Film and TV

Why Do Disney Films Have So Few Women in Them?

There's no argument to be had that women are in fact underrepresented in Hollywood. Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, the executive director at the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, compiled a report of the characters in the top 100 grossing films of 2011. Despite women being 51 percent of the population, they only represented 33 percent of the speaking roles in movies, up 5 percent from 2002. Worse than that, only one out of ten films featured a clear female lead protagonist. We won't even go into how embarrassing it is that neither Marvel or DC has launched a solo female superhero at a time when The Hunger Games is breaking box office records and even a terrible film like Lucy can rake in almost $500 million.

I got into a discussion about this online when someone spoke up about Disney as a counter argument. He said he couldn't even remember a male lead in a Disney film besides The Jungle Book. It's become a pretty silly and sad talking point of the Men's Rights "movement" that Disney has descended into this hot bed of radical feminism bent of emasculating men. "Where are teh menz?" they ask of this den of she wolves where men are barely present.

Which is a little weird because women are nearly as poorly represented in animated Disney films as they are in other films.

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Wait, what? Yes it's absolutely true. The Disney Princess marketing juggernaut may seem like a massive wave of pink, non-dude pop culture, but if you sit down and look at the actual statistics on Disney films you see that 68 percent of them clearly feature male protagonists. Here, I made a chart...in MS Word. Don't judge me.

There are currently 99 official films in the Disney theatrical animated library. Admittedly these do include movies that I'm sure a lot of people might scratch their heads and debate. Should Pixar, Touchstone and the Studio Ghibli films that Disney distributes count the same as the more core products? What in the blue hell was Roadside Romeo? Doug should be Nick Toons, not Disney, and the Jim Carrey Christmas Carol isn't really a cartoon, and...

I don't know what to tell you. These are the flicks Disney puts their name on, so they count.

Looking at the chart you can see that the animated movies released by Disney have featured men in the most starring roles going all the way back to the beginning. Though Snow White was both the first feature and the first Disney Princess, she actually shares top billing with seven other named males characters, six of whom have speaking parts. The same goes for Belle and Tianna. The marketing department may have more or less excluded Naveen and Beast from the merchandising dolls department, but Princess and the Frog is as much Naveen's story as Tianna, and Beauty and the Beast is almost entirely about the changes Beast goes through, not Belle.

Even one of the princesses, Jasmine, is not the protagonist of her movie. Aladdin is.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner