Disney & Bordo

Luis Ramos

Growing up, I do not recall my parents having any issues with my siblings and me watching Disney movies. If anything, they were naïve to realize some of the hidden messages that existed within these G-rating films for such a young audience. I mean, they literally bought us every film that was ever produced or directed by Disney. They did not have a problem with them and neither did we. I guess that is still the same up to this point disregarding the fact that I am starting to realize these little things that were unidentified and non-recognizable during my childhood. In a way, I know my parents never questioned the messages that Disney movies and other similar kid’s movies sent out to its audience because they were not completely capable of understanding what was going on in the movie. My parents never sat down with us to watch The Lion King or Aladdin. They never dared to waste their time trying to understand what the characters were saying, since at that point of our lives, they were only able to speak Spanish. Now, who knows what they would think about those popular Disney movies? It seems like I’ll be having a Disney marathon with them when I head back home for break. This shall be fun!

It’s interesting to read in Martin and Kazyak’s article, “Hetero-romantic Love and Heterosexiness in Children’s G-Rated Films” how the heteroromantic relationships portrayed in most Disney movies have caused children to assume that life is all about these heteronormative qualities. Through Disney movies, I learned about the existence of love between men and women. I grew up thinking that life was the same for everyone, that everyone was capable of falling in love and getting married. Girls in my class were constantly talking about wanting to be princesses, as us boys attempted to be their “Prince Charming” or “knight in shining armor.” What was surprising from this study was the fact that Disney movies had hidden messages that can be damaging to the way that children develop ideas about gender, sexuality, and even romance. What my parents thought were innocent movies for kids to watch, turned out not to be not so innocent. I came across a site that featured some of the hidden images that have been found in animated movies. As a child, I would have never actually noticed such thing when watching the movie, but now, I think I would actually be more aware of things I didn’t necessarily catch during my childhood.


When reading Bordo’s “Gentleman or Beast? The Double Bind of Masculinity” chapter, I felt that she was pinpointing some of the negative aspects of the society of gender. Men are supposed to be either “gentleman” or “beasts” and completely associating with either category can be detrimental to a man’s reputation as well as forever dictate how people perceive him. The existence of these two categories contribute to their role in society, which is dictated by the constant negative images of men in the media. Bordo argues that it is the media, society’s expectations, as well as the female culture that encourages the beast image. Such images of hyper-masculine, aggressive males have instilled fear and assumptions in people, especially females. In order to prevent those fears and assumptions, men have to find a balance between being a “beast” and a “gentleman.” Men today are expected to fit into a constrictive box that is dictated by numerous rules and expectations, but does that necessarily mean that they can’t be a sensitive gentleman at the same time? These are the contradictory expectations males are expected to navigate based on their role in society.

I always think of a Bachelor as the perfect example of a “gentleman” and “beast.” They’re often hyper-masculine, yet they have that sweet and caring side that is hopefully going to help them get the girl. I started watching this new MTV reality show called “Are You the One?” and from what I’ve seen so far, most of the male contestants on that show are basically “gentlemen” and “beasts.” It’s something that’s expected of them from society, therefore they must play that role as they are on TV, not to just seem “normal” to others watching them, but to also play their cards right, and win the competition on the show, which is finding their compatible match and also winning a share of the million dollar prize. It’s an interesting show. I was hooked on the first episode, maybe because I’m a huge fan for reality shows, but you guys should check it out.


6 thoughts on “Disney & Bordo

  1. Jihmmy N. Sanchez

    Luis, we share the same experience with Disney movies, when my sister and I were growing up (we’re only three years apart) we would always watch Disney movies when we were bored or had nothing to do. Movies, especially Disney movies and also other animated movies like those by Pixar were always the ones playing on the TV. My parents at the time were very new to American customs, they did not know how to speak any english so they could not comprehend what was being said in the movies. Although the coul have sat down with my sister and I to watch the films, a lot of the times they did not because they were both always working so they did not always have the time or patience to sit down and watch a “kids movie”. By the time I was about five or six years old I had acquired a large VHS collection of Disney and Pixar movies, my parents like many in our situation must have assumed that because the movies were advertised as children’s movie then they must have been completely appropriate. I’m making the assumption that my parents did not worry about the content of Disney movies because they assumed that Disney had already made sure that all of their content that was intended for a younger audience to be free of genderization of males and females into boys and girls.

