A disturbing trend is emerging out of Disney movies, especially their non-Pixar cartoons: their desire to be more “progressive” is moving them several steps backward in their depictions of men.
While the old Disney formula is flawed and based heavily in gender stereotypes, like Cinderella and her Prince Charming, their new criticism of that formula does nothing more than shift from traditionalism to full-blown gynocentrism. With films like Frozen and Maleficent emerging over the past few years, it is easy to see that they are desperately trying to pander to a feminist audience.
In Frozen and Maleficent, it is no longer romantic love between men and women that breaks the spell. Instead, it is the power of The Sisterhood and the Sacred Feminine that heals everything. It is now the power of female compassion that is the only thing that can bring redemption.
This idea of redemption through women is not entirely new, either. If you look at male Disney characters of fairly recent vintage, you begin to see this disturbing pattern: men are not getting their “progressive” reboot at all. Even in movies where men are the main protagonists, it is only through the influence of a woman that the male protagonist is able to be fully a man. It is almost always the actions of a that bring about story resolution.
For example, Nala tells Simba to stop being a MGTOW and to return to his responsibilities. The Beast becomes a gentleman through the influence of Belle. Tarzan is made “civilized” by Jane’s influence. They are perpetuating the idea that men must be made whole by women, but that women don’t need men; women just have to be there.
When I mention the Sacred Feminine, I am referring to the idea that women, on their own, are the source of healing, as if they have this sort of inherent magical quality. It is an almost religious, if not outright religious, treatment of women, and they can do no wrong because femininity is sacred. They can destroy entire kingdoms and terrorize people for years. They can be completely toxic to everyone around them, and will still be seen as being worthy of praise and adoration. Whereas men are viewed as being beasts or misguided souls that need contact with this magical feminine energy to be whole.
There used to be a balance to that when male influence could also break magic spells in Disney universes, but now that it’s been tossed aside we are left with stories of full-blown gynocentrism.
I say that because in Disney’s two most recent offerings, Frozen and Maleficent, they did not create more complex and relatable villains; instead, they shifted the blame to men. They didn’t make the male villains in those films sympathetic; they were basically just devils. These were simply films that explained how being an insufferable asshole is okay as long as women are the ones acting that way.
These films have removed the possibility of female redemption through male contact, most likely because feminists feel this is sexist. But somehow it’s totally okay for these people to make men these bumbling wanderers that need a woman’s magical healing touch to get their lives in order. They have made it taboo to make women villains, but men are fair game and will likely continue to be demonized by Disney and other companies because no one can be bothered to care.
I honestly hope that Disney moves away from this trend and takes a more balanced approach to their depiction of men, but it’s fairly unlikely. This gynocentric attitude, and cringing at feminist whinging, has taken too strong of a hold on the company, and more importantly it sells out movie theatres.
Because maleness is an evil, chaotic essence that must be controlled and contained, but vaginas are magic.