Animated Movies Make For Fun Final Essays

They really do make awesome essays! I’ll let you decide for yourself. I have many different sources I used, but for the sake of the length the essay is already, I’ll leave them off for now. Hope you like reading it as much as I loved writing it!


“Do Female Movie Characters Make For Good Role Models?
Role models come and go. Or do they? What makes a good role model has been a highly debated topic for as long as I can remember. It has also been debated about the lingering effects that individual characters have into one’s adulthood. Most recently, this topic has become heated regarding the books and movies that our young children are reading and watching. By its very definition, “A ‘role model’ seems to be popularly understood as ‘someone to look up to,’ and someone to base your character, values or aspirations upon” (Gauntlett, 2008). Over the past 30 years, popular movies have started to include stronger female heroines who, in turn, have become better role models to the youth of America.
According to Rothman (2014), there seems to be a growing trend in the entertainment field that movies with strong female characters do better at the box office. In fact, Rothman’s opening sentence grabs your attention and captures the essence of this whole issue. “By now, it really shouldn’t come as a big surprise: movies with strong female characters aren’t the box-office bombs that conventional wisdom expects them to be. In fact, they tend to do better than man-heavy movies.” In case Hollywood needed further proof of how strong female characters have been affecting Box Office sales, other than the increase in sales they have seen, a test was created whereby Hollywood had it’s proof.
The Bechdel Test is meant to gauge how women are portrayed in movies. The definition of the test is “It has to have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man” (Bechdel, 1985). “Vocativ’s authors also found that the films that passed the test earned a total of $4.22 billion in the United States, while those that failed earned $2.66 billion in total, leading them to conclude that a way for Hollywood to make more money might be to “put more women onscreen.” A 2014 study by FiveThirtyEight based on data about 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 concluded that the median budget of films that passed the test was 35% lower than that of the others. It found that the films that passed the test had about a 37% higher return on investment (ROI) in the United States, and the same ROI internationally, compared to films that did not pass the test.” (Hickey, 2014) So you see, with the exception of a select few movies, Hollywood has finally gotten the hint that parents want movies that that their children can watch and be amazed by their strong female characters. Put simply, when parents are happy with the lessons being taught in a movie, they are more willing to bring their children to movie theaters to watch it before it gets released on VHS/DVD/Blueray. This in turn, will be putting more money back into the studios’ pockets.
Live action movies have produced strong female characters that can be considered good role models to today’s youth. Recently, the main heroine from The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, has come to the top of the list. Katniss has had to step in as the head of the household after the death of her father. Katniss is thrown into a game that the government has created, where 24 boys and girls kill each other off until one remains. During the game, she only kills when she has no other choice and mourns the passing of those she befriends along the journey. She also stops the game when she and another boy threaten to kill themselves. Her acts of strength and valor prove to today’s generation that one person can make a difference in the world without being cruel. In fact, according to Dockterman (2013), “Boys can look up to a woman as a role model…Male and female tributes are set on equal footing at the beginning of the Hunger Games. There’s a male and female tribute from each district, and never does Collins imply that the females are at some disadvantage in the brutal arena simply because they have uteruses.” At this point in her essay, Dokterman brings up one of the wonderful points that Suzanne Collins wanted to make in her original work. By pairing off the boys and girls from each District into an arena wrought with battle, Collins is stating that the sexes are equal in all things.
Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series is another strong female character who we should be proud to call a good role model. At first, you believe she is just a bookworm without any real power in the grand scheme of things. However, as the series continues on, we learn how strong an individual she is. In fact, she rescues the boys most of the time with her wit, book smarts, and lust for knowledge and organization. When both Harry and Ron are at their least inspired, she doles out the inspiration and encouragement to keep persevering with the task at hand. She is also the only one of the three with the foresight to pack all they would need, just on the off-chance they will have to be on the run from the dangers that are always following Harry.
Animated female characters who are strong willed are also good role models to today’s youth. These good role models have lasting power into adulthood, even if we do not realize it at the time. In fact, when children are young, we allow them to watch animated movies. We think them safe cartoons with simple characters an music. However, this is not always the truth.
Disney, the largest creators of animated movies, work a lot of hidden meanings and lessons into each of their full-length movies. According to Caravaggio (2014), “Today’s Disney female protagonists are amply armed with their own personal power and are heroines taking charge of their futures. After all, this empowerment is the only way for women to truly live happily ever after.” The strong-willed female characters of Belle, Mulan, Pocahontas, Elsa, and Anna are just a few of the Disney Princess examples I wish to discuss here.
It is from the aforementioned movie characters, that one can learn about the kind of woman our younger generation wants to become. The character of Belle from Beauty and the Beast is a very good role model who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and who can see past a person’s exterior and get to know the real person underneath. Belle meets this Beast character who starts off very mean, rude, and temperamental, with little in the way of manners. After trading her freedom for her father’s life and running away from the Beast after one of his fits of rage, Belle starts getting to know the Beast better. She is the one who teaches the Beast how to become a better man, through her love of reading, the art of wearing proper clothing, and table manner training. According to Dickens (2011), “To be truly transformed, the Beast must desire the person Belle really is, rather than merely her feminine utility or physical presence.” Once he has shown her that he is worthy of her love, then there is a physical transformation that happens at the end of the movie that we can’t help but applaud.
