Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Thesis

School

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Department

English

Abstract

In this thesis, I argue that the treatment and seemingly progressive representation of gender and queer identity in Disney films serves merely as a form of baiting to modern audiences, a baiting that suggests Disney wants to be understood as having embraced the ideas of progressive feminism and "homosexually-inclusive" ideologies, only to undermine and disavow them with a "bait and switch" narrative maneuvering that undercuts the film's ostensible message. I analyze and interpret the ways in which "classic" Disney animated features represent gender and sexual identity binaries through a close reading of Bambi (1942), Mulan (1998), and Frozen (2013).

I bring together Lacan's notion of the "mirror stage," the Symbolic order, and the idea that at the heart of identity lies a fundamental misrecognition, which leaves children especially vulnerable to the "hail" of ideology as it informs nearly the entirety of a child's headspace. Today, gender and sexual binaries are challenged at every level, and Disney seems to have embraced this progressive trend. Yet the lack of proper representation of LGBTQ characters and the negative subsequent treatment of those allowed to be seen in its films complicates this evolutionary progress that Disney claims it has achieved.

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