criticism, I will look at her researches to be compared with my findings in these two animation movies.
Not only being examined, but Mallan’s paper will be used to support my arguments especially from the children’s perspective. Theory and Method Most people misunderstand gender as the same term as sex. In fact, gender and sex are two different terms and of course have different meanings. Eisenstein states in her book that : Sex meant the biological sex of a child-was it born anatomically a male or female member of human species. Gender was the culturally and socially shaped cluster of expectations, attributes, and behaviors assigned to that category of human being by the society into which the child was born (Eisenstein,1984 :7)
From this explanation, we can conclude that sex is a biological description while gender is a social label that is constructed by culture. Based on that explanation, gender stereotypes become the issue because every culture develops their own stereotypes regarding gender. Gender stereotype contains beliefs about the psychological traits and characteristics, as well as the activities appropriate for men or women (Brannon, 2008:48). It is seen that gender stereotypes were the generalized beliefs and attitudes toward masculinity and femininity.
Then, gender stereotypes cannot be separated to Female Grostesque theory that can limit women’s movement. According to Russo in her book titled Risk, Excess and Modernity, female grotesque are the images that are precisely those which are objected from the bodily canons of classical aesthetics (Russo,1995:8). Russo also added that if women do not do as they are told (being feminine), they will be considered as unnatural (Russo,1995:20). The fear of being unnatural will limit women’s movement. They have to be feminine to be accepted by the society.
These theories can lead to one assumption that gender stereotypes were constructed by culture and it can limit somebody’s movement because of the theory of grotesque. The operating assumption or hypothesis of this paper is that although gender stereotypes have been tried to be destabilized by many means, they can still be seen in our society. This is because gender stereotypes have been reinforced and absorbed indirectly from the entertainment industry since we were kids. After the success of feminist struggle, almost all entertainment shows try to change gender stereotypes.
However, it is really hard to avoid gender stereotypes because we have known them since we were really young. For each movie, I will also have my own hypothesis. The Little Mermaid will show more effort in breaking the gender stereotypes than Tangled since The Little Mermaid was made before the 1990s. Before the 1990s, people tried so hard to break the stereotypes since gender stereotypes were a big issue at that time. As for today, gender stereotypes are still a big problem but more people are concerned with other global issues rather than gender stereotypes.
Two animation movies from Walt Disney video will be used in order to analyze the gender stereotypes in a movie. I choose animation movies because animation movies are made for children. Messages from animation movies are more striking than ordinary movies because kids are naive and they do not know anything. The Little Mermaid is chosen for its popularity and the story really shows the power of a woman. While for Tangled: Rapunzel, it is chosen not only because it contains the breaking of gender stereotypes, but also this movie is new and I want to compare this movie and The Little Mermaid.
The Little Mermaid was made in 1989 while Tangled was made in 2010. Do they really have the same perspective about gender stereotypes? In researching, I will watch these movies twice. The first will be the time for me to watch and understand the whole story. At the second time, I will take notes on the scenes and the dialogues of the characters that contain gender stereotypes. In addition, because both movies are musical movies, I will also focus on the songs that the characters sing because most of the songs reflect the characters’ feelings.
After that, I will compare the data from the movies with the theories that I obtained about gender stereotypes to ensure the validity of my research. Analysis In the movie The Little Mermaid, the protagonist character is Ariel. Ariel is a beautiful 16 year old girl who cannot leave her underwater palace because her father told her not to. This movie depicts Ariel as an ideal woman although she is considered as a rebellious girl. From her appearance, we can see that she has fair skin, red-long flowing hair, and beautiful eyes. Her seashell bra shows her slender body and slim belly.
Her appearance is also colorful with her red hair, purple cloth, and green tail. When she shows up, the background will be colorful with clear blue water and surrounded by colorful animals (see figure 1). Not only her appearance, but Ariel also has a beautiful voice that can make others amaze. As the youngest and most-talented daughter of King Triton, her voice is really beautiful as she is an opera singer. Her characteristic is also lovely. She is always surrounded by animals, even she has a best friend, Flounder, who always accompany her.
By seeing Ariel, we can see she is really caring since she loves animals, especially Flounder and Sebastian, a Caribbean Crab. It is really typical in Disney fairy tales that most of the princess will be surrounded by animals. They can share their opinion and wait for their savior with the animal. This character shows the soft side of women. Ariel shows the image of friendly which is really important to a woman. In short, Ariel is a depiction of the ideal woman from her appearance and her characteristic. Then, Ariel is compared to Ursula as the antagonist character.
