Idée de progrès / Idea of progress : Evolution of feminism in Disney films - Anglais - Terminale STMG

Idée de progrès / Idea of progress : Evolution of feminism in Disney films - Anglais - Terminale STMG

Voici un cours d'anglais sur la notion "Idée de progrès", rédigé par notre professeur, et qui s'intéresse ici à l'évolution du féminisme dans les films Disney.

En effet, les princesses Disney d’aujourd’hui semblent ne plus être aussi superficielles qu’autrefois. Vous verrez également que les nouvelles princesses ne sont plus réduites uniquement à leur beauté extérieure mais révèlent une vraie forte personnalité. Les mots soulignés seront expliqués dans le lexique à la fin de la fiche.

Téléchargez gratuitement ci-dessous ce cours d'Anglais sur la notion Idea of progress !

Idée de progrès / Idea of progress : Evolution of feminism in Disney films - Anglais - Terminale STMG

Le contenu du document




Based on the German fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the earliest Disney animated feature film (1937). After that, Walt Disney directed a series of films that were also based on classical fairy tales or myths. Princesses are at the heart of stories and, in Disney films, they are undoubtedly beautiful. Yet, they used to be reduced only to their physical beauty and their lovely singing voice. In addition, they appeared to be damsels in distress unable to defend themselves as they were inevitably rescued by the prince in the end.


"Be pretty and shut up"

At first sight, Snow White is similar to women who claimed their emancipation during the 1920’s by cutting their hair short. Yet, she is a rather superficial character whose goal in life is only to find love. Consequently, she naively eats the poisoned apple, wishing that it will make her dream come true. Eventually, the prince rescues the princess and they live happily ever after. They actually hardly know each other, but Snow White is pretty – again, the princess is reduced only to her prettiness – and that is enough to fall in love with her. On another level, Snow White also cultivates the stereotype of women doing the housework, especially when she promises to the dwarfs: “If you let me stay, I'll keep house for you. I'll wash and sew and sweep and cook.” At that period, people believed that women were meant to be housewives doing household jobs.

Just like Snow White, Cinderella wishes that her dream will come true. However, her cruel stepmother confined her at home and she has no choice but to do the housework. The eponymous film was released in 1950, and although women’s contribution played a major role in WWII, it was still common at that time to argue that women were meant to be housewives who remained at home to clean and raise children. Fortunately, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother gives her a beautiful dress to go to the ball at the royal palace. There, Cinderella seduces the prince who will move heaven and earth to find her again.

Aurora from Sleeping Beauty (1959) is certainly the least feminist Disney princess ever. Like both princesses previously mentioned, Aurora is a beautiful but superficial girl waiting for her lover that she met “once upon a dream”. She has no real personality and is easily influenced. Besides she spends most of her time sleeping – hence the title of the film – and thus, she is the Disney princess who speaks the least. Even Ariel from The Little Mermaid speaks more than Aurora, and yet she is deprived of her voice about half the story. Luckily, Aurora awakens with a kiss from Prince Philip and they live happily ever after.

What the first Disney films involving princesses taught us is that women can easily find a lover as long as they are beautiful. Although he was a romantic, Walt Disney believed – as it was common at that time – that women were inferior to men. Therefore, his female characters had no real personality and no real goal in life. Actually, even the female villains were quite superficial. For instance, the Evil Queen is a powerful witch whose only motivation is to be the most beautiful woman in the world. To be so, she has to eliminate Snow White. Moreover, only because she was not invited to Aurora’s coronation, Maleficent wants the princess dead at the age of 16.


The 1990’s era

Walt Disney died in 1966. After his death, the Walt Disney Company still continued to produce films involving more complex princesses.

The first princess of this new tendency was Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989). She is portrayed as a more realistic and impulsive teenage girl. Even though she eventually falls in love with Prince Eric, her goal in life was to explore the human world rather than finding love. But because she changes her body image and sacrifices her voice to do so, some feminists argue that Ariel actually gave up her identity.

Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991) is beautiful. However, this is not very important for the story. What is important is the fact that she is a clever and educated woman who wants much more than a provincial life. Furthermore, every woman in the village has a crush on Gaston but Belle rejects him. Unlike former Disney princesses who fell in love with princes they actually did not know, Belle is not interested in a man who is only good-looking. Thus, the film conveys the message that inner beauty is more important than physical attractiveness.

The rest of the 1990’s era saw the birth of a few other princesses who stood up for their rights. In Aladdin (1992), Jasmine argues that she is not a fine prize for any prince to marry and she wants to be free to make her own choice. The same thing happened with Pocahontas (1995) where the eponymous princess follows her heart and refuses to marry Kocoum. By the end of the 1990’s was released the film Hercules (1997). In the film, Meg gives her own opinion about love. According to her, it is too cliché to say that you are in love. A year later, in Mulan, the princess prefers to fight against the Huns and save her father rather than being a lady. To do so, she cuts her hair shorter and disguises herself as a man.


The new generation

Over the last few years, Disney went a step further and created female characters that were much more rounded and stronger.

In 2009, Disney released The Princess and the Frog, involving for the first time an African American princess. The film takes place in 1912 in the United States. At that time, women have not had the right to vote yet. However, in the film, Tiana is portrayed as a hard worker who wants economic independence. She works as a waitress in order to earn money and start her own restaurant. In a sense, she wants to earn her dreams.

In Tangled (2010), instead of being locked up by a man – as women used to be – Rapunzel is confined in an isolated tower by Mother Gothel, who uses her magical hair to preserve her youth. Rapunzel dreams of adventure and she requests to leave but Mother Gothel refuses. With the help of Flynn, Rapunzel manages to escape. In a sense, she still needs the help of a man to accomplish her dream. However, Rapunzel fights against misogynistic clichés when she uses a frying pan as a weapon. Pans are initially cooking utensils but because Rapunzel uses one to defend herself, she does not cultivate the stereotype of women doing the housework.

In Brave (2012), according to her mother, Merida’s manners are clearly not lady-like enough. Merida is promised to the son of one of her father's allies. Yet, the teenage girl who received a bow and an arrow by her father dreams of greater adventures than being married.

Frozen (2013) focuses on the sister relationship between Elsa and Anna. Again, both of them are quite beautiful but they are not reduced only to their physical beauty. The elder sister, Elsa, is portrayed as a girl who isolates herself because she is terrified by her magical power. Regarding her little sister, Anna, she is quite jovial, clumsy and spontaneous. Anna is definitely a realistic character. Unlike Snow White or Sleeping Beauty who are absolutely gorgeous while sleeping, Anna snores, she has dishevelled hair and she drools. Because of lonely childhood, she was desperately waiting for a more exciting life and so she is completely enthusiast when she meets “actual real-live people”. She accepts to marry Prince Hans, even if she hardly knows him. This is something Disney princesses used to do but ironically, Frozen makes fun of that when Kristoff keeps saying to Anna “you got engaged to someone you just met that day?” On another level, some people argue that Anna is the main female character and the stronger of both sisters as, in the end, she sacrifices to save Elsa.

It is evident that Disney princesses have better written roles nowadays than when they were created by Walt Disney himself. This improvement is related to the evolution of feminism. Since the 1990’s, Disney female characters have been strong characters that stand up for their rights. They have appeared as more realistic and rounded as well. Moreover, they are not damsels in distress anymore. Yet, Disney still has some issues with feminism. Why is not Tangled entitled Rapunzel? The same is true with Brave and Frozen, which focus on one aspect of the film rather than on the main characters.



A damsel in distress : une damoiselle en détresse

At first sight : au premier abord

Eventually : finalement

Hardly : à peine

But : dans ce genre de structure, but est synonyme de except

Fortunately : heureusement

To move heaven and earth : remuer ciel et terre

The least : le moins

Hence : d’où

Therefore : donc

Thus : donc

Rounded(fig.) : complet

To earn : gagner

A frying pan : une poêle à frire

Regarding : quant à

Clumsy : maladroit(e)

Unlike : contrairement à

To snore : ronfler

To have disheveled hair : avoir les cheveux en bataille

To drool : baver

An issue : un problème

Fin de l'extrait

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