Language Investigation. This essay will show the evolvement of gender fairness in the language that the characters use over time in Disney movies.
This essay will show the evolvement of gender fairness in the language that the characters use over time in Disney movies. The essay will explore three Disney films from 1992-2009.
- Aladdin produced in 1992
- Mulan produced in 1998
- Princess and the Frog 2009
The 3 movies should give me an insight into the gender roles and how much each sex speaks in the films. This study also shows the evolvement of feminism and the Equality movement. As the feminist movement had an underlying pinch point in the Disney industry.
One of the socio historical elements that helped Disney to find its equality between the male and female language is third wave feminism. The characteristics of 3rd wave feminism, which was coined in 1992, are “to challenge or avoid what it deems the 2nd wave’s essentialist definitions of femininity which often assumed a universal female identity and over-emphasized the experiences of upper-middle-class white women.” The 3rd wave feminism encouraged the Princess and the Frog, where the main character is black, and even Mulan where the protagonist is Chinese. The titles of the movies suggest the Equality act, Aladdin – 1992 (a male name), Mulan -1998 (a female name) and Princess and the Frog -2009 (a female and male names).
This essay will examine the break through of women, and then eventually the equality through three of the language frameworks; Semantics, Lexis and Pragmatics. The essay will also explore the commands, the interruptions and the politeness used, the essay structure is focused on the women’s speech, however it will compare men’s and women’s speech.
This essay expects to see that 3rd wave feminism has pushed against the stereotypical view of a princess in distress, and that equality has finally come to the language of Disney films, men and women both speak equally.
The purpose of this essay is to look into Disney movies and see where the different sex of the characters language has become more equal. It is based on the transcription of the three Disney films listed above. The transcription only covers the parts, which are going to be analysed (politeness, commands and interruptions). The essay will look deep into these three elements of the films and discuss them in accordance to the language frameworks listed above (Pragmatics, Semantics and Lexis). It will also discuss the importance of 3rd wave feminism and the impact that it had, and how Disney came to be more gender egalitarian. Graphs have been constructed to show the data that has been collected, and to compare the difference in speech between male and female characters.
The transcribing was relatively easy however it was the compiling of the information that was difficult. After watching the films and transcribing the data, the information needed to be categorized under different headings, (politeness, interruptions and commands).
The investigation will include theorists, Lakoff, Zimmerman and West, O barr and Atkins. Lakoff had many theories about gendered language, however the specific theory that this essay uses is the one which debates the fact that men speak with colloquialisms and slang whereas women use proper English much more. Zimmerman and West shared a theory, which is now named the dominance theory, men try to dominate the conversation and O barr and Atkins had a theory, which proposed that women speak like men, using the same vocabulary and tone of voice.
This is a preview of the whole essay
The difficulty with transcribing pre 2000 Disney films is that they only contain one female, the princess, this is true in Mulan and Aladdin. This creates an unbalanced playing field, which may alter the results of the tests meaning that not all of the tests done will be fair. The titles of the films (Aladdin, Mulan and Princess and the Frog) will hopefully show that the unbalanced playing field isn’t as unbalanced as it may seem.
The investigation has looked into several characters across each film, below is a table.
The character intensity has risen over the years, next to each of the names there is bracket (M/F), this is to indicate whether the character is male or female. It is interesting to note that the number of females has increased by one in every film.
Within the three films there are commands, below is a bar chart highlighting the difference between male and female commands in each movie.
A graph to show the Commands in the3 Disney films.
As one can see there is a change in the way in which the graph works between Mulan and Princess and the Frog. The difference is, that in Princess and the Frog the female amount of commands is more than the male, and this contrasts with the other two films. The significance of this is that it shows that 3rd wave feminism has had an impact. The term was coined in 1992, suggesting that it took a few years before Disney started to employ the ideology. The fact that the animated female protagonist is African-American, suggests that they took the ideology on board. There are many reasons for this , the predominant being that the globalization of the world means that children of all ethnic backgrounds will watch Disney films, creating the need for more ethnic princesses.
The Lexis which the men use, gradually as the films become more recent gets less harsh and more like indirect questions.
Jasmine: The whole kingdom has turned out for father’s announcement…. Aladdin: Look! But, Jasmine, listen to me!
Fa Zhou: Mulan, you should already be in town. We are counting on you to...
Mulan: To uphold the family honor. Don’t worry, father. I won’t let you down.
Fa Zhou: Mulan!
The Princess and the Frog
Tiana: Stay back or I’ll... I’ll...
Naveen: Please, please, please, oh wow, allow me too.
As one can hopefully see, the lexis that the men have used to interrupt has gradually become less aggressive and more polite. In Aladdin the male uses a harsh lexis to attain the females attention, whereas in Princess and the Frog the lexis used is polite “please”. The movement of the interruptions in these Disney films is remarkable, in that it shows not only 3rd wave feminism underway but it highlights that the feminist roles of the past have taken lead, also the Equality act of 2006, has shone through slightly in that in Princess and the Frog (2009) has equal commands, and the lexis has changed towards women, connoting that a radical change .
This also ties in with the dominance theory in that men will purposely try to overpower woman, by overpowering them they will command them to do different things. Clearly by looking at the graph one can see that over time the dominance theory has lost it’s meaning, they show that the females have become more commanding therefore overpowering the Dominance theory.
