My question for Film & Media

' A close study of whether representations of women in Disney films mirror the societal and cultural changes that have dominated gender and cinema over the last 70 years.'

My chosen three focus films are:

Snow white



I have chosen these films to compare and contrast the different representations of women over the 70 year period (Snow white being the earliest in 1938 to Mulan 1998) to see if the representations that Disney has of women have moved on in these films as much as it has in society.

I am interested to find out what people consider to be a 'Princess' and why these representations have stuck throughout the years and are now being taught to younger children.

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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Idiots

The Idiots (1998) Directed by Lars Von Trier.
I found that this film was very similar to a documentary style film. It follows the codes and conventions of Dogma '95 which gives the film a very normal look to it.It is an independent film that doesn't appear to be glamorized. The concept of the film is for a group of friends to find their 'inner idiot.' To prove this they have to 'spazz out' in front of their close friends and family.I find the film very odd and is very different to any other piece of cinema that I have seen before. The scene that I find quite shocking is after the 'sex scene' when two others go into the bedroom and begin kissing which leads to sex. Although the scene before hand is very graphic this doesn't shock me as much. When watching to couple begin to kiss and undress I feel very uncomfortable watching as I feel as if I am intruding on their privacy. In this scene they also act like 'Idiots' so there is an awkwardness between their relationship and their relationship with the viewers. Another scene that I find awkward to watch is when Karen 'The newest member' goes home to pursue her 'act' within the company of her family. The house is tiny and has a lot of people in the scene. The movement of the camera is very close to the characters creating a very claustrophobic environment at her home. This is reflecting her life before she became friends with the 'Idiots' as if everyone is stepping on each others toes. So maybe she felt more 'at home' playing 'the Idiot' with Stoffer and his friends, than facing up to her family and mourning for her dead baby. This shows selfishness and a lack of reality, the consequences of acting like 'an Idiot.'

The Accused

The Accused (1988) Directed by Jonathan Kaplan. 
The shocking factor in this film for me is the rape scene. I feel that the camera movements help to emphasize this scene as being horrific and terrifying. The camera cuts between jaggerred movements in-between the crowd of men standing in front of Jodie Foster who plays the victim. In certain shots the camera plays Jodie Fosters eyes as a piont of view shot. This engages us, the audience into feeling as if we are there, rather than standing on the sidelines. The intensity of the scene also adds to the suspense. For instance we also see a point of view shot from the 'accused' men. which makes the audience feel as if we are the ones that are taking turns as to who rapes her. this scene is very full on and violent, it isn't glamorized or covered up. It shows it how it is.

Life of Brian

Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) Directed by Terry Jones. 
This film is a comical take on religion using Brian (a jewish man) who is mistaken as Jesus Christ. There seems to be a shock element that runs throughout the whole film with regards to religion and the Bible. However this film would only effect people that have religious beliefs. As I don't, I find the film humorous but can still sympathize with people that might easily become offended by this film. When the film first came out there was a huge amount of controversy with regards to christians commenting on Terry Jones' work. I believe that he as an individual is allowed to make any film with any concept of his choice. I just feel that it is a shame that Christians can't respect his views on the Bible and of Jesus. As the film is now a few years old it is starting to become more acceptable to people who choose to view it, as apposed to years ago when the film was getting slaughtered for its humorous and comical edge to a serious issue. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Annotated catalogue


Annotated catalogue                                                                                    


Item 1:  Snow white and the seven dwarfs (1937 Dir. David Hand)

  ‘Her skin as white as snow, her lips as red as a rose, and so she was called Snow white.’ This is my main focus film, and is the start of my understanding to the way in which women have been stereotyped from the earliest of Disney films. The way that women have been portrayed in this film is through costume, narrative and the mise-en-scene created around the female character. In order to ‘set the scene’ to how the vast majority of women in later Disney films should conform to. This film was made prior to women having the same equal rights as men and is an early example of how men especially, perceived women. They see the woman’s role to be a housewife, do the cooking and cleaning and to look after the children whilst the husband is away at work. An illustration of this is were Snow white is only allowed to stay at the dwarves house if she promises to do household chores while the men go off to work at the mine.

Item 2: Cinderella (1950 Dir. Clyde Geronimi)

 Cinderella is a typical ‘rags to riches’ fairytale. She begins a slave in her own home, she ends up running away with Prince charming to live happily ever after. This notion of  ‘a happy ending’ seems to run through all Disney films and this could be the key concept to Walt Disney’s auteur status, ‘The man with the happy endings.’ Cinderella is perhaps not such an achievement to Disney’s empire as my other two films but is between the times of my two other focus films, and shows the changes of how women’s roles have changed in Disney films along with how women’s roles have changed in society. This also helps me to understand whether women’s roles are being mirrored or whether Disney have moved on but not as far forward as it had been anticipated.