Ursula is a sea-witch who likes to make a deal with other sea-kingdom citizen and take advantage from the deal. She is really evil and cunning. Walt Disney depicts Ursula as the opposite of Ariel. She is depicted as an old fat woman. It is can be seen from her fleshy body spills out her dress. She wears low-cut, long, black evening dress which blacks are usually the color of the evil. She also has short, bleached and butch hairstyles that contradict the image of the ideal woman who usually has long, flowing hair like Ariel. Unlike Ariel who is colorful, Ursula is just dark with her black evening dress and dark blue skin.
Her overall appearance gives the image of “scary” and “dark” (see figure 2). Moreover, when she shows up in a scene, the music background will be a scary music which adds the image of scary. There is something that emphasize Ursula as the bad character. Unlike Ariel who has a beautiful voice, she has an alto voice that if we hear it, it sounds like a male’s voice. Why did Walt Disney give a male-like voice to Ursula? They can just give a normal girl’s voice to Ursula. It is done to strengthen the image of scary and evil to Ursula.
By these findings, it can be implied that in the creator’s mind –maybe also in our mind- a woman who has a character of a man (although it is only a bit) will be considered as weird or scary. Kallan in her article also stated that Ursula is more masculine than feminine (2000:16). She has the ability to change a tail into a pair of legs which she has done to Ariel. She can change herself from a half-octopus sea-witch into a beautiful girl. Also, she can make a big storm in the sea to sink many ships, including Eric’s ship. When she is angry because Eric wants to kill her, Ursula creates a bigger storm and a whirlpool to kill him.
She is really powerful since she can beat King Triton in their last battle until he gives his soul to her willingly. She becomes the leader of the sea kingdom after the battle. By this event, we can see that Ursula is not just an ordinary woman. She is a woman with much power and she can do whatever she wants. However, women like Ursula are always being the evil or the antagonist in an animation movie or maybe most movies. It leads to an interpretation to the viewer that a woman who has power is not good and only create destruction like Ursula. Ursula lived in the palace before King Triton expelled her.
Ursula fights the norms of society by not having a traditional relationship. She is a rebellious woman. Her rebellion is seen as a negative influence and it makes her being isolated by the society and expelled by the king. In other words, women who do not follow the rule to be feminine by having more masculine quality, they will be considered as negative and can make them being isolated from the society. Later, it makes women choose to be powerless and obedient to be accepted. In Tangled, Rapunzel as the protagonist character is also depicted as an ideal woman.
She has very long, flowing hair with slender body (see figure 3). Her long hair is magical because it can glow when she sings and it can heal every disease (see figure 5). If someone cuts the hair, the magic of it is gone and it becomes useless. As we all know, hair has become woman’s precious asset and women with long flowing hair usually will be categorized as beautiful. Rapunzel’s appearance in the 2010 after The Princess and the Frog which shows an African-American princess is problematic. The Princess and The Frog has changed the stereotype of Disney princess by depicting the princess as an African-American girl.
However, Tangled changes that new stereotype and Disney is going back to their old stereotype. The standard of long flowing blond hair as the symbol of femininity still limits Disney to create Rapunzel in another way. Rapunzel wears a purple dress as purple symbolizes loyalty. This image resembles her character that is really loyal as she never leaves the tower. Rapunzel also has a beautiful voice. Beautiful voice has become an important part in depicting a good woman. It has been the characteristic of a good woman. Similar as Ariel, Rapunzel is also a lovely person.
She has an animal best friend, a chameleon, named Pascal who always follows her. She is also able to convince Maximus, a clever horse that hates Eugene. Maximus is really hard-to-tame but she is succeeding in taming Maximus. She does it with her lovely character that makes Maximus loves her too. By this scene, we can see that she is a loving person since even animal loves her. Not only animals, kids also love her as kids in the kingdom surround her and braid her very long hair with flower ornaments. She can talk to thugs in the “Snuggly Duckling Pub” although they are ready to kill Rapunzel and Eugene.
