An likely associated with stronger effects on children’s gender


An idea discussed in society is the idea of
the legacy of imperialism which conveys the cultural dominances that once
occurred in the past. It is particularly important for children to
understand these issues as they are native individuals. Many people today still
experience being mistreated, some of which due to being related to malicious
stereotypes presented by the media. For example, in present day society Muslims,
specifically young males, have been presented with malicious stereotypes
against their religion as, “according to a recent nationally representative survey,
almost half of the American people still believe that there is an inherent
association between Islam and violence” (O’Brien, 2017).  Educating children about these issues could
possibly teach them to treat each other with respect and to not judge someone
just upon their looks regarding race as well as gender, due to the fact that
the media has a great influence on their perceptions. Dawn Elizabeth England, Lara Descartes and
Melissa A. Collier-Meek (2011) the authors of the journal, ‘Gender Role
Portrayal and the Disney Princesses’, explains, “Thus, children’s media
influences a child’s socialization process and the gendered information
children view may have a direct effect on their cognitive understanding of
gender and their behavior (Graves 1999). Further, cultivation theory posits
that higher levels of exposure to gendered messages are likely associated with
stronger effects on children’s gender socialization (Klein et al. 2000) … Consequently,
children’s perceptions of social roles and gender identity may be influenced by
this media experience and the stereotypes portrayed (Durkin 1985b)” (p. 557).
The cultivation theory hypothesises that high frequency spectators of
television are more vulnerable to media messages and the conviction that they
are real and acceptable. According to Eman Mosharafa (2015), “Cultivation
theory tackles the long-term effects of television on viewers. The theory
proposes that the danger of television lies in its ability to shape not a
particular view point about one specific issue but in its ability to shape
people’s moral values and general beliefs about the world” (p. 33).

In an article from Animation Studies 2.0 titled, ‘Disney Animated Features and Engaging Middle
Grade Learners’, Eleanor Huntington spoke about how they targeted to tackle
this subject to “a group of young people who are still in the process of
learning how they have been globally maligned and mistreated”. Within the
article one of the films introduced was Disney’s Pocahontas. The story of Pocahontas
follows a Native America girl of the same name, who is also the daughter of
the village chief. With the arrival of the British and trying to claim the
lands, Pocahontas meets a white man called John Smith who she gradually falls
in love with. However, Pocahontas is a character of agency.  This is important because as the daughter of
the village’s chief, she is expected to behave and lead in a certain way. The
responsibilities that follow this involve Pocahontas becoming engaged to whom
her father sees fit which also limits her freedom. However, Pocahontas chooses
her own destinies which is mainly lead by her own impulses and wisdom rather
than by romantic affairs or by the will of their fathers, like many of the
early Disney Princesses were infatuated with. Many of the early Disney
Princesses lacked the will to follow their own adventures and chose to be more
focused on marriage as “in general, Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora are the
three least active and least dynamic characters of the classic era” (Davis,
2006, p. 101). For example, Snow White from Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs is a classic example of a Disney Princess who
follows the path of love and has an America house wife idealised presence. As
whilst in the Seven Dwarf’s home, Snow White takes on many domestic chores,
such as cooking and cleaning, to outweigh the charge of her staying there. Cinderella
and Aurora were also presented in the same way and did not have the chance to
be as adventurous as characters such as Pocahontas. According to Amy Michele
Davis (2006), “Of the three, Aurora is the most passive when it comes to
accepting her fate. Snow White at least flees from danger, and, once she finds
the dwarf’s cottage, she takes an active role in earning her keep by doing
housework for them. Cinderella is forced to work as a maid in her own home by
her step-mother and seems to accept this role with a surprising amount of
equanimity.” Davis (2006) also conveys that, “In Pocahontas, Pocahontas’ love
for John Smith is only a small part of her motivation for her actions in the
film, as its narrative development makes clear” (p. 9). This is because
Pocahontas mainly focuses on her village with whom she feels a great connection
and responsibility for.