Item 3: Mulan (1998 Dir.  Tony Bancroft)

 This is the millennium of Disney films, and to date the only film that changes how women have been represented since the first Disney film. This film challenges its spectators by showing a different cultural background to its main character and showing women in a whole new light. This film represents Mulan as being a fighter, independent and most importantly not dependant on a man. Although this all seems this way on the surface, I feel that Disney is still degrading women at the roots of the film. Mulan throughout the film has a man dominating her and the song ‘ I’ll make a man out of you’ suggests that you are considered to be a man if you do the things Mulan is doing, and that you cannot be accepted as a strong female character.


Item 4: ‘Good girls and wicked witches- ‘ (Amy M Davis)


Item 5: ‘Re-release of snow white and the seven dwarfs’

(‘Sight and sound’ magazine) (August 1994 edition)

 This article from sight and sound provided me with detailed analysis of the film with reference to how women are perceived in Disney films. It also spoke of the conventional mainstream idea of young princess falls in love with a prince and they live happily ever after. With, of course, the women being saved by the man.


Item 6: ‘Representation of female character’ (Essay)

  This essay looked at the changing of the times between Snow white and Mulan. As these two films are also two of my focus films, this provided me with additional information on the specific topic area that I am focusing on.

Item 7: ‘Disney’s presentation of women’ (Essay)

  This has put women’s roles in Disney films into three positions, and explains in detail who falls into which category. I have found a great deal of useful information; the essay is detailed and gives me facts as well as opinions.

Item 8; ‘ Too few animated women break the Disney mould’ (Essay)

 This information was enlightening and provided me with a number of quotes that conform to responses I received from my primary research. It included stereotypes on a ‘Disney woman’s’ appearance, and again conformed my thoughts about ‘the Disney mould.’

Item 9: ‘Disney essay’ (Blog)

 This talks in some detail about pseudo-feminism. It also discusses Disney as using women as a sexual object or desire. The article is anti-Disney films and the author is passionate about the subject that they are discussing.

Focus groups

Item 10: (Children)

Item 11: (Teenagers)

From this focus group I asked them to draw a ‘Traditional Disney woman,’ the responses that I got were stereotypical ideologies of women in Disney films that were being repeated in the drawings that I had asked them to draw.

Item 12: (Adults)

This was my primary research, I found very remarkable descriptions and quotes from the adults as they are the generation that have been brought up with these ideas of how women should behave and act.

Analysis of film characters

Item 13: Analysing photos of Disney characters

 This was research that I had undertaken myself in order to understand how the appearance of women had changed over the 70-year period. By doing this exercise it brought to my attention just how many Disney women all look the same and have the same features. Within the Disney mould there is no such thing as individuality.

Item 14: Analysis of my three focus films

I had made notes on all three of my focus films. This enabled me to gather information about the mise-en-scene and the body language of the three female characters, which was obviously information that I could get from analysing the images of them.

Rejected Items

IMDB Forum

Item 16: ‘Representations of Disney women’ - Cinderella

  I created a message board on IMDB. I received 2 comments which were not of any use to me or that would help to move my research further. 

Item 17: ‘Representations of Disney women’ - Mulan

 From the post that I put on to IMDB I only received one comment, which again, along with the other posts I put on to my other focus group areas I did not receive feedback that was of any use to me.

Item 18: ‘Representations of Disney women’ - Snow white

 On all three message boards I posted the same question, however with regards to the Snow white post I did not receive any feedback from anyone.

Item 19: ‘Discuss how the representation of women in Disney films has changed overtime with reference to ‘Snow white’ and ‘Mulan.’ (Essay)

This essay was a short and also brief analysis of Disney women’s representations. It did provide me with some good point and quotes, however I have already come across the same type of information but instead in a much more detailed format.

Item 20: ’On Disney, daughters and dads.’ (Essay)

This essay is lengthy and with a few high-quality quotes, however the essay is talking about Disney films in general rather than focusing on the specific subject area that I am researching

Item 21: ‘Princess series’- Snow white (Blog)

This blog has been written by someone who has an opinion, but this lacks facts about the film, as I need to look at quotes, opinionated text isn’t particularly the type of information that I am looking for.                  

Item 22: ‘Princess series’- Cinderella (Blog)

This analysis was lacking depth. The information that it provided I have already read from other sources. It was also brief and completely opinionated.

Item 23: ‘Mulan’ (Empire review)

 This review is a description of what happens in the film. It has not given me any information at all of how Mulan is represented in the film.

