Comparative Critique of the Disney Films: Maleficent and Others

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Over the twentieth century, fairy tales have changed significantly from the way that they were originally portrayed in the late eighteenth century. Before the mid-twentieth-century, fairy tales were extremely barbaric, and they made the audience experience fear and fairy tales had an intimidation factor within them. A superb example of these disturbing tales is Grimm’s Fairy Tales. However, during the twentieth century, American ideologies were changing rapidly and adapting to the various new movements that took place throughout the century. These changes had major effects on fairy tales and revolutionized the industry. New fairy tales, such as Maleficent, depict a female character that is viewed as strong, empowering, and complex. Altogether, fairy tales have become imaginative stories that include elements of cultural psychology and ideologies. Writers Jeff Guo and Jordan Shapiro attempt to analyze what goes into the creation of fairy tales, and how society reacts to the fairy tales. Both Guo and Shapiro agree on some things, an example is that fairy tales have changed substantially in recent times. Although both authors write similarly about the different changes that have occurred in fairy tales, both authors have drawn different conclusions based on their analysis. Guo believes that fairy tales should fuel burden, elimination, and awareness due to increasing gender gaps found within the films. Contrarily, Shapiro believes that fairy tales such as Disney’s Maleficent, have changed the narrative of fairy tales, and have moved away from the roles of gender in fairy tales. Guo and Shapiro both arrive at different conclusions based on the scope of their analysis, their understanding of the current situation, and their reaction to data and information.

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'Why Disney's 'Maleficent' Matters' written by Jordan Shapiro, and 'Researchers Have Found a Major Problem with 'The Little Mermaid' and Other Disney Films'written by Jeff Guo, are two articles that are written about the meaningful changes that are occurring in society today. Both authors conduct their conclusion based on the scope and extent of their analysis. Shapiro develops his analysis based on a very in-depth and specific scope. The foundation of his argument is built around appealing to the other Disney films, and how Maleficent has changed the narrative on how fairy tales should be perceived. Shapiro’s assessment is primarily focused on the Disney film Maleficent; thus, he has a narrow scope in conducting his analysis. Shaprio mainly refers to sources that support his analysis of change in the industry, but he does so in a way that is parallel to Maleficent. Even Shaprio’s evidence that gender roles are becoming less of a factor is fairy tales is evolved around Maleficent: “In fact, what’s remarkable is that, with the exception of a few banal narrative devices that are presumable meant to hit us over the head with explicit evidence that the filmmakers are cognizant of basic critical gender theory, Maleficent is not a film about princesses, evil queens, femininity, nor girlhood. Don’t believe the buzz; there’s very little about gender here. Instead, Maleficent is a film about stories. It is a fairy tale of redemption in which some of the essential vulnerabilities of human experience are freed from their habitual narrative dichotomies.” (Shapiro)

Shapiro wanted to signify that there is a monumental change occurring in the fairy tale industry, and it can be seen by the events that unfolded in Maleficent. Guo develops his analysis based on a very specific scope. The foundation of his argument is built on historical context, dating all the way back to the mid-twentieth century.. This time frame allows for an interpretation of the various changes and movements throughout the twentieth century. He also uses a number of sources varying from Linguists to Ph.D. students, resulting in very specific forms of evidence. Guo examines speaking roles within various Disney films over over the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first century, the splits between gender in relation to the cast, and specific compliments that women receive throughout the films.

Guo and Shapiro also arrive at different conclusions based on their understanding of the current situation. Although Guo and Shapiro both acknowledge that change is taking place in the industry, they both have different interpretations of the facts. Guo looks at the facts, and infers that fairy tales were progressing before the fairy tale “Renaissance” in the late twentieth-century; however, after The Little Mermaid was produced, he argues that a reverse trend could possible be formulated when her assert, “in one respect, “The Little Mermaid” represented a backyard step in the princess genre.” (Guo). Guo immediately questions what could be causing this trend, and he does so by investigating primary data from Karen Eisenhauer, a linguist who researches dialogue in films. Shaprio, however infers that Maleficent is a leap in the film industry for women. He argues that Maleficent is a film about stories. He argues that gender roles have covered up the actual storytelling. Although Maleficent is presented as a remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Shaprio argues that it isn’t even close to a remake and claims, “ I suspect this is why there’s a sappy platitude about the power of motherhood masking the real message: true love is not about living happily ever after in an out-dated institutionalized legal arrangement where one person is almost always exploited.” (Shapiro).

Shapiro and Guo also arrive at different conclusions due to their reactions to data and information. Guo finds that the data he has examined should be startling. He worries that Disney is shifting away from gender equality in their films by creating an imbalance in the male-to-female ratio. He fears that this portrayal of the film may increase gender dominance in a society based on the conditioning of certain ideas in the minds of children during adolescence. However, Shapiro takes away a different lesson based on his evidence. He argues that Maleficent is a reflection of where we are headed as a society. Shapiro also goes on to say, “Disney’s Maleficent brought in $70 Million at the box office during its opening weekend. The real significance of the film, however, has nothing to do with revenue. Instead, it represents a cultural shift that can potentially have profound implications for our children.” (Shapiro). Shapiro believes that the success of a fairy tale is in the plot, and not by gender equality. All-in-all both Shapiro and Guo investigate changes that are occurring within the realm of Disney fairy tales. The approaches are similar, and they form a proximity when it comes to the massive changes that are amounting in the psychological and ideal transformations of fairy tales. Although Shapiro and Guo have similar intentions, they both arrive at different conclusions based on the scope of their analysis, their understanding of the current situation, and their reaction to data and information.

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