Hercules

December 13, 2011
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Thesis: Hidden stereotypes in Disney movies teach young children the wrong message about race, women’s roles, physical appearance, and heroism.

I watched the Disney movie Hercules and realized there were stereotypes regarding race, gender roles, physical appearance, and heroism. First of all, Hercules is kidnapped and almost turned mortal by Hades’ minions in order to heighten his chances to take over the world. When he turned 18 years old, Hercules learns he is a god and the son of Zeus now all he wants is to be reunited with his father. However, he falls in love with a mortal woman named Megara, and even though he is a god, he still acts like a bumbling teenager around a pretty face revealing his mortal side. The stereotypes I found mean nothing to a young child because their maturity level and life experiences don’t allow them to see the hidden message, and they only see the movie as entertainment. However, the movie still gives off the wrong message about race, gender roles, physical appearance, and heroism through false images of men with big muscles and women with seductive attitudes.
In the beginning, Hercules is depicted as a skinny, clumsy, 18 year old who doesn’t know his own strength. However, as the movie progresses, he becomes this handsome hero with bulging muscles that for a normal human would take years of body training to obtain, but only took him a few weeks to develop those muscles. When I saw that dramatic change in appearance and definition of heroism, I asked myself: Do all heroes need big muscles to determine their bravery and hero like qualities? Hercules isn’t the only being within the movie with big muscles, Zeus his father, also has big muscles, so power is represented through muscle size in this movie. This is also shown by Hades, a sick looking and snake like man, is easily defeated because he has no large muscles.
Secondly the role of race is just as stereotypical, the Muses are women of color and their songs all sound like gospel music typical of a black church service. So I became confused as to whether the creators were focusing on the Greek religion within the movie, or whether they focused on the racial stereotype. So in my interpretation of that, I felt that the creators were saying African-American people were more religious than other ethnicities.
In regard to physical appearance, one of the Muses in particular, was obese, short, and always one step behind the other skinnier Muses. Her movements were different from the others, as in missing her cues, pronouncing words differently, and when Megara sings “I Won’t Say I’m in Love”, a statue of said Muse is broken and its head is resting on its hand rather than upright and resting on its neck. Then the lead woman’s role, Megara, seems to have a very sultry look and attitude. Such as when she and Hercules first meet after he saved her from the river guardian, she thanks him, and as she walks off her hips sway excessively and Hercules swoons. In addition, when they go on a date together and Megara is trying to find out Hercules’ weakness, the strap to her dress slips this seduces Hercules and he starts to become uncomfortable and nervous. So do all lead women in movies need to have a sexy appearance just to get the lead man to fall for them?
Third, possession also has a noticeable role in this movie. When we learn why Megara is working for Hades - she sold her soul to save the love of her life, but the love of her life runs away with another girl – Hades still owns Megara. This scene has two stereotypes; A.) Guys will always go for a prettier face, rather than stay with a girl that has sacrificed so much for him, and B.) Women are fighting blind when it comes to love; they are not thinking of the consequences that may come with it.
In conclusion, when young girls watch this movie, they will learn that they have to be the damsel in distress they have to wait for prince charming to save them, that they are owned and controlled by men and can’t be the hero of the story. Not only that, young boys will learn that they have to save the day, that women are something to own, like Hades owns Megara, and that a hero has to be a fine physical specimen with large muscles rather than a large heart; which at the end of the story Hercules learns is more important than the fame and glory that comes from being a hero. True it has a good moral at the end and comedy to hide the hidden stereotypes that small children don’t notice however, in time they will notice when they become older and more experienced. Then they will argue the stereotypes in this movie, just as I have. Therefore, the creators and writers of Disney productions need to rethink the roles of women and men, both of race and stature and the definition of a hero. Additionally, the general media should shake up the overused image of seductive women and buff men and use ordinary looking people – even in cartoons – to show that normal people can also be heroes.





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brendan123 said...
Feb. 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm
I realized that you said African-American people are more religious. Why would you assume that they are necessarily African-American?
 
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