This study looks at how Disney princess films perpetuate sexist tropes through language. By focusing on both feminism and linguistics, it uses an interdisciplinary approach underpinned by data analysis and media criticism. This paper uses a content analysis study of The Little Mermaid (1989) and Mulan (1998) to look at Disney’s role in shaping representations of women, and how this representation has shifted within the decade of the release of these two films. This paper answers the question: in what ways does language in media perpetuate sexist tropes; more specifically, how has the language of male characters in media perpetuated misogyny. The content analysis looks at aspects of gender representation by grouping female and male characters separately in three observable categories. These are: the number of characters speaking more than 50 words of dialogue, the percentage of dialogue spoken by each gender, and the total number of sexist expressions used by each gender. Sexist language is further categorised in two parts. The first is discriminatory language used by men about women, and the second is discriminatory language used by women about men. Data analysis shows that there are more male characters than female characters; male characters make up more of the spoken dialogue and male characters use more sexist language than female characters. This paper argues, that although Disney has come a long way in making the female characters independent and strong on their own, they fail to identify the main problem of female representation, which is language used by males. In using feminist critical theory to criticise the two adaptations, this paper identifies the ways media perpetuates gender discrimination through language, propagating the subjugation of women, and how this has not changed in the decade between the release of the two films.
He Said, She Said: A Critical Content Analysis of Sexist language used in Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989) and Mulan (1998).
Journal of International Women's Studies, 23(1), 208-230.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol23/iss1/18