Disney’sfilm, Hercules, is filled with stereotypesand predetermined notions. Character portrayals and plot development revealthese stereotypes. The focal point will be on gender roles and body image toexpose the tacit connotations presented throughout this film. Concealed stereotypesin Disney movies send young children unjust messages about women’s role,physical appearance, and heroism.
Disney has a very rich history of portraying female charactersin their films as the stereotypical damsel in distress, and it is very evidentin this movie. The Oxford Dictionarydefines 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 afairy 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 and has the stereotypical depiction as a vulnerableyoung 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 beingpowerless. Hercules is awarded the heart of the girl just as any other superheroor dominant male character in Disney movies, which supports the idea of femininityin animated films equaling up to being rescued and marrying your rescuer (King etal.
, 2010). This overly rehearsed stereotype reinforces the impression of apassive and receptive female, one which does not display strength or ascendency. Thedepiction of womanhood in Hercules isarchetypical and invalidate.
Women characters are insubstantial and weak,having no effective role in the plot. Rodan et. al (2014) explained how one ofthe representations of women in media is that they are trivialized when theyappear on television, such as a character similar to Meg.
The closest noteworthycontribution that women get in the movie is when Meg is tied up and offered toHercules as part of a bargain with Hades, the antagonist. Other than being heldcaptive, Meg likes to spend her time admiring Hercules or exploiting him intosome ploy that was planned by the enemy. Meg is just a puppet with no type ofsubstance or ambition. Meg’s persona supports the femininity portrayed byanimations 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 rationaleto the hero’s actions and boundless expeditions.
Other women characters in thefilm also fail to obtain a true purpose other than empowering a male characteror being a mesmerized follower by his looks. Women are represented as hystericand naïve, as they are often seen shrieking at the hero’s looks, or being effortlesslymanipulated by flattery. For example, Hades was able to flatter the Fates, agroup of sisters who can see the future, enough for them to tell him the futureabout his hostile takeover (Clements, 1997). A close analysis reveals that maleportrayals are not treated too much better than their female counterpartsdespite them being the dominant figures in this film. It seemsthat the principal standard in which masculine figures are evaluated in Hercules is by their muscular strength. Themen 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 wasone of the early criticisms of the concept (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005).
Althoughin 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 muscularstrength. The male characters’ valor is compensated with fame, power, and appreciationwhile their human aspect is mostly disregarded. Despite the fact that Herculesis in a relationship with Meg, the extent of his feelings is lessened to childish,immature mumbles or stereotypical spousal dances. Meg’s portrayalin the film conforms to predetermined ideas and stereotypes that women face inmovies. Her overly slim figure is very impractical.
Meg also has a sexualized imageand the movie mentions her “curves” multiple times. Hades made one referencewhere he makes curvy gestures of Meg’s body and tells her “Maybe I haven’t beenthrowing the right curves at him Hercules,” mainly portraying her as anobject of desire (Clements, 1997). Both Phil and Hercules are also seen lustfullychecking Meg out on many different instances. The interaction of Meg betweenother characters represents how society always sexualize women or categorizesolely based off how their body looks.
The mostpredominant male figures in the film, Hercules and Zeus, exhibit enormous muscularphysiques which barely represents a man’s natural body. The muscular physiquesare affiliated with power and dominance; common characteristics found inHercules and Zeus. This conception is evidently reflected in the development ofHercules to an adult; the point where he acquires his strong figure. DespiteHercules’ extraordinary feats of strength when he was younger, his body only beganto transform when he grew older and became popular. The evolution of Herculesis another stereotype associated with hegemonic masculinity that large musclesrepresent ‘manhood’.
Hegemony is ambiguous and comes in all muscle shapes andsizes (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005). A man does not have to have a rippedbody 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 ofgigantic men or body image issues where women are excessively thin and menunrealistically muscular, stereotypes can be found throughout Disney animatedmovies. By disclosing these stereotypes, audiences can become moresophisticated, by being able to watch films with full knowledge of their exhaustingeffects on culture and society.