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The Powerful Male Hero: A Content Analysis of Gender Representation in Posters for Children’s Animated Movies


Findings across a wide body of research suggest that media targeted at young audiences often portray characters according to stereotypical gender roles. Childhood is a particularly sensitive time in gender identity development, and logic from social cognitive theory suggests that repeatedly observing these stereotypes can have a lasting influence on young audiences’ worldview. Building on previous research investigating gender role displays in film content, and with the expectation that content creators use movie posters to convey a one-shot summary of films to audiences, we conducted a content analysis on the gendered power depictions of the main characters in movie posters of 152 popular U.S. animated children’s feature films produced over the last 80 years. Findings revealed that main characters were more likely to be male and that males were portrayed as more powerful. These results add to a growing, yet substantial, body of research illustrating the prevalence of stereotypical gender role portrayals across virtually every popular medium with which children come into contact. We discuss our results’ implications for potential short-term and long-term effects of exposure to films’ gender role stereotypes on young viewers’ real-life gender role expectations.

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Correspondence to Melinda Aley.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. No funding was provided for this project. Additionally, for this type of study formal consent is not required.

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Aley, M., Hahn, L. The Powerful Male Hero: A Content Analysis of Gender Representation in Posters for Children’s Animated Movies. Sex Roles 83, 499–509 (2020).

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