Disney - Sexism and Animation
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Thread: Disney - Sexism and Animation

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    Disney - Sexism and Animation

    Hi all,

    Our study group recently brought up the issue of Disney's role in the art community. Besides discussing how The Lion King was such utter tripe in comparison to National Geographic's The Last Lions, we also skirted the sexism issue present in almost all Disney features. I did some digging over coffee and found this remarkably well preserved letter copied and posted on Flickr.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/polaroi...5233/?edited=1


    I hope you all enjoy....

    sehertu mannu narāṭu ina pānāt šagapīru ningishzidda
    abrahadabra
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    Was this post intended with starting a legitimate discussion or a political fistfight? It just seems needlessly malignant to Disney. And if you're going to point out all the people that have ever been sexist and put them on a moral blacklist so everyone knows how gosh darned sexist they are, CA is going to need more bandwidth. And you're going to need more coffee.



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    The letter itself is hilarious, reminded me of a snippet from a book on "how women should behave" we had to read in history class. It's also more of a reflection of the time's mentality then Disney's.

    I personally consider Disney to have relatively feminist animated movies. The themes of a women not feeling at her place in society's norms and trying to find her own way have been addressed several time, starting with Ariel who was both curious and adventurous. Mulan was a warrior, Nany, Lilo's sister, was both responsible and independent, and Rapunzel is a long way from Snow White. Unless you'd consider ending up with a boyfriend/getting married to be sexist... I don't see why you'd say all of their features are demeaning to women. Care to elaborate?

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    I am neither an art school hipster nor am I a feminist, so I'm guessing my opinion will be taken with a grain of salt. I don't see anything wrong with Disney or their movies, and I think The Lion King was far above your "utter tripe" valuation. Sexism now and 80 years ago are two entirely different things and to say that Disney should be judged by the standards of the early last century are silly at best and ignorant and ill-informed at worst. It's akin to saying that I'm a bigoted racist because my Grandfather was.

    But hey, it's fun and hip to hate on Disney, keep on keeping on....

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    It is important to be aware of the past and attempt to not repeat it. This letter example refers to the general attitude of the time and place it occurred. Disney certainly hires women to do the creative work in this time period. Why not turn your activism to employment opportunities denied to women now, like serving in combat forces in the US armed services (officially)? I'll probably regret this post.

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    Heh, there's no denying that some Disney films do indeed contain what is now considered sexism. As it's been said, however, that's more a reflection of the times and not the aim of the company as a whole. That said, it doesn't mean that the sexism of the time was a good thing. I do think though that you need to look at the number of films they have made which oppose this idea of sexism to see that they're not stuck in the past.

    I'm always reticent to enter "sexism" arguments because I think I was born slightly sexist (male). In my experience it's always been a case of women being angry that they're not represented equally but then when attempts are made to correct the balance, accusations are made of women merely being given "male" traits, which is further sexism. I've come to the conclusion that all women suffer from gender-insecurity and, like most things in their lives, don't quite know what it is they want.

    Quote Originally Posted by Naomi Ningishzidda View Post
    Besides discussing how The Lion King was such utter tripe in comparison to National Geographic's The Last Lions
    Baahahaha, did you actually discuss this? Seriously?

    How did your discussion on Pingu vs March of the Penguins go?

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    While the Lion King was well made, the fact was it was a note for note rip-off of a wonderful series created by the great Osamu Tezuka. I'm still surprised Disney aren't ashamed of their involvement, especially now that anime - and it's history - has gone relatively mainstream in the past few years. If you're interested in more, read here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PetarB View Post
    While the Lion King was well made, the fact was it was a note for note rip-off of a wonderful series created by the great Osamu Tezuka. I'm still surprised Disney aren't ashamed of their involvement, especially now that anime - and it's history - has gone relatively mainstream in the past few years. If you're interested in more, read here.
    Yea that one was spot on. When I was little they showed the Kimba series in a popular cartoons block in a spanish channel. The fact that they had "never heard of Tezuka nor Kimba until after The Lion King was released" is BS. But I love Disney, so I can't really give them too much shit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by freiheit View Post
    The letter itself is hilarious, reminded me of a snippet from a book on "how women should behave" we had to read in history class. It's also more of a reflection of the time's mentality then Disney's.

