Gender inequality in Disney

As I’ve mentioned previously in another post, I am writing my dissertation on Disney which is regrettably forcing me to over analyse every aspect of my favourite films. I love Disney and I don’t think that will ever change, but over the last week I’ve stumbled upon some interesting points about the the animated films which have definitely touched a nerve!

I’ve been reading a chapter from a book by Rosina Lippi-Green entitled Teaching children how to discriminate, and it has brought out my inner-feminist. In one section of the chapter, she discusses a study which she carried out on all of the Disney films out at that time (1997); she began by counting the amount of male and female speaking characters that were present. Her findings showed that almost 70% of characters with speaking roles were male, and this is the first issue that I have. As a form of entertainment with such a large audience, both male and female, why are men so overrepresented? Because men are the dominant sex in our society and women are supposed to just ‘fit in’ where necessary.

As well as the unfortunate ratio of men to women in the films, they are also trapped in stereotyped roles. Lippi-Green points out that men typically play men doctors, waiters, kings, thieves, hunters, servants, detectives and pilots; women are either mothers, princesses or daughters – with the exception of an evil villain here and there. Are these the roles that we should be teaching children to aspire to? That little girls should just accept their fate as being someone’s wife and not desire a life of their own?

Similar to this, Lippi-Green also found that men are allowed to change and develop in character; they can start off as being bad, but improve themselves and end up being a good guy. Women, however, do not have the same opportunity. A woman is either good or evil, and she cannot switch between the two.

After reading this chapter, I started thinking about my favourite Disney movies and how these themes were apparent throughout them. Another issue jumped out at me: female characters rarely interact with each other, and when they do it’s often not a pleasant encounter. Is popular culture telling girls from a young age that women should not get along with each other, and that they can only have positive encounters with men?

It’s a shame that gender inequality even stretches to family-friendly, much-loved animated films and television programmes, especially by such a large and prominent company such as Disney. I do have to say, however, that Frozen probably comes the closest to trying to resolve these issues: probably the reason why I love it so much. Even though initially it appears as though the theme of love is going to be shown between Hans and Anna, it takes a beautiful twist and ‘true love’ is shown between two sisters, and not a romantic relationship between a prince and a princess. And even though Anna and Elsa’s relationship gets a bit rocky in the middle, they’re soon back to being best friends and showing that not everything is about guys.

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My three goals

It’s safe to say my blog has been slightly abandoned lately, with work experience and university deadlines taking up the majority of my time.  I’m taking part in Blogging 201 this month to get back into it, and today’s challenge is a great way to start. So here are my three goals that I want to achieve…

  1. Write at least one blog post a week
  2. Aim to comment on at least one post a day three posts a week (tried one a day but it just wasn’t realistic with my busy time schedule!)
  3. Increase my number of followers to 50 by the end of March

Not the most challenging goals, but right now it’s just about balancing my time and making myself a realistic blogging schedule. If I manage to stick to these goals by the end of March then I will set myself new and more aspiring ones 🙂 Looking forward to getting back into it!

File Sharing: Friend or Foe?

Early last week, the offices of The Pirate Bay in Sweden were raided and subsequently the site was shut down. The website provided magnet links and torrent files to enable peer-to-peer file sharing using the BitTorrent protocol, or in English; a website where you could download films, television programmes, music, games and much more. Obviously the site was illegal, and after years of creating alternate sites after the originals were found out, it was eventually completely shut down last week. For some people – mainly artists of the industries – this is a God send, however, for the many of us who can barely afford to feed themselves, this is a living nightmare.

Yes it is illegal, and yes it is technically stealing, yet there are so many people who do it. The industries may be making less money, but I don’t think it’s going to bankrupt Beyoncé or Brangelina anytime soon. When a cinema ticket for an adult costs around £8-10, can you really blame people for wanting to watch a film without having to pay this extortionate price? And the price doesn’t just stop there. Firstly you have to get to a cinema, which unless you live opposite one, you’re going to have to travel to in some way. Then you get there and would quite like to be able to have a drink or a snack whilst watching a film, so you then fork out a ridiculous amount for a Coke and a packet of sweets; it ends up being a pretty expensive 2-3 hours. Thank God for Orange Wednesdays though, right? Oh wait, as of February 2015 that will no longer exist either! I do enjoy going to the cinema and you really can’t beat watching a film on the big screen, but I can only ever afford to go once or twice a year. Just as it can be argued that it isn’t fair for people to not pay to watch films, it’s just as unfair that people who struggle financially have to miss out on such a prevalent part of popular culture.