She becomes the peacemaker in that Pub and everybody is happy because of her. In short, Rapunzel is really depicted as an ideal girl with her beautiful appearance and lovely characteristics. Mother Gothel as Rapunzel’s step mother is the opposite of Rapunzel. She is unique because she always shows that she loves Rapunzel. She is willing to have a very long journey just to get Rapunzel’s birthday present. She also likes to cook Rapunzel’s favorite dinner. However, throughout the story, her motivation to protect Rapunzel is just to take advantage from Rapunzel’s hair.
She wants to be young forever by touching Rapunzel’s hair. She is willing to do anything to protect Rapunzel as her asset to beauty. In here we can see that for woman, beauty is everything and woman will do anything to keep being beautiful. As an evil character, she is depicted as an old woman wearing a crimson dress, spiky gold-colored earrings, and sometimes wear a black cloak (see figure 5). Gothel is really old and it can be seen from her wardrobe style. Her wardrobe style is 400 years older than the period of time in the movie to show that she has been that old.
Unlike Ursula who has been depicted as an old, fat woman from the beginning, Gothel is beautiful with her slender body, but when she does not touch Rapunzel’s hair or when Rapunzel’s hair is cut, her wrinkles show and her curly hair turn to white. According to the directors of the movie, Gothel is designed to be the opposite of Rapunzel. It is strengthened of Gothel’s curly hair as the opposite of Rapunzel flowing hair. Although her appearance is nice, she is still old and depicted to have an intimidating gaze to make Rapunzel obey her rule. Wilson stated in her article titled “Disney’s Racist Stereotyping and Gender Roles Remain Un-Tangled. Gothel as the opposite of Rapunzel is depicted as dark (2010:1). Unlike Rapunzel who has golden hair and fair skin, Gothel is depicted to have dark hair, to wear dark clothing, and dark skin contrasting with the golden whiteness of Rapunzel. The interesting part in her character is when she starts to be angry to Rapunzel she will say “Now I am the bad guy. ” The usage of “guy” here is interesting because she is a woman. By these words, we can imply that when she show her masculine power like controls Rapunzel, she will be a bad person and similar as a man or guy.
Women should be soft and caring, so when she has to be angry, she considers herself as a guy. Gothel is also really smart and always use her clever for her own good. At the beginning of the story she hides the magical flower for her own good. She uses the flower by herself and she never let anyone to have it. It is shown that she is selfish. When she forgets to hide it and the flower is taken by the kingdom’s guard, she kidnaps Rapunzel and hides her in a tower. She does not want anybody to take the power again from her.
Also, she put the Stabbington Brothers against Eugene, so she can have Rapunzel back. Unlike Rapunzel who always stays in the tower without using her powerful hair to run away, Gothel always uses her power for her own good. She is active, the opposite of the ideal woman depiction which is passive like Rapunzel. In short, her cleverness and her uncaring characteristics make her depicted as the villain in this movie. It is then strengthening the image that woman who has masculine power than feminine power will be considered as bad or weird like what happen to Ursula and Gothel.
The depiction of good woman and bad woman in both movies has revealed that a woman who has a masculine quality more than feminine quality will be considered as bad. This is the proof that women are required to behave as the society’s perspective as normal. They have to be passive, submissive, defendant, and pure. Welter stated that The Attributes of True Womanhood were judged by society could be divided into four cardinal virtues which are piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity (2008:7). These four cardinal virtues are virtues that exist in Ariel and Rapunzel.
Rapunzel and Ariel in both movies are locked in their place to protect them from danger. Their parents protect them by limiting their movement. This phenomenon also happens in reality. Many parents forbid their daughter to go out late, even to go far from their house while boys can easily go out late. They will say that their daughters need more protection than boys. Also, when a woman talks about sex or showing a desire in doing sex, she will be seen as bad and they can lose their purity (virginity) that will be the same as death.
As Colette Downing has mentioned in her theory about Cinderella Complex, most women are waiting for their savior which is men (1992:17). By this theory we can conclude that women are dependent and this is what they should do if they want to be considered as the ideal woman or prevent people consider them as weird or bad. This is happen with Rapunzel and Ariel. They are locked inside the tower and the ocean. They tried to escape but they cannot fully escape because there were no men to save them. Both of them actually know that they are stuck in the place that they should not be and they need to see the world.
It is seen from the song that they sing in the beginning of the movies. It can imply that both of them know that they are locked from the world and their world is not fulfilled yet. Rapunzel in the beginning of the movie sings the song “When will my life begin? ” In that song, there is a lyric. “Stuck in the same place I’ve always been. And I keep wondering, wondering, wondering, wondering when will my life begin? ” (0:07:04-0:07:15). She sings that song while she is doing jobs like cleaning the house, baking, knitting etc which are rather stereotypical.