    I personally consider Disney to have relatively feminist animated movies. The themes of a women not feeling at her place in society's norms and trying to find her own way have been addressed several time, starting with Ariel who was both curious and adventurous. Mulan was a warrior, Nany, Lilo's sister, was both responsible and independent, and Rapunzel is a long way from Snow White. Unless you'd consider ending up with a boyfriend/getting married to be sexist... I don't see why you'd say all of their features are demeaning to women. Care to elaborate?
    I guess it really depends on your perspective, really. Ariel wasn't satisfied with her place, but she was goddamn princess, I think her yearning had more to do with being an air-headed 16 year old than a woman. Also, y'know, selling her soul to change herself for a man she'd never met.

    Mulan was a warrior, but her entire motivation was her father. AND she besmirches a friggin' job as advisor to the Emperor at the end of the movie to go home and re-adjust to her normal female role in society.

    Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty- these all kind of fail at being substantial characters. But I think that's more of a reflection of the time and source material.

    If you're looking for a empowered female at Disney, you're pretty much looking at Belle.. aaaand kind of Jasmine. My definition of empowered for this is "A character whose main motivation is not to get married, and/or does not drop everything in their life to do so."

    I'm sure I've left a few out, but that's my two cents.

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    When you really think about it though, is there really a problem here? So there are a handful of examples of sexism towards women in Disney films. What about the countless male characters which are portrayed as stereotypically brutish, malevolent and nasty? Surely that's a form of sexism?

    And as M Oreilly says, it's all about perspective. Some women love the character of Ariel and can really relate to her in the same way that a lot of women can relate to Pocahontas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by M_Oreilly View Post
    I guess it really depends on your perspective, really. Ariel wasn't satisfied with her place, but she was goddamn princess, I think her yearning had more to do with being an air-headed 16 year old than a woman. Also, y'know, selling her soul to change herself for a man she'd never met.

    Mulan was a warrior, but her entire motivation was her father. AND she besmirches a friggin' job as advisor to the Emperor at the end of the movie to go home and re-adjust to her normal female role in society.

    Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty- these all kind of fail at being substantial characters. But I think that's more of a reflection of the time and source material.

    If you're looking for a empowered female at Disney, you're pretty much looking at Belle.. aaaand kind of Jasmine. My definition of empowered for this is "A character whose main motivation is not to get married, and/or does not drop everything in their life to do so."

    I'm sure I've left a few out, but that's my two cents.
    lol Well, Ariel might be a princess but no one's perfect right? And unlike her predecessors, her personality wasn't to be a modest, pretty and silent girl.

    Mulan's motivation was to protect her father against his will by going to war. All of the main male cast is also depicted as stupid compared to her. Captain Li is the only one that's not a comic relief and even he has to admit Mulan was right. Actually, it's kind of funny to see a gender reversal on the old "I can't believe you lied to me but now I see that you're earnest and that I was wrong to be mad at you, I love you!".

    Haven't seen tangled and princess and the frog (yet...) but they seemed to have princesses that are a bit more interesting.

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    Whenever anyone brings up all these moral issues they tie to Disney movies all I can think is, "How about we just enjoy a nice pretty looking movie for an hour or two"
    And how all of the artists put so much effort into these films with the pure intent to entertain and make beauty, only to have them critiqued to shreds because of their popularity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by freiheit View Post
    I personally consider Disney to have relatively feminist animated movies. The themes of a women not feeling at her place in society's norms and trying to find her own way have been addressed several time, starting with Ariel who was both curious and adventurous. Mulan was a warrior, Nany, Lilo's sister, was both responsible and independent, and Rapunzel is a long way from Snow White. Unless you'd consider ending up with a boyfriend/getting married to be sexist... I don't see why you'd say all of their features are demeaning to women. Care to elaborate?
    Look up when all those movies were made.

