Disney Heroines and America:
Yesterday and Today
Movies reflect current American values. Symbols and signs of these shifting values creep into every aspect of the American people’s lives. The entertainment industry provides an example by depicting the powerful influence animated heroines have on cultural trends. In animation, the heroine archetype has come to mean the “ideal person”: a symbol of the qualities, attitudes, popular trends, and those socially acceptable norms which are the most desirable. Has the public brought this upon themselves by buying into the movie-madness scheme, which dictates how one should think, feel, and, ...view middle of the document...
The Disney Company commenced with consistent releases of full-length animated films-driven by Disney’s vision of growth. Illustrating his vision, it was revealed to the public that the pictures weren’t made just to make money, but that the money was made to enable more pictures. Even with Walt Disney’s death in 1966, the vision conceived by the company continued to permeate American culture. His primary aim was to entertain, yet Disney hoped that the public would derive lessons from his animations as well. This aspiration predicted in impact the “lessons” (whether good or bad) would have on every child’s (and adult’s) unconscious mind.
These shifting ideas in America previous to the 1930’s and early 1940’s altered entertainment, specifically in regards to women and their place and role in society. With the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1020, which granted women the right to vote, came a decline and eventually the disappearance of women’s movements. A period of relative inactivity followed. With suffrage finally granted, most women assumed that the need for women’s movements were groundless. During World War II (1939-1945), several million American women took factory production jobs to aid the war effort. But after the war ended, these women were urged to leave the work force to make room for the returning servicemen. Society encouraged women to become full-time housewives. Devotion to home and family and the rejection of a career emerged as the ideal image for women (World Book Encyclopedia 388). This view of womanhood all but replaced and organization struggle for women’s rights until the 1960’s (Friedan 157).
Emerging from this era came the popular models of family life depicted in Andy Griffith’s and the Cleaver’s homes. Aunt Bea and Mrs. Cleaver were displayed as cheerful, nurturing homemakers who were conservative in thier dress and hairstyles. They accepted the roles of wives and mothers with an innocent (if somewhat naive) demeanor. Though these model examples may depict and “idealist” family, the women of this era did seem content to let the men win the bread for the family and themselves bake it.
This “homemaker-role” stereotype of women clearly was the culturally acceptable norm for the times and was reiterated by Snow White in 1937. As a soft-spoken, kind-hearted, gentle girl, Snow White willingly submits to her vain and selfish step-mother’s cruel demands. Making no attempts to free herself, she is eventually forced to flee for her life. Upon finding the seven dwarfs’ home, she immediately responds to her instincts of cooking and cleaning. When the seven dwarfs discover the princess, she pleads with them to let her stay by appealing to their needs. “If you let me stay,” she promises, “I will keep house for you! I’ll wash and sew and sweep and cook-.” Once Show White guarantees them plum pudding and gooseberry pie they decide she is staying! Immediately Snow White begins mothering, insisting...