  2. Gina Pol

    Luis, like you and countless of other kids who grew up watching the Disney Pixar films, it often goes by unnoticed the messages that are depicted in the these movies that teach us heteronormativity. I grew up loving Disney movies and in some ways still do, so now I am stuck with a love hate relationship for it. While I think that they are very enjoyable and fun to watch, it bugs me to see how a princess somehow always needs a prince to save her. The Disney Pixar movie Brave about a Scottish princess who does not find a prince in the movie, but instead developed a strong mother-daughter bond sparked a discussion about this surprising change in plot line for a Disney film. An even more controversial discussion was the makeover that was given to Princess Merida in the film to be thinner, have wider eyes, and less frizzy hair. These are the types of actions that contribute to the messages that young girls are receiving about beauty.

    Here is the link to a post about this makeover:

  3. When i was little i remember being bothered by the large amount of emphasis that was placed in the princesses finding a prince and getting married. It kind of reminded me of the way that my family constaly pushed the idea of when i grew up i had to go to school but most importantly that i had to find a husband that I could get married to and live happily ever after with. When you grow up in a home that constantly idolizes these ideas so much and when social media places all of these ideas all around you these is nothing much to do but to conform and accept. Over the years i began to question weather i liked Disney or not it was so hard not to love because it was so popular and all my friends liked it , i mean i wanted to be a princess but i didn’t want to be a princess who could only rely on a man saving her, a princess’ whose success was completely dependent upon de abilities of the prince. I believe that Disney movies would have a better effect of they focused on embracing the qualities and differences that young girls have instead of questioning and penalizing those things that seem different and do not fir into the ‘perfect girl’ category.
    Karen Dayanna Cardona

  4. Sophie Sharps

    I agree with much of what you mentioned, especially regarding Disney moves and how naive parents seem to let their children watch these movies. I think that beyond a language barrier, parents generally trust the brand name of Disney as a reputable entertainment company without actually examining the lessons these movies teach. It is incredible to watch clips of these movies now and to see how seemingly blatant some of these messages are, even if they are incredibly subtle and go unnoticed as kids.

    It’s interesting that you brought up the Bachelor, because I don’t personally watch it but I know a few friends who were recently discussing the “scandal” that happened recently. Even in this article, Slate explains the strange set up of the Bachelor and the seeming double-standards of the premise. They refer to the Bachelor as a prude who blushes at the word “vagina” but later gets to pursue numerous suitors. An interesting read! http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/02/04/the_bachelor_clare_sleeps_with_juan_pablo_exposes_the_show_s_weird_sexual.html

  5. Olivia Rabbitt

    Sophie, I love that article on the Bachelor! The fact that the only place where sex is acceptable on the show is in the “Fantasy Suite” speaks volumes to the intended audience and perspective. The show has strong sexual undertones (much like Bordo pointed out in children’s movies), but any explicit mention of even sexuality becomes immediately taboo. It is interesting to me that even the most progressive and adult aimed shows which reject immediate monogamy and exclusivity still blame the impropriety of a sexual act on the female involved.

    1. Bianca Scofield

      I also had a similar exposure to Disney movies as a kid. Reading both articles was difficult for me because I was so obsessed with Disney and all the movies (I kind of still am) that I almost would prefer not to know. Although ignorance is bliss, both articles were good information to know when it comes time to raise my own children. After reading your post I thought about my gender identity, growing up being obsessed with Disney, and my sister’s identity, only watching current Disney movies such as Despicable Me, Brave and Frozen. My sister has not seen any of the “classics” and is actually a lot “tougher” and more “tom-boyish” than I was as a kid. Its very interesting, it could have an impact or not at all, but there is definitely a difference in our perception of our gender.

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