In my first year of uni in one of my media classes, the room was divided in two with one side being for online file sharing (which I was a part of), and the other against it. We won. Our argument mainly discussed the music industry and the downloading of songs and albums, but I think we made some pretty good points. Online file sharing provides an opportunity for new and aspiring artists to become well known and create a fan base. With online file sharing often being free, it is accessible for so many people and through word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends, new artists can so easily get the recognition that they need to start their career. Our opposition then, of course, argued that these new artists would not be making enough money, but we argued that while they may not initially be earning a lot of money, this would come with time. In other words, by building up a devoted fan base and getting themselves ‘out there’, they would then have the foundations to gain money from events such as concerts and festivals, and from merchandise that they could sell at these.

I think that in the technology reliant society we live in, the film and music industries need to be prepared to accept the fact that if something is available to someone for free, they will take it. Where efforts have been made with platforms like Netflix to create an affordable viewing experience, I think that there is more that can be done. People who download films for free often do so because of the ease of access in terms of both affordability and the fact that you don’t even have to leave your bed. If there was a service where you could buy or rent films online at the same time that they were out in the cinema, and for a fraction of the price, this could start to bring in money. Cinemas offer a member scheme where you pay a certain amount a month for unlimited viewings, so why not make this accessible at home?

I’m not saying that illegal file sharing and downloading things for free is a good thing, because of course it is not. But I am saying that I can understand why it is done, and that surely there needs to be an alternative which suits both the industries and the consumers?

Unrealistic life lessons learnt from Disney

As it’s the weekend I decided to write a different kind of post today, and wanted to go for something a bit more fun!

I’m writing my dissertation on language and gender in Disney films which is a great excuse to spend hours of my life watching The Little Mermaid and all the other classics. However, watching them at this age has unfortunately caused me to start criticising the logic of the films and has got me thinking about what Disney did to my expectations of life. Similar to the video that Jenna Marbles uploaded a few years ago, I decided to list the ‘life lessons’ I received from watching Disney and Pixar films growing up.

1. I remember being about five years old and thinking that if I grew my hair long enough, it would automatically make me become a princess. It did not.

2. From watching Edgar make the milk in Aristocats I was lead to believe that if you mix together milk, sugar and anything else you can find in your cupboard it makes a delicious drink. I tried this when I was about eight and was bitterly disappointed. Also cats are lactose intolerant, something which I found hard to believe due to this film making me think all cats drank milk.

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3. As the song tells us, “when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true“, with no input from yourself needed. In other words, don’t work hard for the things you want in life, just wish for them to happen! It wasn’t until last year that I eventually gave up on this.

4. Simliarly, Cinderella sings “a dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re asleep”. If this is true then according to last night’s dream I want to be chased by spiders? I definitely do not!

5. If you sing to an animal it will instantly become your best friend. I’ve tried this with my dog several times and she just looks at me like I’m crazy.

6. I thought that all Godmothers were Fairy Godmothers; magical women who were fairies and could grant any wish you made to come true. I was always disappointed that I never a Godmother…

7. If you’re going through a rough patch or just having a bad day, the best thing to do is to lay down on the nearest thing you can find and have a good cry about it.

8. For quite a while, I genuinely believed that all stepmothers were evil women who wanted to ruin your life, or even have you killed.

9. The Lion King also lead me to believe that all hyenas were evil.

10. It also made me think that all animals in the wild were friends. I’m pretty sure this scene would end in mass murder.

11. Thanks to Toy Story, I secretly hoped that one day I’d walk in on my toys and teddies running around my room. While this never happened, I still to this day believe that my teddies have feelings, and that they’ll be deeply hurt if I ever abandon them.

12. Making a dress is easy, all you have to do is place some fabric over your head, tie it in the right places and cut some parts out, and voilà. I made a dress once and it was certainly not this easy.

13. You can fall in love with someone just by looking at them. You don’t even have to speak to them. Just wait until they rescue you – which often just entails kissing you – and then ride off into the sunset with them to live happily ever after.

Although all of these obscurities aside, I’m still a massive Disney fan!

Black Friday

It’s almost impossible to have not realised that today is Black Friday and after receiving 36 emails today, the majority of which were related to it, I decided that as I can’t avoid its existence, I may as well just blog about it. So firstly, what actually is Black Friday?

I’m from the UK, and so Black Friday is not something that I have really experienced before and I was only previously aware of its existence due to references in my favourite American sitcoms. Black Friday is the day which follows Thanksgiving Day in the USA (which was yesterday), and is often seen to be the signifier of the start of the Christmas season. Unfortunately for us living in the UK, the Christmas season pretty much started here straight after Halloween on the 1st of November. Historically, the term Black Friday originates from Philadelphia, where it was originally used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would appear the day after Thanksgiving. But more simply, Black Friday is basically our equivalent to the infamous Boxing Day sales, where shops and online retailers apply discounts across their stock, drawing in hundreds of crazed sale shoppers.

