Gender and Race Representation in Disney: A Study on Stereotypical Women’s Language Forms in Racially Diverse Third Era Disney Films
Chami, M. El
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This research contributes to the field of Intercultural Communication through analysing the use of stereotypical non-minority American’s women language forms by female characters of different races in Disney’s third era films. The significance of this study lies in the intersection of children’s identity formation, and the key role normative roles and behaviours emphasised through language in films plays into that. Previous research has compared Disney’s first and second era films but there is a lack of third era films comparative studies in this field. In addition, the study focuses on third era films due to its diverse cast from different racial backgrounds and the focus on the lead female character. The aim of this research is to examine the function, similarities, and differences of Disney’s racially diverse female characters use of these forms, namely empty adjectives, super polite forms, and interruptions in cross- sex conversations. In addition, it observes the use of other gendered language forms and their function in relation to race. The third era films chosen were The Princess and the Frog (2009), Frozen (2013), and Moana (2016) with a focus on its leading human female characters’ conversation with human male encounters. The results and their analysis suggest that although there is no relation between the use of stereotypical women’s language forms and race, female and male characters are still put in a normative frame through the use of stereotypical women’s language forms and other gendered language forms while following their conventional functions. The results also show that despite the shift in including more diverse female characters from an imagological perspective, Disney’s female characters continue to use stereotypical women’s language forms for the majority of the time following the functions laid out decades ago by Robin Lakoff (1976) and Deborah Tannen (1994). Overall, this study aims to highlight the importance of analysing the messages sent through children-oriented films, namely Disney, through language forms while taking into account the role gender and race play in the formation of humans’ multi-layered identity.