A table to show the interruptions between men and women in the 3 Disney films
The bar chart shows that the amount of interruptions in each Disney film, divided into men and women. The interruptions have leveled out over the 17 years. In Aladdin the male interruptions were higher whereas in Mulan and Princess and the Frog they were the same. This shows that between 1992 and 1998, something happened to change the way in which men and women spoke to one another in Disney films. This radical change was the 3rd wave of feminism, it allowed Disney to explore and instigate the interruptions into their films. This links closely with Zimmerman and West
The graph is interesting because, Mulan and Aladdin have very similar commanding points, this is similar in both the male and the female sections. This associates with Zimmerman and Wests theory of interruption and domination. Men will purposely try to dominate a conversation by interrupting the woman, below is an example from Mulan.
- Mulan: The Huns are alive they are in city look out…
- Shang: Go home Mulan. Go Home.
The example above highlights the theory. If one looks into the pragmatics of the situation where the text came from and at the presuppositions, one will understand why the man interrupts the woman. Shang is the General of the Army, and Mulan has been cast out of it. Zimmerman and West’s theory about dominance and interruption also links into the presuppositions of the text above. In that it is a male speaking down and aggressively to the woman. This is part of the theory, however Mulan turns away, whereas in Princess and the Frog, the woman has a come back to the man. The pragmatics is the same in both films, the woman has asked the man to do something and the male has retorted in a passive aggressive manner. However, In Princess and the Frog, Tiana has a come back, this is feminism in its prime in Disney, it also shows a glimpse of the Equality theory, in that women are speaking back to men.
1. Tiana: Mince the mushrooms
2.Naveen: Do what?
3.Tiana: Mince the mushrooms! Hop to it!
A table to show the politeness between men and women in the 3 Disney films
The politeness is an anomaly to the study, as it shows no comprehensible change or movement. In Aladdin the male politeness is 9 whereas the female politeness is 2. In Mulan the female politeness is 6 and the females is 4. The biggest contrast between the male and female politeness is Aladdin, which suggests 3rd wave feminism. The amount of politeness shown in the graph contrasts to the dominance theory, however agrees with third wave feminism. The dominance theory states that stereotypically women will be more polite, to carry their point over, however as the table shows in two out of the three films the man is more polite then the woman. The array of explanations for this strange occurrence are; firstly that the title of the films, particularly Mulan and Aladdin. The title creates a link between the politeness used and the protagonist’s name, used as a title. The second may be the pragmatics of the film. Aladdin is set in Saudi Arabia, where the male voice is heard whereas the woman is made to be quiet; this was particularly true in 1992. In Mulan, the woman Mulan deliberately disobeys her parents, therefore in the circumstances she has to be polite, because she is a woman in a man’s army. In the princess and the Frog, the man (the frog) is trying to seduce the woman, therefore it is only fitting that he uses most of the politeness.
Shang: You... You fight good.
Mulan: Thank you.
This is an exert from Mulan, the politeness used comes from both the man and the woman, suggesting that by 1998 the impact of 3rd wave feminism. Third wave feminism instigates the double politeness; men are polite to woman rather than just woman towards men. Mulan was produced in 1998, allowing the feminist theory to have time to become prominent around the Disney Corporation. The language exerted above, highlights how freely the politeness can be exchanged. The discourse structure used, allows Shang to purposely make a mistake and not say what he wants to the ellipses highlights this, the repetition of “you” also highlights this.
The way in which the investigation works is that it looks at the three Disney movies and have highlighted three main aspects of the films. The investigation title highlights this. The investigation works because I have collected my data and displayed it in graphs and then spoken and argued how the data is relevant and how it has evolved in connection with 3rd wave feminism and the theories discussed.
The investigation shows a huge change for women. The films I looked at contain three multicultural women, allowing 3rd wave feminism to come into the equation. 3rd wave feminism targets women who aren’t white, giving them a voice. The Interruptions segment and the Commands show a definite rise in feminine power, the graphs highlight this. The explanation following the graphs explains how the power has risen in accordance with theories. The Dominance theory is the most prominent theory used because
The conclusion for this investigation is that feminism has definitely become more prominent over the 17 years, 3rd wave feminism has also taken a front seat targeting the women in the films which I am looking at.
This investigation works to an extent, if redoing it I would look at more films and a more modern film with a white princess, such as Tangled or Brave and compare Princess and the Frog with them to see the extent of third wave feminism. The investigation, if done properly and done into more depth, the essay would have looked at more Disney films and would have gone into more depth with the investigation. The other thing I would do differently is look at a broader range of topics, rather than limiting myself to just politeness, commands and interruptions. I may include empty adjectives and count the different word classes (noun, verb, adjective), said by each sex and draw a better conclusion as to why 3rd wave feminism has become more widespread. Also, I would look at Frozen, where a girl saves a girl rather than a prince.
The way in which Disney is going would be intriguing to look at, to see whether they will produce a feminist film, Frozen is half way there however, only one protagonist says “you cant marry a man you just met”, and Anna wants to marry him, it will be interesting to look into how Disney portrays not just women, but other issues around the media such as obesity, sexuality and unemployment. In my opinion Disney should try to tackle these issues, as it would normalize these issues and allow people to discuss these issues. It would also normalize these things and make them not black-listed for the younger generations.
The Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today
The Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today
Fifty Key Literary Theorists (Routledge Key Guides) Lane, Richard J.