You'd think a Disney princess movie would be all about female characters, but as it turns out, their male counterparts actually average three times more lines.
According to linguists Karen Eisenhauer and Carmen Fought, Disney princess movies didn't always follow this trend, with 50 percent, 60 percent and 71 percent of lines in "Snow White," "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty" going to female characters, respectively. However, things changed with the release of "The Little Mermaid."
While "The Little Mermaid" introduced a character who is independent (to the point of rebelliousness) and inquisitive, it was the first of the Disney princess movies to have men significantly outspoke women. And this isn't even because Ariel literally lost her voice.
Eisenhauer and Fought sought to study Disney princess movies because so many young girls watch them. As such, it was worth assessing just what the movies were teaching regarding gender roles.
"They're not born liking a pink dress. At some point we teach them. So, a big question is where girls get their ideas about being girls," said Fought, a linguistics professor from Pitzer College.
Their research is still in its early stages, but Eisenhauer and Fought have given a preview at a conference for linguists some weeks back. The goal of their work is to shed light on how differently female and male characters talk in Disney princess films, starting with the data on how often characters had lines.
By the time the studio's "Renaissance" era was in place, Disney princess movies had become dominated by male characters, with 68 percent, 71 percent, 76 percent and 77 percent of lines going to them in "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Pocahontas" and "Mulan."
After "Mulan," however, Disney princess movies got better at giving female characters more lines: 52 percent for "Tangled" and 74 percent for "Brave." "Frozen" was a bit of a drawback though because, for a movie about two sisters, 59 percent of its lines went to male characters.
On the upside, Disney princess movies have been experiencing a shift from compliments being given just for looks to being doled out for skill or accomplishments.
The researchers acknowledge that Disney is making the effort to make the princess movie genre more modern and empowering, but there remains a lot of work to be done.
Photo: Jennie Park | Flickr