Item 24: ‘Cinderella’ (Empire review)

 This in turn is a very brief and descriptive review from empire. Which again I feel has no information that is new to me and that I do not already know from looking at other secondary resources.

Item 25: ‘Snow white’ (Empire review)

This review has only described what happens within the film, and does not go into detail about the subject matter that I have been looking into. Therefore, I feel that the information from this review is information that I have already found out from watching the films.


Item 26: ‘ How are women represented in Disney films’ (Blog)

This was a blog that I had set up in order to get additional responses to my hypothesis. I had posted a question on my blog, which had a multiple choice that people could respond to. As only 3 people have responded I feel that the poll is not of use to me as not enough people have left feedback.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Research proposal

Analysing my Primary research

 For my primary research I have chosen to produce a focus group. So far I have only done one but plan on doing 3 (children /teenagers/adults) in order to get different responses from a variety of age groups. So far I have done a small sample of teenagers aged between 17-18. I used a mixture of girls and boys in order to make it fair and altogether I used 12 teenagers. My focus group questions were:


·      Draw your own interpretation of a Disney woman.

·      From the sheet in front of you circle your favourite Disney character and write next to it why.

·      Next to the picture of Mulan, Cinderella, and Snow white describe them in 5 words.

·      Show 2 clips (you tube) Do the representations of women you see in these clips mirror changes in gender over the years? Discuss

·      If you were creating your own Disney film draw how your female main character would look.                    

          From the 2 pictures I had asked everyone to draw I made a spreadsheet in order to collect all the information that I had received from this, I was then able to create a graph, which allowed my findings to be easily read and compared. 

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The graph above is of the first picture I had asked the people in my focus group to do. The results from this have mainly been a stereotype of a traditional Disney princess, for example most people have drawn the women to have long fair hair, to be slim, and also to be white.

 (For now I have added some results from a few adults in order to compare with, as I haven’t yet done anther age group as a focus group, this test is not fair, as I have used 12 teenagers and 3 adults. I have chosen to do this In order to see if it would work when I collect my real data, as for now this is only a sample test run.)

::Desktop:Picture 3.png











The table above I created in order to collect all my findings and to keep all my results in one place, from this sheet is were I can collect all the necessary data and create charts, like the previous one, which allows me to compare and contrast results from different genders and also age groups.


  I will complete all my focus groups using the same amount of people from each age group and gender and will end up with 6 charts to analyse. I feel that this is the best method of primary research for my topic as it allows me to get the correct information necessary there and then, rather than handing out a questionnaire and only getting back information that isn’t going to help me move my research forward.


So far my findings are conforming to what I had expected, however I don’t know whether this is because the age group I have sampled on is my own age group, therefore this might mean that everyone from the same age group has the same opinions as one another.


Amy Head


Research tool

for my primary research i have chosen to produce a focus group. so far i have only done one but plan on doing 3 (children /teenagers/adults) so far i have done a small sample of teenagers aged between 17-18. i used  mixture of girls and boys in order to make it fair and altogether i used 12 people. my focus group questions were:

 Draw your own interpretation of a Disney woman.

·            From the sheet in front of you circle your favourite Disney character and write next to it why.

·           Next to the picture of Mulan, Cinderella and Snow white describe them in 5 words.

·           Show 2 clips (you tube) Do the representations of women you see in these clips mirror changes in gender over the years? Discuss.

·           If you were creating your own Disney film draw how your female main character would look.                    

      From the 2 pictures i had asked everyone to draw i made a spreadsheet in order to collect all the information that i had received from this i was then able to create a graph which allowed my findings to be easily read and compared. 




Sunday, 12 October 2008


So far my research has consisted of secondary research rather than primary. I have looked at web sites and blogs to get an idea of how other people see Disney representing women over the years. So far what i have found is that women are given a status in the Disney world of being dependant on men, they are seen as being unable to defend themselves as a prince always comes and saves the day.

 Also the image of the 'Disney women' is very much all the same, very skinny,  carefully groomed with delicate make up and beautiful dresses. The women are expected to cook and clean before the man comes home and have his dinner on the table for him, these are more traditional views of women, in contrast to how Mulan is represented, more manly than usual, with shorter hair tied up. Although she still is very pretty and petite which links in very much so to the older way that women were portrayed. 

For primary research i will be looking at focus groups from ages 8-9 and also of people 30+ of mixed genders in order to get a hands on responses to how other people from different ages and genders perceive women.

 I will show clips from my 3 focus films and ask them to draw a Disney women, I will also ask them who their favourite Disney women is and why and ask them to come up with 3 words to describe the 3 women in my focus films. This should give me a broader knowledge and a better indication of what other people think rather than just what I think.