Gender Issues and Pop Culture

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Pop culture has a considerable influence on society. One of the major trends in pop culture, which has influenced most of our youth is the popularity of Disney movies. Disney has been around for over 80 years, and most people grew up watching Disney movies. They have played a role in how society displays gender roles. One way to define gender roles is that they are a perceived set of behavioral norms that are usually linked in association to males and females in a social group or structure (Yerby, Baron, and Lee). These expectations and social norms that society presents have significant impact and influence. These movies reflect the truth in societal norms and values during their respective eras. The changes in gender norms in society can be therefore mirrored through the evolution of the roles of the fictional characters in Disney movies. It is possible to see the role of gender in the society by watching movies and analyzing the message.

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In earlier times, gender roles were often distinct and showed the negative portrayal of the female species. Weak, softhearted, dependent are all characteristics used to describe women in earlier times. Women were regarded the inferior species as opposed to the so called superior males. Older Disney movies such as Snow White is an example of movies depicting women as damsels in distress who required the aid of men in order to live happy and successful lives. In that movie, women’s purpose in life was to find their prince charming and live happily ever after. This teaches the younger generation of females to rely on men for their quality of life. According to Higgs in his article entitled Representation, transition and Disney princess he said, These films come from a time when family values had been solidified by successive world wars and the housewife was common place in American society (63). Thus, stating that women during that time are expected to be very domestic housewives with no role in leading. This represents the role of women during the time when the movie was made. So, girls during that generation grew up dreaming to be princesses who relied on men who they saw as saviors. The movie Snow-white was made in 1937 so during that time the role of woman was limited to be the house wife and was stereotypical. We can compare this movie to another recent movie and see the change in gender roles throughout time.

As time passes we see that the role of women in Disney movies changes over time in proportion to the changing gender roles in real life. In the modern Disney movies female characters are less inclined to be the damsels in need of saving but instead rebels who break free from those who attempt to keep them down. Strong female characters in movies such as Frozen, and Brave have gained immense popularity among the new generation. The movie Brave is a good example to reflect how the ways in which people perceive the role of women in society is changing over time. The movie talks about a young princess known as Merida and how she challenges societal norms and responsibilities that comes with being a princess. We see that Merida is a skilled archer during a time where being an archer was considered a masculine trait. Merida as a woman faces all the challenges she faces to become what she wants. Merida represents how far Disney has come, and the stereotypical labels that Disney once made, but continues to change. Their creation of Merida sets the standard for the princesses to come after her, breaking away from the domestic, dependent female, to an independent, free spirited, true hero character. (Mesri, 2013). This depicts women standing up for their right and changing society’s perception of female characters.

Masculine gender roles are also evolving over time. Movies are one piece of evidence of this evolution. Men are regarded as the strong, dominant, and unemotional sex. As a consequence, men have to keep their emotions hidden, which is damaging to one’s mental health. Older movies such as snow white depict men as strong warriors who always end up rescuing damsels in distress. Their feminine counterparts are depicted as beautiful women who are unable of taking care of themselves. This pedestal placing men at higher levels can be seen in the patriarchal society of that time. Men held power and influence in the world. This led to some social strata where men were placed above women. Challenging this division was the key to bring about social change and once achieved it brought about a change in gender norms. Thus, dipping scales to lessen the influence of men thereby increasing the influence of women.

Recently, advances have been made in challenging gender norms. Movies such as Disney’s, Brave have shown a change in masculine roles too. In today’s world, men and women are regarded in a new light. Although it is far from perfect, women have gained significant power and influence in the world. Ranging from multimillionaire CEO’s to highly advanced cardiovascular surgeons, women have overcome the barriers placed to keep them down and have ushered in a new period of enlightenment. As a result, more and more Disney movies are adapting to the modern world and changing the storyline from damsel in search for a prince to fierce independent women warriors, who refuse to be kept down. However, this hasn’t stopped some men, who would still prefer to keep women down and subjugate them to a life of inferiority. These males would not like to see their power and influenced diminished thereby attempting to hold some women down.

Gender role have been changing through time. Although the messages in Disney movies are becoming more progressive and varied as time goes, older Disney movies (such as Snow White, released in 1937, or Cinderella, released in 1950) remain extremely popular with children today and their messages are therefore still relevant to children’s learning and development. However, at least another storyline emerges, one that has transformed from having one dependent princess role model, to having brave warriors and female heroes as role models too. It is a big change and showed kids that women are equal to men and even might one day perhaps surpass their male counterparts to bring in a new era of matriarchy.

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Gender Issues And Pop Culture. (2019, Dec 31). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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