Jul 27, 2008

Robin Hood (The Disney Version) and a few thoughts...

I absolutely love this movie. It was a childhood favorite of mine, and watching it brings back a flood of childhood memories and feelings. I watched it a few nights ago for the first time in over ten years ago, and I was struck by various thoughts that I will now share...

First, I noticed the differences in the characters....It may seem obvious to some, but after studying feminine archetypes and after participatiang in FA, the way fat characters are portrayed fascinates me. For instance, Maid Marian, the heroine of the movie, was small -- petite, demure, large eyes resembling the cuteness of a baby, her head is always cocked to one side with her eyelashes batting toward various characters.

Her sidekick is the lovable and funny hen who happens to be fat. She is portrayed in a positive manner, but certainly not as "beautiful" or attractive to the opposite sex. She is strong, protective, brash, funny, lovable - a likable character, absolutely. Maid Marian, however, is the sex symbol. She's the damsel in distress archetype. She wins the hero in the end after being rescued. These two characters teach some powerful messages to children (and anyone else who watches the movie). Young girls watch this movie and long to be Maid Marian (at least I did). And what is Maid Marian? Skinny, yes. Soft-spoken. Always smiling. Coy. Small. Graceful. Never causing conflict. Needing someone to rescue her. This is what femininity was in my childhood brain to many girls and boys who grew up watching this movie.

A similar observation can be made about Little John, Robin Hood's fat sidekick. He is also shown in a positive light, loyal, strong, but also maintaining certatin fat stereotypes -- jolly, funny, not sexually attractive.

The same points can be made about masculinity. That Robin Hood portrays the ideal hero masculine features -- brave, agile, trim, an outlaw, etc. And, of course, he rescues the damsel in distress and they live happily ever after.

Now don't get me wrong, I really do love this movie. And overall, I think it preaches very positive messages to children who watch it. For instance, sticking up for people. The injustice of corrupt power. And Robin Hood and Maid Marian are certainly likable -- they are nice people (foxes?), jovial and kind to teach other and the rest of the townspeople. But, it is interesting to point out the similarities in heroines in popular childhood tales which inevitably teach us all something about what it is to be a girl in the world. If you don't believe me, take a look at this list of Disney characters. Are any of them fat? Even just a little chubby? Do any of them have long noses? Small eyes? Chubby cheeks?

These movies all have a soft spot in my heart. The softest imaginable, in fact. But some balance would be nice.

A sidenote: I had to stop Robin Hood three quarters of the way through. I used to have nightmares about the scene when Robin Hood rescues the townspeople from prison and steals the king's gold. My six-year old stress level carried over into my now twenty-seven year old self which I found funny but also a little scary. Subconscious messages=powerful.

1 comment:

Heather said...

At least Belle has a somewhat realistic body type, even if she is a cartoon. The others? Scary skinny and unrealistic! Snow White is almost as passable as Belle in terms of body size/shape.