Animated films can be largely attributed to the intricate development of the world in terms of its methodology, ideology as well as the aesthetics. This influential impartation that this mode of film has imposed on the worlds populous has constituted a characteristic change and subsequent development of cultures. Following its creation, the information that is consistently conveyed through the medium consequently always relates to the cultural views and ideological perceptions of its creators.
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From controversial issues such as racial views or gender equality, to the politicized use of the characters through propaganda; animated films have remained center stage in this regard. It is therefore, my purpose to showcase some of these ties in relation to the animated films Cinderella (1950) and the Princess and the Frog (2009) through this excerpt. In its course, I will also look into some of the impacts that these animated films impacts on the public who watch them in relation to racial and gender equality stereotypes.
In the years that Disney animations took over the animation industry in the mid-1900s, there was a contentious portrayal of women as lower in comparison to men. Not only evident in the job departments, but it also happens to be clear in the animated films themselves. Walt Disney’s Cinderella, which was made in the year 1950, depicted Cinderella as a girl who had to be found by her prince charming to be saved. In the story, we do not really see her trying to fight for what is her own. Instead, she takes on the role of the submissive woman who requires the aid of some external power. The character arc of the night in shining armor has brought forth the norm of expectation; whereby most of the female populous familiar with this kind of film structure expect to be whisked away from their troubles by some prince-like figure. In the general scheme of things, some may not even realize it but they do harbor such expectation. Some guys play into this perception and feed it by showing up constantly as the knight in white while girls keep to the stereotype that has been built around princesses making them plan their wedding dresses that trail back to the church’s doors and even spending vast sums in the need to look like the princess. I am not really saying that it is wrong to look good in a good dress, with a good-looking horse pulling at your good-looking pumpkin-shaped, gold-plated chariot. It is all a matter of perspective.
However, it should be noted that this has become sort of a worldwide culture; which in retrospect, is degrading to the female populous. Look at it from this perspective: Walt Disney managed the process of story-making from its beginning to the very end therefore, all the ideas required his approval their use in the animated films in his company. If he wanted to, he could have easily replaced the European stereotypes with ones that had an American basis. Therefore, the animated movies made by Disney held plenty of the middle-American expectations in the gender inequality department, majorly following predetermined patterns which worked to drill this damsel in distress ideology into the minds of a lot of young girls. Some critics saw this as the overall Americanization and sanitization of the animated films. Since Walt Disney had climbed up from rags to riches morphing his company into a world renowned franchise, he sought to sternly preach the on the American work ethic through each of his animations. His remaining nostalgic for the patriarchal content in his movies that was seemingly old-fashioned saw him fill the world with gender stereotypes that have lived on for ages.
Racial stereotypes are expressively seen in the 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. As directed by John Musker and Ron Clements the film’s plot had a girl build herself up as the main chef earning money to build her own restaurant. Its plotline had femininity portrayed as more able to take charge. This was majorly in a bid to quell the belief system and change it to a more equal gender basis. However, a controversial act in the studio’s proposed naming of the main protagonist, who happen to be the first mainstream black Disney princess as Maddy sparked major backlash since the name’s pronunciation is closely associated with prior generations’ female black slaves. The film also portrays her prince as having a lighter skin and her town’s close affiliation with Voodoo; all of which suspiciously hinted at bouts of racism carefully concealed in the magical love story. This film purportedly represents different ethnical setups as leading and others as having to struggle; i.e. the contrast between the black protagonist having to struggle to make her own money in order to buy her restaurant and her white best friend who got anything she wanted from her rich parents. This plot line struggles in self contradiction as it brings to light the truthful stereotypes that exist all the while purporting others such as the name controversy. The film thus, builds a perception of racial superiority in the case of white versus black societies. Therefore, most of the communities’ children grew up thinking that it was okay to treat those who don’t look like them – the black community – as a lower part of the human species. This would later develop into a skewed perspective of humanity leading to racial as well as gender discrimination. In turn, this damaged the people at an individual level leading to behavioral patterns such as low self-esteem or misconceptions of body image as well as eating disorders.
The prevailing ideology is commonly recognized as the collective norms and values that the most powerful class of the privileged adhere to in their control of information transmission through the media. In their power, they then rewrite history and current perceptions of the people into their own shared identity and omit the minorities’ voice from the pages of culture. Such prevalent ideals are vivid in the reason why we see the preference of animation audiences to the castle, kings, queens and knight based animated films as compared to those of the lower social class. Critics summarize Disney’s ideologies as both anti-intellectual and conservative. It should be taken into account that in the franchise that in both animated films, the female leads were either orphaned or raised by a father figure. The maternal figures underdevelopments in both story lines mainly made the leads to get portrayed as symbols of helpless dependence on their husbands all in an effort to sustain the patriarchal traditions. This further emphasizes the deluded positioning of women as unimportant.
Culture has always been a broad term in regards to its historical aspects. This plays into the defined instance of a bipolar category in regards to time. Historically; i.e. from the past to the present timeline, culture has constantly focused on arts delivered through performances and shows in a bid to ensure the embracing of cultural heritage by the viewers. Therefore, the viewing of both films can gain association with the moral decadence that we see today in which such stereotypes are morally acceptable. Through their medium, they provided a platform through the course of this post-digital error of cultural expression. The impact they have made on the generation that grew up watching them as well as films related to their ideologies has constantly remained on the negative. The future as depicted by the films endings is inclined towards one where these stereotypes will be looked into since the two films successfully brought them to light. Viewing the matter from a perspective where we see just how much places of women in the society have changed in relation to Cinderella, then we can safely predict a parallel future for the latter animated movie. In terms of the left-center-right concept definition by Giannetti, then both films exhibit plotlines in which the natural order is determined by a monarchy. Even the latter which is more harmonized with capitalism form of business is still governed by the actions of the royal family. The plots themselves revolve around the royal family. Thus, they both fall under the Monarchist Theocratic Right. In truth however, the animation films didn’t only produce the negative influences on the people. They had a positive influence in regards to the female rights. In a single dimensional view, we can argue that the character arc of Princess Tiana in the latter animated film is tailored towards empowering the female populous. Since the films’ medium works through the reflection of the ideals onto all those watching it; it has made it possible for the creation of the distinctive parts that are inclusive of the people’s social practices. The education and skills provided through the story’s compelling natures teaches ways of cultural expression.
Cinderella’s ideologies in its content remained implicit in nature since there is a large sugarcoating of the damsel in distress stereotypes with beauty, magic, mystery and good overcoming evil. In its plotline, the person viewing its gets lost in the content so deeply that they begin to root for Cinderella to be saved by having the glass slipper fit her. In this respect, they forget that a woman should not feel the need to await a knight in shining armor. On the contrary, most of the content in The Princess and the Frog animated film makes for a racially charged argument for the viewers; from its location in the timely racially volatile region of New Orleans to the prince having white heritage and the princess’ name to her having to work double as hard as those with lighter skin tones than her. This latter film forces the viewer to ponder on the workings of society, thereby making it explicit in its ideological expression.
In light of the above information, it is then right to judge both animated films as strong focal points from which ideologies spread and were either supported or rebuked by the general public. This coming as a result of their getting affected either positively or negatively: i.e. women’s empowerment and racism respectively. Both were and will continue to be strong influences on the cultural perception as well as the social development of generations who watch them. Thus these film making procedures should include painstakingly thorough looks into their meanings.
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