Disney’s damsel in distress” (Clements, 1997). Meg

Disney’s
film, Hercules, is filled with stereotypes
and predetermined notions. These stereotypes are revealed through the portrayal
of characters and plot development. There will be a special focus on gender
roles and body image to expose the tacit connotations and assumptions presented
throughout this film. Concealed stereotypes in Disney movies send young
children unjust messages about women’s role, physical appearance, and heroism.

            Disney has a very rich history of portraying female characters
in their films as the stereotypical damsel in distress, and it is very evident
in this movie. The Oxford Dictionary
defines the phrase, ‘damsel in distress’, as “a young woman in trouble
(with the implication that the woman needs to be rescued, as by a prince in a
fairy tale).” The film confesses to supporting this idea when the trainer,
Phil, bellows, “Sounds like your basic ‘DID’, damsel in distress” (Clements,
1997). Meg is the female protagonist that is depicted as a vulnerable young
woman or in other words the damsel in distress. Hercules, the superhero, saves
Meg time and time again from the perils she is exposed to while being
powerless. Hercules is awarded the heart of the girl just as any other superhero
or dominant male character in Disney movies, which supports the idea of femininity
in animated films equaling up to being rescued and marrying your rescuer (King et
al., 2010). This overly rehearsed stereotype reinforces the impression of a
passive and receptive female, one which does not display strength or ascendency.

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            The
depiction of womanhood in Hercules is
archetypical and disempowering. Women characters are insubstantial and weak,
having no effective role in the plot. Rodan et. al (2014) explained how one of
the representations of women in media is that they are trivialized when they
appear on television, such as a character similar to Meg. The closest noteworthy
contribution that women get in the movie is when Meg is tied up and offered to
Hercules as part of a bargain with Hades, the antagonist. Whenever Meg is not
being captured, she is too busy admiring Hercules or exploiting him into some ploy
that was planned by the enemy. Meg is just a puppet with no type of substance or
ambition. Meg’s persona supports the femininity portrayed by animations of
female characters by them being very one dimensional and flat (King et al.
2010). She only serves the purpose of being a reward and a rationale to the
hero’s actions and boundless expeditions. Other women characters in the film also
fail to obtain a true purpose other than empowering a male character or being a
mesmerized follower by his looks. Women are represented as hysteric and naïve,
as they are often seen shrieking at the hero’s looks, or being effortlessly manipulated
by flattery. For example, Hades was able to flatter the Fates, a group of sisters
who can see the future, enough for them to tell him the future about his
hostile takeover (Clements, 1997). A close analysis reveals that male
portrayals are not treated too much better than their female counterparts
despite them being the dominant figures in this film.

            It seems
that the principal standard in which masculine figures are evaluated in Hercules is by their muscular strength. The
men lack depth of emotion or intelligence, but are solely agents of raw power.
Disney projects a fixed type of hegemonic masculinity in this film, which was
one of the early criticisms of the concept (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005). Although
in the real world hegemonic masculinity is subject to change, Hercules only embodies one form of masculinity.
They do so by making the most masculine characters all have a large amount of muscular
strength. The male characters’ valor is compensated with fame, power, and appreciation
while their human aspect is mostly disregarded. Despite the fact that Hercules
is in a relationship with Meg, the extent of his feelings is lessened to childish,
immature mumbles or stereotypical spousal dances.

            Meg’s portrayal
in the film conforms to predetermined ideas and stereotypes that women in
movies often encounter. Her overly slim figure is very impractical. Meg also
has a sexualized image and the movie mentions her “curves” multiple times.
Hades made one reference where he makes curvy gestures of Meg’s body and tells
her “Maybe I haven’t been throwing the right curves at him Hercules,” mainly
portraying her as an object of desire (Clements, 1997). Both Phil and Hercules
are also seen lustfully checking Meg out on many different instances. The
interaction of Meg between other characters represents how society always
sexualize women or categorize solely based off how their body looks.

            The most
predominant male figures in the film, Hercules and Zeus, exhibit enormous muscular
physiques which barely represents a man’s natural body. The muscular physiques
are affiliated with power and dominance; common characteristics found in
Hercules and Zeus. This conception is evidently reflected in the development of
Hercules to an adult; the point where he acquires his strong figure. Despite
Hercules’ extraordinary feats of strength when he was younger, his body only began
to transform when he grew older and became popular. The evolution of Hercules
is another stereotype associated with hegemonic masculinity that large muscles
represent ‘manhood’. Hegemony is ambiguous and comes in all muscle shapes and
sizes (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005). A man does not have to have a ripped
body to measure his masculinity.

            The movie Hercules has an abundant number of stereotypes.
If it is gender role issues where women are incapable weaklings at the mercy of
gigantic men or body image issues where women are excessively thin and men
unrealistically muscular, stereotypes can be found throughout Disney animated
movies. By disclosing these stereotypes, audiences can become more
sophisticated, by being able to watch films with full knowledge of their exhausting
effects on culture and society.

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