First let me say both men and women are portrayed in Disney Films. Both Men and Women are subject to similar treatment by the writers and artists. There is no misogyny. Female characters in the films get extremely disproportionate media attention (here, here,), we even came up with a special name for these girls Disney Princesses. Men do exist in these films, but their role in shaping the minds of children is all but ignored. These men are no better depictions of reality than the girls.
There are two takes on gender portrayals in Disney films. The first is that they are over the top tropes intended to highlight a specific aspect of femininity or masculinity. The second is that they are reinforcing outdated and harmful gender stereotypes for both men and women. This interpretation would make Disney films rather sexist. If sexist is even the correct word when it’s bad for both men and women.
So lets look at some of the Characters and consider them. Lets start with Beauty and the Beast.
So, lets look at the pictures. Pictures of both men and women. Lets start with the women. Real women are not shaped like that. No one has that perfect hour glass shape and flawless skin. Trying to live up to that image of perfection is just wrong. Now the men. The two main male characters Gaston and The Beast are impossibly large. For both of them, their arms are larger around than the women’s waist. A 20 inch waist is not a health goal for most women. 24 inch biceps are not a healthy goal for men.
Now the supporting cast. The women are all cut from the same pattern. Really the only physical difference is hair color. The notable differences are WHO the women are. The notable difference in men is how they look. You are either Gaston towering over the crowd with inhuman proportions in arms and chest, or your an ugly toadie that is little more than the but of jokes.
Now lets look at the actual characters. Belle is a strong woman that risks real dangers to find her father and save him, being caught by The Beast in the process. Now the beast is a narcissistic spiteful destructive sociopath. He literally kidnaps a woman in the hope that he can force her to love him, AND IT WORKS!!! Gaston is a dim witted narcissist with delusions of grandeur.
So what message does this movie send to males and females. We will ignore the kidnapping and murder parts, the movie needed something dramatic. Looking at Belle and the expectations of women. Love is something that happens to Belle. It was not something that she had to work hard to achieve. It was just something that happened to her and it lasted “Happily Ever After” The men, Gaston and The Beast. What are the expectations of men? It’s clear the expectation of men is social dysfunction. The three options are narcissist with destructive tendencies, narcissist with delusions of grandeur or ugly little toady that exists to be the but of jokes. For both boys and girls the message is clear. Love is not something you work for, but something that just happens to you based on proximity regardless of who you are.
Really Belle is the only character here that is even close to a good role model, she just get Stockholm Syndrome. The men are just broken people with no understanding of social cues. If we look at these characters as role models for what both boys and girls expect from husband/father/boyfriend/lover, they are very broken models. No, being a broken person is not “privilege”