Disney movies: Researchers study ratio of male vs. female speaking roles
Pocahontas, Mulan, and The Little Mermaid might be films named after their title female characters, but that doesn’t mean they dominate the films’ scripts: According to research by linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhaur, male characters spoke more than female characters in Disney animated films made between 1989 and 1999, The Washington Post reports.
It wasn’t always like this though. Women speak as much or more than men in some of Disney’s biggest earlier films like 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and 1950’s Cinderella. But male characters spoke 68 percent of the time in 1989’s The Little Mermaid, 71 percent in 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, 90 percent in 1992’s Aladdin, and 77 percent in 1998’s Mulan.
Some of Disney’s more recent “princess” films have been better about balancing out the disparity: Women spoke 52 percent of the time in 2010’s Tangled and 74 percent in 2012’s Brave, though it dipped back down to 41 percent in 2012’s Frozen.
Fought and Eisenhaur’s research also involves looking at how male and female characters speak to each other in this films. So far, they’ve found that female characters in the newer Disney movies like Tangled or Brave receive compliments based on skills and accomplishments more often than on looks, while movies from the earlier eras include more compliments about appearance.
Read more about Fought and Eisenhaur’s research over at The Washington Post.