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Month: October, 2013

What is the representation?

A representation is when an image is given to something. That something could be anything. A social group, place, people and even just an idea. They could represent a message and a values, and can show views, assumptions or cultures. It is highly unlikely to come across a representation that actual represents reality in todays society.

Disney fairy tales represent women as continuously being nothing but “the damsel in distress”. This idea reflects upon women to make them think that they are vulnerable to men and need to be rescued in order to have their “happy ever after.” This conveys the message to women in todays society that a young female is incapable of looking after herself and instead needs a man to care and tend for her.

In the following examples of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Tangled you are able to quickly identify this representation.

Representation #1- Sleeping Beauty

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Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is represented as nothing but a Damsel in Distress, she is constantly wishing to find her perfect prince in order for her to be happy and escape from her life.

At the beginning of this video “Once upon a dream” we see her talking to the animals about never being able to find the perfect prince as “they never want me to meet anyone.” She then begins to sing about how she dreams of her perfect prince that is going to save her from this. As the song builds up she talks about his eyes and hair and the animals form the shape of a prince for her to dance with, Sleeping Beauty sounds un-satisifed with life, like she needs her prince in order to be happy. When she spins around to find herself in the arms of a real prince she is lost for words as she has never come across this before. her facial expression shows she is shocked yet excited. She immediately devotes all her attention the the Prince because this is what she has always dreamed of. They arrange to meet later that night as she already can’t bare to be without him even though he is a complete stranger, he has seduced her under his spell with his dazzling good looks.

This is a clip from the film of the Prince fighting off the dragon in his hunt to rescue Sleeping Beauty who is lying locked away in a castle. This representation shows that the male goes to any extremes to rescue a lady, putting his own life at risk for the female. At the end of the clip when the Prince has killed the dragon and reached Sleeping Beauty he gives her a kiss which awakens her, her expression as soon as she opens her eyes is a soft romantic smile showing off her gratitude and happiness to see the Prince again. She is now in the safe hands of the Prince so she knows she is going to live “Happily Ever After”

This representation shows the audience that in order for the female to be happy with life she must be picked off her feet by a charming Prince who is willing to “fight till death” for her. This conveys an unrealistic message to society as in reality there is no such thing as a Prince, instead just ordinary men. This ingrains high expectations for women of finding the perfect man, that will tend to her every need when she is in trouble, when really Disney has created this “Perfect man” that doesn’t actually exist in todays society.

Representation #2- Cinderella

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Disney’s Cinderella like Sleeping Beauty is represented as nothing but a Damsel in Distress, she is constantly wishing to find her perfect prince in order for her to be happy and escape from her horrible life with her step mum and ugly sisters.

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This picture represents Cinderella being unhappy with her life at home because her mother and sisters make her complete all the cleaning and cooking for them. While she is doing these chores she is often filmed singing about coming across her “Prince Charming” that will pick her up off her feet and rescue her from her horrible family so that she will never have to do any chores like these again, nor will she see her family again because her Prince is all that matters to her. She fantasises the moment that he will come to get her.

In this video we see Cinderella having her first dance with the Prince. Her facial expressions show lust and admiration as she is finally face to face with a Prince. This generates an unrealistic message for society because we hear her singing the lyrics while dancing, “so this is love. So this is what makes life divine” yet this is the first time she has even come close to the Prince and she is already declaring her love for him. This gives the representation of the women that as soon as she lays eyes on the male she has already fallen for him regardless of not knowing him. Cinderella shows features whilst dancing that represent her feeling happy and satisfied for the first time in her life. She is no longer thinking about her chores instead she is constantly thinking of the male she is with. She to has fallen under his spell of love.

This is one of the final scenes from Cinderella. When she gets the opportunity to try the glass shoe on her facials and gestures show her excitement as she personally knows she will fit the shoe, and she is going to be able to get married with Prince Charming. At the end of this clip it shows her reuniting with the Prince as she marries him and sets off to live her “Happily Ever After” free of her cleaning duties and also free from her horrible family. The Prince acts as a hero in Cinderella, although he doesn’t save her from any horrible dragons or dangers he does save her from her hate of family.

