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Depictions of Gender Across Eight Decades of Disney Animated Film: The Role of Film Producer, Director, and Writer Gender

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Depictions of gender in media are often scrutinized for stereotypical patterns. Disney films are of particular interest, as they are often watched by children and may play a role in children’s gender socialization. The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to assess gender depictions of characters in animated Disney films (released between 1937 and 2019; 61 films with 323 characters total), and second, to explore depictions of gender in Disney animated films coupled with an analysis of the gender of those involved in the production of these films (producers, directors, and writers). We found a significant difference in the number of male and female characters (roughly 60% male, 40% female), which did not significantly differ by decade. Female characters were more consistently depicted as attractive compared to male characters, although character’s intelligence, ability, popularity, activity level, family role, story role, and romantic engagement did not differ by gender. Male characters were more often represented as parents or children in films written by women, and female characters were more often represented as the antagonist in films written by men. Male characters were over-represented as overly active in films produced by women, and female characters were over-represented as grandparents in films produced by women. These findings revealed few stereotypical gendered depictions of characters in Disney films over nine decades and that the inclusion of women in the production process resulted in more nuanced depictions of both male and female characters.

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Correspondence to Jane E. Shawcroft.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare that are relevant to the content of this article. No funds, grants, or other support was received for this research. Data and syntax are available from authors upon request.

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Shawcroft, J.E., Coyne, S.M., Zurcher, J.D. et al. Depictions of Gender Across Eight Decades of Disney Animated Film: The Role of Film Producer, Director, and Writer Gender. Sex Roles 86, 346–365 (2022).

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