She has the ability to do other jobs or even go out the tower but she does not do that. She does not use her magical hair to help her out from the tower. She obeys her mother to stay in the tower. Unlike Rapunzel who uses her power to protect Rapunzel, Rapunze chooses to not use her magical hair to escape. She seems to wait her savior until Eugene comes. He frees her from the tower and guide her to the floating lantern. Although Rapunzel always tries to ask Gothel to go out, she still cannot go out. She finally can escape when Eugene comes and brings her to the kingdom.
Eugene in here becomes the guide for Rapunzel. Because of Eugene she can get into the kingdom and see the floating lantern. Rapunzel even says that “For like the first time ever, I’m completely free. ” (00:30:26 – 00:30:33) From this song we can see that Rapunzel never feels free and always feels restricted. From this scene we can conclude that a woman like Rapunzel cannot feel the life by herself. She needs a man to be her guide to live her life. Eugene, who is sent to save Rapunzel has seen the world. He has travelled around the kingdom, while Rapunzel keeps being stuck inside the tower.
This is undeniable really strengthening the theory of domestic and public sphere of woman and man. Man is considered in public spaces like working outside and has an adventurous journey, while a woman in domestic space just wait for a man and doing housework like cooking, baking, cleaning and caring. At the beginning of The Little Mermaid, Ariel also sings a song titled “Part of Your World. ” Similar with Rapunzel, Ariel sings that to tell the audience that she wants to be escaped from the ocean. Polanco stated in her paper that “Part of Your World” is an expression of Ariel’s frustrations hopes and desires (2010:24).
Although Ariel has learned many things about the human world from Scuttle, this song also indicates that Ariel still does not know many things about the human world. For example the lyric “You want thingamabobs? ” (0:15:24) Maybe for us Thingamabobs is a strange word but Ariel refers thingamabobs to a set of ship spare parts. Also from the lyric “I want to be, where the people are. I want to see ‘em dancing. Walking around on those… what do you call them? Oh feet”. (0:15:56-0:16:09). We can also see that Ariel still forgets the term feet to describe the organ for walking.
Ariel believes what Scuttle said about the term of the things and it leads to misunderstanding. This can be seen from the dialogue below. Scuttle : “Oh, Look at this! This is special. This is very, very unusual. ” Ariel : “What? What is it? ” Scuttle : “It is a dinglehopper. Human uses this little babies to straighthen their hair out. ” Ariel : “A dingglehopper…” (The Little Mermaid, 0:09:17-0:09:30) The one that Scuttle means of course not a dinglehopper. It is a fork that we use for eating while Scuttle says that it is a thing for straighten hair.
It is completely wrong, but Ariel still believes it because she does not know anything about human’s world. From her face, it is seen that she is amazed by a “dinglehopper”. This song emphasizes Ariel’depression by the lyric “What would I give, if I could live out of these waters? ” (0:16:39). It shows that she is willing to give anything in order to be able to explore the world. Although she knows that she is trapped in the ocean, she chooses to obey her father and stay in the ocean until Eric comes and needs her help. She needs man to be her motive to escape. In short, Ariel waits for a man to be her savior or her motive to be free.
Polanco further explains about the usage of the pronoun your in the title “Part of Your World”. He stated that your in the title means that there is a dyadic relationship of recognition between bodies that implies an appropriation of one body into a world (2010:30). In short, from the title, we can see that the patriarchal system still happens in here. Who is you in here? You in here can refer to men who has the world. Eric is also depicted as a prince who likes to sail around and has seen the world unlike Ariel who is still limited by her fins to explore the world.
She compares the fact that she has fins and human has legs. Ariel’s body encounters resistance to the limitations that she has to face. She really needs someone to free her from the limitation and explore the world. Disney has stated that Tangled is a transitional movie that can bring fresh air to a gender stereotyping princess that has been done by Disney all this time. Even, Disney announces that they will not make another princess movie. Disney from the era of Cinderella (1959) is considered always use typical beauty to depict the princess.
