Gender- & Race-bent Disney

A lot of criticism has surrounded Frozen’s success as the top grossing animated film of all time. While the film has many victories in the way women are treated and perceived in the film, there is a even larger drawback: not a single PoC was featured in the film. There wasn’t even PoC as extras! I just wrote a post on Cinderella, a Disney film released in 1950, and that had a PoC count of 0 as well. Does Frozen mark real progress? Not so much.

Often in pockets of the internet you can find pretty cool things (once you sort through the misogyny, anonymous cowardice, isms, and violence). I wanted to share with you a phenomenon within Disney fan art. This niche is focused on race- and gender-bending characters. That means white princesses are redesigned as WoC and male princes are redesigned as female.

The images, which I’ve shared below, are striking — but in a good way. They really make you think about the stories you’re being told and perhaps how much more interesting they would be if told from another race’s or gender’s point of view.

I cannot stress how important equal representation in children’s media is. Disney is a socialization agent unto its own; while you make dinner or are busy with other adult things, what are your children doing? They are most likely observing Disney films, playing with Disney toys, or watching the Disney Channel. Finding safe places for children of color within Disney is a major step toward equality in society, as our children face the reality of diversity in their lives.

You can find an interesting blog here and here, with a link to all of the original artists. If you are a tumblr user, please follow the blogs and enjoy some race- and gender-bent Disney on a daily basis!

Race-bent Anna and Hans from Frozen.

Race-bent Elsa from Frozen.

Gender-bent Hercules

Gender-bent Pocachontas

Middle-Eastern Alice

 

Indian Rapunzel

 

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The Disney Villain and Representation

Disney villains are not friendly people. They’re villains, why would they be? But typically in a Disney story villains represent anti-white culture. Disney villains and Disney heroines/heroes have have some obvious discrepancies in physical appearance. While heroes and heroines are attractive to white culture, villains are anythingbut. Let’s take a look at a few villain/hero comparisons.

ariel ursila

Here we have Ursula and Ariel, side by side. Ariel is a conventionally attractive white girl (minus the giant fish fin) with a tiny waist and big blue eyes. Ursula is non-white colored, with heavy lidded eyes, and obese in size (therefore contributing to stereotypes and discrimination against fat women). The representation of evil in The Little Mermaid manifests itself in the form of anything different than mainstream white culture.

aladdin jafar

Next we have Jafar, the villain from Aladdin. Again, we have the heavy lidded eyes and dark skin. It appears that he is wearing eyeliner on his eye lids (ergo, Jafar is feminized; femme male = bad/evil), and his features are distinct and very non-white. His eyes are also elongated in comparison with Aladdin’s. Aladdin bears the conventional white boy features and charming smile. His skin is lighter, eyes are larger and rounder, and all around he has a more mainstream look (read: the white boy look). Even though Aladdin is a PoC, he is distorted to fit white morale.

maleficent aurora

For a third comparison on the strand of Disney villan vs. Disney hero/heroine, here we have Aurora and Maleficent. Maleficent’s distortion is less prominent than the two previously discussed villans, but she still possesses heavily lidded, elongated eyes and non-white skin. Aurora is drawn in the traditional princess sense, with large, round eyes and tiny waist.

The effect on children on perceptions of those with white skin and non-white skin must be profound. If they are constantly surrounded by images of people that are different being portrayed as evil and mean, then they will become socialized to view them as evil and mean. In contrast, if the child has similarities with the villians in regards to appearance, the effect on how the child will view themselves has to be negative.

I know that I was profoundly affected by the portrayal of Disney villians. I was socialized by Disney to believe that I could only find happiness in life if I looked like their protagonists. When I gained weight as I got older, I bought into stereotypes that are perpetuated by Disney villians like Ursula and even Ratcliffe, from Pocahontas. How could I possibly be a good person with all this fat when all the fat people I saw as a child were evil?

I will continue a discussion of Disney villian characteristics in a later post. Until then, compare and contrast villians/antagonists that you are surrounded by. How are they alike? How are the different from the protagonist? How does that affect you?