After agreeing to a shady deal with a tentacled witch, “Little Mermaid” Ariel loses the ability to speak. It turns out Ariel’s plight isn’t unique — lack of a voice is a conflict shared by almost every other modern Disney princess.
In an ongoing study of the dialogue in all the Disney princess movies from 1937’s “Snow White” to 2013’s “Frozen,” linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer found that most modern Disney tales feature male-dominated dialogue, The Washington Post reports.
For instance, in “Mulan,” female characters only spoke 23% of the time — that includes Mulan’s lines as her male counterpart, Ling. This is due partially to Mulan going undercover as a soldier in “a man’s world” for most of the movie, but also because there are twice as many male characters as female ones.
— Let Toys Be Toys (@LetToysBeToys) January 26, 2016
In “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle’s only female companionship is lost in a sea of male characters from Lumiere to Gaston, resulting in only 30% of the movie spoken by women. We’d like to point out now that the Beast remains silent for most of the movie, save for roars and grunts.
“There are no women leading the townspeople to go against the Beast, no women bonding in the tavern together singing drinking songs, women giving each other directions, or women inventing things,” Carmen Fought told The Washington Post. “Everybody who’s doing anything else, other than finding a husband in the movie, pretty much, is a male.”
Oddly enough, most of the movies that feature primarily female dialogue are from the three earliest films — “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty,” although “Brave” also features 74% female-centered dialogue.
— Arthur Charpentier (@freakonometrics) January 25, 2016
For more details, read Jeff Guo’s great article about Fought and Eisenhower’s research over at The Washington Post.