Target: Disney’s CEO, Robert A. Iger
Goal: Give female characters in Disney’s princess movies the same amount of lines as their male co-stars.
Researchers have recently found that female characters in Disney’s widely successful princess films get fewer lines and screen time than male characters. Movies created before Walt Disney’s death in 1966 have women receiving equal, if not more, lines than male characters, such as the classic trio Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. When The Little Mermaid was released in 1989, critics praised Disney’s choice to create a modern and independent heroine. She was considered by Roger Ebert, an acclaimed film critic, as a fully realized character with the ability to think and act independently. Despite the praise, however, The Little Mermaid was a step backward for future princess movies. It was the first princess movie where men characters spoke more than women characters.
The Little Mermaid created a precedent for the five princess movies that followed, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan, and The Princess and the Frog, where it was portrayed that it was fine for women to have less speaking roles. Comparing spoken lines of women versus men in Disney movies, Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty average about 60 percent to 40 percent, while the five movies that followed The Little Mermaid average about 20 percent to 80 percent, including Mulan even when she impersonated a man.
Disney movies began to replicate Broadway ensembles, which required larger casts. The problem with a larger cast is that the cast ends up lopsided. Simple characters that only have one line, such as guards or a merchant, are written as men. Chatty and witty sidekicks are predominantly male characters, with Genie, Mushu, Flounder, and Sebastian being the most famous. Sign the petition below to demand that Disney end gender inequality in their movies.
Dear Mr. Iger,
I would first like to thank you for making recent Disney films more about female empowerment. However, despite these tremendous leaps, your company is still lacking. Male characters in recent Disney princess films dominate the screen and the princesses, whom the movies are about, are constantly outspoken by them. The two exceptions to these movies are Tangled, where the princess spoke 52 percent of the lines, and Brave, where the princess spoke 74 percent. It seemed that the company was breaking the trend of men out speaking women, but the trend was returned in Frozen when the female characters only spoke 54 percent of the lines.
Why can’t the chatty sidekick be a female? Why can’t the random merchant or guard be a woman? Although your movies have focused on empowering women, the screen is still being dominated by males, and I ask that you change this so that female characters speak just as much as males.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Baruch College