The princess is a young girl with flowing long hair, slim and has beautiful figure. Disney’s princess is also really loyal to the rule of femininity like passive, submissive, soft, etc. Tangled is different. This movie has a more adventurous journey between Eugene and Rapunzel and Rapunzel seems stronger than other Disney princesses. She can hit Eugene until he passes out when Eugene comes into her tower quietly. She also interrogates Eugene and ties him up by her hair. Many people think that this is could have been a good sign for a new era of gender stereotyping by Disney.
However, if we look at this scene closely, Rapunzel hit Eugene with frying pan. The usage of frying pan in here is stereotypical. A frying pan is a thing from kitchen which is usually considered as women’s place. The choice of frying pan in this movie still consolidating the fact that people cannot be separated completely with gender stereotyping that they get since childhood. As have been mentioned above, Disney has tried so hard to break the gender stereotype that they have created until this time. They change many things to achieve that.
However, that is also a small part that is maybe forgotten by Disney. At the end of Tangled, there is a narration by Eugene below. Eugene : “But I know what the big question is, Did Rapunzel and I ever get married? Well I’m pleased to tell you That after years, and years of asking and asking, and asking I finally said yes. ” Rapunzel : “Eugene…” Eugene : “All right, I asked her” (Tangled, 01:28:11-01:28:29) Eugene narrates that he and Rapunzel get married. He said they get married after he says yes. It rotates the common belief that man is the one who ask for marriage and the woman will answer yes or no.
However, it is corrected by the clarifying that he is the one who ask Rapunzel, not the other way around. It is really interesting because although Disney has tried so hard, they still cannot be separated from the fact that gender stereotype is still in their mind. They cannot let the woman becomes the one who proposes the man. They still stick to the conservative rule that man is the one who proposes woman. The Little Mermaid as an old movie also cannot be separated by the patriarchal system. Ariel can be fully free from the ocean kingdom and the tail that restricts her movement is when she is married to Eric.
Even, the one who gives her the real and permanent legs is her father, who is a man, not Ursula. Although Ursula has great power, she cannot give permanent legs to Ariel and cannot free Ariel from the ocean. The one who has the real and great power is the man. Also, Ursula as a strong and powerful character at the end has to die because of Eric. Eric as a man who is actually weaker than Ursula –he does not have any power like Ursula- can kill Ursula by his ship. This scene also shows that although a woman is really strong and powerful, man’s power will be above her.
Man is still the decision maker. Also, when Ursula said that Ariel can be a human just in three days, the man is still the decision maker. If Ariel cannot get a true love kiss from Eric, she will return to mermaid and her soul belongs to Ursula. Eric is the one who decide whether Ariel becomes a mermaid or a human. Disney has tried to break some stereotype in this movie by depicting Ariel as a rebel and strong character. She can save Eric when his ship sinks. In here Ariel seems superior that Eric since she saves Eric and determines the life or Eric.
However, at the end Eric is the one who decide Ariel’s life and her father also plays an important part in Ariel’s transition into human. Ariel has the power to save Eric when his ship sank, but she cannot run from the fate that the one who gives her real human world will be the man. The most obvious scene that strengthens the patriarchal system in this movie is when Ariel trades her voice in order to get legs and becomes human. She leaves her identity as a mermaid. She leaves her place, her tail and her family to get the man. In here we can see that in order to have a man, a woman has to leave her identity.
This also happens to most women in the world. They have to leave their family and lives with her husband or lover. Women also lose their identity as soon as they get married. They will be known as someone’s wife or someone’s mother rather than as an individual. The inability to speak with Ariel symbolizes the limitation of women in expressing their opinion. Before 1960s women cannot vote and cannot express their opinion in public space. Although women nowadays are considered free to express their opinion, it is still undeniable that there is a limitation for them to speak.
In this scene, Ursula also stated that although Ariel cannot speak and tell Eric everything, she will get Eric by using Ariel’s beautiful figure. By this scene it is implied that the one that appeal men is women’s beauty, not their intelligence. As women cannot speak, they cannot show their intelligence. Of course long flowing hair, slim body and fair skin are the characteristic of beauty that Ursula mentioned. She emphasizes her opinion by her song that title “Poor Unfortunate Soul”. It is can be seen from the lyric below: “You”ll have your looks, your pretty face.
And don’t underestimate the importance of body language. The men up there don’t like a blabber. They think a girl who gossips is a bore. Yet on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word. And after all dear, what is idle babble for? Come on, they are not all that impressed with conversation. True gentlemen avoid it when they can but they dote and swoon and fawn on a lady who’s withdrawn. It’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man. ” (The Little Mermaid, 0:42:05-0:43:28) Those words mean that men love women who talk less since they cannot argue and accept what their husband says.