    Whenever people bring up Disney's sexism, you can't bring up anything in his defense that was made 30+ years after he died.

    Personally, I agree with Katezila, the man may have been a sexist his entire life, but that shouldn't stop us from enjoying genuinely good work.

    I've seen too many people jump on that fact like conspiracy theorists, trying to demoralize an entire company, as if everyone involved there would have the same views, or that the company still runs off that view, despite the document being marked 1938, and Disney dying in 1966.

    Last edited by Psychotime; April 6th, 2011 at 12:15 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Psychotime View Post
    Look up when all those movies were made.

    Whenever people bring up Disney's sexism, you can't bring up anything in his defense that was made 30+ years after he died.

    Personally, I agree with Katezila, the man may have been a sexist his entire life, but that shouldn't stop us from enjoying genuinely good work.

    I've seen too many people jump on that fact like conspiracy theorists, trying to demoralize an entire company, as if everyone involved there would have the same views, or that the company still runs off that view, despite the document being marked 1938, and Disney dying in 1966.
    Well, I meant Disney studio as a whole since the OP kinda implied the studio's work was sexist, not some of Disney's work in particular... Or at least, that's how I understood it.

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    I watch Disney movies now for the sake of my old childhoold, nostagia moments, art, animation technique and so on. I do appreciate what they have built in the animation field, but mostly because of the technique and not storytelling and such - but that's a personal matter anyways. However I will never applaud Disney himself and put him on a pedestal like some do. Since I've studied briefly about the McCarthyism in cinema - my bachelor course - I always have my doubts about some information I recieve about him. I know a feel negative facts we see about Disney out there may not be accurate, but some others are are....which is enough for me to just say I appreciate only the movies created by his studio, but not himself as a person.

    And about the sexist aspect, it's true, however if we're going to judge the Disney Studio, we should also judge and bash all the other people in the world during those years, because the whole population was as well.

    Last edited by Lundkaon; April 6th, 2011 at 04:25 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smashed_Pumpkin View Post
    ...I've come to the conclusion that all women suffer from gender-insecurity and, like most things in their lives, don't quite know what it is they want.
    Wow! ALL women are insecure about their gender?! Am I missing the irony here...

    I recently went to see ‘Tangled’, and whilst it was fun on one level, all the ‘feminist’ aspects; i.e.: a woman thinking for herself, acting independently, shock horror – reading a book... (sigh), felt really shoehorned in. Disney have a problem in today’s world because one of the things Disney do SO well is ‘stereotype’! They can’t move too far away from the euphemistic ‘pink princess’ because that’s what makes them all that lovely moolah. Belle was the most interesting Disney heroine, but essentially they all want the same thing in all the movies, and get them: the hero, the kingdom, surrogate happiness. Even the heroine in ‘Enchanted’ got that! I’ve kind of given up on Disney on that level really. It’s like trying to make a phone call at a Killing Joke concert, no-one hears you, so you might as well just enjoy the show. Disney reinvented the fairy tale heroine for SO many people, so now the definitive’s are no longer Grimm or Perrault, but Disney. Funny isn’t it, that the default of ‘Princess’ has become a Disney princess? Either that or Princess Diana! They have a great formula, which works well for them, and despite making concessions about being ‘current’, they are fighting that philosophy. Knowing some female animators, I’m sure many who work for Disney are on occasion ‘face-palming’ like it’s an Olympic sport. But then again, if you’re looking for progressive female characters Disney is not the place to go.

    It is a sad fact that at Cosgrove Hall, the paint and trace role was almost exclusively (about 90%) filled by women, but nearly all of them wanted to do something else in animation, and used it as a bridge. Although at times seemed to employ the occasional future rock god; Bernard Sumner from New Order and various Stone Roses worked in that department intermittently... By contrast the drawn animation department was about 70/80% male, something that some actively tried to reconcile, with degrees of success.