Mulan is the next on a long list of strong Princesses in Disney’s arsenal. Mulan says goodbye to the gender roles of her society by cutting off her hair, stealing her father’s commission and battle armor, and joining the army. She earns the respect of the entire camp (and even her Prince) by being the first to figure out the challenge put forth to her and the recruits. She is the only character in the movie that runs directly toward the bad guy, using her knowledge of fighting and the “female arts” she has been trained in in order to defeat him.
Another strong Princess who rebelled against what society expected of her, is Jasmine from the Disney movie Aladdin. Jasmine runs away from her castle when talking to her father regarding who he wants her to marry does not work. When she meets Aladdin while on the run from a vendor who wanted to cut off her hand for stealing an apple for a street urchin. The two go on a few grand adventures together, saving each other a few more times. By the end of the movie, she ends up being able to convince her father to re-write the laws of the land to give her the ability marry whomever she wishes.
The character of Pocahontas is also very strong. In this movie, Disney presents another Princess who rebels against society’s whims. Her father wanted her to marry who he thought was the strongest warrior in the village. She does not want to, and has no qualms about saying so. She and John Smith meet and teach each other about their respective worlds. Pocahontas is the one that comes to John’s rescue in the end, and by doing so, she also saves her entire village. She becomes the peacekeeper between her people and John’s people, as well as their leader. At the very end of this movie, we learn that she was willing to stay and help her people, instead of following John back to England.
Elsa and Anna from Frozen are two of the newest in a long line of strong princesses. When Elsa’s powers get a boost and she ends up running away, it is Anna who goes after her. The two have a wonderful adventure, where they learn about themselves and who they wanted to be, regardless of what society wanted of them. As sisters, these two figured out that they are stronger together without the aid of a man. This is essentially the entire message of the Feminist movement.
Disney is not the only animation studio that has realized they need strong female characters. Dreamworks showcases this with their character Fiona from Shrek. After having a curse put on her, Fiona’s parents lock her in a tower to await a prince who will change her back to her human form. When Shrek (the green ogre) is the one she falls in love with, she ends up rescuing him from as many situations as he does her. She has spunk, and shows us that she is willing to go to battle for those she loves. There is even one part in the last movie where she is the leader of an army of ogres after Shrek stupidly makes a wish that he was free from his obligations and things go a little wonky. She is a strong character, who proves that she does not need a man to be whole.
Disney princesses of the past used to be weak individuals who waited for a prince to come along and rescue them. Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, and Ariel were such princesses. Snow White bit a poisoned apple after serving 7 men in a household for many years. She waited in a glass case for her Prince to come kiss her. Aurora pricked her finger on a spindle and was left in a tower while her Prince had all the fun fighting black thorns that went on for miles, and the evil Maleficent. Cinderella spent her youth dreaming of a better life while she was serving her stepmother and ugly (as sin, one could say) stepsisters. She relies on a fairy godmother to get her out of the house to go to a ball, but her Prince still needs to come to her rescue by bringing back her glass slipper. Her adventure ends when she marries her Prince. Ariel gives up the most important and interesting things about herself to be with her prince. She gives up her tail and her voice so she can have legs. Her prince, Eric, does not even recognize her until she gets her voice back at the end of the movie. Each of these Princesses have their own stories. The thing that links them, is the fact that they all gave in to their gender stereotypes of being damsels in distress.
Like the animated movies mentioned above, live action movies also have their poor role models. The biggest detriment to the whole feminist movement in movies (and in books) so far, seems to be the recently popular character of Bella Swan from the Twilight series. According to Coleman (2010), her lack of backbone and unhealthy dependence on her boyfriend makes one squirm with the reality that this is what the younger generation is reading about and watching in movies. To quote Coleman, “With her puppy-dog adoration of Edward and her squirm-inducing need to be rescued by a man, it seems feminism has completely passed Bella by. And sadly, as the Twilight story has evolved, we can’t say the same of her backbone.” The character totally centers her life around Edward and ignores her friends. Edward then completely tears her apart when he dumps her over and over again. Do we really want our young girls to think it’s okay to put up with abuse like that, as well as a complete dependance on a person who does not deserve their love? The other female characters in the series are somewhat strong and can kick serious butt when it comes to defending the ones they love. However, the rest of the time, they tend to talk about shopping, shoes and their significant others. These shallow characters do not represent the strong women and lesson that parents want their children to be exposed to.
Big blockbuster movies over the past 30 years have made the transformation from weak female characters with weak moral fibers, to characters who are strong, capable women who hold themselves independent of their men. The girls in my generation started with the princess type who had to wait for a man to rescue them (Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel), and we are part of the generation that started to see the stronger female heroines (Mulan, Belle, Pocahontas, Jasmine, Fiona, Elsa, and Anna). There have been the rare exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, the female heroines have been strong and powerful in their own rights. Even with those few bad apples, these are the characters and lessons that we should all be proud to share with our own daughters, sons, and many more generations to come. I am confident that these strong female characters will become as memorable to future generations, as they have been to the youth of my generation, and they become topics of conversation for years to come.”


I’ll provide you with sources, if you want to read them. Just let me know. Hope you enjoyed the essay! Till next week!
-Silver-

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