Ursula also shows that physical appearance is the only thing that matters when it comes to love. Lastly, the pattern of Disney’ fairy tales will be ended by marriage of both male and female characters. The statistic from the “100 years of Magic Disney survey” found that 82. 3 percent of the films show marriage and children as the expected course for couples. It also happened in these movies. Both movies are ended by marriages. Rapunzel marries Eugene and Ariel marries Eric. Marriage ending in both movies indicates that the story of a woman will be ended when they get married.
Women’s goal in life is to get married to a man. It is not mentioned how they life after marriage. The audience never knows how Rapunzel and Eugene’s life and how Ariel and Eric’s life after marriage. Do they really live happily ever after? That is not something important anymore. As Pothier mentioned in her journal, the marriage seems to be a grant for women and also the beginning of a new life (2008:60). The tagline “they live happily ever after” after the marriage scene also emphasizes that the most important point in women’s life will be marriage.
If they have been married they will happily ever after. No matter what kind of life that they will face after marriage they will still consider it as happy. In short that the usage of ever after in here is indicating that finding a right man and getting married is the end of female experience of life as she erased her identity when she gets married. Conclusion This paper attempts to highlight hidden gender stereotypes in animations The Little Mermaid and Tangled and reveals the stereotypes to society. The success of the feminist movement is not a guarantee that women can have equal status as men.
People are still trapped in gender stereotypes that have been imprinted in their minds since they are young. One mean that make gender stereotypes cannot be separated with human’s perspective is animation movies. The two animation movies have revealed that although the creators have tried to minimize or even erase gender stereotypes in fairy tales, gender stereotypes in the end cannot be separated and it will still be seen. The Little Mermaid and Tangled have shown that gender stereotypes are still exists although both movies are still categorized as new. To answer this issue, both movies were watched two times.
The first time was the time for understanding the plot, and the second time was the time for me to take notes about findings that I get after watching the movies. My findings in this paper were compared with Downing’s theory about Cinderella Complex. The conclusion was taken by analyzing both the findings and the theory. After reviewing and analyzing these two movies, both of them have hidden stereotype gender although the creator has tried to break gender stereotypes that have been imprinted in Disney movies. The protagonist in these movies is depicted as the ideal woman as pretty, slim and slender body.
On the other hand, the antagonist character in these movies is depicted to have masculine identity that feminine identity. They have the power to regulate the protagonist’s life. Patriarchy still cannot be separated in these movies. Both Ariel and Rapunzel are trapped in their place and cannot see the real world. They show this depression by singing a song at the beginning of their story. Both of them tell us that they have not felt the real world. It is implied that women’s place is in domestic area. The man characters, on the other hand, are really adventurous and have travelled around.
It also shows that men’s place is in public space. The women’s character also can be free after the arrival of the man’s character. Later, man will be the guide of woman to explore the world. In these movies, although the woman characters are smart and brave, they still cannot stand by themselves. They need man to free them from their prison. Man will be the decision maker of woman’s life. If a man wants to give legs to them, man will be the one who gives her legs. If a man does not want to take her to see the floating lantern, she will never see the floating lantern. The jobs that they do in the movies are also stereotyped.
Rapunzel and Ariel are depicted to have a woman’s job like cleaning the house, etc. Lastly, the happily ever after ending at these movies implies that women’s goal in life is to get married. No one ever knows their life after marriage but it will be still considered as happily ever after. The usage of ever after in here indicates that finding a right man and getting married is women’s goal and it is the end of their experiences of life as they erase her identity when she gets married. This paper explains about hidden gender stereotypes in The Little Mermaid and Tangled.
This paper is limited to the depiction of good woman and bad woman in the movies and patriarchal system that still can be seen in the movie although it has been tried to be hidden. After conducting research in this article, there are some interesting and important points that are not included because of the limitation of paper and topic. The first is a comparison between man’s and woman’s depiction in animation movie. In this paper, I only focus on woman’s depictions. The comparison is important since people need to know how gender stereotypes affect the man’s depiction.
Further research about man’s depiction is no doubt needed and can be further explained. The second important point is about the relation between gender stereotypes in movies and in reality. How do gender stereotypes in movie affect people’s life? Further research about it is absolutely needed to answer that question.