Database for Animation Studies


Gender and Cartoons from Theaters to Television: Feminist Critique on the Early Years of Cartoons

From adults to children, from theaters to television, cartoons are one of the few major popular art forms that have been able to consistently redefine their audience as they experiment and change and, as such, have proved their importance in culture and society. This article discusses the social critique that originated with cartoons’ theatrical beginnings, which were met with substantial praise from the intellectual and art community of their time. An exploration into the massification of the medium reveals its role in the marginalization of women in the animation industry as underpaid and unrecognized labor. This article also explores the industry’s creation of a compulsory gender coding associated with the animated female form by investigating Disney’s and Warner Bros.’ competing portrayals of women as a ‘madonna–whore’ duality, and further looks into Disney’s feminine triptych perpetuating heteronormative gender coding in the form of the princess, the witch and the fairy godmother. The massification of the medium, as television programming shaped the industry into children’s programming, was led by Hanna-Barbera who did not consider girl cartoons a priority and continued to marginalize women in the workforce.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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