    As for the Lion King: this was produced by an old mate for the 'Empire: Done in 60 Seconds' competition:



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    Quote Originally Posted by Smashed_Pumpkin View Post
    I'm always reticent to enter "sexism" arguments
    Should have gone with your gut, Pun'kin. Your privilege is showing.


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    I was born in a country in a time where I can become anything I want to be and nobody can stop me or tell me "Well GIRLS never become ****!" So I really don't feel like pitching a fit because some movies have women who like wearing pretty pink dresses.
    Yeah and some movies show men as bumbling perverted idiots, do you see men complaining over it?

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    The moral and social structure of America is different than yesterday. Obviously it looks archaic if you apply today's attitude toward women to the past. Here's your cookie for realizing times have changed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naomi Ningishzidda View Post
    Hi all,

    Our study group recently brought up the issue of Disney's role in the art community. Besides discussing how The Lion King was such utter tripe in comparison to National Geographic's The Last Lions, we also skirted the sexism issue present in almost all Disney features. I did some digging over coffee and found this remarkably well preserved letter copied and posted on Flickr.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/polaroi...5233/?edited=1


    I hope you all enjoy....
    I'm not trying to be a dick, but your argument is weak. Your argument needs more examples. You know studies from universities and peer-reviewed material, and your argument is ambiguous, do you mean the man or the corporation?

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    I'm not trying to be a dick, but your argument is weak. Your argument needs more examples. You know studies from universities and peer-reviewed material, and your argument is ambiguous, do you mean the man or the corporation?
    I posted a link to a letter I found interesting and hadn't seen before. I wanted to hear what other people thought of it. If I wanted to fight I'd just go to a bar and hit someone over the head with a bottle. If I wanted to argue I would write an essay. There is no "argument" and the letter speaks for itself, it doesn't need more "examples".

    I do have a few thoughts I'd like to share about it.

    The underlying battle is the game of empire, that many countries in the world have played, and continue to play. America itself is deeply involved in playing this game at the moment.

    Part of the Empire game is producing lots of children. To do this you must convince women they need to get married, stay at home and have lots of children. You do this through systematic programming.

    Every single woman in Disney ends up as a love interest. Children except Lilo are nonexistant. I believe Lilo and Stitch was designed to be something to point to when Disney is rightfully accused of merely "writing copy" and being sexist. The girl child viewing the animation is forced to consider that they must eventually resemble one of these characters who is at puberty in almost all examples. And no matter the role they choose - smart - the reasonably bright Belle (who reads, but they're almost exclusively romance novels) or dumb - Ariel (look pretty but don't talk) it all ends with a male love interest.

    It's about producing infants to grow up and fight in the Empire. The baby machine hasn't changed in thousands of years and it's a key ingredient in maintaining control over smaller nations that have been invaded, pillaged and enslaved. Yesterday it was India for Britain, today it's Iraq for the U.S.A., Tibet for China...the list goes on and on.

    Last edited by Izi; April 6th, 2011 at 07:17 PM.
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    Jailbait Ariel

    Quote Originally Posted by freiheit View Post
    Well, Ariel might be a princess but no one's perfect right? And unlike her predecessors, her personality wasn't to be a modest, pretty and silent girl.

    Well at least not until she lost her voice and had to use her body language to seduce Prince Doofus. Pedo-porn aside, there's no escaping that the little daddy fucking packrat didn't amount to shit according to Disney until she had undergone plastic surgery, sabotaged the competition and gotten married.


    A little off topic, but after the furry version of apartheid South Africa (aka The Lion King), anyone notice that we had to have a black president before Disney could have a black Princess?

