The purpose of this research project was to examine representations of male characters and masculinity in Disney animated feature films. Social learning theory, gender and hegemonic masculinity were used to theoretically frame this study. Twenty-two movies were examined; a total of ninety-one characters were included in the analysis. The movies included in the sample were produced between 1930 and 2007. This study sought to examine the dimensions of character descriptions, physical descriptions, socioeconomic status, sexuality, family structures and practices, and aggression as well as to understand how constructions of masculinity in Disney films changed over time.
The results of the present study regarding character role indicate that good characters were most often middle aged, slender and fit but not muscular, single, royalty, and had community as family. They were most often heterosexual, equally likely to be romantically involved as to be not romantically involved, were sexual in nature, and were most often the victims of physical aggression.
Evil characters were most often middle aged, slender and fit but not muscular, single, royalty, had community as family, and were well dressed. Evil characters were most likely to trap other characters and to steal.
Neutral characters were most often old/elderly, overweight and not muscular, and were most often employed as inventors, royalty, and diamond miners. They were also most often single and to have community as family.
The results regarding character centrality indicated that central characters were most often white, slender and fit but not muscular, single, middle aged, showed physical strength, and were well dressed compared to peripheral characters. Central characters were heterosexual, romantically involved, sexual in nature, engaged in hand to hand fighting, and engaged in social isolation and name calling.
Peripheral characters were most often white, slender and fit but not muscular, single, and also more likely than central characters to be old/elderly.
For the analysis of masculinity across time, it was found that the types of masculinity shown in Disney films did not match with hegemonic masculinity historically. Overall, the most common theme of masculinity that was observed throughout all decades was the fatherhood movement.
- Ramasubramanian, Srividya Professor and Presidential Impact Fellow