Today I’ll be providing you with another thrilling update on the research process. The source being taken into careful consideration today is an analysis of gender in animated films by Jessica Birthisel. The work is titled How Body, Heterosexuality and Patriarchal Entanglements Mark Non-Human Characters as Male in CGI-Animated Children’s Films and focuses mainly on full-length features produced by Pixar and DreamWorks Animation.

Birthisel seeks an answer to what seems like a pretty straightforward question: how do animators make non-human characters appear and act stereotypically male? She begins to unravel this question by analyzing Pixar and DreamWorks animated films from 2000 to 2010, paying specific attention to anthropomorphized characters. After careful consideration, Birthisel concludes that “these anthropomorphized characters were constructed as male and masculine through three textual strategies: codes of bodily masculinity, sexual masculinity, and social masculinity.” 

Birthisel goes on to suggest several implications for her findings. She points to these hegemonic animation companies (Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar) as teachers of masculinity. By coding characters as male through stereotypical masculine norms, these companies reinforce and reteach narrow ideals of the “right” way to be a boy.

Jessica Birthisel is a communication studies professor with a special focus on gender and media. She often researches and writes about how masculinity and sexuality are portrayed in traditional media sources like television and movies. She published How Body, Heterosexuality and Patriarchal Entanglements Mark Non-Human Characters as Male in CGI-Animated Children’s Films  in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Children and Media.

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