Disney's Gender Balancing Act

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This project focuses on the evolution of gender portrayals in children's films. A content analysis of ten of the top fifty most popular Disney children's films was performed. The films were selected at random from Disney's website. Release dates for the 10 films in my sample range from 1940 to 2012. Gender content of the films was measured in several ways. A ratio of male to female characters was calculated for each film as a way to capture any numerical imbalance. The characters' behaviors were analyzed to see if they supported traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. Finally, latent coding was used to examine each film on several dimensions of gender relations between the central characters and accompanying gender motifs, allowing for an overall 'grade' to be assigned to the film. As children's films have been described as powerful agents of gender socialization for children, I wanted to investigate the progress that a large children's entertainment producer, like Disney, is making. While I found some progress in gender portrayals, Disney has more work in terms of producing gender-balanced films. Earlier films earned lower grades while later films were on the upper half of the grading scale. Only one film in the sample earned an 'A.' While this progression towards more balanced information is a positive trend, it's still a far cry from the gender-balanced films we strive to show our youth.
Thesis completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Alfred University Honors Program.
Honors thesis, Disney, Children's films, Gender