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Amongst the clear racial differences within
this animation it is understandable that there would possibly be controversy
over this topic. The song “Savages” in the film was of particular interest as
the children’s response was to be expected of innocent beings with limited
knowledge of “interracial understanding”, as identified in the ‘Disney Animated Features and Engaging Middle
Grade Learners’ article by Huntington. However, the middle grade learners
who were mentioned in the article misinterpreted the song and cheered it on as
the author of the article, Eleanor Huntington, explains, “In addition to not
recognizing that this quasi-historical narrative took place on an entirely
separate continent, the children also missed the theme of interracial
understanding, cheering on, and “The Australians beat the Aborigines!”. The
song essentially features the English troops preparing for battle, which alone
shows the issue of cultural dominance with the British overshadowing the
Algonquian people. However, in the film Pocahontas essentially tries to bring both
civilisations together with the help of John Smith, in the aim of protecting
her land and people.

the film, directors Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg cultivate stereotypes of
masculinity with the men being portrayed as protectors and hunters of the tribe.
Meanwhile, the women are usually seen harvesting food and carrying out other
tasks within the village which would stereotypically be seen as a female’s role,
whereas the men are seen hunting animals and carrying weapons. In Pocahontas, there are scenes as to where
the men are also carrying the harvested food however, the female characters are
not seen holding any weapons throughout the film. Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas’s
father, shows deep interest in arranging Pocahontas and Kocoum to be married as
her father says in the film that he “will make a fine husband” and that “he can
keep you safe from harm”. This illustrates how the male character’s view women
in being incapable of protecting themselves from impairments.

Studio Ghibli’s Princess
Mononoke opens with a prince called Ashitaka, who is attacked by a board which
contains a demon inside of it. Once he arises into contact with the boar, a
strange scar appears on his arm which gives the prince abnormal supernatural
abilities. The scar however, is also slowing killing the young prince which
reasons Ashitaka to become banished from his village as he is viewed as being
unclean. He sets out on a journey to discover the world for the first time to
where he finds himself in the middle of a war between the forests gods and homosapiens.
Along his quest Ashitaka eventually meets Princess Mononoke, also known as San,
who lives with wolves.

According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art
(2002) Princess Mononoke was set in
the Muromachi Era (1392–1573). Whereas, Pocahontas
was set in the 1600s (Stebbins, 2002). Comparing Disney’s Pocahontas to Studio Ghibli’s Princess
Mononoke, the way in which men and women are portrayed in Princess Mononoke
is in a much more equal standard than in Pocahontas.
Due to Princess Mononoke being set in an earlier period, it would be expected
that Pocahontas would portray a more diverse representation of men and women. In
Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, in the iron town both genders work hard
together and the women aren’t needing to rely on men to save them. Susan
Jolliffe Napier (2001) justifies, “Overall, the female characters possess a
gender-neutral, or at least deeply ambiguous, characterization compared to
traditional female stereotypes, and they remain completely outside the
misogynistic patriarchal collectivity that rapidly became the foundation of
premodern Japan” (p. 182).

Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke presents
Lady Eboshi, through an antagonist, as a strong, independent and well-respected
woman within the village who has taken on the role that would traditionally
been a male leadership role. This is a clear distinction between the village’s
thoughts on gender in each tribe, as Chief Powhatan is a male whereas Lady
Eboshi is female. As the village’s leader, the way in which Lady Eboshi
constructs jobs for both the men and women is much more equalised than the
tribe in Pocahontas. While Susan Jolliffe Napier (2001) describes, “Eboshi is a
leader who cares for the sick and the outcast but is equally concerned with
military matters and the destruction of the shishigami” (p. 182).

All of the women in both Pocahontas and Princesses
Mononoke are attractive and have pale skin; the protagonist is also usually
a young girl which is evident in both films. Even the antagonist in Princess
Mononoke, Lady Eboshi, is an attractive young woman. However, their body types
do not resemble unnatural proportions as of that of Disney’s Snow White,
Cinderella, Aurora, with their tiny waists, small feet, etc. The male
characters within Princess Mononoke are also seen to have darker skin than the
female characters, which is noticeable in the image of Lady Eboshi and Gonza.

