There’s an issue with some Disney films, say researchers
It appears even fictitious characters face an uphill battle when it comes to gender equality.
A depressing new study has found female characters in Disney films speak less lines than their male counterparts. The stats were uncovered by linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer after they began analyzing the dialogue featured in the company’s animated films.
According to the data, “men speak 71 per cent of the time in Beauty and the Beast, 76 per cent of the time in Pocahontas and 77 per cent of the time in Mulan.” Even in The Little Mermaid, women are given a scant 32 per cent of the lines.
“The only exceptions to the female-minority rule are Tangled and Brave, whose female characters speak 52 per cent and 74 cent of the lines,” cited Quartz.
Ironically, female characters used to speak way more than they do now. In classics like Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs women were given 50 to 70 per cent of a film’s dialogue. Part of the reason for the decline is that studios tend to place male characters in leading or more prominent roles.
“There’s one isolated princess trying to get someone to marry her, but there are no women doing any other things,” Fought told The Washington Post. “There are no women leading the townspeople to go against the Beast, no women bonding in the tavern together singing drinking songs, women giving each other directions, or women inventing things. Everybody who’s doing anything else, other than finding a husband in the movie, pretty much, is a male.”
The researchers became interested in the topic after noting that young girls watch these animated flicks frequently. The duo was curious about how they impact notions of gender roles.
“We don’t believe that little girls naturally play a certain way or speak a certain way,” Fought, a professor of linguistics at Pitzer College, said. “They’re not born liking a pink dress. At some point we teach them. So a big question is where girls get their ideas about being girls.”
News that gender inequality exists in Hollywood is nothing new, but it’s surprising that it affects both animated and real-life film stars.
Last year, the University of Southern California found female A-listers are featured onscreen less than their male counterparts. “Researchers found that from 2007 to 2014, less than a third of speaking parts in the most popular films were female,” CBS News reported. “And those numbers didn’t improve over time.”
Female representation at an executive level has also been an issue in the entertainment industry. In May 2015, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent letters to federal bodies asking them to investigate the hiring practices of certain companies, largely because so few women are in director-level positions.
“Less than two per cent of last year’s top-grossing films were directed by women. Only 12 per cent of television episodes were directed by women. There is a big gap and there is a problem there,” said ACLU attorney Melissa Goodman in a statement. “Blatant and extreme gender inequality in this large and important industry is shameful and unacceptable,” she added in a separate interview with Fox News.
Back in October, Jennifer Lawrence addressed the inequality in an article in Lenny. “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with d—-, I didn’t get mad at Sony,” she wrote. “I got mad at myself… I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.”
Meryl Streep even waded into the conversation saying, “It’s not an outrageous request, wage equality. It’s just a no-brainer. It should, it should happen.”
While Fought and Eisenhauer’s research is still in its infancy, both hope their findings will help educate people and parents on gender equality.
“Are these movies really so great for little girls to watch? When you start to look at this stuff, you have to question that a little bit,” concluded Fought.
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