While this is a long running American tradition, why is it that this year it seems to have made its way over to the UK? Apart from the obvious reasons of stores generating more sales in time with Christmas, I just don’t understand why it is relevant to our country. I don’t know of any British people who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, so why are we participating in Black Friday?

After thinking about it, I realised that it probably stemmed from the internet. Online shopping has become increasingly popular over the last few years, with sales across Europe expected to reach over £111.2 billion this year. Mobile shopping is also becoming increasingly popular, because who has time to sit down at a computer or laptop and shop? With large online retailers such as Amazon and Apple promoting Black Friday in the UK in 2011, and Asda (a sister company of the American store, Walmart) jumping on the bandwagon in 2013 launching its “Walmart’s Black Friday by ASDA” campaign, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the UK’s stores saw the opportunity to increase their sales and entice Christmas shoppers.

The shopping event has caused chaos across the country, both in high street stores and online with many websites being down due to the high volume of shoppers. Unsurprisingly, Black Friday has managed to stretch itself onto a whole weekend and is followed by Cyber Monday on, well, Monday. So, if you’re a poor student like me who can barely afford to buy food, let alone a new TV or clothes, I suggest that you stay inside this weekend, hidden away from the scary sale shoppers hoping to grab themselves a bargain! And just in case you’re tempted to risk it, I’ve attached a video showing what you’re getting yourself into!

“Between”

Today’s Blogging101 challenge is to try out another blogging event, so I have chosen to take part in the Weekly Photo Challenge. I thought it would be nice to do something that involved photography, rather than a writing challenge as it is not something that I have done before!

The challenge for this week is to show the concept of ‘between’, so I looked around for inspiration. I gazed out of my window looking at the grey and rainy November day, and noticed that there were only a few brown autumnal leaves left clinging onto the branches of the trees.

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Apologies for the poor image quality, it was taken out of my window and zoomed in using my iPhone camera. I believe that this photo captures the concept of ‘between’ by demonstrating how we are now leaving autumn behind and heading into winter, but currently stuck between the two.

Sports stars as role models

I’ve been suffering from writer’s block this week, struggling to get my thoughts written down. But then I heard a story on the news which I just felt the need to write about. I’m sure you’re all familiar with it; it’s that one about Ched Evans and Jessica Ennis-Hill…

Ched Evans, the Sheffield United football player, was found guilty of rape in April 2012 and sentenced to five years in jail. However, last month he was released after serving just half of this sentence. Since his release there has been a lot of speculation about whether or not he will be able to return to his football club, but earlier this week it was announced that the Sheffield United bosses have decided to allow him to train with the club. So where does Jessica Ennis-Hill come into this?

The Olympic 2012 heptathlon champion, who is from Sheffield and has a stand named after her in the football ground, has said that she wants her name taken off the stand if Evans is allowed to return to the club. Personally, I’m totally with her. Why should she associate herself with someone else’s mistakes? By asking for her name to be removed – which I’m sure was a huge honour for her to receive in the first place – she is displaying her outrage at the fact that the convicted rapist may be re-signed with the club. She said that, “those in positions of influence should respect the role they play in young people’s lives and set a good example”, which is completely true.

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Footballers and other sports stars are role models for young people, regardless of whether or not they want – or should – be. By allowing Evans to return to his club as though nothing has happened, a negative message is being sent out to children and young adults. Firstly it shows them that when you’re given a jail sentence, you probably only end up serving a small portion of it anyway (something that really angers me), and secondly that once you’ve received your ‘punishment’ your life is able to just carry on as normal afterwards. This kind of message isn’t exactly going to convince young people to stay away from a life of crime, is it?

Unfortunately for Ennis-Hill, she has now been the victim of the Internet – and some of the disgusting people who use it – and has received a rape threat over Twitter. The tweet came from an account which has since been deleted, and read “I hope he [Evans] rapes her”. An investigation has been launched into the posts and Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, has said that Ennis-Hill was completely right to want her name removed, and shared how disgusted she was of the threat that had been made towards her. She explained how, “Jessica Ennis-Hill has done exactly the right thing by taking a stand against violence against women”, and she believes that the dark response Ennis-Hill received just highlights how important the issue is.

I admire what Jessica Ennis-Hill has done, and by speaking out about the controversy she has shown how people in the spotlight should behave in order to positively influence the people who look up to them. When you enter into a career, hobby or lifestyle choice that is going to put you in the centre of the media’s eye, you have to accept that the consequences of your actions will become available for the world to see. Whether or not a sports star wants to be seen as a role model, it is inevitable that they will become one for certain people, so they need to respect this fact and behave in a way which is acceptable.