Even though, none of the women in the film Princess Mononoke, are portrayed as
being specifically weak, Lady Eboshi does however only take the male soldiers
out of the town for combat because the women aren’t as skilled in wielding the
weapons as the men. Nevertheless, the women are ordered to keep within the
walls of the iron town in order to protect the village. They also wield weapons
in case of an invasion that does occur later on in the film. In contrast to Pocahontas, the women aren’t seen
wielding any weapons. Although in Princess
Mononoke the women are seen less stereotypically, there is still some
division between both genders. In both films, the men are portrayed as strong
and independent individuals however, many of the men presented do not possess a
lack of a feminine point of view. Michelle Davies (2002) stated that “stem from
the traditional view of masculinity, which dictates that men should be strong,
assertive, sexually dominant, and heterosexual (Herek, 1986). Myths, such as
”men cannot be raped” or ”sexual assault is not as severe for a man as it is
for a woman”. Although this article focusses on male sexual assault victims,
men are stereotypically subdued when it comes to expressing their emotions. Due
to the men being judged upon their masculinity the films reflect this
stereotype. For example, in Princess Mononoke
when Prince Ashitaka returns the injured men to the Iron village, one of
the men, Kohroku, appears embarrassed and childlike when his wife, Toki, says
“Scaring me half to death! The wolf-god should’ve eaten you! Then I could find
a better husband!”. Kohroku replies with his lip whimpering, “Toki! They’re all
listening!”. Kohroku is one of the very few characters to express some form of
what would be stereotypically be seen as a feminine emotion.

The women in the village work the tatara for
long hours and are set to defend the town against interlopers whilst the men
are afar with Lady Eboshi during battles outside the settlements facility. According
to an article from Talk about Japan (2016) titled, ‘Tatara – Tamahagane Iron Smelting’, “The tatara (?) is the traditional
Japanese furnace used for smelting iron and steel. The word later also came to
mean the entire building housing the furnace”. In contemplation of the fact
that the women are told to stay within the village, this may be a Japanese
cultural representation. As stated by Mikiko Ashikari (2003) in his article
titled, ‘Urban Middle-Class Japanese Women and Their White Faces: Gender,
Ideology, and Representation’ states’, “There are multiple gender discourses and
gender representations in contemporary Japan, but a “traditional”
gender ideology—men working soto (outside the home) and women managing uchi
(home)—keeps its dominant position among them.”


Toki quotes from Princess

me half to death! The wolf-god should’ve eaten you! Then I could find a better

They’re all listening!”

escort you are! You don’t do any real work here. At least act when there’s
danger!” – leaving soldiers to die

you. My husband’s an idiot, but I’m glad he’s safe.”

look very handsome. Show us your face.”

say that, Milady. He’ll just take advantage of you.” – Glad to have you back

you hadn’t been there, Milady, the wolves would’ve got them all.” –  all women and some men laugh

You are handsome!” – after seeing the princes face


Constructs jobs for both the men and women in much
more equalised way than the tribe in Pocahontas.

The tatara (?) is the traditional Japanese furnace used for smelting iron and
steel. The word later also came to mean the entire building housing the


Subsequently, the older female Disney characters in the early era
trailed the path of marriage once grown up; they tend not to experience much
adventure in their lives. Stated by Amy M. Davis (2006) in her book, ‘Good Girls and Wicked Witches: Women in
Disney’s Feature Animation’, “It is implied that only little girls (as
opposed to grown women) go on adventures, and that little girls are still in
possession of their imaginations”, using Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Wendy from Peter Pan as examples. As shown in the film Peter Pan, Wendy is told repeatedly by her parents that she must
grow up. Throughout the film it’s clear that majority of her worries focus the
idea of her having to mature and possess a more responsible attitude. In
Wendy’s last night in the nursery her father, George, says “Mary, child’s
growing up. It’s high time she had a room of her own”, due to the fact that he
doesn’t believe Wendy evoking imaginative scenarios into the heads of her
younger brothers is beneficial. It’s clear from the shocked reactions of the
other family members that George’s decision is not desired.

In the film Peter Pan,
Wendy says, “I have to grow up tomorrow” with a sad tone in her voice. A male
character called Peter Pan from the film of the same name, takes Wendy to
Neverland due to her saying this. Neverland is a magical place where children
don’t grow up and remain to have an exploratory life forever.

