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What Do Disney Movies Teach Us About Gender Roles?

Laci Green breaks down the gendered expectations of Disney characters in the new episode of MTV's 'Braless.'

The latest installment of MTV's "Braless" finds host Laci Green breaking down gender roles" in Disney movies -- gender roles being the "set of social expectations that are assigned based on your sex," she explains.

"Research has shown that children incorporate the movies they watch into their play and identity development," she says, "which is why I think Disney is a really interesting place to examine gender roles."

That got me thinking about the role gender expression plays when designing a character for an animated film. If a character needs to be read as good, evil, nice, mean, weird, etc. the second you see them pop onscreen, then it's fair to assume that the character's masculinity and femininity -- or lack thereof -- would be one of the many ways to convey that message to the viewer.

I polled the MTV News staff about which Disney characters they feel are the most and least feminine and most and least masculine to see if any connections could be drawn along those lines. "Masculine" and "feminine" are obviously subjective terms, but, like, socialization is real (!) so I just let everyone follow their own individual understandings of the terms.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a bunch of the Disney princesses (Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White) dominated "most feminine," and female villains (Ursula, Maleficent, Cruella de Vil) populated the "least feminine."


On the masculine side of things, heroes like Li Shang, Hercules, and Tarzan were viewed as "most masculine," and villains like Jafar, Dr. Facilier, and Scar "least masculine."


Whether male or female, the characters who fulfill their sex's prescribed gender roles just happen to be protagonists, and those characters who don't just happen to be antagonists. I'm not, like, calling Disney out or anything, but there's clearly a connection that we, the viewers, are supposed to draw between a character's gender expression and their moral "goodness" or "badness."


But what do you think about gender roles and Disney movies and stuff? You have as much experience with these "active sites of socialization," to borrow a phrase from Laci's analysis, as anyone, so tell us your thoughts in the comments below.