Event Title

Make a Man Out of You: Masculine Subjectivities in the Films of the New Disney Era

Location

Panel 10: Kearney 312

Start Date

27-10-2012 8:30 AM

End Date

27-10-2012 10:00 AM

Description

Like similar ideological systems prompting the masculine ideal, Walt Disney Pictures manufactures a subject position for masculinity as it is refracted through the lens of heterosexuality. What it means to be a man in Disney film is what it means to be a heterosexual man. The animated characters coded as sexually deviant erode the supports that sustain and maintain the traditional cultural framework of masculinity that Disney seeks to project in its film texts. These non-heteronormative characters often problematize the narrative and momentarily disrupt the reproduction of the patriarchal, heteronormative system. At such moments, when conventional masculinity is questioned, Disney cracks open its ideological war chest and offers a call to battle.

Despite Disney’s clear paradigmatic function developing texts that serve as prompts for the reproduction of the dominant ideological roles of masculinity and femininity, intriguing developments have occurred over the last twenty years that suggest that the Disney paradigm with respect to gender and sexuality has shifted. Within the “New Disney Era,” encompassing the films from The Little Mermaid in 1989 to Home on the Range in 2004, Disney has maintained a cultural product that promotes heteronormative categories of identity while also raising issues of gender and sexuality that complicate them. These mechanisms of resistance do not subvert the culture of heteronormative masculinity and the corresponding ideologies embedded in the film but rather complicate traditional representations of masculinity, sometimes generating contradictory and complex masculine subjectivities. Masculinity in the “New Disney Era” can be seen both as more unstable and more open, existing in different ways and alongside alternatives which are not always ridiculed or destroyed by the film’s end. In this way, Disney can be said to resist the very cultural framework that it seeks to promote in the animated film genre.

This paper presentation will focus on a small group of “New Disney” films that complicate heteronormative masculinity. To fully understand the current state of masculinity according to Disney, one must look at the pattern of masculinities that Walt Disney Pictures has constructed over the last twenty years. To begin, I will consider Beauty and the Beast (1991) and the interactions between the beast and Gaston, which often are suggestive of non-heteronormative patterns of gender and sexuality. Next, I will examine the complex web of intersecting masculinities offered in Aladdin (1992): the non-heteronormative sexuality of the genie, and the ambiguous sexuality of the villain, Jafar. In The Lion King (1994), I will comment on the title character, Simba, and his flirtation with Timon and Pumba’s “lifestyle” as well as a Disney villain coded as homosexual, Scar. My presentation will conclude with Mulan (1998), focusing on the title character’s masculine cross-dressing adventures with her three, effeminized male sidekicks and her romance with the clearly heterosexual, Shang.

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Oct 27th, 8:30 AM Oct 27th, 10:00 AM

Make a Man Out of You: Masculine Subjectivities in the Films of the New Disney Era

Panel 10: Kearney 312

Like similar ideological systems prompting the masculine ideal, Walt Disney Pictures manufactures a subject position for masculinity as it is refracted through the lens of heterosexuality. What it means to be a man in Disney film is what it means to be a heterosexual man. The animated characters coded as sexually deviant erode the supports that sustain and maintain the traditional cultural framework of masculinity that Disney seeks to project in its film texts. These non-heteronormative characters often problematize the narrative and momentarily disrupt the reproduction of the patriarchal, heteronormative system. At such moments, when conventional masculinity is questioned, Disney cracks open its ideological war chest and offers a call to battle.

Despite Disney’s clear paradigmatic function developing texts that serve as prompts for the reproduction of the dominant ideological roles of masculinity and femininity, intriguing developments have occurred over the last twenty years that suggest that the Disney paradigm with respect to gender and sexuality has shifted. Within the “New Disney Era,” encompassing the films from The Little Mermaid in 1989 to Home on the Range in 2004, Disney has maintained a cultural product that promotes heteronormative categories of identity while also raising issues of gender and sexuality that complicate them. These mechanisms of resistance do not subvert the culture of heteronormative masculinity and the corresponding ideologies embedded in the film but rather complicate traditional representations of masculinity, sometimes generating contradictory and complex masculine subjectivities. Masculinity in the “New Disney Era” can be seen both as more unstable and more open, existing in different ways and alongside alternatives which are not always ridiculed or destroyed by the film’s end. In this way, Disney can be said to resist the very cultural framework that it seeks to promote in the animated film genre.

This paper presentation will focus on a small group of “New Disney” films that complicate heteronormative masculinity. To fully understand the current state of masculinity according to Disney, one must look at the pattern of masculinities that Walt Disney Pictures has constructed over the last twenty years. To begin, I will consider Beauty and the Beast (1991) and the interactions between the beast and Gaston, which often are suggestive of non-heteronormative patterns of gender and sexuality. Next, I will examine the complex web of intersecting masculinities offered in Aladdin (1992): the non-heteronormative sexuality of the genie, and the ambiguous sexuality of the villain, Jafar. In The Lion King (1994), I will comment on the title character, Simba, and his flirtation with Timon and Pumba’s “lifestyle” as well as a Disney villain coded as homosexual, Scar. My presentation will conclude with Mulan (1998), focusing on the title character’s masculine cross-dressing adventures with her three, effeminized male sidekicks and her romance with the clearly heterosexual, Shang.