Although the characters Alice and Wendy are similar in the sense
of only little girls are able to gain a sense of adventure and once grown their
adventures must settle, one major difference between the pair surrounds their
romantic partnerships. Alice isn’t presented with any romance or love with any
character in the film due to the age of Alice being considerably younger than
Wendy, as she is allowed the freedom to carry out her adventures without
partaking in mature circumstances. However, Wendy is shown to develop feelings
for Peter Pan.

In Studio Ghibli’s production Kiki’s
Delivery Service, the main protagonist Kiki who is of a similar age to
Wendy is shown throughout the film to become more romantically engrossed into
boys and her exterior form. This becomes clear at the start of the film whilst
she is seen conversing with her cat Jiji and getting ready to depart from her
home, Kiki says “if we put it off for a month, and I find some wonderful
boyfriend, then what?”.

Karen Hollinger (1998) the author of the
book, ‘In the Company of Women:
Contemporary Female Friendship Films’, suggests, “The good woman’s traits
are aligned with conventional femininity (passivity, sweetness, emotionality,
asexuality), and the bad one’s personality is associated with masculinity
(assertiveness, acerbity, intelligence, eroticism)” (p. 31). Although in this
case Hollinger is talking about the “female double film” sub-genre in the book,
‘Good Girls and Wicked Witches: Women in
Disney’s Feature Animation’, which is when characters are “characterised by
its presentation of two women, usually sisters … whom is portrayed as “good”
and the other as “evil”.”

It is particularly interesting in the way that this principle is
used for heroines and female villain characters and the way in which children
interpret them. Queen of Hearts in Alice
in Wonderland portrays dominance compared to Alice’s innocent nature. Furthermore,
the way in which they look, one being cute and sweet whereas the other would be
considered to have a masculine appearance, as seen in figure one, is also a
factor in which humans take into account when viewing characters. This is
because the appearance of characters influences the observer to ruminate a
certain representation of them. Villainess characters are typically portrayed
to have a dominated era and viewed as loathsome characters for taking on what
would be cogitated to be a masculine role. Dawn Elizabeth England, Lara
Descartes and Melissa A. Collier-Meek (2011) the authors of the journal, ‘Gender
Role Portrayal and the Disney Princesses’, depicted, “Consistently portrayed
gender role images may be interpreted as “normal” by children and become
connected with their concepts of socially acceptable behavior and morality. For
example, when children see villainy in a character illustrated via gender
transgression (e.g., a male villain appearing effeminate), they may develop
lasting negative associations with non-stereotypical gendered behavior
(Li-Vollmer and LaPointe 2003).”

As for one, the Queen of Hearts and Yubaba who is the antagonist
from Studio Ghibli’s feature Spirited
Away, present similar aspects
within themselvesMS1 . Much like how Alice’s personality is
conflicting with the Queen of Heart’s, Chihiro who is the protagonist in Spirited Away is also contradictory to
Yubaba in a similar wayMS2 .

Throughout Spirited Away, Chihiro transforms from being a timid, “cry baby” character
to a courageous and caring young girlMS3 . In most films, it would be the male
character who aims to save the girl however, for this it’s not the case.

Interestingly, although there is four main women in the film
being: Chihiro, Lin, Yubaba and Zeniba, none of them engage in a romantic
relationship with exception of Haku and Chihiro. However, their relationship
isn’t a very romantically prominent aspect in the film as it mostly features
Chihiro worrying about Haku’s health as she tries to save him from being badly
injured. However, their relationship isn’t overly glamorized like most Disney
princess filmsMS4  and there is no presence of being forced to
have a romantic affair or the sense of adventure having to end.

Haku and Chihiro’s relationship seems to be one that’s defined by
the other characters as Kamaji often says they are in love and Zeniba calls
Haku her boyfriend. The end of the film is when they are both most affectionate
towards each other however, their relationship still remains platonic.

Chihiro’s attitude to having to work is probably not what would be
expected from a child of her ageMS5 . She doesn’t complain but instead worked
extremely hard in order to turn her parents back to humans. With this goal in
mind it drove her to wanting to work harder in order to save them and HakuMS6 .



 MS3expand this and give examples of how this is done

 MS4making blanket statements without backing them up weakens your
argument; make specific references

 MS5Cultural assumption?

 MS6What point is this making?