    Last edited by Izi; April 6th, 2011 at 08:05 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smashed_Pumpkin View Post
    When you really think about it though, is there really a problem here? So there are a handful of examples of sexism towards women in Disney films. What about the countless male characters which are portrayed as stereotypically brutish, malevolent and nasty? Surely that's a form of sexism?

    And as M Oreilly says, it's all about perspective. Some women love the character of Ariel and can really relate to her in the same way that a lot of women can relate to Pocahontas.
    Oh you're absolutely right. Men are put in their place just as much as women are. Ideas about duty and masculinity are rampant but there are a few instances of men showing any emotions that aren't happiness, sadness -manly sadness that is- or anger... I actually can't think of ANY right off the bat but I'm going to assume there are at least a couple.

    I think the worst thing you could accuse Disney of doing is portraying a very over-simplified view of gender to children who are impressionable.

    Something that always struck me was how almost every Disney princess movie ends in their wedding. It's like the goal of the movie was to get these two kids together, and once their married, the story ends. Like life ENDS after marriage, or at least isn't interesting enough to be included in the movie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naomi Ningishzidda View Post
    I posted a link to a letter I found interesting and hadn't seen before. I wanted to hear what other people thought of it. If I wanted to fight I'd just go to a bar and hit someone over the head with a bottle. If I wanted to argue I would write an essay. There is no "argument" and the letter speaks for itself, it doesn't need more "examples".

    I do have a few thoughts I'd like to share about it.

    The underlying battle is the game of empire, that many countries in the world have played, and continue to play. America itself is deeply involved in playing this game at the moment.

    Part of the Empire game is producing lots of children. To do this you must convince women they need to get married, stay at home and have lots of children. You do this through systematic programming.

    Every single woman in Disney ends up as a love interest. Children except Lilo are nonexistant. I believe Lilo and Stitch was designed to be something to point to when Disney is rightfully accused of merely "writing copy" and being sexist. The girl child viewing the animation is forced to consider that they must eventually resemble one of these characters who is at puberty in almost all examples. And no matter the role they choose - smart - the reasonably bright Belle (who reads, but they're almost exclusively romance novels) or dumb - Ariel (look pretty but don't talk) it all ends with a male love interest.

    It's about producing infants to grow up and fight in the Empire. The baby machine hasn't changed in thousands of years and it's a key ingredient in maintaining control over smaller nations that have been invaded, pillaged and enslaved. Yesterday it was India for Britain, today it's Iraq for the U.S.A., Tibet for China...the list goes on and on.
    "If I wanted to argue I would write an essay. There is no "argument" and the letter speaks for itself, it doesn't need more "examples". "

    Actually, it does mean you need more examples.
    Since your basis of the first post, the letter, was about the business practices from the 1920's to 1940's. What I'm saying is that you need more recent information.

    My question is: This your argument about Disney movies, or business practices and ethics?

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    I don't appreciate your insistance on telling me how I should write or what I should talk about. If you have anything to say about the topic then say it yourself. For xst's sakes you act like you've never heard of a *conversation piece*. Have a little maturity and say something interesting instead of playing a *little dictator* about what, when and how I should say anything. You really sound priggish and neurotic.

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    dpaint is offline Registered User Level 16 Gladiator: Spartacus' Retiarii
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    Quote Originally Posted by Naomi Ningishzidda View Post
    I posted a link to a letter I found interesting and hadn't seen before. I wanted to hear what other people thought of it. If I wanted to fight I'd just go to a bar and hit someone over the head with a bottle. If I wanted to argue I would write an essay. There is no "argument" and the letter speaks for itself, it doesn't need more "examples".

    I do have a few thoughts I'd like to share about it.

    The underlying battle is the game of empire, that many countries in the world have played, and continue to play. America itself is deeply involved in playing this game at the moment.

    Part of the Empire game is producing lots of children. To do this you must convince women they need to get married, stay at home and have lots of children. You do this through systematic programming.