The representation of Cinderella conveys the message that if a female is ever in a situation where she is unhappy or in trouble she just has to wait for her Prince Charming to come and rescue her and everything will be okay.

Representation #3 – Tangled

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Disney’s Tangled is a 2010 remake of Rapunzel. Rapunzel is kept in the top of her castle where is she never allowed out due to strict instructions from her mother. Rapunzel dreams of the day the Prince saves her and she is allowed to explore outside of the castle at her own freedom.

This clip of the movie shows Rapunzel singing about her daily routine. Which includes cooking, cleaning and painting. She states how she can’t wait to be free at this point in time she isn’t aware of the fact that a male character is going to save her. “When will my life begin?” By the Male coming to save her it conveys the message that Rapunzel was incapable of escaping from her mother on her own terms. Instead she needed the help of  a “Strong, dominant” male named Flynn.

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Once Flynn rescues rapunzel out of her tower they get married. You can see in this picture taken from the movie that Rapunzels smile represents how happy she is to be with Flynn, and how thankful she is of him for getting her away from her mother.

Once again Disney reflects to society that a man can rescue a girl from any situation that a female is un-capable of handling herself. Once the female finds her perfect man then she will be able to live “Happily Ever After” with no troubles in her life as the man will always be there to look after her. Much like Flynn and Rapunzel.

2 other sources

HERE is an essay that Alice Neikirk wrote for Anthropology called “…Happily Ever After”. She raises a point about what Fairy Tales teach girls about being women. Alice has a perspective regarding the representation of the damsels in distress. She believes that they are only considered a good Disney princess if they await their Prince charming to come and get them. She said “The good female is generally submissively accepting of her lot in life while waiting for the prince to appear and take control of her destiny.” another valid point she raises is “In several instances , the prince and the heroine have never spoken but the female’s beauty is enough to ensure that their marriage will be ‘happily ever after’.”

HERE is another essay that is written by Katherine E. MacLean called ‘Cinderella Forever in Distress’. The essay talks about the representation of women in Disney Fairy Tales in particular Cinderella and what impact this representation has to society. She says “The progression of women’s roles in society is evident in some areas, but the distinctive archetype of the damsel in distress is one stagnating factor in movies because it still entails the woman needing rescuing thus supporting the female inequality and male dominance that has been plaguing societies for centuries now.”

Both of these essays are similar in the fact that they both support the idea that the Disney Fairy Tales represent women as continuously being nothing but “the damsel in distress”. This idea reflects upon women to make them think that they are vulnerable to me and need to be rescued in order to have their “happy ever after.” This conveys the message to women in todays society that a young female is incapable of looking after herself and instead needs a man to care and tend for her.

Why?

What are the reasons for the stereotypes and messages that this representation creates by Disney princess’ such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel? Firstly the audience would prefer to watch something that they already have a little bit of ground knowledge for rather than watching something completely new. The Disney Corporation sticks to the same representation of Damsels in Distress because they are aware that their target audience knows about the stereotypes they are trying to put across so they will understand them when they are put into a new context. This leads to more people wanting to watch these films as they are comfortable when they have a background of information understanding their roles and values of certain characters. This is obviously what Disney wants, they sell their image by categorising the Princess’ to make them easy to understand as it is much easier to market when there is only one image of a certain group which is in this case the Damsels in Distress.

How realistic is the representation of women being nothing but “the damsel in distress”? Well I don’t think it is realistic at all for the simple reason that the “Prince Charming” that will sweep you off your feet and take away your problems simply does not exist. The females of todays society are put under the influence that this man does exist and then there are the males that are left with high expectations of the women’s appearance and capability. Rob Roberson an online blogger has a viewpoint regarding his opinion on ‘Damsels in Distress’ he said “Every time a man sees a pretty lass who needs help, a slob of  a man turns into a chivalrous knight in shining armour.” By mentioning the knight in shining armour he has generated this representation from the Disney corporation. Rob states himself that the ‘slob’ ordinary man can be seen as a knight simply because of the representation of rescuing a women in trouble. They can be seen as heroic and charming.

