27 November 2013
Semiotics and Gender Role Portrayal: How the “Little” Mermaid Implies “Big” Things
I think it’s fair to say that a great majority of Americans have grown up watching Disney movies, specifically fairytales. Fairytales are and will most likely always be considered high-quality family entertainment, so you can be sure young girls and boys equally have seen at least 75% of these productions. Children all over the world grow up with a profound love for Disney princesses and from a very early age you can see little girls identifying themselves as princess Jasmine from Aladin or Belle from Beauty and The Beast, Cinderella, Mulan, Pocahontas, etc. They idolize them without knowing it and strive to imitate them in regards to both behavior and appearance. On the surface, Disney is a remarkable institution and has put smiles on millions of faces. However, what many tend to overlook is the negative influence of these fairy tales. These myths are loaded with semiotics that teach children how to genderize. Most parents that expose their children to these animations have not the slightest clue how badly elements of semiotics are used to control their children’s behaviors.
Judith Lorber breaks down the semiotics that is engraved in the concept of gender in her piece “The Social Construction of Gender.” She explains how gender affects our lives by controlling our identities. Lorber explains that gender in its essence is semiotic. Hence, there are many risks being taken when exposing children to the lifestyles of these fictitious characters all due to the semiotics that seeps into a child’s subconscious. Through these films, children are taught the difference between beautiful and ugly, strong and weak, happy and sad, manly and womanly, etc. Lorber says “Individuals are born sexed but not gendered, and they have to be taught to be masculine or feminine.” (278) Traditionally, due to its importance, this type...