    Every single woman in Disney ends up as a love interest. Children except Lilo are nonexistant. I believe Lilo and Stitch was designed to be something to point to when Disney is rightfully accused of merely "writing copy" and being sexist. The girl child viewing the animation is forced to consider that they must eventually resemble one of these characters who is at puberty in almost all examples. And no matter the role they choose - smart - the reasonably bright Belle (who reads, but they're almost exclusively romance novels) or dumb - Ariel (look pretty but don't talk) it all ends with a male love interest.

    It's about producing infants to grow up and fight in the Empire. The baby machine hasn't changed in thousands of years and it's a key ingredient in maintaining control over smaller nations that have been invaded, pillaged and enslaved. Yesterday it was India for Britain, today it's Iraq for the U.S.A., Tibet for China...the list goes on and on.
    What a load of crap; no one needs to convince women they want to have children its built into them and men, thanks to a billion years of evolution. Thats is the only reason people exist, to make copies of themselves just like every other living organism. Stop producing offspring and something replaces you; thats evolution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    What a load of crap; no one needs to convince women they want to have children its built into them and men, thanks to a billion years of evolution. Thats is the only reason people exist, to make copies of themselves just like every other living organism. Stop producing offspring and something replaces you; thats evolution.

    Sure - women do like having children, so do men. But the idea that you should have unprotected sex and make it your primary objective is a relatively new one - and it is overpopulating the planet. Extinction by overpopulation is relatively common in nature - a little foresight into our future by pointing out the idiocy of indoctrination programs in religion and government is a survival strategy all by itself....

    Not everything in nature is as simple as procreation. There are many strategies nature harnesses to advance a species. Replication is only one. Someday procreation might not even be needed by humans, as we are on the threshold of discovering how to live forever. That day will never come if we make the planet inhospitable to our species.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naomi Ningishzidda View Post
    Part of the Empire game is producing lots of children. To do this you must convince women they need to get married, stay at home and have lots of children. You do this through systematic programming.
    Why are women the only victims? Men are programmed to be tough, silent, and stern breadwinners who like sports, reading the morning paper, and working a white collar job. In this fierce battle for equality, it requires...equality. It's not a scale that you balance by focusing on women because they've been ignored for centuries. You have to recognize the objectification of men. I don't want to be a prince just as much as you don't want to be a princess.

    And never attribute maliciousness where the explanation of ignorance will suffice.

    "Astronomy offers an aesthetic indulgence not duplicated in any other field. This is not an academic or hypothetical attraction and should require no apologies, for the beauty to be found in the skies has been universally appreciated for unrecorded centuries."
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    Quote Originally Posted by s.ketch View Post
    Why are women the only victims? Men are programmed to be tough, silent, and stern breadwinners who like sports, reading the morning paper, and working a white collar job. In this fierce battle for equality, it requires...equality. It's not a scale that you balance by focusing on women because they've been ignored for centuries. You have to recognize the objectification of men. I don't want to be a prince just as much as you don't want to be a princess.

    And never attribute maliciousness where the explanation of ignorance will suffice.
    I completely agree. You'll find no argument from me with any of your points. I'm not attributing maliciousness to anyone - maliciousness itself stems from ignorance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naomi Ningishzidda View Post
    I don't appreciate your insistance on telling me how I should write or what I should talk about. If you have anything to say about the topic then say it yourself. For xst's sakes you act like you've never heard of a *conversation piece*. Have a little maturity and say something interesting instead of playing a *little dictator* about what, when and how I should say anything. You really sound priggish and neurotic.
    -aside from the argument going on here-

    I think you might be over analyzing these movies. Although beloved by many, Disney movies are extremely simplistic and follow basic patterns that have been in place for hundreds- if not thousands- of years. I think the instinct of a student is to attribute themes as symbols of political or societal situations of the time. You mentioned the lion king and apartheid... but the story of the lion king is pretty much your basic hero cycle. The story of Simba could easily be that of Aragorn or many other prince/heroes throughout history and literature.

    Basically I think you might be looking for depth in a subject that is fairly simplistic.

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