The representation of the women are all seen as vulnerable, pretty, helpless beings that have no intention of succeeding in life without their prince. How about the actual women that are in every day society? Why aren’t they featuring on films? What about the successful women, the solo mums, the ones that can’t sing, the lesbians, the sick girls, the educated girls and what about just the every day teenage girl? The Disney Corporation has ignored societies actual types of women and instead generated the stereotypes that reinforce the message of the Damsel in Distress. One who can not tend for herself, is in trouble, is helpless and trapped under the mothers control.

Although coming across a Prince in your every day life is unlikely maybe society likes the idea of that and that is the reason they hold onto the perceptions of Disney, hoping that one day what happens to the Princess’ may happen to them.

Consequences of the representation

There are may consequences in result of the representations Disney fairy tales created as women continuously being nothing but “the damsel in distress”. This idea reflects upon women to make them think that they are vulnerable to men and need to be rescued in order to have their “happy ever after.” This conveys the message to women in todays society that a young female is incapable of looking after herself and instead needs a man to care and tend for her.

What is the difference between the Damsels in Distress and reality today?

One of these consequences is the way young girls are being taught to be a women. Instead of a girl learning to grow up on her own and learn from her own mistakes she is instead taught by the Disney representations that she should just be patient and wait for her man to rescue her from her troublesome life. This is an unrealistic consequence that the representation has on society as the females are not taught independence and freedom instead they are taught about romance and love. A young girl no longer has aspirations of jobs or careers instead she dreams of being a princess and getting married. This is an unrealistic message. Although the young women will eventually grow out of the princess phase, why should it take place at all? Disney teach young girls the wrong morals and values. They teach the women to obey male instructions and long of finding the perfect prince instead of longing to find a career or become successful on her own. Its no wonder the statistic of female leaders is below 5%! The young girls aren’t taught about leadership nor possible jobs outside the house not even to look after themself instead they are taught to define themselves through appearance.

Another consequence is the stereotypes that the representation has created. The audience is quick to pick up that all the Princess’ are pretty and skinny, and it is these princess’ that find their Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet and go to exteme lengths to rescue them. This conveys the message to young women that if you want this to happen to you then you need to look like how the princess’ do. Which is skinny, tiny waist, long hair, luscious eyes and perky lips. And if the young women fails to meet this criteria then it means they do not receive a Prince nor be release from the ‘Damsel in distress.’ This leads to many self esteem issues as the actual perception of beauty that Disney created is only a very small proportion of women in todays society. So that leaves the rest of the women doubting themselves which increases numbers of self harm and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia due to women trying to achieve the unrealistic idea of beauty so they no longer have to be a Damsel in Distress.

Another consequence is on the Disney Corporation. Obviously the Fairy Tales are made for the target audience of children. So of course the longer Disney are producing movies the longer the continuation of the representation continues. As they are not going to change the stereotypes that they have been building up since the early 1900’s. This puts the younger generation under the lime light as they are next to be effected that’s if they haven’t been already. That’s the problem. When will this ever stop? Many see Disney as a legacy of the childhood. Fairy Tales are a ‘highlight’ of the childhood however it is not until the teenage years where we start to recognise the effects Disney has really given society.

As you can see above there are many consequences regarding the Disney fairy tales representing women as continuously being nothing but “the damsel in distress”. None of these consequences being positive. This reflects on society today as the younger generation get caught between the Disney world and reality, which confuses them as they start to use the morals and values they have learnt from the Damsels in Distress they were forced to look up to.

In conclusion

Disney fairy tales represent women as continuously being nothing but “the damsel in distress”. This idea reflects upon women to make them think that they are vulnerable to men and need to be rescued in order to have their “happy ever after.” This conveys the message to women in todays society that a young female is incapable of looking after herself and instead needs a man to care and tend for her. To conclude this I can say that I have looked at enough research to suggest that this representation has done negative damage on young women in todays society and the Disney Corporation is to blame. They created the idea of beauty, they created the idea of the prince rescuing the princess, they created the idea of the damsel in distress and by forcing all these unrealistic ideas into the younger generations heads they have ingrained content that is not actually useful in reality instead they person is left doubting themselves. Disney should really be teaching the generation about work ethic, independence and life skills but instead they have taught useless information about waiting for a Prince to rescue you from a troublesome situation. What is going to happen when the young person is really thrown into a troublesome situation? They can’t just sit there and wait for a Prince can they?